The latest Humber Super Snipe

A Silent, Fully-Equipped Luxury Car of Considerable Performance—Costing Under £1,600.

In the past the Super Snipe was one of the zippier of the Rootes Humbers. For a time this model was abandonned but when the revised Humber Hawk was introduced provision was made for the installation of a six-cylinder engine. Such an engine, with inclined o h. valves in hemispherical combustion chambers, as pioneered by Peugeot, is used as the basis of the new 2.6-litre Humber Super Snipe.

The latest Snipe is intended as a fast luxury car, completely equipped but not too costly. It is available with fully-automatic transmission and power steering but as I am still able to change gear and steer unaided by automation, I tested the Humber with manual gear-change and normal steering, after having metaphorically placed my rolled umbrella and bowler hat on the seat beside me.

The new engine, with inclined o.h. valves in hemispherical combustion chambers, operated from a base camshaft and inclined push-rods, Peugeot fashion, is pleasing to look at when the bonnet is raised and equally satisfactory in action. It is an unusual engine for a car of this type, inasmuch as it develops maximum power (112 b.h.p.) at the comparatively high crankshaft speed of 5,000 r.p.m., which means that those who drive lazily fail to derive the full benefit from this smooth, silent and powerful power unit. If the lower gears are used appropriately the Humber Super Snipe becomes a fast as well as a luxurious and comfortable car. The ordinary gearbox provides three forward speeds but a Laycock overdrive is available to multiply these to a choice of five ratios, as overdrive operates in middle and top gears.

This transmission enables the best to be wrung from the engine: maximum speeds are 35 m.p.h. in first gear, 57 m.p.h. in second gear (7.34 to 1), 75 m.p.h. in overdrive second (5.70 to 1) and 87 m.p.h. in the 4.55-to-1 top gear. Overdrive is selected by a little, clearly labelled, flick-lever conveniently located on the right of the steering column and by building up speed in overdrive second before selecting top gear, purposeful acceleration is achieved. On the other hand, a lazy driver can get early into top gear, select overdrive top to conserve petrol consumption, merely flicking into normal top when hills or traffic conditions require him to do so, second not being needed except at a crawl. Indeed, the engine will pull away from 10 m.p.h. in overdrive top gear.. The gears are selected by a substantial, rigid left-hand steering-column lever, lightly spring-loaded towards top and second,  which functions positively but stiffly and rather ponderously: it involves awkward wrist action, as such levers always do.  However, it does permit three persons to occupy the wide bench front seat in comfort (although floor space, is impeded by the transmission tunnel) and its only real shortcoming is that reverse position is opposite the first-gear location and, as the lever knob no longer has to be pulled out before engaging reverse, a driver accustomed to a four-speed gearbox may inadvertently shunt the car behind.

As has been said, it is necessary to use the revs to obtain impressive acceleration. Nothing much happens, even in second gear, until beyond 40 m.p.h., when it is possible to reach 60 m.p.h. in 10 seconds in overdrive second, or increase the pace from 50 to 70 m.p.h. in that ratio in under 12-1/2  seconds. Standstill to 60 m.p.h. occupies 19 seconds, a  s.s.1/4-mile  21 seconds.

The new Humber engine is inaudible at tick-over, makes some mechanical noise when accelerating, and cruises the car at 79 or 80 m.p.h. in overdrive top (3.54 to 1) with no more than a subdued hum of machinery, running easily and with silken smoothness.  At 30 m.p.h. in overdrive top it is running at just over 3,100 r.p.m. As this engine starts easily from cold with a minimum of choke, does not “run-on” and suffers from violent valve bounce only at the maxima noted, it represents the outstanding feature of the revived Super Snipe. It pinks somewhat unless fed with 100-octane petrol, which is surprising, because the compression ratio is not unduly high, and is more thirsty than it-should be for a 2.6-litre unit, consumption being no better than 18 m.p.,g. in spite of liberal use of overdrive. This, with the 12-1/2-gallon tank, represents the miserable range of a mere 225 miles, and, to obviate carrying a spare can, it is prudent to refuel every 200 miles. As the effortless cruising speed of 80 m.p.h., with an absolute maximum of nearly 95 makes this Humber well suited to motoring swiftly across the Continent of Europe, the necessity of having to refuel every four hours or less could be extremely irritating. However, the cost of this comparatively heavy fuel consumption is unlikely to concern Humber owners, who can be expected to be expense-account motorists, and as they are also likely to enjoy their food the car can be re-fuelled at the same time as the occupants.

