Built by the Rootes factory in Coventry, England, Alpine registration number XRW 302 was the third of only eight pre-production prototypes built for road testing in early 1959, after the design was finalised in 1958. It also has a well documented racing history, having raced at Goodwood and many well known British racing circuits. it is now the earliest surviving 'series' Sunbeam Alpine and the only surviving prototype.
XRW 302 avoided the worst rigors of the development testing programme by being selected as a 'model' car on which the design department did development work. In 1961 the factory sold the car to Bernard Unett, a Rootes factory development engineer who worked on the Alpine development programme. He was a subsequent three times British Touring car champion of the 1970s, then engineer and test driver for the World Rally Championship winning Talbot and Peugeot teams.
Unett developed the car for racing by uprating the suspension, and the engine with a special cam which was especially made in Sweden. Unett first raced the car in 1961 and by 1964 Unett and XRW 302 became one of the most successful drivers / cars of the year on the British club circuit, winning the Freddie Dixon Challenge Trophy, which was a big prize in British Club racing at the time. He is even on record as having beaten future F1 world champion Jackie Stewart in one particular race.
When XRW 302 finished its racing career it passed through various owners until it was bought by Simon Goldby in 1972, who used it for every day motoring for four years, and was unaware of it's previous history until the mid 1970s. The car was garaged, fell into disrepair and remained unused until 1995 when a full restoration project was begun by Simon. In April 2000 the car was back on the road restored to it's former glory. Simon sold the car in September 2005.
XRW 302 has been featured in 'Pratical Classics' Magazine and Chris McGovern's book 'Alpine the classic Sunbeam' which includes a detailed account of the prototype testing programme. Recently it has appeared at the Silverstone Classic meeting, the Goodwood Revival and was runner up in 'Classic car of the year' at the Classic motor show at the NEC in Birmingham.
A new book featuring XRW 302, 'The history of the Sunbeam Alpine', is available here