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1962 Sunbeam Harrington Le Mans

1962 Sunbeam Harrington Le Mans
1962 Sunbeam Harrington Le Mans

Very recently recommissioned, this rare Sunbeam Harrington Le Mans has a fascinating competition history and would be welcome at many prestigious motorsport events.

GUIDE PRICE: £35,000 - £40,000


Introduced at the Earls Court Motor Show in October 1961, the Sunbeam Harrington Le Mans was so named as a nod to Sunbeam's win of the Index of Thermal Efficiency Trophy at Le Mans by a Thomas Harrington Coach Builders-bodied Alpine in April of that year. The Le Mans introduced some radical new coachwork that literally chopped the rear fins from the car. Taking advantage of publicity from that success, Rootes targeted American buyers and sent as much as half of the 250-car production to the US. Whilst the standard line of Harrington options was still available, the Le Mans had more standardised production and was not offered on a per-order basis like the Harrington Alpine, but was offered as a Rootes product and not an 'official conversion'. The Le Mans does not carry the Alpine name and is identified by its unique finless design, with all units built on Alpine Series II bodies.

Purchased new by esteemed club racer and Scotsman, John Melvin, in 1962, this car was originally red in colour and registered 2 EGG. It was delivered just in time to be put through its paces in the International Scottish Rally in June of that year. Accompanied by Melvin's usual co-driver, a Mr. W Gordon Bennett, the pair set off on the rally, however failed to finish after a rather deep Scottish water splash soaked the cars electrics, forcing them to retire.

This event was merely a test for John, whose ambition it was to enter the 1962 RAC Rally in November, and the car was back to full running condition in no time and the two prepared for the rally. Then, just days before the event, co-driver Gordon Bennett was force to withdraw due to a death in the family, leaving John to find a new co-driver. Friend and motor journalist, Graham Gauld, duly stepped in and off they set for the start in Blackpool.

On arrival, much to their surprise, another Sunbeam Harrington Le Mans bearing the registration MEL 63 had been entered, driven by Peter Pillsworth and editor/founder of Autosport, Gregor Grant. An impromptu Harrington Le Mans team was formed and the two cars set off, with 2 EGG wearing the number 73. The ungraded Highland forest roads proved to be tough for all competitors that year, especially 2 EGG, and in the early stages, the car hit a rock at speed, causing both the rear shock absorbers to collapse and leaving the car very much 'tail heavy' until it was repaired by mechanics at the end of the stage.

Eager to gain lost time and catching a few stragglers, the pair came upon a rather sedate Mrs Haggie in her Ford Allardette and, with little space to overtake, John barged past. A large thud was heard, followed by a plummeting fuel gauge, and the car ground to a halt. They had split the fuel tank but luckily, using two packets of chewing gum and a gallon of fuel, they were able to make a temporary fix and limp the car over two stages before they were able to carry out a more robust repair. Unfortunately, their luck ran out, and two stages later the car bottomed out and came to a juddering stop further down the road. They had flattened a fuel line and split the fuel tank again and the pair were forced to retire from the rally. The car was taken home and repaired at John Melvin's workshop prior to being sold.

The car then 'disappeared' until it surfaced in Ireland in the 1970s, and was later bought by George McWaters who set about reviving the car, which had become very tired. The colour was changed to Forest Green and the car was fitted with an uprated engine bored out to 2-litres with twin 40DCOE Weber carburettors, an alloy cylinder head converted to unleaded along with a high-capacity alloy radiator. Uprated brake callipers were also fitted along with adjustable rear shock absorbers, Minilite-style alloys and a new stainless fuel tank. He also re-trimmed the original Harrington interior in Biscuit with green piping and green wool carpets and fitted a wood-rimmed steering wheel.

In September 2023, the Harrington was recommissioned following a period of inactivity, including new fuel and hoses, carbs stripped and cleaned, oil and filter change, checked brakes etc. and was treated to a rolling road Crypton tune at Mech Repairs, Cheltenham, with the invoice for £1,698 on file. Consequently, only the minimum fettling would be required by a new owner prior to full on-road/rally/tours use.

2 EGG is steeped in interesting history and surely any new owner would be proud to share the tales of this car's past. Similarly, it would be perfect for someone wanting to revive its rallying/racing past, as the Sunbeam Harrington Le Mans are well known for racing in period, with the sister car, MEL 63, even taking part in the fabled Goodwood Tourist Trophy of 1962.

The car has an MOT valid until November 2024, is HPI-clear and eligible for free historic road tax. It's supplied with two history folders containing much useful information including model guides and specifications etc. The old-style green registration log book is also present as well as a letter from the Sunbeam Harrington Le Mans register validating the car's historical importance, a written account of its early competition years by the co-driver Graham Gould and correspondence with Clive Harringtons great grandson.

A rare car today as very few right-hand drive Sunbeams Harrington Le Mans remain, this is a great opportunity to purchase a road/competition car that can be enjoyed and used as it was intended. A very affordable entry into the world of historic motorsport, and an opportunity to own an important part of British motoring history.

N.B. The illustrated Cherished Registration Number, 2 EGG, does not form part of the sale.

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