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  • SUNBEAM HARRINGTON ALPINE

    On track in a #NART Ferrari-liveried British racer. A Ferrari by any other name. This is a fastback Sunbeam, Alpine yet it wears the Cavallino Rampante. John Simister unravels its compelling racing history - and tests it at Goodwood. Photography Paul Harmer.

    Sebring, Florida, March #1963 . In the NART (North American Racing Team) garage, being made ready for the 12-hour endurance race, is the usual cluster of red Ferraris. One, however, looks unfamiliar. It has tailfins and seems somehow lighter in build. Yet the prancing horse crest is present on both front wings, just as it should be, and the blue driver's seat is just like that of a nearby #250GTO .

    NART is synonymous with Ferrari, having been set up by the Italian company's US importer, Luigi Chinetti. But our be-finned red coupe is not a Ferrari at all. It's not even Italian. It's a Sunbeam Harrington Alpine, and therefore British, but owner Fillipo Theodoli was a pal of Chinetti's and also worked for the Gardner advertising agency, which handled the Ferrari and Alitalia accounts. Thus the Harrington Alpine became an honorary Ferrari.

    Driven by Theodoli and Bill Kneeland, a man with much experience of racing Alpines, the number-55 Harrington finished fourth in class, behind an #Abarth-Porsche and a #Porsche-Carrera , and 36th overall. Kneeland started the race and got away first from the grid, but it soon became clear that the newly fitted Weber carburettors made the drivers pay for the extra power with an unexpectedly heavy fuel thirst. So the Alpine had to pit earlier than scheduled to refuel, and there was no pit steward standing by to snip the filler cap's sealing wire.

    Richard Waite, one of the pit crew, tells how the team tried illicitly to remove the wire and ended up yanking off the entire filler assembly. After the fill it was re-sealed with duct tape, and naturally it leaked copiously all over the track. Masten Gregory spun his #E-type on the slippery petrol and had strong words with the Harrington crew after the race... but the result stood.

    That was the Alpine's last race. Its first was a year earlier, in 1962, Theodoli trying out his new toy in the Sebring 12 Hours as a works Rootes Group entry and wearing number 44. He and Freddie Barrette finished 33rd overall and tenth in class. For the pair's next outing, a four-hour SCCA event at Vineland, the #Alpine had to be entered in the modified class on account of its stripped-out interior, improved airflow to the engine bay, and the N ART-sourced seat and N ART-made 40-gallon fuel tank. So Theodoli got his Alpine experts, D&H Motors in New Hampshire, to add to the engine's already Stage Three tune as supplied by Thomas Harrington Ltd. This involved a hotter camshaft and that pair of Webers, replacing the original Zenith instruments, to feed the engine's increased appetite for fuel and air. Result? The Alpine ran as high as fourth but finished tenth.

    A month later, in September #1962 , it finished 13th at the Bridgehampton 400km. Theodoli entered both events privately, but next came that 1963 Sebring race under NART's wing. And that, as far as Harrington Alpine chassis number B9106097's race history is concerned, is that. Theodoli sold the Sunbeam straight after Sebring, via D&H.
    The new owner was Bob Avery, who traded in his Sunbeam Rapier and had his new toy converted back broadly to original Harrington road spec apart from keeping the racier camshaft. Those Webers and their manifold were valuable - D&H's asking price was $3800 with Webers, $2500 back on Zeniths - and Bob reckoned it was just fine on the lowlier carbs, with 'a beautiful warble at idle. When I stepped on the go pedal, it scooted!' Bob Avery kept the Harrington for the next 49 years, right up until he passed away.

    Guy Harman bought the Harrington in 2012, intrigued by its history. Also intrigued was Clive Harrington, whose father Clifford not only ran the Harrington coachbuilding arm - the Hove, Sussex-based company made some very handsome bodies for buses as well as being a major Rootes Group dealer - but also designed the Alpine conversion. We're with both of them at Goodwood today, the Alpine having just emerged from finishing touches, after various experts have recommissioned it, lightly restored it and rendered it back into 1963 Sebring specification. Bob had already restored it in the 1990s.

    'It arrived in pretty good nick,' Guy reports. He plans to race it, most glamorously in this year's Goodwood Members' Meeting, just as Bob had hoped would happen. Today is its first shakedown run, only four miles having passed under its wheels since it was driven out of the restoration workshop. So what, exactly, has Guy bought?

