The Sunbeam Alpine
The Sunbeam-Talbot has been improved constantly down the years and consequently its latest off-shoot, the sleek new Sunbeam Alpine, announced recently by Rootes Motors, Ltd., is of very considerable appeal. From the start, long before the war, the Sunbeam-Talbot, developed from the Talbot Ten which was really an adaptation of the Hillman with Aero Minx engine, possessed outstanding steering, smooth and accurate, and a nice gearbox with large-knobbed remote lever.
After the war the Sunbeam-Talbot grew up, acquired overhead valves and independent front suspension. The “90” model has proved its worth in arduous competition events such as the Monte Carlo Rally and Alpine Rally. From it the new open sports three-seater Sunbeam Alpine is derived.
The o.h.v. four-cylinder 2,267-c.c. engine is basically the SunbeamTalbot 90. The compression-ratio has been increased to 7.42 to 1 to take advantage of the premium grades of fuel now available. Enlarged inlet ports and shorter valve guides increase the volumetric efficiency and give a smoother gas flow, and a specially tuned carburetter also adds to the performance. Other items include a sports coil, hand-operated choke, and over-riding manual ignition control. Vapour-locks in high altitudes are eliminated by a shield fitted between the carburetter and the manifold. An improved type of distributor head is also fitted. These modifications have resulted in stepping up the output to 80 b.h.p. at 4,200 r.p.m. and 124 lb./ft. torque at 1,800 r.p.m.
The gearbox has close-ratios, with a useful third gear. The oil capacity of the box has been increased to ensure correct lubrication under exceptional conditions.
The chassis is the well-proved Sunbeam-Talbot with new features for the special requirements of the Sunbeam Alpine which are not called for in normal touring. The side-members have been increased in depth and a transverse steel member gives additional front-end stability. A higher steering ratio (17.5 to 1) is employed and the shock-absorbers are designed to give consistent use without fading under strenuous driving. The radiator has a four-row block to provide ample cooling and the silencer is located outside the chassis frame in an unobstructed air flow.
The coachwork provides weather protection although, of course, the car is primarily designed as an open sports car. The side-screens are of heavy-gauge, transparent plastic in metal frames, rigidly attached to the doors and with a close-fitting head give good weather protection. The side-screens slide horizontally. The large plastic backlight can also be hinged down on its lower edge by a zip fastener fitting. The head folds down behind the seats and the side-screens can be stowed away out of sight. If desired, the hood can be completely detached. The whole screen assembly can be quickly removed for competition purposes and replaced if desired by plastic, racing-type screens. The body equipment has been designed to give maximum comfort for fast travelling. A padded leather roll surrounds the cockpit and the upper edge of the facia panel, and a central armrest and padded door-rests provide excellent support. A “grab rail” is an additional convenience for the passenger. There are no exterior door locks or handles, the door being operated from inside the car by a leather thong attached to a “silent travel” type catch. The bonnet top is perforated by a series of louvres to ensure an adequate flow of cooling air to the engine. When these louvres are not required a blanking plate is provided which can easily be placed in position.
The unladen weight of the Alpine is quoted as 26-1/4-cwt. (rather heavy) and it is 14 ft. 0-1/4 in. long.
The new car demonstrated its abilities very effectively at Montlhéry, where Leslie Johnson did 110.56 miles in the hour from a standing start, and 111.20 miles from a flying start, thus adding to the already illustrious sports-car-hour unofficial record-list. Stirling Moss afterwards took over and lapped at over 115 m.p.h., his best lap being at 115.85 m.p.h. And before this Miss Sheila Van Damm had taken the Sunbeam Alpine out on the Belgian motor road, setting up new Belgian and ladies’ records of 119.402 for the f.s. mile and 120.135 m.p.h. for the f.s. kilometre. She apparently had never exceeded 90 m.p.h. before this, which speaks well for the security imparted by the Sunbeam and Sheila’s “let’s-have-a-go” sportsgirlship.
The car was naturally specially prepared for this high-speed work, with scuttle-cowl in place of a screen, undershield and, one suspects, more horsepower than the 80 claimed for the production version. But it was driven from Belgium to Montlhéry, which is near Paris, dispelling any suggestion that it was tuned to a sensitive, unreliable pitch, while it should be noted that in the best “hot-rod” tradition Rootes list a Super Tuning kit to enable the Alpine to be converted for competition purposes, or for those with clean hands they will supply ready-prepared the super-tuned model.
We shall look forward to testing the new Sunbeam Alpine and to seeing how it behaves in American and other sports-car contests.
Our only grumble is with the name. The Sunbeam-Talbot really owes its origin to Hillman, Humber and Commer components and this new sports version has no allegiance to the Sunbeam as Louis Coatalen knew it.
The Sunbeam Alpine is seen (top photo) in the form in which it covered over 110 miles in the hour at Montlhéry, the body well faired and the engine no doubt super-tuned. Below (bottom photo), the car is seen in standard guise. We are intrigued to note that these two cars, one right-hand, the other with left-hand drive, both bear the same registration number, a dodge we thought was confined to irresponsible, hard-up enthusiasts!
On page 182 (web version page 30) of the last issue, D. Blakeley’s Le Mans H.R.G. was described as “undistinguished. ” This should have read “undisguised,” making comparison between this car which retains the original Peter Clark body and Mrs. Gibbs’ similar car which now sports a new all-enveloping ensemble. We have driven one of these Le Mans H.R.G.s and consider them very distinguished motor cars— moreover, Blakeley’s particular example has distinguished itself still further since by winning a race at the all-hail Sports-Car Handicap at Castle Combe.