Small car topics

A section devoted when deemed necessary to cars the engine capacity of which does ot exceed 1,000 c.c.

The Singer Chamois

There is a definite call for a luxury version of a successful utility car and in the case of the Rootes Group this has been met by the Singer Chamois, which is a de luxe version of the increasingly popular Hillman Imp.

This enables the customer to enjoy the good road-holding, willing 875-cc. Coventry-Climax light-alloy single o.h.c. rear engine and excellent gearbox of the Imp, with refinement of interior trim, greater quietness and better equipment. The open parcels’ shelf has been made into a lockable box, the facia and sills are of polished wood veneer, and the seats have been greatly improved, although they remain rather mean, dimensionally. Only the top of the dash has crash-padding and there are some protruding flick-switches on the facia, the 90-m.p.h. hooded Smiths speedometer of which is flanked by fuel and water-temperature gauges, while an oil gauge on the left indicates a reassuring 50 lb./sq. in. oil pressure. Controls, all clearly marked, are otherwise as on the Imp. There is not much luggage space in the front boot, its release concealed within the lockable glove box to give thief-proof insurance, but the well behind the back seat is easily loaded through the unique openable back window. The back seat folds to give greater luggage space. There is a shelf in front of the driver and the car has four “Issigonispockets,” with arm-rests behind the back ones.

Although the blue plastic interior finish of “my” particular Chamois clashed with the sedate wood cappings, there is no need to choose this colour combination, and externally the Chamois, with the “flash” along the body side, wheel trims arid neat grille, is a very smart little car. It proved a great favourite with my daughters and is obviously an excellent ladies’ car, and a very acceptable second-car for family use.

This little Singer hustles along, cruising enthusiastically with the speedometer showing 70-80 m.p.h. – in fact, its genuine top speed is 84 m.p.h. It will do 67 in 3rd gear, and the absence of oversteer in spite of an engine in the tail is even more noticeable in the Chamois, which tends to understeer on its 12-in. Dunlop SP41 tyres. This makes for fast, acceptable cornering, but unfortunately a strong cross-wind, like that which blew across A5 when I drove in a blue study (or blue Chamois) from the Pomeroy Trophy contest at Silverstone to a party in London, brings out all the rear-engine instability, so that, had I not been aware of the reason why continual steering correction was necessary, I should have blamed a deflating tyre.

Apart from that, and a fierce clutch, the Singer Chamois proved a very nice little car. Its brakes I thought better than those of the Imp, although still calling for fairly heavy pedal pressures, the running is reasonably quiet except for road noise transmitted by the SP tyres, the easy-to-operate heater effective, and the doors sensibly wide, although they needed better “keeps.”

After 330 miles the rear of the car bucked about alarmingly and there were mysterious clonks from the region of a rear wheel – a bolt had fallen out of a universal joint. The local Rootes dealer, although not having a replacement bolt in stock, had the Chamois back on the road in four hours. The shaking up seemed to have affected the fuel system, for the car ran erratically for some miles, but eventually cured itself. Under these not very favourable conditions, I got 39.3 m.p.g. of premium petrol, and a further check, on a quick run to Goodwood and back, showed 38.9 m.p.g., an overall figure of 39.1 m.p.g. The engine started instantly on automatic choke and after 840 miles no oil was required. The bonnet has to be propped open, the spare wheel is in the front boot and the fuel filler is under the bonnet.

The test car had an Ekco transistor radio below the parcels’ shelf and a low-hung Rootes Lumax fog-lamp. The wipers worked well, abetted by washers operated by a Fiat-like rubber plunger.

Rootes are to be congratulated on the introduction of the Singer Chamois, which is excellent value at £581 11s. 3d., p.t. included, and should enhance the popularity of the Imp theme, more than 300,000 of these Hillmans having been built at the Linwood plant in Scotland, where the Chamois is also made. – W. B.