The Master Hunter

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Offers to road-test tuned cars such as Ford Cortinas and Mini-Coopers are never lacking at Motor Sport. Because of these cars’ obvious sporting associations there is a big market for such conversions, but it was rather refreshing recently to try something a little different. The car was basically a Hillman Hunter which had been prepared and tuned by Davenport Vernon & Co. of High Wycombe, and was known by the grand title of Master Hunter.

It was in November last year that Ralph Denne, the joint Managing Director of the company, had the idea of the Master Hunter. Davenport Vernon are Rootes main dealers and have enormous premises in High Wycombe, and were therefore in an ideal position to develop and market a conversion. The result is a fast five-seater, four-door saloon retailing, as tested, for under £1,000. The performance is Rapier-like but the car does not cost that extra £200.

The engine was modified by fitting an Alpine camshaft to the familiar alloy-headed 1,725-c.c. Rootes engine. To the head were added two Stromberg CD carburetters, with wire mesh air filters, and that was the sum of the engine modifications. To balance the increased performance, a Lockheed brake servo was thought necessary. Goodyear G800 radial-ply tyres were fitted to Cosmic 4½J alloy wheels, which may have accounted for the very light steering. The leather-rimmed steering wheel was slightly smaller in diameter than the standard one, while the only other real difference was the fitting of a small Smiths rev.-counter on top of the facia. We say “real,” because Master Hunters carry contrasting stripes along the waist, on the boot and on the nose; distinguishing, but not in the realms of a really useful addition.

The cost of these extras, including fitting, brought the Master Hunter’s price tag to £998. This seems quite reasonable, especially in view of the fact that it would cost more to do it yourself. The firm say that if a member of the public bought all the various bits separately it would cost him £165. Davenport Vernon are also making Hillman Minx conversions available, and all are covered by the maker’s warranty.

There was no need to alter the seats of the Hunter, for they have adjustable back rests and a very comfortable driving position can be easily obtained. Everything is light to use, including the steering which was perhaps a little vague. The car is a confirmed understeering one, as we found out at our test track, but nevertheless was pleasant to drive. It would plough nose first through a corner at quite respectable speeds, at which it felt completely safe. Even when we encountered a slow-moving hazard and had to lift off a bit, no drama was shown.

The increase in power seems to have affected the amount of torque available; there is a definite time lag before the power comes in. Once wound up the car was fast and there was little wind noise. Prospective customers may care to note that they can cruise at indicated speeds in excess of 80 m.p.h. without fear of being stood in the dock; the speedometer, checked against our fifth wheel, was about 13 m.p.h. optimistic at 70 m.p.h.

The car accelerated well, although when we came to do our figures it was, of course, raining. Consequently our times were nothing to shout about, but Davenport Vernon assure us that it is the quickest Rootes model of its type up to 60 m.p.h. Allied to the slipperiness of the track, which the Goodyears did their best to overcome, the car produced a bit too much axle tramp. High revs. could definitely not be used to do quick starts and the trick was to move off gently and then start accelerating hard.

However, Davenport Vernon do offer a set of Armstrong Road Holder adjustable shock-absorbers, which would be a must for any conversion. But this would take the price over the magic £1,000—after which the public seems to have a mental blockage—and Motor Sport would rather forget the jazzy stripes along the side (£15) and have instead the rear shock-absorbers (£13 12s. 6d.).—R. F.

Master Conversions Installed

Twin Stromberg CD carburetters mounted on tuned manifold, £38 10s.; high-lift camshaft, £17 4s.; Lockheed brake servo, £16 I9s.; alloy wheels, 4½J rims, £42 10s.; alloy wheels, 5½J rims, £52 10s.; Goodyear G800 tyres, £10 10s.; leather-rimmed steering wheel, £8 10s.; contrasting flash incorporating Master symbol, £15; rev.-counter, £15 15s.; Armstrong Road Holder adjustable rear shock-absorbers, £13 12s. 6d.; silenced air intake filters, £3 10s.; extra high-lift camshaft, £14 10s.; tuned exhaust and manifold, £21.