by James Kraus
The Sunbeam Alpine featured in the film Dr. No is significant to Bond aficionados because it is the first time audiences see Bond driving his “own” (although portrayed as a hire-car) vehicle, as opposed to a car commandeered from a foe.
Bond drives the car in Jamaica in order to rendezvous with the enigmatic Miss Taro at her Magenta Drive residence in the Blue Mountains above Kingston, whereupon she becomes Bond’s first cinematic feminine conquest. On the way, Bond is pursued without success by Dr. No’s henchmen.
Later that night he drives the Sunbeam down to the shore to meet up with Quarrel and Felix for a clandestine boat trip to Crab Key.
The use of an open car was a good one as it served to display Connery (in his first appearance as Bond) to good advantage and was quite emblematic of the locale. Indeed, the car was actually borrowed from a Jamaican resident. Being the first film based on the Ian Fleming novels, there were no vehicles supplied by manufacturers for the prestige of being in a 007 movie; that would come later, beginning with Goldfinger. Nevertheless, the Alpine was a good choice.
Named after the coach-built Sunbeam Alpines of the early fifties that are most oft-remembered for capturing four Coupes des Alpes in the 1953 Alpine Rally, the mass-produced “Series” Alpine used in the film was originally introduced in October 1959.
The coachwork of the new model was the first to break from the curvaceous, flowing lines of the original Alpine and other contemporary English designs in the manner of the MGA, TR3 and XK 150. Instead, it featured a more blunt, rectilinear, square-bodied shape that would go on to epitomize mid-priced 1960’s British sports car design in the form of the MG Midget, MGB, Triumph TR4 and TR6.
Bond’s Alpine was a Series II, which benefited from a larger 1.6-litre engine. It was finished in Lake Blue with matching Lake Blue upholstery with Dark Blue piping and Lake Blue carpets. Optional upgrades fitted to this example included wire-spoke wheels and whitewall tires. These period-correct wide-whitewalls give it an enhanced vintage look today, firmly anchoring the car to the early 1960’s.
The Alpine eventually evolved into Series III, IV and V configurations until production ceased in January of 1968. When the Alpine was offered with a Ford Challenger V8 in 1964, it became the Sunbeam Tiger, at one time the preferred vehicle of another popular sixties secret agent: CONTROL operative Maxwell Smart.
Driven by undercover operatives Bond and Smart, the sporting Sunbeam’s espionage credentials were formidable indeed.