History of the 1965 - 1968 Sunbeam-Talbot/Sunbeam Alpine
The Sunbeam Alpine Series III, Series IV and Series V are two-seater convertibles produced from 1963 to 1968.
The third-generation Sunbeam Alpine featured a considerable amount of changes from the Series II; the body now featured doors with quarter lights and a new windscreen. There were also twin interconnected fuel tanks, there were larger front disc brakes with servo assistance and the rear suspension now had telescopic shock absorbers. The 1.6-litre S4 OHV engine, recirculating ball steering and front independent coil and wishbones remained the same.
Sunbeam introduced the Alpine Series III in March 1963 at the Geneva Motor Show and was available in Sports (£840 7s 1d) or GT (£899 11s 3d) versions; the former had a fabric hood while the latter had a detachable hard top (but no hood), full carpeting, a wooden-rimmed steering wheel and a walnut veneered dashboard. The GT was 9bhp less powerful than the Alpine Sports largely due to a cast iron exhaust manifold that was intended to reduce cabin noise. Both models had two-speed wipers, windscreen washers, an adjustable steering column and reclining seats with overdrive and a heater on the list of extras. The Series III could accelerate from 0-60 in 15 seconds and the top speed was around the 98mph mark.
In July 1963 Sunbeam fitted the Alpine GT’s engine with a single Solex carburettor in place of the twin Zenith units, as was the Sports two months later.
January 1964, Sunbeam facelifted the Alpine again as the Series IV; the tailfins were much reduced in size, there were a simpler radiator grille, amber front indicators and the suspension settings were altered. The Sports had a new hood folding mechanism, and the power output for both it and the GT was 82bhp. By late 1964 the Sports cost £853 8s 9d and the GT £913 17s 1d and the options list now included automatic transmission; an Autocar test of a GT so-equipped (price £1,003 9s 7d) found the overall performance much reduced; a 92 mph top speed with 0-60 in 19 seconds as opposed to 100 mph and 13.5 seconds.
The Series V Alpine introduced in October 1965 had a 92.5 bhp 1,725cce engine shared with the Sunbeam Rapier. There were now self-adjusting rear drums and automatic gears were no longer available. As with its predecessor, the Series V came in Sports (£877 12s 1d) and GT (£938 5d) forms, the latter having a heater, sun visors and courtesy lighting as standard. The maximum speed was now 102 mph with 0-60 in 13 seconds.
The Alpine Series V ceased production in January 1968.
The Series III and the Series IV were powered by a 1,592cc S4 OHV engine with twin Zenith 36 carburettors on the early models and a Solex 32 on both the later Series IIIs and the Series IV. The Series V had a 1,725cc S4 OHV unit with twin Stromberg 150CD carburettors. The four-speed manual box had synchromesh on the top three gears until September 1964 and was all synchromesh thereafter. The optional Laycock de Normanville overdrive functioned on the top two gears and some Series IVs are fitted with a 3-speed Borg Warner Type 35 box.
Some Sunbeam connoisseurs favour the Series III Alpine for its combination of dramatic tailfins and enhanced mechanical specification, while others opt for the discrete looks of the Series IV. The Series V engine is very pleasantly refined and the Alpine GT does provide comfortable winter transport.
The windscreen surrounds of the Series III/IV/V do tend to badly corrode at their bottom edges and in place of the Series I/II’s optional aluminium hard tops there is a rust-prone steel roof. The rear spring hangers are more challenging to repair than on earlier Alpines.
The later model Sunbeam Alpines are now, at long last, being appreciated for their own – and considerable - merits rather than being seen as simply a 4-cylinder cousin to the Sunbeam Tiger.
The Sunbeam Alpine’s rivals included the Fiat 1500 Cabriolet, the Ford Consul Capri, the MGB roadster and GT, the Renault Caravelle, the Triumph TR4 and TR4A, and the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 1 and Type 34.