Monday, March 28, 2011

1969 Sunbeam Alpine GT - Back on Craigslist

As I've mentioned before, I have a soft spot for cars made by Rootes. My grandmother worked for Rootes in their Manhattan office. My first British roadster was a Sunbeam Alpine. I even had a dog named Rootes.
Rootes, the dog, came into my life around 1988 when some a**hole threw her out of a car in the parking lot in front of my business. I grabbed her before she ran into traffic and took her inside.

A few days later a man, who had a few too many drinks at the bar next door, came into my business and started playing with the dog. He then started insisting that the dog was some sort of exotic breed. (She was very obviously a mutt. She most likely came from a very long - but distinguished - line of mutts.) The more I insisted that she was a mutt, the more he insisted that she was a purebred exotic dog. He just couldn't remember what the name of the breed was. (As drunk as he was, I'm not certain he would have been able to tell me his own name had I asked.) I happened to be looking at a catalog of Sunbeam parts at the time and, seeing the word Rootes, I finally said "Yeah, you're right, she's a New England Rootehound". I thought that would shut him up. Much to my amazement and amusement, he replied "I knew it! Rootehounds are great dogs! They make great pets. You're going to love her!" For the next few days me and the guys who worked for me called her "The Rootehound". Eventually it was shortened to Rootes.

Rootes lived to the ripe old age of 16. For 13 years she came to work with me everyday. When I'd take one of my roadsters to work, she'd bark until I put the top down. On mornings when it was too cool to put the top down, she'd spend the 20 minute drive looking at the roof and barking. I think she thought she could intimidate it into lowering by itself. She spent her last 3 years of life at home, sitting on the front lawn in the summer and in front of the fireplace in the winter. Not a bad life for a dog who was so unwanted by someone that they threw her out of a car in a parking lot near a busy street. She was the first and last of the noble New England Rootehound breed.
OK, this isn't a pet blog, it's time to write about the car...

I wrote about this car back in February, 2010. You can find the post here.

The Alpine GT replaced the Alpine roadster in the US. Looking a lot like a shrunken Plymouth Barracuda (no surprise as Chrysler owned Rootes Motors by the time this car was designed and built), the Alpine GT was relatively quick and very well appointed. It was one of only a few reasonably priced British GT cars ever sold in the US (I consider the Triumph GT6+ and the MGB GT sports cars. A true GT has a backseat that is at least semi-inhabitable. The Sunbeam's is, the Triumph's and the MG's are not. The Jensen Interceptor and Jaguar XJS are GTs, but they weren't reasonably priced.)

These cars never sold well in the US. Few survive. This is one of the nicest I've seen.

The asking price is $4500.00, but the seller is willing to take "interesting trades", including your "unfinished project". Hmmm... If it wasn't so far away from me...

Located somewhere near Portland, OR, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

A big thanks to JaCG reader, Tim, for sending me the link to this car!

The picture below is of Rootes sitting in the front yard. In the background, in front of the garage, is one of the Alfa Spiders I owned at the time.


Blair Russell said...

That's an awesome story about your old dog, the convertible fan. I'm a fan of dogs, and Rootes looks like a handsome critter.

The car itself also looks pretty nice.

Simon in Australia said...

Love the story about the dog, although I could have killed the arsehole (yes, we don't say "ass" in Oz) who dumped her like that with my own bare hands... What a mug!

Anyway, as per the car in the Craigslist ad, these were also called "Rapier", at least outside North America, and I've only ever seen perhaps a couple in my lifetime. They were never commercially sold in Oz in so far as I know. Quite an elegant fastback design, really, and you'd never think it was based on a sedan (called the Hillman Hunter here in Oz) which was otherwise really relatively mundane. Of course, Hillman, for obvious reasons, is a name long gone just about anywhere.

You may also happen to know that the four-door version is still built today in Iran, where it is known as the "Paykan". Quite an amazing life for a car really. Reminds me somewhat of the first generation VW Passat/Dasher, which are still supplied in Iraq to this day (if I'm correct), and the Citigolf in South Africa. I think production of the latter ceased only quite recently.

As for Iran, you may have heard Mahmoud Ahmedinajad's elderly and somewhat battle-scarred 1977 Peugeot 504 was auctioned off for a local charity quite recently as well. Meheard it went for quite a tidy sum! I wonder what the charity cause might have been: perhaps a new nuclear reactor for enhanced plutonium production for intercontinental ballistic missiles... :-(

However, what I really wanted to tell you was this: back in the good old Hillman days in Oz, the local Chrysler subsidiary was still assembling the old four-door versions of the Hunter in the pre free market, strike-bound days of the late '60's/early '70's. There was talk of the name "Rootes" being added to the title "Chrysler Australia", so the full moniker would have looked like this: "Chrysler Rootes Australia". Needless to say, the idea was soon abandoned.

And a short time later, in the late '70's, genuine consideration was given to marketing what ultimately became the Talbot Tagora as a replacement for the local Aussie Valiant (as distinct from your own). That plan fell through as well, not least because of the Peugeot takeover of Chrysler's European operation, not to mention the questionable market presence the car might have had with Aussies, who were used to their Valiants being, well, BIG. Of course, Aussie tastes (if there be such a thing!) were, in fairness, moving in the general direction of (relative) compactness in the aftermath of the '73 fuel crisis, but nevertheless the high-ups of the time weren't altogether sure about the reception the Tagora might have had. So it was canned at the eleventh hour - and that was that.

Oddly, I remember seeing one here in Oz back in the early '80's with left-hand-drive and (then) West German number plates, which was getting around a local area within south-western Sydney quite regularly. Whoever brought it out must have paid a fortune to have the car shipped out all the way from Germany, and then back again. I remember thinking what an interesting car it was to look at. Although widely criticised at the time, I didn't mind the somewhat square look one bit. Even now, when I check the car out occasionally on an internet website, I still think it's not too bad looking, if a little angular '80's. Be an interesting time-warp car if you could find one in good nick today!

Unknown said...

I owned one of these and to this day it's the reason I'll never buy another Chrysler product. Worst car imaginable. Clutch was replaced 3 times in 50,000 miles. Front wheel fell off going around a corner. Countless breakdowns. Just an all around horrible excuse for a car.

Richard Codanti said...

Well interesting I still own my 1969 Alpine Coupe, single carb purchased new. Shipped it to Germany in 1982 and back in 1984 for military service.
I did dress it up to look like a GT Coupe,but never found a dual carb engine to install. I owned I guess six of them,two where parted out three repaired and sold, but the original 1969 kept
This vehicle shown is also the plain coupe and not a GT. Seems like everyone calls theirs a GT
Mine has been a good car cross country several times even towing a trailer or another coupe on shorter trips.
My 1970 GT was sold again recently and is back on the west coast. It still has my Oregon plates but trailer hitch is gone. Even my Tiger had a hitch for years.