    As created by the Rootes Group, the Sunbeam Alpine was an open-top sports car with an optional hardtop. Seeing a gap in the market for a compact GT coupe, Thomas Harrington Ltd, with Rootes' approval, devised a fastback conversion to be sold through Rootes dealers. The new panels - roof and bootlid - were of glassfibre, with aluminium roof-gutters. It was launched in March 1961, based on the #Sunbeam Alpine Series II with an engine enlarged to 1592cc from the original 1494cc, and tuned to one of three possible stages by Rootes dealer and tuner George Hartwell, along the coast in Bournemouth.

    In all, 110 Harrington Alpines were made in the body shape of Guy Harman's car, plus some Series C hatchback versions and 250 examples of the Harrington Le Mans, introduced in October 1961 and built in parallel with the original version. The Le Mans lost the tailfins and instead had a downward-sloping tail; they were named to celebrate the Harrington's win in the 1961 Le Mans 24 Hours of the Index of Thermal Efficiency, driven by Peters Procter and Harper. Today that winning car lives in the US, having been owned and raced in the interim by Clive Harrington. An interesting footnote to the Harrington Alpine programme is that the company also produced the body panels for the Triumph Dove (always pronounced 'Dove') GTR4 conversion sold by Doves of Wimbledon.

    Fillipo Theodoli came over from the US to Hove to collect his car personally. He arrived at a large and busy enterprise, the dealership (but not the coachbuilders) still going strong in the 1970s as the re-formed Harrington Motors when your correspondent, then a student at Sussex University, regularly patronised the parts department seeking pieces for a high-maintenance tuned Imp. (I got them to write me an engineer's report for my insurance company, too, and I well remember the grin on the mechanic's face on his return from thrashing JLL 251D along the A27. But I digress.) Nowadays there's a PC World on the site instead.

    Thomas Harrington Ltd listed a Weber conversion as an enhancement to the Stage Three tune, but it wouldn't fit a left-hand-drive car because there wasn't enough space around the steering box and brake master cylinder. Then D&H discovered that Weber itself had also developed a twin-DCOE kit, this one suitable for LHD, which was duly acquired and fitted. Gordon Harrington, Clifford's brother and head of the Rootes dealership, alluded to the subsequent #Weber fitment in his reply, dated 24 September 1963, to a letter from Bob Avery keen to learn more about his new purchase.

    As bought by Guy Harman, the Harrington was still in 'fast road' specification and showed little sign of its track record. A Sussex-based company, restorers and preparers of old racing and road cars, then set about returning it to its 1963 Sebring state. There was a little repair work to do on the lower rear quarters, and the standard front valance had to be cut off and replaced with one incorporating a large air intake mirroring the radiator grille aperture. The holes for the external petrol filler and the door light to illuminate an endurance racer's racing number had been welded up, so were reinstated.

    The NART parts - seat, fuel tank - had gone back to NART so replicas were created, along with the various period stickers. The scrutineering tag is original, though, having been safely filed away all those years. As for the engine, Guy has the original but has had a new one built with a lightweight steel flywheel, stronger connecting rods and a Piper 306° camshaft. When optimally set up with a better exhaust manifold, it should produce around 150bhp - nearly half as much again as the original engine made in period.

    It's newly installed in the Harrington, ready for me to add a few more miles to the four that have so far passed under the Sunbeam's new #Dunlop CR65 racing crossplies. It's a good thing that we have a dry day. 'They used to leak like a sieve,' Clive Harrington observes.

    I open the driver's door. The window is wound down and there's no quarterlight, so I make sure I don't poke an eye out on the slim, sharp, easily unnoticed pillar standing at the door's front edge. Now snug in the blue bucket seat, I face a giant chronometric tachometer through a vast wood-rimmed steering wheel. A hefty wooden knob tops a surprisingly long gearlever. Neither carpet nor passenger seat are present, but the Sunbeam seems otherwise fully equipped. There's a stout modern rollcage, too. The pedals are offset heavily to the left.

    The engine starts with a hearty bellow and settles to a steady idle. Time to head for the Goodwood pitlane and out on the track. There's no first-gear synchromesh in this Alpine - it came later, in 1964 - but the lever has the precise action I remember from a 1961 Rapier I once owned, marred only by a stiffness across the gate. There's overdrive on third and top but it's currently not working. Rootes' works racers got a five- speed #ZF gearbox but customers weren't given the option.

