Tim Raymond – Alpi

In 1983 my wife and I lived in Essex and bought a 1965 Sunbeam Alpine Sports car. The car became known as ‘Alpi’ and was our only car for a time. We drove her every day through rain, sleet, and snow. We went all over Europe and when I worked in Central London I drove her from mid-Essex to work and back every day. Alpi was more of a family friend than a car, she kept going when she really should have broken down and had the most fantastic ‘attitude’.

Sunbeam alpine in cornwall
Alpi on holiday in Cornwall

Once, while being a little too enthusiastic on the French backroads, the exhaust touched down and snapped off the backbox. We entered Germany with half of the exhaust pipe on the parcel shelf sounding like a tractor but Alpi kept going until we found a German blacksmith who welded it back on. 

Chris with Alpi’s back box in France

After nearly nine years of ownership and now with two young children Alpi simply couldn’t accommodate everything we needed to carry with two little ones and very reluctantly she was sold. Her new owner drove away a beautiful car, glowing with polish.

Nick & Matt with Alpi in 1991

After a few years, we had a little spare money and tried to find our Alpi again to buy her back but without success. Then about 20 years ago, one Sunday evening we were on the Internet (which was still quite a novel thing back then) and we saw Alpi on a dealer’s forecourt in a ‘For Sale’ advert. We contacted the dealer first thing the next morning to be told that she had already sold and their records were marked only as ‘For Export’. We contacted DVLA who would not even tell us which Country Alpi had gone to because of ‘Data Protection.  We thought that Alpi had gone forever. 

This was the dealers photo of Alpi sometime around 1999-2000

We owned several Alpines subsequently and both of our sons bought their own when they were 13-14 years old and restored them to a high standard. They are in their 30s now and still own their cars. No other Alpine was quite like ‘Original Alpi’ though and this car took on near-mythical status in our family as the nicest, most reliable car you could ever have.

Alpi together with Nick & Matt’s own Alpines recently

Alpi was registered as ‘Missing and trying to trace’ with the Sunbeam Alpine Owner’s Club and every few months, more in hope than anticipation, we searched the car’s index on Google hoping to locate her again (usually when reminiscing after a couple of beers). 

One evening in 2016 we searched Alpi’s number plate and got a ‘hit’.  An internet search picked up a classic car advertisement in Southern Ireland where the seller had quoted Alpi’s original UK registration number in the text and Google had found it!  We had a lot of problems tracing the person who posted the original advert and even enlisted the help of the Irish Television station RTE at one point but we eventually made contact only to find that frustratingly Alpi had been sold and exported (once again).

We asked the seller/previous owner if he would contact the new owner on our behalf, tell the story of us wanting Alpi back and see if he/she would talk to us about buying her back. Subsequently, the new owner called us, and amazingly Alpi was living in Upminster in Essex only about 9 miles from where she used to live with us in the 1980s!  We knew that she now needed a total, 100% restoration and negotiated a price without ever seeing her.

Alpi looked alot better in the photo than she really was!

Our old friend was back in our garage at our new home in Kent within a couple of days. Over 12 years of sitting outside in Southern Ireland in all weathers had caused every single part of the car to rust out, in truth, she should have been scrapped as she wasn’t economically saveable but that was not an option in Alpi’s case. I did not know how to weld so I hired a mobile welder on a ‘day rate’ for a week on the understanding that he would teach me to weld. I then taught myself to lead load by watching internet videos and undertook a total restoration of the car in our garage at home.  

Alpi in 2016

Alpi’s restoration took three years of solid work, her progress has featured regularly on The Sunbeam Alpine Channel on YouTube   https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9bNv4byJ3EjfBpUv2r9DVQ.

Lots of new metal
Lots of rust protection for all the new panels.
Every part of the car was rebuilt or reconditioned. We did as much of the work ourselves as possible.

Alpi passed her first MOT in many years with no advisories, she has her original registration number back and is being used regularly once again. In 2019 she won a commendation at the Sunbeam Alpine National Concours.  

It just goes to show that you can successfully trace cars that you used to own and it is worthwhile to keep looking. It also shows that no matter how bad the condition is you can save a car if you want to badly enough.

Alpi now!

Even during the lockdown, there have been occasions where we have been able to use Alpi. On a couple of occasions, she has delivered medical supplies where she has covered over 300 miles in a day. After lockdown we are looking forward to getting back to using her she was made to be used.

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15 Comments. Leave new

  • Eric Howden
    April 30, 2021 08:21

    What wonderfull story never give up trying

  • Gilberto Castañeda
    March 30, 2021 20:27

    Thanks for giving such a great example of love.
    Cheers from Tampico, Mexico.

  • Restoration a credit to you……much impressed.
    Best regards
    Andrew Mullins

  • What a great story and a fantastic little car.

  • Howard Godsland.
    March 27, 2021 13:29

    A marvellous effort proving that there are people who don’t put greed and profit before anything else, but see the true worth of something they once cherished. Alpi has a well deserved new lease of life rather than going to the crusher. More power to your elbow Tim, full marks.

  • Wonderful !!!!!
    Jim Mead
    Owego, New York

  • Pat Gormley
    March 27, 2021 11:28

    A very noble effort and a credit to you. I did a similar thing with a Mini Moke I sold and found again fifteen years later.

    Well done you and yes, I’d really love an Alpine. Hugely underrated.

  • Extraordinary tale of courage and dedication. Congratulations a well deserved win overall, but huge task.

  • ALPI story is gréât and showed your addictive passion as we all shared. Best luck and hope see your ALPI on road one Day.. . A série 3 owner in France.

  • Very inspiring story, definitely a labour of love 😁

  • What a lovely story! I’m full of admiration for the tenacity in rebuilding the basket case that Alpi had become. Thank you for sharing.

    PS I owned a mk3 with a Harrington type C fastback top in the early 70’s, a cracking car!

  • ‘True grit’ ! I shall now offer up my MG A rebuild.
    Both of us should be committed to an asylum (Classic Car rebuild division).
    I’m on the trail of my old Sunbeam Alpine – my father was a Sunbeam Agent in Moseley, Birmingham – 636 NOJ – a Series IV but no luck, yet. Also after the old man’s Bentley 4.25 (YG 6000) even BOC have no record.
    Every now and again I’m required to write 100 lines ‘ I must not buy another old wreck under any circumstances’.
    Well done!

  • Well , l think you could probably write a book( “children’s book with cartoons?”)”about “Alpi the Alpine ” l think Cilla sang a song about Alpi , think you can guess !😂 Fantastic story ! That car has literally shaped your lives . Just a little part of me wishes it was “Tigger the Tiger”😂 Your love for that car is undeniable and your adventures with her can be only equalled by “Herbie” . Well one things for certain there’s no way Alpi will ever be sold or lost again. Brilliant story ! I’ve restored many cars but none have captured my heart …..yet ! My TR6 should have a name …..completely unprintable ! Still masses to do . But maybe my “e”type will gain my affections , l’ve only just started restoring her but she ‘s treating me well ….so far ! Mind you “Ethel the “e”type ” doesn’t roll off the tongue so well!😂 Take care and stay safe.

  • Paul Robinson
    March 27, 2021 07:22

    Excellent story about a clearly much loved car. May the owners and Alpi have many years together.

  • Peter Leech
    March 27, 2021 07:03

    Great story with human emotion as well as technical content.
    The pic of the red, white and blue is bit like The Italian Job. But where is it taken ? The houses look like UK but the vegetation looks Mediterranean


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