A British car of high quality
For Motor Sport Easter was divided between the latest Humber Super Snipe Mk. II and the much-discussed Chrysler Valiant – that is after the appalling London traffic chaos on the day before Good Friday’had been negotiated in, respectively, a Wolseley 1500 and the Morris “minibric.”
After driving two small cars it was a change to stretch the legs and spread the chest in the Super Snipe, which is a car that contrives to be extremely spacious without being unwieldy. The latest Mk. II version with 3-litre engine is distinguished by a wide “flash” down the body sides, and in the case of our Easter test-car this smartly set off the very attractive navy blue finish. Full marks to Rootes for this very handsome colour scheme.
Last January twelvemonth we reported on the then-new Super Snipe in detail and, as the interior and mechanical arrangements of this dignified British car remain virtually unchanged except for the larger engine (it has grown from 2.6-litres to a six-cylinder of 87.3 x 8’2.5 mm or 2,965 c.c., the power output going up from 112 b.h.p. to 129.5 b.h.p., the increase being achieved at a peak crankshaft speed 200 r.p.m. lower, or at 4,800 r.p.m.), there is no need to recapitulate.
Suffice it to remark that the engine has lost none of the smoothness and quiet-running previously remarked upon but that the extra power is noticeable by reason of even better acceleration and a top speed which, instead of stopping at 95 m.p.h., surges on to above “the ton.”
The power unit, an imposing under-bonnet inmate, has cross-pushrod actuation of inclined o.h. valves and accepts the Laycock overdrive from absurdly low speeds, so that this can be virtually a one-gear car.
The imposing kerbside appearance of the modern Humber Super Snipe, ruggedness being suggested by the substantial bumpers, wide grille and big wheels, is matched by particularly well-thought-out and comprehensive interior equipment, which extends to folding, burr-walnut tables, twin ash-trays and cigar-lighter for the back-compartment passengers. The facia is also in burr-walnut, with doer cappings, but not sills, to match, with sensible instrumentation and a big, lockable cubby-hole to supplement deep wells in the front doors. The doors shut with the quality-action beloved by vintage-car devotees, they have sill interior locks, and the wrap-round screen does not impede entry, while bonnet and luggage-boot lid open automatically on being released. Heater controls are sensibly arranged, a clock is provided, the rapid action of winding-down the driver’s window was appreciated, and the floor is lavishly carpeted. A full horn-ring sounds a “Col. Trumpington” warning of approach.
In brief, this Humber is a sensibly and luxuriously-equipped 100-m.p.h. saloon. It will presumably be driven mostly by big-boned businessmen in bowler hats, who will appreciate its top-gear ability to reach 80 m.p.h. very quickly indeed but who, we must hope, will not be too critical of its steering and roadholding characteristics, or mind a steering-column gear-change which isn’t exactly finger-light or silky to operate – incidentally, it controls a three-speed gearbox but the overdrive multiplies this to five forward speeds, control here being by finger-tip stalk, as is direction-flashers operation.
The steering is relatively heavy, is too low-geared (4-1/2 turns, lock to-lock) and not nearly sensitive enough, so that the Humber has to be steered continually even along straight roads. Against this there is only the faintest kick-back action and no column vibration, but the castor return action, although vigorous, does not centre the steering sufficiently. These factors add up to unpleasant control characteristics in a car which rolls somewhat too much on corners, causing oversteer, particularly at moderate speeds. The Super Snipe is, no doubt, a better proposition in Borg Warner automatic transrnission/Hydrosteer power-steering form. The tyres protest mildly merely because a corner is sharp, not because it is being taken quickly. The car is certainly not under-tyred and this may have much to do with the unfortunate steering characteristics – it runs on 6.70 x 15 six-ply Dunlop “Gold Seal” tubeless covers.
The suspension gives a very comfortable, slightly lively ride and only mild tremors penetrate to the body structure. Road noise is absent, the car is mechanically silent save for very faint transmission sounds, and wind noise is negligible except for a hiss past the quarter-windows. The engine was somewhat reluctant to start promptly when cold.
Another innovation on the Mk. II car is Girling disc brakes on the front wheels. These pull up this 30-cwt. car extremely well for negligible pedal pressure but for part of the test pulled disconcertingly to the near side. The right-hand hand-brake is well located. A minor criticism we made in the case of the 2.6-litre model, namely that the scuttle-mounted rear-view mirror obstructed the near-side wing, has been rectified by fitting a pendant mirror.
We had no opportunity to check petrol consumption but this appears to be little better than 17 m.p.g., dropping towards 15 m.p.g. if you hurry, giving a dubious range of less than 200 miles. The petrol filler is disguised as the off-side rear reflector.
This latest Super Snipe is a significant model in the Rootes’ range, individualistic, extremely comfortable and modestly priced at £1,453 inclusive of purchase tax.
T. H. White, one of my favourite authors, in “England Have My Bones” states frankly that his England “is not that of the Saturday Review, nor is it authoritative like that of the Field. It is not stately enough for Country Life, nor experienced enough to bear comparison with the works of A. G. Street or Adrian Bell. I hope it is not the kind of country that is inhabited by Mr. Beverley Nichols.”
I can say that my motoring does not call for a Facel Vega, nor is it skilful enough to justify a Ferrari. It is not staid enough for a Rolls-Royce, nor on a plane to call for a Porsche or Maserati. I find it does not regard the Humber Super Snipe as the most enjoyable form of expression.
That is not to say that many successful and talented people will not find this impressive and comfortable 3-litre Humber very close to the ideal. An excellent instruction book is issued with the car. – W. B.