    I exit the pitlane, feel the engine's free-breathing revvability, and ready myself for the first bend. I didn't expect the Sunbeam to be a precision instrument in the way a well-set-up #MGB , say, can be with its alert rack-and-pinion, and so it proves. Through Madgwick and beyond, it's clear that the Harrington is all about broad brush-strokes, an approximate heading fine-tuned much more easily by throttle than by the springy steering that results from a steering box and a necessarily complex linkage. Rapid changes of a driver's mind are apt to go unnoticed by this Harrington, which prefers to cling doggedly to its trajectory of least resistance. You also have to make a conscious effort to move your right foot a long way leftwards when you want to brake. Otherwise you'll find yourself going unintentionally faster.

    So you have to work with this racing coupe, not fight it. Brake, aim, turn and feel the mass sit heavily on the outside rear CR65. There's now a touch of roll-induced oversteer, so you unwind the steering a little, let the Alpine settle in its attitude of lean and power through the comer in a broadly neutral balance. The rear lever-arm dampers are quite stiff, the resulting transient shifting of forces helping to tip the crossplies into the start of their slither-zone to counteract the initial hint of understeer, but you soon learn to trust their progressive loss of grip and gain in slip- angle.

    Ultimately there's more grip than you think there's going to be, and the Alpine relays in detail exactly how much is left.

    On the Lavant straight the speedometer needle, surely optimistically, passes the end of the scale (at 120mph!). I'm at 5500rpm and rev the engine no higher in deference to its newness, but the Harrington and I are cracking on well. Overdrive third would have been good at St Mary's, but there's enough torque to keep the momentum in direct top until Lavant Comer, taken in third, and the long sweep onto the straight.

    'The Harrington is all about broad brush-strokes, its heading fine-tuned more by throttle than steering’

    Then everything happens at once at the chicane. I want to snick into second after the braking and just before the leftward flick, but I don't give the throttle a big enough blip to reach the required pre-engagement revs and the tail performs a fine wiggle as I re-engage the clutch. This turns into a pleasing power-drift as I re-accelerate and the Harrington is momentarily dominated by engine output, not momentum. This is not an agile car, but it's a faithful one.

    Shortly after my drive, Clive Harrington tried the #Sunbeam-Alpine on a very wet day at Goodwood and reported back that it felt much as it should, and 'very much a Harrington'. Since then, Guy has had another new engine installed, and Chris Snowdon of CS Racing has fine-tuned the chassis set-up and softened the rear suspension. He has also rebuilt the gearbox and overdrive, so all the bugs found in my driving session should have been eradicated. Now it's in fine fettle for Guy to race in the Les Leston Cup at the Goodwood Members' Meeting in March. Prancing horses and all.

    THANKS TO Guy Harman, Clive Harrington and Goodwood (www. goodwood. co. uk).

    'The prancing horse is present on both front wings and the blue driver’s seat is just like that of a 250GTO’


    Car 1962 #Sunbeam-Harrington-Alpine (as raced in 1963)
    ENGINE 1592cc four-cylinder, OHV, two #Weber 40DCOE carburettors
    POWER Over 100bhp @ approx 6200rpm
    TORQUE Approx 100lb ft @ 4750rpm
    TRANSMISSION Four-speed manual with overdrive on third and top, rear-wheel drive
    STEERING Recirculating ball
    SUSPENSION
    Front: double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar.
    Rear: live axle, leaf springs, lever-arm dampers.
    BRAKES Discs front, drums rear.
    WEIGHT 900kg
    PERFORMANCE
    Top speed 120mph. 0-60mph 9.5 sec
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  • 1966 Sunbeam Alpine. This lovely Series V Alpine stayed with its first owner - a lady florist who was given the car as a present - until it was acquired four years ago by the vendor for a new keeper, who has now decided to sell it. Hurst Park had the car resprayed in the original Carnival Red when it last changed hands and it's still immaculate. There's no sign of corrosion in any of the vulnerable places, such as around the headlamps or on the scuttle. There's some pitting on the doorhandles, but the brightwork is otherwise smart.

    The car sits nicely, showing that rear springs haven't sagged - their front mounts seem solid. It sports virtually unused Uniroyal 165x13s and is just as clean underneath, with a thorough application of underseal, plus, we are told, Wax oil injected into the structure. There's a half-stainless exhaust, and the steel front end looks decent, leading down from a leak- free engine. The oil was a bit below the top mark and the coolant needed topping up, but the Sunbeam will be serviced before sale.

    Year of manufacture 1966
    Recorded mileage 44,340.
    Asking price £17,995
    Vendor Hurst Park Automobiles, East Molesey, Surrey; tel: 01372 468487; hurstpark. co. uk

    WHEN IT WAS NEW
    Price £954 19s
    Max power 92.5bhp
    Max torque 110lb ft
    0-60mph 13.6 secs
    Top speed 98mph
    Mpg 25.5

    Both doors open like a new car, revealing solid hinge mounts. The vinyl trim is factory, with only a couple of small holes on the driver's seat. The tired webbing in both chairs was replaced during the refurbishment, which included new carpets, but the tidy rubber mats - correct for a Roadster - are the originals. The vinyl-covered dash - featuring most of the period- option Jaeger instruments - and pristine sprung wheel were also part of the Roadster spec. The Smiths clock (£7 15s 4d extra) works, too.

    The 1725cc unit starts instantly on choke and settles to a reasonably even tickover at about 1100rpm, showing 40psi of oil pressure cold, or just below that at hot idle when the temperature sits at c75°C. There's a slight fluffiness - typical of twin Strombergs - but the engine is quite free-revving, with a fruity rasp from the K&Ns (the originals are included). The recirculating-ball steering is deceptively precise, the slick, all-synchro gearchange is superb and the overdrive works cleanly on third and top.

    The Alpine's hood is in good condition, under a mint cover. It comes with a full Rootes tonneau, a set of tools and will be sold with a fresh MoT.

    SUMMARY

    EXTERIOR
    • Paintwork virtually flawless; both bumpers rechromed

    INTERIOR
    • Ryton vinyl over rebuilt seats; new carpets under factory mats

    MECHANICALS
    • Sorted bar minor hesitation VALUE ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

    For - Almost as good as new; painted wires look spot-on

    Against - Carbs might need tune-up

    SHOULD I BUY IT?
    It's pricey but what the best go for.
    Ideal for showing - it won its class at the Double Twelve - or just using
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  • Sunbeam Alpine. When Dr No appeared in cinemas in 1962 it was condemned by the Vatican for its sex and sadism, and by the Kremlin as an example of corrupt capitalism. It didn't matter: the public loved 007.

    When Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman joined forces on Bond, both were taking a risk. Hollywood studios had avoided Ian Fleming's spy hero for being 'too British' and 'too blatantly sexual'. But together, the producers reached a deal with United Artists, who agreed to put up a modest $1 million budget.

    Broccoli and Saltzman were at pains to make the film look more expensive. They took care defining the Bond? According to Saltzman, the role was “the acting plum of the decade". Step forward 31-year-old Scan Connery, an Edinburgh- born veteran of the Royal Navy, who had turned down football trials with Manchester United to pursue an acting career. Connery made 007 his own in five further movies.

    Dr No is the prototype for every future Bond movie, with its fast editing, thrilling action, exotic locations and beautiful women. It also features Bond's first car chase. Driving a series II Sunbeam Alpine, 007 defeats Dr No's assassins. In later films, gadgets would embellish the action. But all the essentials of a Bond car chase are there from the start: a dramatic setting - Jamaica's cliff roads; knife-edge driving skills; a startling stunt - Bond passing under the crane; and the final, fiery dispatch of the baddies.

    Daring and thrilling. Dr No grossed a healthy $60 million worldwide - James Bond would definitely return.
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  • Sunbeam Alpine. With his favourite Bentley IV in England, Bond hires a sporty Sunbeam Alpine to get around in Jamaica. What the series II lacks in Q Branch extras, it more than makes up for in sporting style.

    For his first cinematic car chase, Bond doesn't drive a vehicle bristling with Q's ingenious gadgets. Chased along Jamaica's cliff roads by Dr No's assassins, 007 relies on his driving skills and the sporty handling of his series II Sunbeam Alpine. Bond easily outdrives the Three Blind Mice assassins, who are pursuing him - appropriately enough - in a hearse.

    1.6 LITRE ENGINE - The series II engine is more powerful than its predecessor, producing 94lb/ft of torque at 3,800rpm to the original series 1’s 89.5lb/ft at 3.400rpm.

    HILLMAN CHASSIS - To save money, the Sunbeam Alpine chassis is based on the Hillman Husky, a two-door estate car also produced by the Rootes Group.

    SHARP STYLING - The Alpine is clearly influenced by the best of American automotive design, in particular the early Ford Thunderbird.

    SOFT TOP ROOF - Boasting one of the best- designed soft tops of its time, the Alpine's roof stowage is surprisingly easy and neat, lying flush with the car when down.

    WIND-UP WINDOWS - Rootes fiRed its car with glass wind-up windows at a time when many roadsters were still making do with simple sliding, perspex windows.

    MOTOR MAGAZINE, 1959 - If this is a sports car then it belongs to a new breed of sports car.

