A little back story: I’ve been here before. A little over two years ago, I put my ’66 Sunbeam Tiger back together after a quasi-restoration, which included some fresh gaskets in the original Ford 260-cubic-inch V-8. This motor did not need rebuilding, and since I was spending money in other areas—paint, body work, and so on—the motor went back in pretty much just as it came out.

While all this nonsense was happening at home at my place in Maryland, up in Michigan, our famous Redline Rebuilder Davin Reckow was doing some fantastic work on a motor I had donated to the cause. This early Ford 289 was one I had originally bought as a “just in case” upgrade for the Tiger in case something happened to the 260. I had also been scooping up period-correct performance parts, such as an Edelbrock F4B manifold, a 465-cfm Holley four-barrel carburetor, and other goodies. Over time, we made some great videos with that engine as mentioned, and when we were eventually done, I trucked it back home (strapped more-or-less safely into my Ford Explorer) and back under my workbench it went.

redline rebuild 289 in trunk
Brad Phillips

Well, thanks to social distancing, my usually bonkers travel schedule has thinned a bit. As in, halted completely. I can’t think of a better time to get this engine swap done and put this famous 289 to good use the moment the world returns to normal. I plan on having some some fun documenting the trials and tribulations of the project in this weekly series, so let’s get to it!

Since you’ve watched the intro above, here’s where things stand now.

1966 Sunbeam Tiger 289 front no hood
So it begins. Brad Phillips

Yeah, I know. Not much different. Let’s outline what is really involved here in this little project over the next few weeks.

The Tiger engine compartment is an environment best suited for the hands of small children, so there’s a lot that has to come out before we can make any progress. I’ve pulled the hood and placed it carefully aside, and I removed the header tank, fan shroud, upper radiator hose, and a few other bits. Naturally, I had to drain the cooling system, so there’s a big tub of neon colored 50/50 under it I need to dispose of. (Or maybe reuse? Man, am I cheap.)

Now, I do have a couple of concerns about this entire deal. Sunbeam Tigers have a reputation for being hard to keep cool in traffic unless you make modifications to the cooling system. These mods can include a bigger radiator, adding a supplemental electric fan, blocking off areas in the front of the car to help direct airflow, louvering the hood to let out heat, and more. All these are tried and true ways to mitigate the issues that come up when you add more power.

We’ll just cross that bridge when we get to it, but my hope is to have the car retain a stock appearance, even with the upgraded motor. We’ll see. I’ll talk about all the stuff that needs to get swapped between the original 260 and the 289 to make this happen in the next installment.

Wish me luck, and all my Tiger Club friends had better keep alert for the inevitable emergency Zoom calls as I get deeper in this project…

1966 Sunbeam Tiger 289 side wd40
Brad Phillips


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