It’s drizzling and overcast outside and the downstairs of my house is littered with camping equipment. Yes, I have a 712 mile road trip ahead of me and am leaving in about four hours time.
Before that, we’ve just enough time to don our rubber trousers and wade through the primordial soup that is motoring past, ready to scoop up whatever obscure relic bobs up to the surface. Welcome to The Carchive.
After spending a few weeks in the 1990s British Midlands looking at the MG-F and RV8, we wind back thirty years or so but stay local. We’re in Coventry, and we’re checking out the Humber Super Snipe.
All images can be made larger when clicked upon, for enhanced viewing and reduced eye-strain
“The distinguished new Humber Super Snipe is one of the world’s really fine cars. Built with traditional Humber quality and craftsmanship, it combines advanced design and high performance with elegant styling and impeccable interior comfort”
When the first Humber Super Snipe was released way back in 1938, it was actually a bit of a British hotrod. The original model took what was basically the hull of the workaday Humber Hawk and added the engine of the big, posh Humber Pullman. The result was a reasonably compact saloon car with a pretty surprising turn of speed.
By the time this car was built, the Humber Hawk had grown in size somewhat. Furthermore, the Humber Pullman had been discontinued. For a while, then, this was the top of the Rootes Group range.
“The styling of the Humber Super Snipe has a contemporary elegance than reflects the quality of this superlative car.”
The version you see here is a Series IV, introduced in ’63 as an evolution of the ’58 Series I. The styling was unashamedly ‘inspired’ by the ’55 Chevy, but despite this manages to look remarkably British and, well, more than a little regal.
It was available in saloon and estate-car wagon shapes. I’ll go out on a limb here and declare that I don’t think the estate looks quite as pretty.
“In the spacious and beautifully appointed Saloon, you have luxurious comfort for restful, relaxed travel. You will appreciate the smooth, even ride and the quietness of the interior”
The Super Snipe was very definitely built for comfort. A pretty heavy car, it was happier whisking a small group of people in pretty impressive comfort at sustained high speeds which, thanks to the UK’s burgeoning – and as yet un-speed-limited – motorway network, was becoming a reality.
Passengers sat on leather benches or, if requested, the front seats could be split with indvidual arm-rests.
“You drive in superb comfort, with an ease of control that heightens the pleasure of high-performance motoring.”
By 1963 the six-cylinder, three-litre engine was pushing out 132.5 bhp. That ‘.5’ is of vital importance, of course.
When the Series V arrived in ’64, the engine was pushed to 137.5 bhp thanks to some clever cylinder-head work by the famous Harry Weslake, a name that would become synonymous with higher-performance Rootes Group engines.
The Series V was slightly restyled, with a larger windscreen and altered roof-profile, and at around the same time a flagship model was released, basically the same car but up-specified and carrying the shelved Humber Imperial name.
“The dignified Humber Super Snipe Limousine is eminently suitable for formal or informal occasions, for professional or private use.
That’s great news. I’m pretty sure the Hooniverse ministerial transport contract is coming up for renewal pretty soon.
While I’m here in in 1963, I’ll give Humber a bell.
(All images are of original manufacturer publicity material photographed by me. Presumably, copyright belongs to PSA group, but could well have been lost to the swirling mists of time.)