    LAYCOCK DE NORMANVILLE OVERDRIVE - The Sunbeam's optional overdrive slows down the engine's rpm at a given speed, so drivers can enjoy fuel-efficient, high speed, highway cruising.
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  • #Sunbeam
    Sunbeam #Alpine built to race. Sunbeam had a sporting heritage, oozing glamour and speed. Rootes cars had a reputation for reliability and not much else. Together, they produced a best-selling British sports car: the Sunbeam Alpine. The Alpine... is attractive, safe, and fast. The world's markets are overdue for such a car. (AUTOCAR, 1959)

    Motor racing and glamour have always gone hand in hand, and in the 1920s, Sunbeam traded on both. The marque smashed land speed records and won races around the world. But the glory quickly faded when unpaid debts from World War I (WW1) plunged the company into receivership in the 1930s.

    Rootes, on the other hand, was one of the less dazzling British car makers of the first half of the 20th century. Its biggest marques, Hillman and Humber, were reliable but renowned for neither their performance nor styling. So when Sunbeam was bought by Rootes in 1935, its days of motor racing looked to have come to an end.

    By 1948, however. Lord 'Billy' Rootes, chairman of the eponymous company, had been persuaded to create a competitions department. With an impressive collection of drivers, Rootes set about designing a sporting model. Their first project was a two-seater version of the existing Sunbeam Talbot saloon car. It would be called the Sunbeam Alpine - in honour of the Rootes Rally Team's success in the legendary Alpine Rally, from Marseille to Chamonix.

    Introduced in 1953 this car lasted just two years. It had movie star good looks - seen to good effect in Hitchcock's film To Catch A Thief (1953) - but was essentially a chopped down saloon car. Still, good sales convinced Rootes that the market was ready for a custom-made sports car.

    Rootes designer Kenneth Howes had just returned from working at Studebaker in Detroit, and he brought sporty, modern American styling to the new Sunbeam Alpine. Launched in 1959 to rave reviews, the Alpine had one weakness, with a 1,494cc engine, it was slightly under-powered. But this problem was addressed with the launch of the 1,592cc Series II in 1960.

    The next year, Harrington Coachbuilders, who had a long association with Rootes, modified a Sunbeam Alpine to compete in the Le Mans 24-hour race. It came second in the 1,600cc class, reviving Sunbeam's racing heritage. In November, Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham raced Alpines in California and after their success on the track, the car sold out on the West Coast.
    Sadly, in 1967 American car manufacturer #Chrysler bought Rootes and ended Sunbeam Alpine production a year later. More than 69,000 Alpines had been sold, but after 20 years of success, Rootes severed its ties with sports cars forever.

    The Sunbeam's clean American lines and styling, included signature pointed tail fins.
    A sports car for the young at heart - from 1960 to 1963. almost 20,000 series II Alpines were sold.

    ENGINE: 1.592cc in-line 4 cylinder
    TOP SPEED: 101.1mph(163km/h)
    0-60 MPH: 13.6 seconds
    POWER: 80bhp @ 5,000rpm
    TRANSMISSION: 4-speed manual (optional overdrive)
    SUSPENSION:
    Front: independent coil springs, wishbones
    Rear Live axle, semi- elliptic leaf springs
    BRAKES:
    Front discs
    Rear: drum brakes
    LENGTH: 3.943mm
    WIDTH: 1.537mm
    WEIGHT: 972kg
    £1961/2007: £985/5450

    Keeping a low profile
    ONE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN IAN FLEMING'S
    Dr No and the film is Bond's choice of vehicle in Jamaica. #Fleming had specified a Hillman Minx, a convincingly dull hire car However, the Bond filmmakers, wanting to upgrade the glamour of their spy. chose a Sunbeam Alpine.

    On location in Jamaica, they hired the sporty little convertible for a mere 10 shillings a day. Though underpowered compared with rivals like the MGB and TR3 and 4, the series II Alpine allowed Dr No's producers to stage a car chase for 007's first outing. Fleming's choice. the Hillman Minx (top speed a dull 125km/h). would have made slow work of the island's winding cliff roads. The Alpine, however, topped out at 163km/h.

    The real challenge was the scene's climax. Sean Connery remembers producer Cubby Broccoli having the idea of the Sunbeam Alpine racing underneath the arm of a crane. Intending to perform the stunt for real, the crew did a slow run through. It was immediately clear that, at full speed and bouncing along the bumpy road, the Alpine - with the 190cm-tall Connery driving - would never clear the crane. According to Connery, the crew tried letting air out of the tyres to lower the car to no avail. The final take is clearly filmed against back projection.

    #Alpine
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