Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Putting the Horses Before the Cart


This blog is dedicated to tracking the progress (and probable setbacks) of the complete and utter restoration of a 1962 Sunbeam Alpine. Well...more of a resto-mod.

To be honest, an Alpine wasn’t the first choice for this particular project but - in hindsight - it is perfect for what I’ve got planned [insert evil laughter here].

The idea of cramming a V8 into one of these LBCs (Little British Cars) sparked a few years ago during the restoration of my old ‘67 Triumph TR4A (see I didn’t want to veer too far from stock on that build, but V8 thoughts remained, haunting.

As many men throughout history have pondered, I too had thought How absurdly large of an engine can I put into a comically small chassis? Although the possibilities seemed endless, the amount of class and downright appropriateness whittled my choices to a mere handful:
         -   It would have to be a small block for size & weight considerations
         -   It would have to be common enough to make sense
         -   It would have to be period-correct to be ‘believable’

The Buick-Rover 215 Aluminum job seemed like a nice fit, but not really common enough to have adequate performance parts available. The Chevy 350 seemed too commonplace. A Ford 289/302 was a safe bet, but I wanted something more. I couldn’t put my finger on it, though. A certain something. Something that made a statement, something that piqued curiosity, something that reeked of performance and captured the essence of the 60’s. A Corvette motor? That was it. A Chevy 327 is so much more elegant than the ubiquitous 350. And performance to boot – 365 horses from a stock 327 in 1965, SOLD!

And ‘sold’ it was – I found nice short block on eBay and I had my engine. A 1965 Chevy 327, which I turned into a reproduction/modified L-76 that should pump out around 440 HP (I went straight past ludicrous and into plaid). I’ll dedicate a post solely to this engine and “Project HFS” later.

This was July 2011. I had my horses, but no cart to speak of.

Fast-forward to December 2011: I had mentioned the urge to use a TR4/4A as the cage for this mouse motor but, alas, I was having a hard time finding the right one. Also, the more I thought about the TR4, the less convinced I was that it was the right choice. It’s a strong car, but I worried about all the flex it had without strapping on an additional 300+ horses. That body-on-frame technology just wouldn’t do.

Enter the Sunbeam. I had originally ruled out the Sunbeam as a choice, based more on ignorance than anything else. I knew Tigers. I knew they had V8s. I also knew my budget – and Tigers were not in it. I knew of Alpines, but I didn’t know much. I kinda knew the Tiger was a derivative of the Alpine, but didn’t realize how similar they truly were. I didn’t really pay much attention to them until I saw how inexpensive they were. So I did some research. Parts seemed readily available, they’re lighter than the Triumphs, they’re unibody cars, and Bingo was his name-oh. The skies cleared and my mind was made up: the Sunbeam Alpine.

As luck would have it, I found a rust-free ’62 in SoCal on eBay the same day my revelation came to me and I bought it.

My 1962 Sunbeam Series II Alpine arrived on December 20, 2011.
And so the journey begins...