Why the car one man bought for $3,000 is now worth $112,000

Sunbeam Tiger bought for $3,000 now has a jaw-dropping value

In Wednesday's episode of CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage," buyer Steve Hoffman explains that the legend is what led him to buy a rusty 1966 Sunbeam Tiger MK 1A Roadster in the desert outside Pasadena for $3,000.

First, there was the historical interest. James Bond drove a sunbeam in "Dr. No," and a MK 1 appeared in the Alfred Hitchcock film "To Catch a Thief."

The Tiger was designed for speed. The original manufacturer Carroll Shelby knew that cars that won races were cars that sold, which is why, in 1963, he dropped a Ford V8 engine into the British Alpine.

"Hence the expression: Win on Sunday, sell on Monday," says Leno.

This car is also the last MK 1A built, which is a factoid interesting to world-renowned auto appraiser and bow-tie connoisseur Donald Osborne. That increases the car's value although, Osborne admits, the first MK 2 would have a larger bump.

Still, Hoffman stands to make a tremendous profit: Osborne explains it's now worth $112,000.

Actor Sean Connery, as James Bond, on the set of Eon Productions' "Goldfinger" with a 1964 Aston Martin DB5.
Bettmann | Getty Images

The two other main important things to note when evaluating a car, says Osborne, are preservation and provenance. Hoffman has checked both of those boxes.

Hoffman reports that he put $50,000 into restoration after he bought it from the original owner, though his wife thinks that number is closer to $30,000. Regardless, Osborne is admiring. As he checks the panel fit, the interior, the instruments on the dashboard and whether the seats are done in the correct vinyl, he says everything looks superb.

But, he points out, the carpet on the transmission tunnel is actually different than the carpet on the mat. That small detail knocks the value down. And Osborne says that he'd prefer a less modern and more rounded-shoulder tire on this kind of car.

"I thought we had it all," says Hoffman as a buzzer sounds and Leno clutches at his guest in frustration.

Still, Hoffman learns, he can make a whopping $59,000 in profit if he sells the car for its appraised value.

"It shows you what you can do with a little determination and not a ton of cash," say Leno. "I like cars that average guys can work on in there garage, and that's what this is."

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CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET.