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Do you know Sonny Sunbeam? My father's Sunbeam story...

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artboy11211 Avatar
artboy11211 John Barrow
Ridgewood, NY, USA   USA
Good day,

I know this is a long shot but I want to tell you my story anyway. I hope you make it to the end and, if nothing else, appreciate the impact a single vehicle can have on a life.

Attached is a photo of my Dad (Alfred Bishop Barrow) from circa 1960 sitting in his car on the streets of Manhattan in protest of Nikita Khrushchev's visit. My father was an fantastic artist and, true to his form, the side of his car reads, "This car is red.... but we're not!!!" He is originally from Cape Cod and moved to New York in 1958 after leaving the Navy. This is his red 1959 Sunbeam Alpine Series 1 so associated with him that his family and friends called him Sonny Sunbeam. He bought this car brand new in the first year it was available in the US at the NY Auto Show with the money he saved while in the Navy and picked it up from a dealer on Northern Boulevard in Long Island (Manhasset/Great Neck border). He is the original owner. Then, he met my mother.

They had their first date in this car. She recently recalled to me how it was March and cold. He picked her up in that bright red car with the top down and heater blasting. She loved it. She even remembers what she was wearing. A young man of modest means, he sold this car in 1961 to buy my mother an engagement ring unbeknownst to her or anyone, he was never asked to do so. To me (or any car guy for that matter), that is the ultimate expression of love I can imagine. The Barrow family was born out of this act.

While he spent a life raising a family, I don't think that car ever left him. In fact, I know it didn't. 1961 was the end of this beloved car in his life but not the end of his love of British sports cars. He spent his life trying to recapture his connection to this vehicle by owning many sports cars...Triumphs, Cortinas, MGs etc. In fact, I learned to drive in a Triumph TR6 at 14 years old by driving it up and down our block for hours on end until the gas tank ran empty. Later in life, I remember him purchasing a rotting shell of a Sunbeam Alpine during the late 70's that sat in our driveway for years, perhaps as a remembrance of things past, until we moved in the early 80's. I can still see the look on his face whenever he stood there and looked at this piece of his history, I believe it brought him back. He died from a massive heart attack 2 days before my 26th birthday at age 58 at our home and in front of my mother. As a registered nurse, she couldn't save him. I am turning 50 in March and I can say he passed this passion for cars on to me and my 2 brothers, all now middle-aged.

My mother (Sandra, now 74) was a victim of Superstorm Sandy (oh, the irony of a name) living in Massapequa, Long Island, in the house my father died in and the house my brothers and I grew up in as young men. In the aftermath, we had to purge almost every memory from the first floor of her home that was under feet of salt water, including most of my father's belongings that were still in place from his life there. He was everywhere and this period of time was quite traumatic. Mostly, it was tragic and devastating to my mother. Her story is on YouTube here:

The Barrow Family of Massapequa, NY Comes Together to Recover in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Having been displaced for over a year, she is back in the family home now. I am reminded of what my father, the home and that Sunbeam meant to my mother over this past holiday when she gave the attached framed photo to my brothers and me at her home and we all recalled the story this car has played in our lives. It literally started the relationship that led to us, the Barrow family. This photo survived Superstorm Sandy and thus this vehicle, in the history of my family, has been reborn. I can't get it out of my head.

I am actually not even sure why I am writing but I didn't really know where to turn. I don't have a VIN or any documentation that survived the storm so I have no idea how to attempt to locate it. From the photo, I can see he had 1959 Massachusetts plates #N81-607 on it (cheaper to register according to my mom). I have a desire to find this vehicle or to learn if it even still exists. As I said, I know it is a long shot and I, like my father, am not a man of great means. I, however, have a love of my mother and brothers. I think it would be an incredible event to come full circle and have this car reborn into my family or, at the least, have my mother be able to sit in it once again.

Perhaps this story is compelling enough that you may want to help me fulfill the legacy of Sonny Sunbeam. Any advice or insight would be extremely appreciated as I know you understand a man's love for his Sunbeam.

John Barrow

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 2015-01-16 11:48 AM by Skye.

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Skye Avatar
Skye Webmaster Skye Nott
Vancouver, BC, Canada   CAN
1964 Vespa VNB 125
1966 MG MGB "The Bomber RIP"
1983 Suzuki MC GS750E "Kate"
1986 Merkur XR4Ti "The Rally Car"    & more
Great story and photos, what a slice of history! Thanks for sharing that John

Moving this topic from the Buy & Sell Forum to the Alpine Chat forum


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artboy11211 Avatar
artboy11211 John Barrow
Ridgewood, NY, USA   USA
Thank you, Skye!

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