London | Lot 155
1961 Sunbeam Harrington Alpine NART Coupé
£109,200 GBP | Sold
| London, United Kingdom
7 September 2016
- Two-time 12 Hours of Sebring competitor
- Rootes Group Works entry for 1962
- NART entry for 1963
- Continuous and extensive history from new with only three owners
- Recent Goodwood competitor; fully restored and race prepared
- Eligible for numerous road and racing events
1,592 cc OHV inline high compression four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission with Laycock overdrive, independent front suspension with swinging links and coil springs, and rigid rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs. Wheelbase: 2,184 mm
Designed during the mid-1950s, the Sunbeam Alpine was one of the most advanced road car designs to come out of early post-war Britain. The chassis was a combination of a stiff steel monocoque supported by a cruciform box-section frame, whilst the styling drew strong inspiration from the optimistic designs of American sports cars like the Thunderbird.
Sussex-based coachbuilder Thomas Harrington Ltd. already had a long-standing relationship with the Rootes Group as an official dealer, and upon the launch of the Alpine, many customers complained of the lack of a coupé version. Instead of going to the great expense of developing a coupé, Rootes turned to Harrington, which had plenty of experience working with GRP, to create the Harrington Alpine coupé, based on the Series II Alpine. The roof was made with glass fibre and shaped with low-drag aerodynamics in mind (a philosophy taken further by the 1961 Le Mans Thermal Efficiency winner, 3000 RW). Other modifications included a new rear bulkhead and shorter boot lid to accommodate the roof. Aimed at competitive-minded customers, the Harrington Alpines were also offered with three different stages of Hartwell tuning.
Believed to be the only left-hand-drive example produced of the 110 first series Harrington Alpine Coupés, this Sunbeam was first delivered to Marchese Filippo Theodoli. An Italian noble by birth, Theodoli emigrated to Boston in 1948 after serving in General Mark Clark’s Fifth Army in World War II. Soon after arriving he became established in advertising, and by the early 1960s, he was an account executive for Gardner Advertising Agency, looking after such clients as Alitalia and Ferrari. Through this connection, he became personal friends with Luigi Chinetti of NART fame, a friendship which would bear fruit at Sebring in 1963.
When placing his order for a Harrington Alpine, Theodoli knew what he was looking for, as he already had race experience with a Sunbeam Alpine, finishing 31st with one in the 1961 12 Hours of Sebring. Chassis number B9106097 was completed by 9 June 1961; Theodoli paid so much attention to his new purchase that he flew over to England to personally take delivery of his new racing car from Harrington. As noted in a 1963 letter from G.H. Harrington, when delivered, this Alpine was fitted with a Stage III Hartwell-tuned engine.
Theodoli first raced this Harrington Alpine at the 1962 12 Hours of Sebring, entered by Rootes Motors, England, in class GT9. He shared the drive with Freddie Barrette and together they finished 33rd. Theodoli was clearly looking for more power, so he went to great lengths to fit Webers to the four-cylinder engine, even contacting Weber himself and organising for a special kit to be sent over from Italy. As documented in Auto Sports Magazine, it clearly worked, and at the SCCA Vinehall 4 Hours race, Theodoli held 4th for most of the race before finishing 13th overall. Another FIA race beckoned with the Double 400 at Bridgehampton in September 1962, with Theodoli finishing 13th in GT2.
The highlight of this Harrington Alpine’s racing career would come at its last race. By early 1963, Theodoli’s relationship with Luigi Chinetti had grown so close that Chinetti was willing to enter the Harrington Alpine in that year’s Sebring 12 Hours alongside Ferrari prototypes. An extraordinary idea, Theodoli’s Sunbeam sat on the grid emblazoned with NART emblems featuring the famous cavallino rampante of Ferrari. Theodoli shared driving duties with William Kneeland, and despite fuel filler problems, they finished a very credible 4th in the GT9 class and 36th Overall, beating the OSCAs also entered by NART.
The story for Theodoli and his Harrington Alpine had come to an end, and it was offered for sale with Stan Hallinan of D&H Autos, New England, who had been responsible for much of the race preparation. Bob Avery bought the NART Alpine on the basis that Hallinan convert it back to road specification, so the Webers, larger fuel tank, roll hoop, and race seats were removed. Keeping it in road trim for most of his ownership, Avery eventually decided to restore this Harrington Alpine back to NART specification, a bare-metal restoration that started in 1993 and was finally completed in 2002. Upon completion, the restoration was lauded with a Best of Show award. Avery would end up keeping the Alpine until his death, when the current owner purchased it in 2012 and imported it back to England.
Now in the hands of a keen historic racing enthusiast, the Harrington Alpine was treated to a further restoration and full FIA race preparation at CCK Historic to have every detail correct to the 1963 Sebring 12 Hours specification. The owner enlisted the expertise of Clive Harrington (of the coachbuilding family) to help ensure accuracy of the work. Now accompanied by FIA HTP papers, the NART Alpine returned to racing at the Goodwood 72nd Members’ Meeting, and then made a second Goodwood appearance at the 73rd Members’ Meeting. During this period, it received further setup work by CS Racing. It is accompanied by several wonderful history files and a spare engine, believed to be the one fitted for the 1963 Sebring 12 Hours.
Offered by its third owner with continuous and fascinating history from new, this Sunbeam Harrington Alpine Coupé is UK road registered and presented in fantastic condition, ready to enjoy at the very best historic driving events. It is a genuine two-time Sebring competitor and NART racer!