After appreciation of the smoothness and silence of the Super Snipe’s engine, tribute must be paid to the car’s excellent appointments, which are not unexpected in Rootes Group products. The seats are very wide, have generous folding centre, arm-rests, and are upholstered in good-quality leather.  The squab of the back seat is actually so high that it slightly obscures the view in the rear-view mirror, while the cushion width is 60 in. The facia and window fillets are in burr walnut and the floor is thickly carpeted, while the roof is covered in washable material. Reutter front bucket seats with inclinable backs are a worthwhile extra. Four wide, trailing doors render entry into the Humber a dignified matter, although this is definitely a car into which one steps up. Another very good feature is the excellent all-round visibility provided by the generous window area and wrap-round back window and screen. The latter is meritorious because it does not endanger one’s knees when entering the car as so many wrap-round screens do—such excellent forward visibility is provided that it is something of a disaster that the facia-mounted mirror obscures the near-side front wing.

The doors seat on rubber buffers and have useful arm-rests-cum-“pulls.” The front windows have quick-action handles, needing only 1-1/2 turns from fully open to fully closed; the rear window handles call for 3-3/4 turns. There are the usual quarter-lights, lacking thief-proof catches.

The burr walnut facia has a splendidly arranged cubby-hole before the front-seat passenger, which has a lockable lid with press-button catch, which, opened, automatically lights up the cubby-hole, which is very roomy and has a steeply inclined floor, so that objects stowed therein cannot fall out with the lid open. The lamp has an adjustable hood to enable it to be used as a map light. This cubby-hole is hooded to match the hooded instruments, rather stiff crash padding being used over these hoods and along the top of the facia. Before the driver are the main dials, the speedometer, with total and trip-with-decimal mileage recorders, being calibrated every 10 m.p.h. (and marked in both m.p.h. and k.p.h) to 120 m.p.h., while its matching instrument incorporates a water thermometer (normal reading 170 deg. F.), oil-pressure gauge (normal reading 50 lb./sq in.) and ammeter. Between these dials is a commendably accurate petrol gauge, calibrated in gallons and litres, with the tank contents in both measures inscribed on its face. These are Jaeger instruments. They are slightly masked by the full horn-ring on the thick two-spoke steering wheel. Three buttons on the right operate, respectively, the rheostat panel lighting, the excellent if somewhat noisy two speed self-parking wipers, and the screen-washers. This isn’t quite accurate—on the test car the washers were inoperative, although the plastic bottle was full. The wiper blades work in opposition.

The centre of the facia is occupied by an H.M.V. radio (an extra, with front or back speaker and make of set to choice), two big, clearly-marked controls with sensible finger grips for demister and heater, the fan of which is operated by a small tumbler-switch on the left, and a Smith’s clock. Below the radio is a drawer-type ash-tray, beside the fan switch a cigar-lighter. There is a pull-out choke control, subdued indicator lights for full lamps beam, flashers in use and ignition, the self-cancelling direction-flashers being conveniently controlled by a stalk on the right of the steering column above the overdrive stalk. The ignition key operates the starter, and can be set to leave the radio on with ignition off, the headlamps dipper is a big button on the floor, the bonnet-release toggle is under the scuttle on the right and works easily, and twin vizors are fitted, with a vanity mirror for the passenger. Wipers and horn function only with the ignition on.

The front doors possess very useful rigid parcels’ wells and there are button locks in the leather-covered door sills of all the doors and excellent push-button exterior handles. Back-seat passengers are well catered for, with twin folding tables, cigar-lighter, and two ash-trays in the back of the front seat, and ample seating space and leg-room. There is a rather flimsy central interior lamp, operated by opening any door at night and, additionally, by a small switch on the off-side centre door pillar.

