RUMBLINGS, January 1956
The path of the motoring journalist, and even more so that of the motoring historian, is strewn with pitfalls. For instance, the
Aston-Martin of the Bamford and Martin days is hyphenated, but the Aston Martin of a later era is not. Then from ” Three-Pointed
Star,” David Scott-Moncrieff’s recent book, we learn that the accents were discontinued from the name Mercedes from 1909 onwards. F.I.A.T. becomes Fiat after 1905, and then there are the Clement, Roesch and Lago Talbots, and the little poser of when does a Talbot become a Darracq ? Recently the make we have always rendered as Frazer-Nash was advertised from I sleworth as Fraser-Nash. Well, well 1 You see what we mean ? * * * Last month we were able to sample the latest “Gay Look” Hillman Minx Mk. VIII saloon over a distance of 330 miles. Although
A BRITISH FAMILY SALOON
largely unaltered mechanically for 1956 and therefore basically ten years out of date, the well-proven Minx in its new two-colour scheme constitutes a very capacious small car, ” ” a very car, well appointed, and an excellent ” second-string ” or ladies’ vehicle, able to accommodate six persons if required to do so
It has a steering-column gear-change which operates smoothly and reasonably positively, especially between top and third, •for which change the left-hand lever is very nicely situated—Rootes Group cars certainly possess this type of change in its better form. There is also a ” vintage” right-hand brake-lever which is a welcome change from “reaching for an umbrella,” and the Lockheed brakes are truly powerful if treated firmly.
The rigid back axle makes its presence felt over had roads and unpleasant pitching develops; the steering characteristic is definite understeer, the wheel asking about 24 turns lock-to-lock and it is fairly light by British standards. The bench-type seats are deeply upholstered, but that at the back is unreasonably high, while we would have preferred more shoulder support and a more upright squab in front. All four doors trail and possess excellent quickaction window-winders (14 turns, up to down), but are difficult to open with one hand because the handles are placed at the hinged instead of at the opening edges.
• The ” square ” 1,390-c.c., 76.2 by 76.2-mm. o.h.v. four-cylinder engine proved entirely vice-free, except for transmitting vibration, and hunting, at tick-over, in sp:te of a rubber-cushioned ” steady ” between cylinder head and frame. It was able to propel the car at a timed 69.2 m.p.h. (4,500 r.p.m.) over a by no means favourable 4-mile. when the speedometer indicated 75 m.p.h. (it was 4 m.p.h. optimistic at 46 m.p.h. and 24 m.p.h. at 40 m.p.h.). In third gear the Minx will reach 50 m.p.h. (4,868 r.p.m.).
This is a quiet-running car until the Smith’s heater is switched on, for this unit is excessively noisy, at all events at cruising speed. It puffs in generous dollops of heat, and we found it difficult to adjust to our requirements.
Absence of door pockets is offset by a useful full-width dash-tray, in which the speaker for the Ekco radio lives on the driver’s side, and the usual rear-window shelf. There are three square ” dials ” indicating petrol contents (74-gallon tank), water temperature and time, although the two former dials are calibrated ovly vaguely. Neat warning lamps serve for oil pressure and dynamo itharge, and presumably Hillman owners know when they are on heaffiamps fullbeam, as no indication is given; the direction “flashers “indicator is of discreet size, so as not to dazzle, and the flashers are in any case self-cancelling. There la no mileometer trip-recorder and no tenths on the main recorder.
The driver’s brake foot tended to foul the ventilator control cable, which even a Lotus toe-cap could not withstand, and his clutch foot got a bit caught-up with surrounding protrusions, but when not working the light clutch it rested comfortably on the excellent dipper-button fqr the powerful Lucas headlamps. The knob controlling sideand head-lamps, and a smaller knob on the off side for the powerful fog-lamp, are a trifle ” fumbly.” High marks, however, to the horn ring, from which a gentle or blatant blast could be wrung at will.
There is plenty of space within this gay Rootesmobile, but it seems a pity to have a steering-column gear-change when the centre of the front compartment is obstructed by a wide, flat transmission protrusion. Visibility from the driving-seat is good; headroom in the back is restricted by the aforementioned high seat cushion. The ashtrays are capacious. Incidentally, the doors were recessed for indicators although direction ” flashers ” were fitted. A good point is that the rear windows wind down fully; the front doors have ventilator windows, matched by fixed panels in the back doors. The body is free from major rattles, save from the back, probably as the loose tools became excited.
The wide bonnet is heavy to lift and has to be propped open. The dip-stick, valve-cover, oil-filler, radiator filler, Lucas battery and fuses are all easily accessible, the latter being uncovered. There is evidence under the bonnet of untidy sealing of controls coming through the bulkhead. The small carburetter has an enormous A.C. air-cleaner. The luggage boot is nearly as roomy as the engine compartment, the spare wheel and tools being stowed beneath it, but as it is devoid of lining of any kind one would suffer if compelled to place expensive suitcases therein.
The Minx we had for test had covered only about 3,000 miles; the steering had very little free-play but a slight oil-leak onto the near-side back wheel was evident, rather embarrassing the whitewall tyres ! Twin visors and self-parking wipers are provided but no scrcen-washer, which should surely be standardised by now on all closed cars ?
As a smooth big-car-in-miniature, easy to control and with economy in keeping with a 1.3-litre engine (fog conditions ruled out an m.p.g. check), the Hillman retains its appeal, and we now look forward to experiencing this power unit in ” hotter” form in the Sunbeam Rapier” turismo veloce.” The present price of the “Gay Look” Minx de luxe saloon is £495, or £743 17s. Od. inclusive of p.t. Its weight, ready for the road with approx. one gallon of petrol but minus occupants, is 19 cwt. 2 qtr. 21 lb. (see footnote on page 23). While roaming about Kent in the Hillman Minx we called on H. Lumb, who, with N. Napier, is at work on a Lagonda Rapier A RAPIERENGINE!) SPECIAL engined Special. The neat little twin-cam 1,100-c.c. four-cylinder engine and closeratio self-change gearbox, working sans the traffic clutch, is accommodated in a with man
two-tier tubular chassis frame, fusion-welded with silicon manganese rod supplied by British Oxygen, the bottom tubes being of 2 in. by 3 in. 20-gauge b.t. steel tubing, and the top 2 in. by 1 in. square-section tubes being boxed-in for rigidity, where this is considered necessary. At the front a bridge fabricated from 20-gauge mild steel sheet carries early-type Gordon-Armstrong trailing-link and coil-spring i.f.s., the track having been widened and Bradford 10 in. by 14 in. drums, with pre-war Standard Twelve back-plates and Rapier stub-axles, adapted, in conjunction with Girling hydraulic brakes—Lumb is a keen Bradford user.
A cut-down Jeep radiator is mounted low in the nose in the modern manner, a piece of 4-in. alloy pipe above the instrument panel constituting the remote water header-tank.