Taming the Tiger

This step of the project was pretty thorough considering that we're in the sorting phase.
Before we took it all apart, we tested the car's performance. Here, Per Schroeder shows Jere Dotten how to set up the test equipment.
The new Hurst shift linkage from Dan Williams Toploader Transmissions works very well.
Jere and the gang worked hard to get everything back in place in time for us to attend the Going to the Sun Rally.

Tiger   After installing our brake kit, we tested the new braking system for our Sunbeam Tiger. This testing proved three things: First, this is a nice kit; Wilwood did us right. Stopping times were in the 150- to 160-foot range from 60 mph—not world-class performance, but confidence-inspiring and a big improvement over the stock brakes. Second, it proved that we need to control rear brake bias. During testing, we were locking the rear brakes before the fronts. Third, we learned that our suspension was just too soft. The Tiger dove hard under braking, so we weren’t able to use all of the fantastic braking power we had bestowed upon the chassis. We would need to change spring rates to get the most out of these new braking components.

We called Dale’s Restoration and ordered their 190 lb.-in.. rear leaf springs and 330 lb.-in. front springs. Total cost: $500. We were worried that these stiffer springs would ruin our Tiger’s wonderful ride quality. However, we needed to improve the handling and solve the dive problem under braking, so we were prepared to compromise.

While we haven’t been back to the track, the brake dive appears to be gone. Handling is much improved, too. As an added benefit, Dale’s rear spring features redesigned geometry that eliminates the rear spring windup that often plagues Sunbeam Tigers. We used to experience this windup during aggressive launches, but it has all but disappeared.

While we were at it, we also removed Dale’s Restoration MG Midget steering rack conversion kit from our car. This kit may be great for racing, but we found the steering simply too stiff for a road car. We swapped back to the stock system, and now parking and cornering is perfectly adequate.

We also installed a Dan Williams Toploader Transmissions Hurst linkage conversion kit. The Toploader Transmission kit adds a Hurst competition linkage, but it still retains the stock Ford Toploader shift lever. This kit works really well and eliminated a shifter rattle we were experiencing.

Considering all of the work we were doing, we decided it was easier to pull the engine, transmission and front subframe out of the car. While we had the engine out, we checked and adjusted the clearance of the headers against the frame and installed an Edlebrock water pump. The manufacturer claims these water pumps can reduce coolant temperatures, and so far this modification appears to be the final piece in our cooling puzzle. On a 95-degree August day here in Florida, we ran a rock-solid 180-degree water temperature with a 180-degree thermostat installed while driving 70 mph. Even when idling in traffic, we never got above 205 degrees. We consider this problem solved.

The last phase of this round of improvements was installing a new set of Yokohama S Drive tires in a slightly larger 205-55R15 size. This tire, with its 23.9-inch diameter, was about as close to the Tiger’s stock 24-inchers as we were likely to find. The tire is also much wider than stock, while our 6-inch-wide wheels have 1.5 inches on the stock pieces. Naturally, we had tire clearance issues in the front. Tom Prescott at the Body Werks quickly solved the problem by further massaging the front valence panel.

Thanks to a massive thrash by Geoff Thompson, Gary Hunter, Tim Suddard and especially Jere Dotten, we got all of this done in about three weeks of nights and weekends. We finished up just minutes before loading the Tiger onto a Reliable Carriers truck. We were ready to take the Tiger for its final shakedown run, and what a shakedown run it will be: We are taking part in the Going to the Sun Rally in Montana. Look for more updates next week on this incredible trip.

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