The Humber ” Snipe ” Saloon
A Car of Surprisingly High Per/ormance
TWENTY FIVE years or so of development have tended to eliminate a great deal of the unorthodox and original in mechanical features, which at one time made the study of motor cars so interesting for the connoisseur, and to-day a big proportion of makes are so similar in design, looks and performance that to know one is to know them all. It is not surprising therefore, that people who of necessity or through choice are constantly handling different makes of vehicles, become a little blase and, perhaps not easily impressed. For such as these a week-end, a day or even an hour with a Humber ” Snipe ” would be refreshing. In either chassis form or as a complete vehicle there is nothing which might be described as exciting about the” Snipe.” It looks a normal, well-finished, honest-to-goodness job, such as one expects from a firm like Humbers. As a saloon it has the appurtenances and appearance which go to make the complete, luxurious town carriage, but beneath this dignified demeanour] are concealed qualities which make an instant appeal to the motorist of sporting proclivities. The particular car placed at our disposal by Messrs. Rootes was a 5-seater saloon, apparently brand new, but actually a model which had done about 8,000 miles. As soon as one is esconced in the driving seat one is conscious of a feeling of ease and comfort which only a vehicle of superior type can give. One does not have to squeeze in, whether entry is made from the off or near side ; the gear change
and brake lever, while being centrally disposed are so well positioned that there is plenty of floor space, yet, at the same time, these controls come to hand just where one would expect to find them. The facia board is arranged neatly and in good taste with the dials of the various instruments rectangular in shape, according to the prevailing fashion. The starter button is incorporated in the electric horn push, mounted in the centre of the steering wheel. Excellent as this
arrangement is for the lazy driver (since it is a palpable improvement on a dashboard or floor-board mounting, and entails no groping and reaching forward), it has two minor disadvantages. In engaging the starter one is liable to ” peep ” the horn inadvertently, which is rather irritating, while only the most nimble-fingered can operate it with a gloved hand. But, this of course is a trifle, easily rectified.
From the start, the ” Snipe ” moves away with a silkiness and dignity which befits a car of its size. The clutch is smooth and light, and one can run through the gears with consummate easy and snappiness.
Perhaps, the first point to impress us was the outstanding quietness of the gearbox. First and second speeds emitted only the faintest of sound–a pleasant subdued ” sing,” which indicated a high accuracy of workmanship, and a ” silent-third” contributes still further to the transmission’s unobtrusiveness.
The brakes which are of the Bendix pattern, we found smoothly efficient at all speeds and with a niceness of control upon which it would be difficult to improve. Steering, a feature which the critical driver is always most particular about, was delightfully light, and so designed as to give a caster action.
As to the ” Snipe’s ” capabilities in the direction of m.p.h. and hillclimbing, we soon discovered that it was keeping something up its sleeve. With a car which is obviously made primarily for comfort, one does not generally expect a sports model’s performance (unless 74 m.p.h. on top, and 55 m.p.h. on 3rd are to be regarded as the average touring vehicle’s maxima) yet we found, that it was able to push the speedometer needle round to these two marks, without bother or any form of motor hysteria. Therein lies much of its charm, for though high speeds are sometimes made more fascinating when accompanied by an exhaust roar which implies much b.h.p. and r.p.m., no one can gainsay that rapid travel is even more delightful when the motor does not blatantly proclaim the fact that it is exceedingly busy. One thing which was noticeable about the engine was that it refused to pink, in spite of the fact that the top gear ratio is 4i to 1, and that the Lucas coil ignition gives a large degree of advance. As most readers are
probably aware, the ” Snipe “engine embodies the usual Humber arrangement of inclined overhead inlet valves and side exhausts. With the car we tried, the inlet valves seemed a trifle noisy—that is, when one stood alongside the engine: inside the car, the motor when ticking over was practically inaudible. We were particularly interested in the engine, because previous to our test run we had paid a visit to the recently-reorganised Humber works, where we saw the whole unit in course of construction. As sixes go nowadays, it is fairly large, having a capacity of 3,498 c.c. The crankshaft is a fine piece of work and is mounted on seven bearings ; thE pistons are of composite construction. A feature of the engine is the accessibility of the various parts and units. This is especially noticeable in the carburettor (a Stromberg downdraught instrument), the ignition distributor and coil, the plugs, dynamo, oil filler, and valves.
The equipment of the car is very good, and includes thermostatically-operated radiator-shutters, and the latest type of non-glare headlights, with dip and switch control mounted on the steering wheel. Numerous other conveniences, such as footrests for the back seats (they fold right out of sight when not actually in use) and a ” quick-lift ” mechanism for the driver’s window for facilitating traffic signalling which are embodied in the design, show that the manufacturers have left nothing undone to make motoring for passengers, or driver, a really enjoyable business.
In traffic the car was extremely pleasant to manipulate; with the” silent third “engaged, one could amble along until an opportunity occurred for a sudden getaway. A touch of the accelerator, and with a surge of smooth power one had left the more stolid road-users far behind. Because of its powerful and flexible engine, the ” Snipe ” is essentially a top-gear car, and its speed range with the 4i to 1 ratio is most impressive.
The five-seater saloon is listed £485, but if one were asked to estimate the price without reference to the catalogue, one would certainly place it in the E6004700 class.