Story & photos: Hezekiah “Ky” Holland
Originally Published in the July 2022 issue of the British Sports Car Club of Alaska. Edited.
Alaska may not seem like a likely or practical place for a vintage British convertible, but it’s turned out to be the best.
Sharon and I bought our 1966 Sunbeam Alpine in 1990 when we lived in Portland, Oregon. It was a pre-family bit of fun we found before kids became a priority. We looked around for a long time to find something that passed the “long” and “short” tests for the 16″ of difference between our 6’4″ and 5’0″ heights. The Sunbeam was perfect for both of us thanks to a telescoping steering wheel, but the weather wasn’t. Compounding the weather, was the long drive to get to any place worthy of a nice drive with top down from our downtown location that meant an hour or more drive to get to the coast or up to the mountains through at least 30 minutes of city traffic.
At this early point in our ownership of the car it required nearly constant TLC to make it home and we actually never drove it too far for fear of having to tow it home. During the Portland early years and the complements the car received from people who new little about it, we referred to it as a 10-10 car. That is, it looked like a 10 from 10 feet away, and lost a point for every foot closer you got to the driver seat!
After having the Alpine for five years our first kid was now a toddler and a job transfer took us to San Diego, home of the southern California beaches and where Sunbeams were originally sold. (Ours with a Chrysler badge!) Except now, the highways where congested, the sun unrelenting while waiting crawling through traffic light cycles to get out of town.
Visiting Potter Marsh in Anchorage.
Until driving I-15 in the Sunbeam with the top down, I never realized how loud a semi is at 80mph on a freeway when it is inches away. I always traveled with my industrial noise reducing earmuffs. Actually, the top isn’t that good, so it doesn’t really matter whether it’s up or down. So, while the car looked great at the beach, getting there was no fun, so it didn’t get much use in the land where it was intended to be at its best.
Then came our move to back to Anchorage where we both originally grew up. The decision was made to pack up the Sunbeam and take it with us back to Anchorage. And, here in south Anchorage, the car has finally found its home. From our Anchorage home on the hillside, the car is a reliable ride around town, with its modest traffic and plenty of curious folks wondering what they are seeing. However, it’s the minutes away curvy drive south down Turnagain Arm drive to Beluga Point, Bird Point, or dinner in Girdwood; or the climbing drive east to the mountains up to Bear Valley, or Glen Aps, where the car really is at home.
From Portland, to San Diego, and now Anchorage, the Sunbeam is finally where it belongs.