The first Chevrolet Chevy II was available in showrooms in September 1961 for the 1962 model year. The unconventional Chevrolet Corvair could not compete with the Ford Falcon. To meet Ford head on a full complement of Chevy II models are on the table with five body styles plus four trim options; the 100, the 200, the 300, and the 400 (the 200 series was axed very quickly after launch) to compete against the Ford Falcon. The conventional rear wheel drive Chevy II is on the Chevrolet “X” body platform and is of semi-unibody design with the front and rear sections bolted onto the unitized body. Head to head competition, the Chevy II, is marketed on a half inch longer wheelbase than the Falcon. For the ’62 and ’63 models the power options were a four cylinder 153 cu in (2.5 L) and a 194 cu in (3.2 L) inline six both with overhead valves. The Chevy II Nova initially did not come with a V8 but late in the ’62 model year a V8 became a dealer installed option, including a fuel injected version-the same as offered in the Corvette. With its lightweight, this Chevy II became a popular choice for drag racers. The convertible and the hardtop were dropped after ’63 but came back late in ’64 by popular demand. The SS model was available from ’63 with a full complement of options; all the logos, uptown instruments, special wheel covers, side moldings, buckets, and a floor shift kit for the 400 version and the dealer could install a V8 if the factory standard six wasn't good enough
Chevy II sales dropped in ’64 with the Chevelle coming on line that year which prompted Chevrolet to offer the first Chevy II V8 as a factory option with a 283 cu in (4.6 L) engine developing 195 hp (145 kW) offered alongside a now larger 230 cu in (3.8 L) six. For 1965 the Chevy II gets a revised full width grill with integral headlights, parking lights placed into the bumper, a new roofline, restyled tail lights, and the back-up lights are updated as well. The entry level 100 and the Nova 400 both come in three body styles and as standard fare a column mounted three speed. The power option is the Nova SS in a sport coupe only. This car came with a brushed chrome console and could have a four speed manual or the Powerglide automatic transmission installed at the customers choice. The uptown models have vinyl buckets and instrument gauges-not idiot lights. The four cylinder power is only available for the entry level 100 model but the engine line-up numbers six for the Chevy II which is now officially able to compete as a muscle car. The largest engine available is a 327 offering up to 300 hp (220 kW) which puts the Nova SS close to the same class as the GTO and the Olds 4-4-2 for accelerating. In the summer of ’65 a higher powered 283 became an option and with the dual exhaust system would produce 220 hp. The Chevelle, Malibu, and the newly revised Corvair had eaten into the Chevy II market and this car has the dubious distinction of being the only model in the G.M. line-up to have a sales decrease in ’65 despite high praise from the critics. For ’65 there were 122,800 Chevy II models sold (9,100 were the Nova SS) with almost double that number of Ford Falcons sold (213,602) that year.
The Sunbeam Tiger, from Rootes Motors Inc. and containing a high-performance V8 engine, was in production from 1964 until 1967. The original Sunbeam Tiger, which held the world land speed record in 1925, inspired the name. The Sunbeam Alpine was in production since 1953, but this under-powered car couldn’t compete in the world market.
Ferrari was approached and asked about refurbishing the engine on the Alpine without a positive outcome. Carroll Shelby’s name came up, and he was approached to help with the redesigning of the Alpine. This was shortly after his similar successful British AC Cobra project. He agreed and found that the Ford 260 V8 was light enough and could fit into the engine compartment with relative ease. Shelby got permission from Brian Rootes’ manufacturing manager for an expenditure of $10,000 over the estimated eight-week design period. The company owner, Lord Rootes, knew nothing about the scheme.
The Ford engine is less than four inches longer than the Sunbeam Alpine’s original four-cylinder and has double the power. With the V8 installed, the Tiger is about 20 percent heavier than the Alpine, so they made some suspension changes before installing the V8. The engine width was a problem, and a rack and pinion system replaced the original steering mechanism, partially to provide more room, although the frame also needed some modification. The end product, however, was the V8 shoehorned into the Alpine without any changes to the body sheet metal on the outside.
The prototype, nicknamed the “white car,” was to the point where it was doing road tests and trial runs in the Los Angeles area by the end of April 1963. The outcome was more successful than expected. The Tiger, equipped with a four-speed standard, had as much raw power as the XKE Jaguar with a far smaller price tag to the consumer. To Shelby’s dismay, he didn’t take part in the manufacturing process, which was done in the U.K. although he did receive am undisclosed royalty on each unit sold.
Lord Rootes was a bit miffed when he found out about the project and insisted on testing the car himself so the “white car” Tiger prototype was shipped back to the U.K., and he liked it! Rootes was so impressed that he contacted Henry Ford II directly and placed an initial order for 3,000 engine/transmission combinations—the largest order that Ford Co. ever received from a manufacturer. Normally, from this point to production takes about three or four years, but Rootes Motor Inc. planned to unveil the Sunbeam Tiger at the 1964 New York Motor Show, only eight months away.
Jenson Manufacturing did previous work with the Rootes Motor Inc. and so took on the job. The Tiger was in full production by June 1964. Ford provided the engine, and Borg-Warner supplied the fully synchromesh four-speed manual transmission in the first few units until Ford could produce enough Mustang four-speeds to meet the demand. The bulk of the work was all completed by U.K.-based companies. Some of the production methods were a bit unorthodox, such as having to take a sledgehammer to the primed and painted fire wall to slide the engine into the compartment, but within three months Rootes managed to have 300 units a month leaving the assembly line, with most of them bound for the American market.