by Jim Anderson
Tiger Tales, the newsletter of the California Association of Tiger Owners, carried a rather disturbing editorial, entitled “Time Bomb!”. Written by Herb Mosley, the newsletter’s technical editor, the article begins: “Every Tiger on the road with an unreinforced crossmember is a time bomb waiting to go off “. Until this critical assembly is strengthened, your Tiger is at least as dangerous as the Pintos with the exploding gas tanks or the Buicks with the floppy engine mounts, if not more so”.
Mosley follows this dramatic warning with the explanation that the sheet metal assembly, although well engineered for the original purpose of holding up the front end of an Alpine at normal speeds, was weakened to accommodate the steering rack of the Tiger.
The villain, says Mosley, is the constant flexing and vibrations, which weakens the metal and the welds. “At some point, it will come apart”. It seems that this has happened to one California member. He says the problem is preventable by having some weak points reinforced by a welder at a cost of about $50, once the assembly is out of the car.
We checked with two of our East Coast technical experts, Tom Calvert and Bob Rhodes, and the sum total of their advice is that the situation is not quite as bad or dramatic as Mosley paints, although it does exist.
Tom Calvert said, “In cars with sticky race tires, it is something that people should look for, especially if they autocross or race, and put more load on the assembly”. “Typically, it’s the cars with the stiffer springs and the fatter tires which have failures.”
Bob Rhodes, who has more than 200,000 miles on the current crossmember in his Tiger Mark Il (complete with fat tires) and who has autocrossed with a great deal of success, says, “The assembly was over-engineered for the Alpine, which was good”. If there is a weak point, says Bob, it would be at the shock towers and that could be reinforced by a weld that would not require removing the assembly. Just taking a wheel off would do. If a crossmember would go, the effect would depend on which part let go. The case reported by Mosley in California was able to steer to a safe stop.
Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted to reflect a typical owner reaction to an article published in many marque newsletters which predicted doom, gloom and instant life threatening hazards caused by Tiger crossmembers. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Any vehicle 35+ years old should have its suspension integrity verified. It is true, Tiger crossmembers do experience stress cracks, sag and break at the shock towers. But it is not epidemic proportions. There is always a risk of mechanical failure in any vehicle which can be life threatening. The Tiger crossmember possesses a higher risk. Therefore, have its integrity verified by a competent Alpine/Tiger specialist. If an inspector is not aware of this problem then find one who is.