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Thursday
Dec012011

Grace's Graceful Sunbeam

I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief on TV last night for the umpteenth time. Not because it was one of Hitchcock’s best (it wasn’t) but because it featured one of the most beautiful cars of the period, a 1954 Mark I Sunbeam Alpine roadster, driven by one of the most beautiful women, Grace Kelly. It made me want to show you pictures of the 1955 Mark III Alpine I bought in 1989 and restored to match the car in the movie as closely as possible.

Lacking original paint chips for reference, I luckily found an excellent match for the original Sapphire Blue in the metallic blue for the 1989 Merkur Scorpio. Matching the fawn leather upholstery was no problem because Jaguar still used the same color.

Believe it or not, Sears still sold top kits.Ironically, Princess Grace would later die on the same road above Monaco she sped over in the movie, with Cary Grant riding white-knuckled beside her. She missed a curve and plunged down a steep hillside.

Only 3,000 of these special-bodied Sunbeams were built between 1953 and 1955 (an estimated 800 remain). Based on the Sunbeam sedan, it had an unusually roomy cockpit compared with other sports cars of the era. It also had the same comfortable seats as the sedan. More properly called a “gentleman’s” or “boulevard” roadster, it was very comfortable on long trips.

This is not to say it was a slouch, however. It was named for the famed rallies held in the Swiss Alps over icy roads. As a member of the Rootes factory team, Stirling Moss won two Alpine championships driving them.

Mine, especially, was no slouch. It had a 260 cu. in. Ford V8 and 4-speed transmission (also from Ford) extracted from a Sunbeam Tiger made during the 1960s. The engine even had Sunbeam labels. An Austin Healey 3000 rear axle was installed to handle the extra torque.

It placed first in class at the 1994 British Car Meet at Palo Alto, California.

If you’re still curious, Michael Lamm wrote an article about it and a stock Alpine (with a 2.5-liter four) in the September 2001 issue of Special Interest Autos, pages 48-52.

 

 

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Reader Comments (2)

Yup, that does look pretty nice. It's a car that seems perfectly at home in the silver screen - a vehicle that will grab certainly attention thanks to its style and grace.

Dante Mallett

December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDante Mallet

LOVELY> My desire since I saw the movie, but intermittent searches reveal none for sale. Do you know of any?

July 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThomas A/. T. Jac

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