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Thread: Doane Spencers Sunbeam Tiger

  1. #1

    Doane Spencers Sunbeam Tiger

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    There are those in the hot rod scene who donít know Doane Spencer was a road race guy. Likewise, there are those in the road race scene who donít know he was also a hot rodder.

    Doane Spencer enjoyed two distinct phases in a lifetime building cars. And several of his cars have become influential in many ways. In the early 1940s, when Doane was a teenager, he did some work on a full-fendered 1932 Ford Roadster hot rod, owned by a classmate of his, Jack Dorn. The work included filling the grille shell and adding a stunning Du Vall windshield. In 1944, Spencer purchased the í32 off Dorn and set about rebuilding it to his own tastes, removing the fenders, and repainting it black (it was originally maroon).

    At the time, Spencer was knocking around with other young hot rodders such as Wally Parks, Robert E. Petersen, and Alex Xydias, guys who would all play significant rolls over the coming years in the growth and main stream acceptance of hot rodding.

    Spencers beautiful í32 Roadster would go on to become one of the most influential hot rods ever built, and many of the modifications he made to the car are still copied today. He raced it on the dry lakes, running 126.76mph at El Mirage, yet the car also won show awards, including Best Appealing Roadster at the Pasadena Roadster Clubís 1947 Reliability Run, and it was invited to be displayed at the first SCTA Hot Rod Show in 1948.

    However, Spencer had other interests outside hot rodding. His fascination with road racing was evident at a young age. In the early Ď50s he tore the í32 apart, and began rebuilding it so he could race it in La Carrera Panamericana. He rebuilt the suspension, ran the exhaust pipes out each side through the chassis rails for better ground clearance, installed a Hallibrand quick-change rear, Hallibrand magnesium wheels, and replaced the Flathead V8 with an OHV Lincoln motor. However, before the Roadster was finished, La Carrera Panamericana was cancelled.

    But for Spencer, the path was set. He became involved in the world of road racing, building and preparing race cars. His early hot rodding roots were evident in many of the cars he built, none more so than his 1956 Thunderbird, and 1965 Sunbeam Tiger.

    The Tiger deal came together during his time at Hollywood Sports Cars, when approached by Ian Garrard of Rootes Motors, whoíd moved to the US in 1951, eventually becoming their West Coast manager. Garrard had approached Carroll Shelby about building and running a Tiger in B Production sports car races throughout 1964. With Lew Spencer at the wheel, the Shelby built Tiger enjoyed some success late in the year, but overall, Garrard was disappointed, so approached Spencer at Hollywood Sports Cars about building a new Tiger for the í65 season.

    The Spencer Tiger was a work of art. Painted black, with the exhausts exiting each side through the sills, and with Hallibrand wheels, many of his hot rodding influences were evident. Spencer built the Tiger with 4-wheel disc brakes, a beautiful low Perspex windscreen that wrapped around each flank and along the doors, a driver roll-hoop in which the bodywork molded around the rear support bar. He removed anything in the engine bay that didnít need to be there, and relocated it elsewhere within the car, and cut reverse louvres in the hood and ducts in the front guards to help cure the Tiger of its natural tendency to overheat.

    With just under 350hp extracted from its 260ci V8, the Spencer Tiger was said to be able to lift its front wheels on hard acceleration! With Jim Adams at the controls, it won first time out. The car was withdrawn at Candlestick Park after qualifying 1st equal with Phill Hill in Ken Miles 427 Cobra, after the track-bar bent. But Adams won the B Production sports car race at Mosport Park during the Mosport 200 event, and was 3rd behind Jerry Titus (Shelby GT350) and Merle Brenen (Jaguar E-Type) at the Pacific Coast Divisional Champs.

    The Tiger won the Santa Barbara Road Races, the Stockton Road Races, Great Salt Lake Road Races, Willow Springs, and the San Louis Obispo Road Races during the í65 season, gaining a healthy points haul.

    However, mid-year, Adams broke his leg, and Spencer chose not to run the Tiger again until he was fit to race again, which was at the last race of the season at Daytona, for the American Road Race of Champions, where Adams was 4th fastest in qualifying behind a 427 Cobra and a pair of Shelby GT350s, but he was eliminated on the first lap by a spinning Corvette.

    Following Daytona, Garrard sold the Tiger to Ron Dykes, who raced it fleetingly throughout 1966, before its career came to an end.

    Of the handful of Anglo-American sports cars built during the Ď60s, the subtle Sunbeam Tiger is probably one of the more mild-mannered. But the Doane Spencer road race Tiger was definitely monster of a race car, and surely the toughest Tiger ever built.

  2. #2
    Journeyman Racer
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    I am aware of the 32 and his T-Bird and have seen both cars on visits to the States but never knew of this car. Doane was quite the designer

  3. #3
    Doane also engineered the Chris Cord (& Jim Adams) Dekon Monza's (1011/1012)
    Last edited by aussiemonza; 02-16-2012 at 08:56 AM.

