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Lot 157: Sunbeam Alpine Rally Car

Goodwood Revival Sale, Bonhams (15 September 2012)

Aimed squarely at the North American market, the Sunbeam Alpine roadster was based on the existing Sunbeam-Talbot 90 saloon with styling input from Raymond Loewy. The 90's chassis and running gear were retained, the former suitably stiffened to compensate for the reduced rigidity of the open-topped bodyshell, while the front suspension was stiffened and the steering revised. To enhance the Alpine's sporting credentials, the 2,267cc four-cylinder overhead-valve engine received a power boost to 80bhp courtesy of a revised cylinder head. Initially for export only, the new Alpine did not reach the UK market until the autumn of 1953, but before then the new model's launch had been enhanced by a blaze of publicity following successful record breaking attempts at Montlhery, France and Jabbeke in Belgium where Stirling Moss achieved a maximum speed of 120mph. Nevertheless, despite valuable exposure accruing from these exploits and class wins in the Alpine Rally, the Alpine was unable to counter the price advantage enjoyed by its rivals and was dropped in 1955. Rootes built six right-hand drive cars for the works rally team, which contested only two events: the 1953 and '54 Alpine Rallies. In the 1953 Alpine, four cars were awarded Coupes for un-penalised runs, with Stirling Moss the highest finisher in 14th place overall. The car offered here, 'MKV 23', was crewed by Peter Collins, who had yet to make his mark in Formula 1 and at Ferrari, and Ronnie Adams who had been promised a drive by team manager Norman Garrad. But by the last day of the rally, Adams had still not driven the car as Collins refused to agree to him driving it. Adams (who went on to win the 1956 Monte Carlo Rally in a Jaguar MkVII) then refused to carry on and 'MKV 23' was disqualified. The team replaced him with David Humphrey, a Rootes employee, but this did not satisfy the Rally regulations and the disqualification stood. In any case, during the last day the car lost all forward gears and could only cross the finish line in reverse! For the 1954 Alpine Rally, Rootes fielded the same six cars and Moss again won a Coupe, his third in a row. 'MKV 23' fared less well, breaking the differential part way up the Stelvio Pass in the Dolomites. Unfortunately it could not be replaced within time and the car was retired. After the '54 Alpine Rally all the team cars were retired and sent to Rootes main dealers in major UK cities for promotional work. When it was felt that no more publicity could be rung out of them, they were sold off, 'MKV 23' finding its way to Galashiels in Scotland. In 1963 the Alpine was involved in an accident, resulting in it spending the next 26-or-so years in storage. Though damaged, there was no corrosion and the car - complete with Rootes Ltd of Devonshire House, Piccadilly, London W1, specification plaque on the scuttle - remained in sound condition, being suitable therefore for full restoration. The immediately preceding owner, the late Peter Shimmell, purchased the Alpine in 1989 in Berwick-on-Tweed, and after a full restoration it was back on the road in 1990 looking splendid in Alpine Mist with seats trimmed in Blood Red leather. Since restoration, 'MKV 23' has undertaken numerous trips to Europe: South of France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, covering some 25,000 miles along the way. In 1994 the car was entered in the 'Rallye de Alpes', finishing with credits despite a fuel supply problem. In 2003 the Alpine was entered in the 'Coppa Milano San Remo', again finishing with honours. On this occasion, the crew were awarded a trophy for driving a competing car the greatest distance (1,345 miles) to join the event at Monza. In 2007 the car was again entered in the 'Rallye des Alpes' and finished with credits. Incorporating the works upgrades of a high-compression cylinder head, alloy inlet manifold and Weber IDA carburettor, the engine was completely rebuilt circa 2009 and is still not run-in. A floor-mounted gear change conversion was fitted at the same time (all original column change parts remain with the car) and the paintwork retouched to repair stone chips. Bills for the aforementioned work are on file. The car's current specification also includes a rally trip meter, map light, Lucas spot lamps, stone guards, bonnet strap and overdrive. Eligible for many prestigious historic events, 'MKV 23' is freshly taxed/MoT'd and offered with Swansea V5C. This rare ex-works Alpine also comes with its original logbook (recording its first registration to Humber Ltd and all subsequent owners); a quantity of expired MoT certificates and tax discs; and two albums of in-period photographs of the Rootes' works rally team.

Lot Details
Auction Goodwood Revival Sale
Bonhams, Chichester, Goodwood
TypeCar
Lot Number157
Estimate£48000-£55000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£46000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£52900
Year1953
Condition rating
Registration numberMKV 23
Mileage-
Chassis numberA3012464HRO
Engine number3012464
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2