Copyright 1977 to 2018 Sunbeam Alpine Owners Club Ltd | Registered No. 8263609 England
Sunbeam Alpine Owners Club
Sunbeam Alpine cars 1959 to 1968
What to look for when buying an Alpine.
No matter how good a car looks from a distance and what price the vendor is asking, you must look any prospective Alpine over very carefully before purchase. If possible, take along another person who has experience of Alpines so the car can be viewed from an unbiased angle. With restored Alpines particularly, it is common for a weak body shell to be covered up by new outer panels that hide a whole catalogue of horrors underneath.
To start with, the most revealing question to ask the vendor is "can he jack it up with the rear jacking point?" If the answer is "yes" then try opening and closing the doors while it is jacked up. If they close easily then the car should be pretty solid, if not you need to check the sills, the ends of the cruciform and the front mountings of the rear springs.
If the answer is "no" then expect severe rust at the rear spring rear hangers too (often revealed by rusting in the bottom rear corners of the boot sides on Series III to V) These points are not easy to repair, especially on Series III to V.
With the car on level ground, check the door shuts at the top rear and the rear of the door bottom. If both are closed then the top hinge has gone (and maybe the bottom one too).
If the bottom line is fine but the door has hit the wing at the top rear then the rear box is folding up.
Think of the basic shell as two boxes joined by the floor structure: where the floor joins the rear box is particularly weak as only the gussets in the door opening do much to add beam stiffness, linking the rear inner wing and associated frame panel into the intermediate and inner sills. The front joint is much stronger as the overlap is longer and the frame horns and transmission tunnel both run well back into the floor structure.
Check the sills and the bottoms of the front wings with a magnet. As this joint is strong these are often filled rather than repaired but can hide a really nasty surprise behind as there is quite a lot of metal to rot in this area which is really an extension of the sill structure. Water gets in through the splash panel inside the back of the wing after the putty between it and the wing falls out.
Moving up the scuttle, the hinge mounts on the "A" post can rot badly on Series I and II where the "A" post is quite a lot simpler than on later cars (but still remarkably fiddly to repair). On top of the scuttle, check for dimples in front of the screen on Ryton built cars: rust tries to force the two skins of this section apart and the spot welds holding together causes the dimples. Not structurally important but very difficult to fix and the panels can eventually rot through.
Rear inner wheel arches rot and let water into the sill structure. The doors can rot just about everywhere, especially the bottom front and top. The screen surrounds on Series III to V rots badly at the bottom – get the vendor to pull on the top (the whole screen might collapse)
Series I and II hardtops are constructed of aluminium so therefore rarely suffer with corrosion. However, they do suffer from cracking and tearing of the thin section metal, particularly close to the stress points.
Series III – V hardtops are constructed of steel and are very prone to rust. You should check every part except the main roof panel for signs of corrosion. Bear in mind when purchasing a GT Alpine that a rusty hardtop can be very difficult and therefore expensive to repair.