Cheap Alpine Starter Project or Rotary-Swapped?

1960 Sunbeam Alpine for sale1964 Sunbeam alpine for sale

While the American V8 in a European body formula typically produces awesome results (Examples 1, 2, and 3), the Sunbeam Tiger nearly stretches that logic to its breaking point. The Ford 260ci V8 practically needs an external oiling to fit in the engine bay, and cooling problems abound. Instead, why not start with the lesser sibling and drop something interesting in an Alpine?

Today we’ve got two paths to go down: one that’s “already done” (a phrase I’m never allowed to speak at home, due to its 100% falseness) and another that’s a blank canvas with a hint of Pinto 2.3L…

When you see a small, light roadster, what power plant immediately comes to mind? (LSXFTW BRO!) Without much weight to motivate off the line, a 12A rotory could well make for an entertaining ride. If nothing else, it certainly solves the packaging problems associated with a hefty V8. This one’s motivated by the motor from an SCCA class-winning RX3, which means it probably makes more than the low-100s horsepower the stock plant did. There’s not a lot of detail about the car itself, other than the seats needing a refurbishing. It’s likely the kind of car you could drive and enjoy while dropping a few hundred bucks here and there on fixes and upgrades. Of course, the $10,000 asking price might detract from the fixes and upgrades fund.

1964 Sunbeam Alpine with 12A rotary swap – SFBay Craigslist

1960 Sunbeam Alpine for sale

$10k is too much money. You want to do it on the cheap. Fine. Let’s start with this $600 example in my own backyard. It’ll need some floor patches and, oh yeah, an engine and transmission. The seller has a Ford 2.3L Pinto motor and manual transmission to go along with it for that price. Additionally, there’s a hard top in need of new rear glass (good luck with that). There’s no title, which means you won’t have to pay registration or non-op fees until you’re actually done, but you must journey through the Sea of Glass that is DMV title re-assignment. But seriously…$600 asking price is a pretty sweet deal. Or would you say maybe a little sour, even?

1960 Sunbeam Alpine for sale – SFBay Craigslist

11 Comments

  1. Amazing price difference. If I actually possessed mechanical skills, the project would look like a great divorce blast. Yet, this comparison makes a rotary swapped Alpine look like a reasonable choice – so I’d go for this one and applaud the feat.

  2. Project, but only if that 2.3L can be upgraded to SVO spec, because one needs 205hp (more than a 260ci Tiger!) in a car weighing about the same as a bag of chips.

  3. Sunbeam Alpine + S&S V124 Super Stock, for me! 138 HP, 123 Ft/Lbs.
    If I’m going to own a $10,000 Alpine, it’s going to go potato-potato-potato-potato…

  4. Sacrilege time: I don’t understand the appeal of the Alpine as a project. To my eyes, the styling is the most generic iteration of the “Early 60s Roadster Shape”, and while it’s inoffensive from all angles, it’s not interesting from any. If you’re going to engine-swap it, and by extension change/upgrade the suspension and drivetrain, the only reason to pick a particular car is for its looks…

    1. You say “early 60s roadster shape,” I say “simple clean lines that have aged well.”

  5. Quite honestly, I’d go to the trouble of finding a good 1725 engine and overdrive gearbox to install. So many of the Alpines were either discarded when someone didn’t want to deal with finding parts or became bodyshell donors for Tigers (or, worse, the subject of bad V8 swaps) that four-cylinder cars are comparatively rare.

    1. Good thought. OD is difficult to source though to fit the Alpine transmission. As a two Alpine owner I can say they are one of the few 6’4″ driver cars for comfort from this era. The seats adjust for height and rake by movable bars underneath, the backrests recline and the steering wheel is adjustable for reach by a center knob. Small touches (used on other Brit cars? I wonder.) like rotating, adjustable brightness high beam and turn indicator dash lights add to driver comfort. Koni shocks and good tires make a decent handling car. Braking was always an issue but 49/51 weight distribution and decently low CG made them handle well. The 1725 can be massaged well and tuning parts are still available. They are just now coming up in value but are still bargains.

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