Monday, December 23, 2013

Classic Postwar Sporty Brit: Sunbeam Alpine Mks 1 & 3

Only 1,852 Sunbeam Alpine Marks 1 and 3 were built during their 1953-55 production run, as this Wikipedia entry mentions.  The Alpine was based on the Sunbeam-Talbot 90 that was produced 1948-1954.

Whereas American styling abandoned the vertical grille towards the end of the 1930s, most British cars did not follow suit until the 1950s, some brands being slower than others in making the transition (traditionalists Rolls-Royce and Bentley did not 'modernise' their grilles until recently).

The 1948 Sunbeam-Talbot 90 along with the Jowett Javelin and the Standard Vanguard, both introduced in 1947, represent England's first echelon of postwar automobiles incorporating "envelope" bodies and other modern styling touches.


This seems to be a poster or brochure cover depicting the Sunbeam-Talbot 90 models.  The blue car in the background is the main production version, a four-door saloon.  In the foreground is the drophead coupe version that served as the basis for the Alpine.  Design features include a traditional vertical grille, front fenders that fade away over the door in the manner of 1942 Packard Clippers, and something unusual -- no clearly defined rear fender.  The cars pictured here have open rear wheel housings that reduce the visual bulk of what otherwise would be a large expanse of boring sheet metal (though coverings were available for buyers opting for a smoother appearance).

This is the front cover of a brochure for the Alpine.  I found this on the Internet, but have a copy of this brochure or something similar buried in my collection of automobile sales literature.  Unfortunately, the illustration isn't signed, but it clearly is in the spirit of Frank Wootton.

Another brochure illustration, this showing the smooth curve from the back of the passenger compartment across the trunk (boot) down to the rear bumper.  Look carefully at the image of the Sunbeam-Talbot 90s and note that the shape of the rear of the 90 drophead is less smooth due to the rear passenger seat and the folding top.

Here are photos of Sunbeam Alpines found on the Web.  The green car is a 1955 Mk. 3 and the lower image is of a rare 1953 Mk. 1 with small, racing-type windshields.

I have no serious complaints about the Alpine's styling, especially when taking into account where and when it was conceived.  My main suggestion would be to add a trace of a rear fender, emerging about two-thirds up the side of the car and about half the distance between the door and the rear wheel opening.  This would help lighten slightly the heavy appearance of the rear third of the car.  A much  more costly improvement would be to move the passenger compartment about one foot (30 cm) to the rear.  This would provide a longer hood and better balance to the design which basically was that of the drophead coupe with the rear seat eliminated.

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