Rumblings, September 1957

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76

At one of those lavish Press parties on which members of the Fourth Estate thrive — this one was at the Weston Manor Hotel, near Oxford, on July 25th, complete with beautiful model-girls who, alas, did not deport themselves in the swimming pool, as scheduled in the invitation — Michael Christie arose after lunch and explained why his company, Michael Christie Motors of Aylesbury, has introduced a faster version of the well-known Hillman Minx. “When I was at the Geneva Show,” he said, “I realised the need for a British car capable of 90 m.p.h., able to cruise at 80 m.p.h., and able to do this without consuming too much petrol bought by the family motorist.” The result is that “Alexander-tune” has been applied to the Hillman Minx and its appearance altered by the addition of a full-length waistline “flash” dividing the duo-colour scheme, and the provision of turbo-style wheel discs (borrowed from the Sunbeam Rapier) and bumper over-riders. An Alexander shield on the body and monogrammed hub centres on the wheels are further means of identifying the “Christie gran turismo”; although, as the former are lettered “AC” and the latter “AE,” confusion amongst lay-brothers is excusable!

Even before we had been entertained at the hotel-bar we counted a dozen of these handsome two-colour Minx Specials in the courtyard — the convertible, in which, praise be, the head folds flush with the body, lends itself particularly well to this face-lifting process; no doubt the Rootes’ styling department is aiming kicks at itself for not hitting upon it first.

The increase in urge is obtained by alterations to the inlet ports, the use of twin semi-downdraught S.U. carburetters with Smith’s “pancake” air cleaners, and an increase in compression-ratio from 8.0 to 8.6 to 1; 68 b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m. is claimed, compared with 51 b.h.p. at 4,600 r.p.m. from the normal Minx. In addition, Laycock de Normanville overdrive operating in third and top gears at a flick of a switch and a central “real” gear-lever replacing the Rootes’ steering-column stalk — not “remote” but brought up to facia level and cranked back — are provided.

We let Nancy Mitchell drive us in one of four demonstration cars and there was no doubt about it — 60 m.p.h. was soon indicated in third gear and, slipping into top, in a short distance the speedometer needle went well off the dial, the equivalent of 96 m.p.h. There was no means of checking the instrument for optimism and speed claims in the Press hand-outs vary from 103 m.p.h. to “over 90 on the clock” so that a proper trial will be required before we confirm whether this is, in fact, a 90 m.p.h. car. But we were left in no doubt as to the ability of the Alexander-Minx to accelerate very quickly to an impressive cruising gait, at the expense of rather a lot of engine noise. If over 90 m.p.h. is achieved this remarkable Minx will see off that rather disappointing car, the two-carburetter Sunbeam Rapier, which can only reach 87 m.p.h. and which is over one hundred-weight heavier; it also costs £114 more than the Alexander-Minx saloon . . .

Trying the car along twisting lanes we were reminded of our initial disappointment on learning that the tune stops at engine and gearbox, the brakes and suspension (the latter is of the floppy sort) having to cope unchanged with the appreciable increase in performance. However, the battery has been moved from in front of the front wheels to behind the back axle to improve weight distribution.

Christie claims a very worthwhile economy of petrol, such as “over 40 m.p.g. under normal driving conditions” and 45 m.p.g. if 60 m.p.h. is not exceeded. Rootes approve, but not to the extent of their guarantee remaining valid.

The cost of this conversion is £135. the Convertible thus coming out at £1,033 7s., for which you get a Minx which will impress the neighbours both at the kerbside and away from the traffic-lights. So attractive is this car that the first customer materialised before the hors d’oeuvre at this excellent party at Weston Manor.

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