The Sunbeam Alpine
When Sean Connery was cast as James Bond in the first movie Dr. No, with a budget lower than £1 million there was no high-tech Q Branch special for him. And on his mission to catch Dr Julius No he had to settle for renting a Sunbeam Alpine when arriving in Jamaica.
This classic British roadster was not only used for espionage and glamour—it was also a powerful, reliable car that allowed Bond to escape from danger with ease.
It might not have the glamour of the Aston Martin DB5, but the Sunbeam Alpine convertible has become iconic over the years, thanks in a large part to its appearance in the movie.
The Sunbeam Alpine Series I to V 1959-168
The Sunbeam Alpine is a classic car that was in production from 1959 to 1968 from Series I to V. It was a small, two-seater sports car that was designed to be affordable and accessible for a wide range of buyers.
One of the most distinctive features of the Sunbeam Alpine was its sleek, sporty design. It had a low, streamlined body with a long hood and a short rear deck, giving it a sporty, agile appearance.
The Series I Sunbeam Alpines, which were produced from October 1959 to October 1960, are known for their sporty and agile performance.
This is thanks to the car’s 1,494cc overhead-valve four-cylinder engine with three main bearings and a cast-aluminium head, as well as its two Zenith 36 WIP2 downdraft carburettors and free-flowing tubular exhaust headers.
With 9.2:1 compression, the engine was able to produce 83.5 horsepower at 5,300 RPM and 89-lbs.ft. of torque at 3,400 RPM.
This might not seem much to today’s standards but it gave the Sunbeam Alpine a good turn of speed, and luckily for Bond the Girling front disc brakes offered superior stopping power.
The Alpine featured coil springs, wishbones and tubular shocks up front alongside an anti-roll bar for stability during turns. In the rear, this model employed a live axle complemented by half ellipitc leaf springs as well as lever arm shocks for comfortable handling in all conditions.
There were four other series of the Sunbeam Alpine produced with regular upgrades. And from Series I through V they all packed a powerful punch with engines ranging from 1,494cc to1,725cc four-cylinder models that reached a top speed of around 100mph.
The Sunbeam Alpine in Dr. No
Despite its small size and relatively modest performance, the Sunbeam Alpine was a popular choice for drivers looking for a fun, affordable sports car.
It was known for its agile handling and responsive steering, which made it a joy to drive on winding roads, and it’s clear in Dr No that Bond enjoys driving it.
When Bond gets to Kingston Jamaica, he hires a metallic blue, right-hand drive Sunbeam Alpine with registration plate Z 8301. The car used in movie was either a Series I or II Sunbeam Alpine, as they were in production from 1959-1963.
The Alpine used was actually borrowed from a local for 12 shillings per day as car manufacturers declined to provide cars for the movie, Aston Martin included. Still Sean Connery couldn’t complain as the car Bond uses in the novels at the time was a bland Hillman Minx saloon.
The Sunbeam Alpine is used in a short car chase in Dr. No. Miss Taro asks Bond to come to her room, telling him the exact route to take. But she sets Bond up and tries to get the Three Blind Mice to run him off the road as they give chase.
The two-seater convertible is powered by an underpowered 80bhp 1.5L engine, but it can hardly outrun Dr. No’s henchmen Three Blind Mice in their 1930s LaSalle hearse on the dusty, Jamaican roads.
Fortunately, Bond is able to maneuver the Alpine with ease and its low height enables him to squeeze under a low hanging crane. As for the LaSalle and the Three Blind Mice, they skid off the mountain pass and over the cliff edge.
The Sunbeam Alpine – An Affordable Classic
The Sunbeam Alpine was the first of many James Bond cars. An affordable and reliable sports car it’s turned into a classic for sports car collectors.
Luckily for the British car brand, it was used in Dr. No, the first James Bond movie, which has helped its appeal, but it’s not just that.
The Sunbeam Alpine is remembered to this day for its unique styling and performance, and it could get you where you needed to go in style and comfort.
Although it may not be as flashy or powerful as some of Bond’s other supercars, the Sunbeam Alpine is a car that could still turn heads and make a statement.