Rare MkIII Alpine, one of only 300 made; fully restored by Alpine guru
Ken Sparkes at a cost of over £50,000; interesting history; a gorgeous example
of this refined and beautiful roadster
Launched in March 1953, the Sunbeam Alpine two-seater sports roadster was inspired by a one-off open rally car built by Bournemouth Sunbeam-Talbot dealer, George Hartwell. The production version was based on the existing Sunbeam-Talbot 90 saloon but with styling input from Raymond Loewy to add the sparkle needed to attract the all-important American market.
The 90’s chassis and running gear were retained, the former suitably stiffened to compensate for the reduced rigidity of the open-topped body, while the bodies were hand-made by Mulliners of Birmingham. To enhance the Alpine’s sporting credentials, the 2,267cc four-cylinder ohv engine received a power boost to 80bhp courtesy of a revised cylinder head which gave it a top speed of 95mph with optional Laycock de Normanville overdrive.
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 and Jabbeke where Stirling Moss achieved a maximum speed of 120mph.
On its first competitive outing, an Alpine driven by Sheila van Damm also won the ‘Coupe des Dames’ in the 1953 Coupe des Alpes, and in 1955 another Alpine took a starring role when driven by the Grace Kelly character in the Alfred Hitchcock film 'To Catch a Thief'.
Only 1,192 Alpines were made (801 LHD and 391 RHD) before the MkI was replaced by the MkIII in October 1954 (there was no MkII version). Apart from a revised cylinder head with four exhaust ports, revised front bumper styling and a revised dashboard with a central rev counter, the MkIII was virtually identical to the MkI and only 300 were made before production ceased in July 1955.
This Alpine MkIII was delivered new to Rootes Ltd London in November 1954. Registered as PUW 505, it was painted Crystal Green with a Light Fawn interior and was originally used as a Rootes press/publicity car, appearing in many publications in period. It was also driven by Dirk Bogarde in the 1955 film ‘The Naked Flame’, Sheila van Damm reputedly giving him lessons in how to drive the car quickly for a race scene.
Little is known of the car’s subsequent history until it reappeared in the August 1989 issue of Classic & Sportscar magazine when it was owned by the editor, Mick Walsh, who had recently bought it from a chap named Terry Childs. By this time it had been repainted white and converted to floor-change gears, Walsh reporting that it went beautifully, commuting across London in the morning rush hour without drama and cruising happily at 70mph on a run through Northern France to Montlhery, later completing a trouble-free tour of Southern Ireland.
The history picks up again in 2018 when our vendor acquired the car from Alpine guru Ken Sparkes of Huntingdon, by which time it was in a fairly dilapidated state. He commissioned Ken to give it a complete nut-and-bolt rebuild which took five years to complete and cost over £54,000.
The original engine had a cracked block which could not be repaired so it was fitted with an almost identical 2,267cc engine from a Sunbeam MkIII saloon. This was fully rebuilt with the machining done by Cambridge Rebores and final assembly by Ken Sparkes. The block was rebored and the compression ratio raised to above Alpine MkIII specification.
The floor-change gearbox/overdrive is from a Hillman Hunter (a stronger unit than the original column-change Alpine unit) and was fully reconditioned by John Roseby of Runcorn.
The bodywork was restored by Ian Ransley and repainted in Sapphire Blue, a Rootes colour of the period and the same shade as the Alpine in ‘To Catch a Thief’. The brightwork was rechromed and the interior retrimmed in Light Fawn leather by W&R Thomas. The canvas hood and tonneau are new, as are the Michelin tyres.
Nice additional touches are period Lucas spot lamps with works-type stone guards, knee pads to both driver and passenger doors as per the works rally cars, inertia reel seat belts (detachable to permit fitting of the soft top) and a dynamotor in lieu of the standard fit dynamo. The wheel-changing kit is housed in a felt-lined receptacle in the boot and there are two sets of keys. An original workshop manual is also included along with a period sales brochure and copies of the original factory build records.
As you can see in the photos, the car now looks absolutely wonderful and is currently insured with an agreed value of £62,000.
Only reluctantly for sale due to ill health, PUW 505 has only covered a handful of miles since the restoration was completed in 2022 and will require a careful running-in period before the performance is exploited to the full.
Starting promptly and running very sweetly indeed as we have moved it around on site, with good 70psi oil pressure and notably light steering, this gorgeous Alpine MkIII has been restored by the best man in the business and must surely be among the finest of the handful remaining.
For more information contact James on 07970 309907 or email email@example.com
* All charges are subject to VAT