Before Daniel Craig played James Bond, and Aston Martin became a fixture in the franchise, there was the legendary Sean Connery and a rented two-seater sports car, the Sunbeam Alpine. Not too fancy, right? To make things even more intriguing, the Sunbeam Alpine wasn’t even a product placement, but a car borrowed from Syd Hirst, Lord Rootes’ representative in the then-British West Indies and Central America, via Kingston motor dealer HE Robinson & Co, according to Classic & Sports Car.
Back then, Bond wasn’t this multi-million dollar product placement machine that it is today. In fact, the entire budget for Dr. No was less than $1 million. We can only assume Q didn’t have the funding for some fancy spy gadgets, so Bond got left to secure the tech-savvy gear by himself. By contrast, production raised $100 million in product placement for Die Another Day, with Ford paying more than $35 million to see Bond drive an Aston Martin.
“For many viewers and critics, Die Another Day took product placement too far, with many dubbing the movie Buy Another Day,” says Good Bad Marketing.
Although viewers will always link James Bond to Aston Martin, it was nevertheless enjoyable to see him drive a car that ordinary people can buy. The mass-produced “Series” Alpine featured in Dr. No made its debut in October 1960 and here’s the real story behind this forgotten James Bond car.
The Sunbeam Alpine Is The Perfect Hero Car
Production used an open car because it was easier to film and get good shots of Sean Connery. Furthermore, back then, filming scenes inside the car was more problematic than today. Fans didn’t mind that the Sunbeam was a cabriolet version, but we doubt the Alpine’s lack of outrageous espionage gear thrilled them. In fact, Carmoola reports, this was one of the “few cars to feature in a James Bond movie that doesn’t have any alterations from Q.” To make thing even more tragic, Syd Hirst’s son Michael recalls the Alpine as being “absolutely standard,” as per Classic & Sports Car. However, the Sunbeam, which has a top speed of roughly 100 miles per hour, worked just well because there weren’t many expensive sports cars in Jamaica that production could rent for the Bond movie. At least the Alpine Sunbeam ensured speed for the car chase scenes.
Nigel McFarlane, president of the Jamaica Classic Car Club, believes the Sunbeam featured in Bond has survived and fans can still find it in Jamaica, albeit in less-than-perfect condition. In retrospect, producers could have spent a little more money and chosen a better vehicle than the Sunbeam, but at least this automobile shared Bond’s British heritage, creating a tenuous connection between the super-spy and the car.
The Sunbeam Alpine Series II
The British Rootes Group produced the Sunbeam Alpine from 1953 to 1955, and later again from 1959 to 1968. The car featured in the Bond movie is a Series II, introduced at the 1960 Motor Show and was in production until 1963. This series came equipped with a 1,592 cc engine capable of generating 80 horsepower. The Motor magazine took a Series II with hardtop and overdrive for a test ride and concluded that the car could speed up from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 13.6 seconds. It’s worth noting that the Series II wasn’t very fuel efficient, since the average fuel economy was 25.8 mpg. According to Classic.com, the Rootes Group manufactured roughly 70,000 units of the second-generation Alpine before production ended in 1968.
Hemmings concluded that the Sunbeam Alpine Series II had “a body meant for America.” “Front independent control arm suspension is sophisticated and compliant, and the ride is almost large-car smooth, another deliberate bit of design for the U.S. market,” says Hemmings. “Dictated in part by the need to curry American favor, the Sunbeam’s generous size was more set in stone by the Hillman Husky two-door wagon on which it was based, a nifty little hauler with a substantial 700-pound cargo capacity.”
This Is How Much A Sunbeam Alpine Costs Today
Prices for this beautiful sports car are relatively affordable. Hemmings has currently different model years listed on its website, with prices ranging from $13,950 for a 1967 Sunbeam Alpine Roadster Convertible to $83,500 for a 1964 Series III Sunbeam Alpine in a beautiful Plaza Silver shade with 99 miles on the odometer. Elsewhere, Classic.com establishes that the Sunbeam Alpine cars from the Series II have an average price of $16,562, while the top sale reached a record $75,600. Elsewhere, the lowest sale closed at $2,600. Currently, Classic.com has listed various model years of the Sunbeam Alpine, with prices ranging from $19,000 to $83,500.