On the road this latest Humber Super Snipe handles more in the manner of a fast touring car than a sports car, which at least makes sense. The suspension (coil-spring and wishbone i.f.s., with anti-roll bar; leaf 1/2-elliptic back springs) is soggy and the back axle displays its antiquated presence over bumps and humps. Roll is not too excessive when cornering fast but can be disturbing to a really enterprising driver. In normal motoring the car handles quite well. The steering, which demands 4-1/2  turns, lock-to-lock, in conjunction with a reasonable turning circle, is very heavy for manoeuvring and fairly heavy at speed because it pulls against strong castor-action, which is almost too vigorous, spinning the wheel powerfully through the driver’s fingers after a corner. The wheel transmits mild vibration rather than return action, and the steering is reasonably accurate but too spongy. The ride is, of course, exceedingly comfortable, although some vibration is transmitted through the body shell.

The 11-in. dia. Girling brakes have vacuum-servo assistance. On the test car the pedal went down a long way and retardation was not particularly convincing, until the pedal had been “pumped.” Clearly, adjustment was required and I imagine that normally these are light, very powerful brakes. They had at times a tendency to squeal very faintly. Incidentally, accessibility of the brake-fluid reservoir is obstructed by the heater piping. The right-hand handbrake is splendidly placed where it is easy to reach without impeding entry or exit from the seat; it releases easily and holds the car securely.

The clutch action is not unduly heavy, and smooth. The body is generally free from wind noise but there is some irritating whistle round the front doors at cruising speed. The gears are virtually inaudible and the back axle silent.

The Humber Super Snipe has the Hawk body shell but its own wrap-round radiator grille and larger tyres. Its appearance is enhanced by ventilated wheel discs, snug-fitting bumpers with over-riders as standard, and the Snipe mascot with its law-abiding rubber beak on the bonnet top. The luggage-boot lid remains open automatically. The boot, lit at night, has a capacity of 19.1 cu. ft., the spare wheel being mounted almost vertically on the off side. The lid is lockable. There is the usual parcels’ shelf behind the back seat, the headrest of the seat acting as an efficient lip to the shelf. The petrol filler incorporates the off-side rear reflector, which is secured by a chain. The filler is horizontal and cannot be filled from a normal can.

The bonnet is also spring-loaded. It opens to reveal the impressive six-cylinder “square” engine with its unusual blue-finished valve and plug cover, the downdraught Zenith carburetter high set and the Lucas battery accessible at the forward off side of the engine compartment. The long dipstick is accessible, the A.C. air cleaner is coupled by flexible tubing to the intake, and the distributor easy to reach. The headlamps are partially hooded and give a very powerfull driving light. When dimmed the beams dip sharply but remain powerful. A good point, amongst so many in this thoughtfully-equipped car, is a reversing lamp lit automatically when reverse gear is selected. A wide range of two-tone or single-tone colour schemes is available.

I am pleased to find the old name of Humber associated with a car which is not only very fully and sensibly equipped but which possesses ample performance. This Super Snipe, which runs so smoothly and silently by grace of the excellent new engine with the ingenious valve gear, represents first-class travel which should appeal particularly to successful business-men.  It costs £995, or £1.493 I7s, inclusive of purchase tax, overdrive and radio, as on the test car, being extras.  —  W. B.


The Humber Super Snipe Saloon

Engine : Six cylinders, 82.5 by 82.5 mm. (2,651 c.c.). Push-rod-operated inclined overhead valves. 7.5 to 1 compresion-ratio. 112 b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m.

Gear ratios : First, 12.77 to 1; second, 7.34 to 1; overdrive second, 5.70 to 1; top, 4.55 to 1; overdrive top, 3.54 to 1.

Tyres : 6.70 by 15 Dunlop Gold Star tubeless, on bolt-on steel disc wheels.

Weight : Not weighed. Maker’s figure : 1 ton 9 cwt. 3 qtr. 19 lb. (kerb weight).

Steering ratio : 4.4 turns, lock-to-lock.

Fuel capacity : 12-1/2 gallons (range approximately 225 miles).

Wheelbase : 9 ft. 2 in.

Track : Front, 4 ft. 8-1/2 in.; rear, 4 ft. 7-1/2 in.

Dimensions : 15 ft. 4-3/4 in. by 5 ft 9-3/4 in. by 5 ft. 1 in. (high).

Price : £995 (£1,493 17s, inclusive of purchase tax). With overdrive : £1,568 17s.

Makers : Humber Ltd., Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Coventry, England.