  4. #4
    Weekend Warrior
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    Tigers are not dead yet.
    To name just 3
    Tom Patton from Ohio consistently won his class in SCCA central Division and in 1999 won the SCCA GT-2 run-offs....33 years AFTER they ceased production of the Sunbeam Tiger.
    Jackie Cochrane hold his class lap record at Snetterton at a blistering 1:125 and is another consistent winner
    Jayne Wignall rallied her Tiger to numerous outright and class wins...46 rallies in 14 years and seldom out of the top 10 finishers
    Not the worst record in the world

  5. #5
    Some west coast Rootes dealers stocked hot up equiptment for the Tiger ,these parts were pre-fixed by the designation L.A.T.( which stood for Los Angeles Tiger ) and an enthusiast owner could Cobra-ize his/her car to their own taste. I believe they are highly prized by Tiger owners today.Name:  img001.jpg
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  6. #6
    Wow, mid-year, this is really cool!

  7. #7
    Tigers are roaring still in NZ. I just thought I would post a couple of photos of Tigers in NZ. Me being one of the founding members of the Sunbeam and Tiger club here in NZ, also Possibly being the first in the world to fit a Ford V6 to an Alpine back in the mid seventies


    A lineup of Tigers and my V6 Alpine (Yellow)Name:  tiger line up.JPG
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    Last edited by markson; 05-11-2012 at 08:46 PM. Reason: edit

  8. #8
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    Founding members of club ponder my project. Graham
    Last edited by markson; 05-10-2012 at 06:57 PM. Reason: edit

  9. #9
    World Champion
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    Markson, this post has nothing whatever to do with the Doane Spencer Tiger, but it concerns Sunbeam Alpines in general, and as you are obviously a Sunbeam enthusiast, having posted pictures of a project you are/were engaged in, I thought I would just give you a warning. I'm not sure whether you go back over early threads to check on their content, but there is one which I implore you NOT to read.......Yards and Yarns, page4, post 69. I have never had the pleasure of meeting another Sunbeam ALPINE enthusiast, and I guess it wont happen, should you be tempted to read 69. I stress that my experience was just that...MY.
    Have often wondered where that car went to, but my name will be on the ownership papers, as well as Zac Urlich, the original owner, should any one have restored it.

  10. #10
    I think Allan Currie would not like you Amco.he is now in a home in Havelock north ,he came out here to NZ with Ron Flockhart also claimed to date Jim Clarks sister back in Dunns?

  11. #11
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Size:  36.9 KBHi Markson,nice pictures of the Tiger/Alpine club cars.The MK2 tiger was a much improved model with it,s 289 engine but a rare bird today. Shelby American also built a Tiger MK1 race car and it was driven by Lew Spencer,no relation to Doane I think.
    Last edited by mid-year; 05-13-2012 at 04:10 AM.

  12. #12
    World Champion
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    Jum, I thought Alan Currie had died. Clearly not. A good guy.....sat my MSNZ oral exam at his place in Hamilton. And yes he did have a nice Tiger, and wasn't there some thing extra special about it.....an owner or the engine??? Wonder where it is. Last time I saw it was at the Bruce McLaren festival.

  13. #13
    World Champion
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    Also just wondered Steve whether this thread could be expanded to all Alpines/Tigers in general, as apart from your first post, most of the rest have been other than the Doane Spenser car. Just a suggestion.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by mid-year View Post
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Size:  36.9 KBHi Markson,nice pictures of the Tiger/Alpine club cars.The MK2 tiger was a much improved model with it,s 289 engine but a rare bird today. Shelby American also built a Tiger MK1 race car and driven by Lew spencer,no relation to Doane I think.
    Hey Pete, thanks for posting that. Its the first colour picture I've seen of the Shelby Tiger. Rootes Group approached Shelby to build this car in 1964, but the results weren't what they had hoped for, so approached Doane Spencer.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by markson View Post
    Whats the story with this car? It looks a bit like the one Juliane Balme (Classic & Sports Car magazine writer) built.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by AMCO72 View Post
    Also just wondered Steve whether this thread could be expanded to all Alpines/Tigers in general, as apart from your first post, most of the rest have been other than the Doane Spenser car. Just a suggestion.
    Probably best to start a new Tiger/Alpine dedicated thread Gerald, looks like there is plenty of interest in this.

  17. #17

    Garrad cable

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  18. #18
    This car was built by 3 Tiger owners of the Sunbeam Car Club back in the mid 80's and was frequently seen at Pukekohe, Wellington, street races,Manfeild,Wings & Wheels etc.It was based on the Doana Spencer car with similar aero screen,black colour and always raced with 55 on the doors.The engine produced 400 Hp from a single 4 barrel Holley 715, Ford Toploader 4spd and 2 different diff ratios for short or long tracks. Like all Tigers straight line performance was its strong suit and was often up with front runners in the all-comers last race of the day.
    The engine was taken out and put into a Sylva Striker V8 the owners built a few years later.But talking to them just the other day they tell me they are going to bring the Tiger out of retirement with a bigger motor and the biggest brakes that will fit,it will be great to see it back on the track . Graham Name:  Tiger race.jpg
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    Last edited by markson; 05-13-2012 at 04:36 PM. Reason: edit

  19. #19
    Wow,400 bhp in a Tiger! should frighten any unwary small-block Cobra. No fun changing the rear spark plugs though.
    Last edited by mid-year; 05-13-2012 at 08:30 PM.

  20. #20
    Hi Mid-year Certainly not when the engine is hot .Graham

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