2017 marks the 45th year of the Sunbeam Car Club in New Zealand (SCCNZ). Each year the AGM is organised by a different branch of the club, with Wellington hosting this year’s event. Being the 45th anniversary, this meant the event had to be that much more special than a ‘normal’ AGM.

At Pointon’s Car Museum, Masterton

Brian Galway, the event organiser, said there had been over 12 months of planning for 2017. “We realise that people don’t just want to come to a boring AGM and sit around going through financial statements,” he says. “So what we’ve done is create a pre-AGM event called a Hub Tour, where we base ourselves at one hotel and then go off each day to do different things, before ending the week in the AGM meeting and concours competition.”

Sunbeam Alpines and Tigers lined up for concours judging in Masterton

Since this year’s AGM was based at the Copthorne Hotel in Masterton, these Hub Tour events included a visit to see the girls at the Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka (they were out), a guided tour of the Hood Aerodrome, a spirited drive to Castle Point, a visit to a Dudson’s private car collection in Caterton as well as Pointons’ Car Museum in Masterton. Each day ends with drinks in the hotel bar, as you do.

At Tui HQ in Mangatainoka

SCCNZ has about 150 members, and while many people may say “Sunbeam – never heard of it”, others relate to the Rootes Group family of cars like Hillman, Singer or Humber, and the rest can relate to the TV series Get Smart, where Maxwell Smart drove a Sunbeam Tiger in the show, complete with tricks like a radar and the ability to drop oil on the road to fend off the baddies.

V8-powered Sunbeam Tigers

The club was started by a group in in Hamilton in 1972 and has five branches around the country.

There was a great mix of cars in Masterton, including Sunbeam Talbots, Rapiers, Imps, Alpines and Tigers. The value of all these models is steadily climbing, especially the Tiger which is seen as the ‘poor man’s Cobra’. The only problem there is the Tiger is climbing up in value so quickly it is gaining on Cobra prices, since less than 8,000 were ever built over a short 3-year production life (1965-1967).

Series Sunbeam Rapiers lining up for concours judging

What makes the Tiger so special? Sunbeam managed to squeeze in a 260 cu (4.3 litre) Mustang V8, gearbox and diff into the little convertible, which is based on the 4-cylinder Alpine. With that engine and weighing in at 1100Kg, torque is King in the Tiger. Many of them stay in the same owner’s hands for decades. The car has a strong following in the USA where most of the Tigers were sold, some with the original owner today. Most parts for the car have been remanufactured, meaning they can be kept on the road relatively easily.

Sunbeam Alpine and Rapier Fastback outside Dudson’s Car Collection in Caterton

These cars are all getting older, as are their owners. However at the AGM dinner one family is complete with four generations, all with their own Sunbeam in the parking lot (except the toddler). In fact the amount of people who are much younger than the owners – including those with hotted-up Japanese cars – that were tooting, waving or giving the group the thumbs-up shows there is still a passion for these old English cars.

Beautifully presented Valiant Charger at Dudson’s Car Collection

So now that the 45th AGM is over, Brian can now relax – or so I thought. “We are already planning the 50th Anniversary AGM,” Brian says, “people may not realise just how hard it is to get accommodation for large groups around the country, especially when you want to have a concours for your cars – so you need good parking facilities.”

Sunbeam Rapier Fastbacks in Masterton

SCCNZ is still going strong it seems – 45 years is a great achievement for any marque car club.

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Fred Alvrez
How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm a driving instructor and an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.


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