The Sunbeam Alpine Series I and Series II are two-seater convertibles produced from 1959 to 1963.
The Sunbeam Alpine Series I shared a model name with the 1953-1955 sports car but little else. The floorplan was from the Hillman Husky and the 1.5-litre S4 OHV engine and four-speed gearbox were shared with the Sunbeam Rapier. Braking was via front Girling discs and rear drums, with independent coil and wishbone suspension and rear leaf springs with lever arm dampers. The unitary 2-seater body was styled by Loewy Studios.
When the new Sunbeam Alpine debuted in July 1959, there was much interest in its winding windows (a first for a British sports car and a development that had die-hard motorists fuming) and its elegant styling. The price was £971 10s 10d and optional extras included overdrive (£60 4s 2d), wire wheels (£38 5s) and a detachable hard-top (£60). The top speed was 99mph, with 0-60 in 14 seconds and Motor magazine stated that the Alpine ‘belongs to a new breed of sports car which is weatherproof when required, but offers two people greater comfort than they would enjoy in many quite expensive touring cars’.
In October 1960, the Alpine was facelifted as the Series II, with a 1.6-litre engine (again shared with the Sunbeam Rapier), an improved cabin including a marginally more comfortable vestigial rear seat and uprated rear suspension with wider springs. The price was now £985 14s 2d.
The Series II was replaced by the Series III in February 1963. All 1959-1962 Sunbeam Alpines were made for the Rootes Group at Armstrong-Siddeley’s factory.
The Alpine achieved screen fame for Sunbeam when Elizabeth Taylor drove a Series I in ‘Butterfield 8’ and Sean Connery piloted a Series II in the hilariously bad car chase scene of ‘Dr. No’.
The Series I Alpine was powered by a 1,494cc engine with twin Zenith 36 carburettors and the Series II by a 1,592cc S4 OHV unit with twin Zenith 36 carburettors. Both cars have a four-speed gearbox with synchromesh on the top three gears and optional Laycock-de-Normanville overdrive.
The Alpine was intended to provide a weekend two-seater for a US businessman rather than being an out-and-out sports car. For anyone who seeks more comfort than a TR3A could hope to offer, the Sunbeam is a very desirable car.
Pay especial attention to the front chassis legs, the floor, the inner sills, floors, steering box mounting, the inner wings, and behind the seats for signs of corrosion. Exterior panels are easier to source than the interior trim.
The Alpine may not be stupendously fast but it is suffused with Macmillan-era chic. And no MGA or MGB can boast the kudos of being the first ever screen ‘James Bond Car’.
Alternatives to the Sunbeam Alpine included the MGA and MGB, the Triumph TR3A and TR4, the Fiat 1200 Cabriolet, the Renault Caravelle and the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 1.