by Paul Sweeney
The first of this week's two new arrivals is a lovely blue Singer Hunter S sourced from New Zealand's South Island.
Singer launched the SM1500 in 1949. In September 1954 the car was re-branded as the Singer Hunter with a traditional radiator grille and fibreglass bonnet lid.
The Hunter was well equipped with twin horns and screenwash as standard. A horse-head mascot was fitted over the radiator. 4772 Hunters were made.
The Times motoring correspondent tested the new model and reported in June 1955 under the headline "Reversion to "Traditional" Radiator Shell" followed by "Cushioned Comfort" that this car was intended for the motorists who are prepared to pay for a rather better finish and more complete equipment than usually available in cars of this size.
He remarked that the Singer was unusual in having a completely flat windscreen — less expensive to replace — and a good view through it was spoiled by unusually thick pillars, door surround and ventilator window surround. He put the car's fast cruising speed at 67 mph. Top gear acceleration was excellent and the engine quiet beneath its plastic bonnet. The steering column gear lever was "rather stiff". A central old fashioned floor-mounted lever was now available.
The car's outstanding feature was its springing, its ride smoother than most cars provide.
Hunter S and Hunter 75
New models were announced by Rootes for the 1955 Earls Court Motor Show, a more basic model, the Hunter S, and a more powerful Hunter 75 which had a twin overhead camshaft engine (using an HRG designed cylinder head). Very few, possibly 20, of the 75s were made before the range was cancelled. The Singer Gazelle was announced in September 1956 but the Hunter remained available.
About the Singer Hunter
The Hunter name was revived by Rootes in 1966 for their Rootes Arrow range, in the form of the Hillman Hunter.
by Paul Sweeney
The second of our new arrivals this week is this delightful 1937 Austin Big 7. The Austin 7 is an economy car that was produced from 1922 until 1939 in the United Kingdom by Austin. Nicknamed the "Baby Austin", it was one of the most popular cars ever produced for the British market, and sold well abroad. It wiped out most other British small cars and cyclecars of the early 1920s;its effect on the British market was similar to that of the Model T Ford in the US. It was alsolicensed and copied by companies all over the world.
The very first BMW car, the BMW Dixi, was a licensed Austin 7, as were the original American Austins. In France they were made and sold as Rosengarts. In Japan Nissan also used the 7 design as the basis for their first cars, although not under licence. Many Austin 7s were rebuilt as "specials" after the Second World War, including the first racing car built by Bruce McLaren, and the first Lotus, the Mk1.
Such was the power of the Austin 7 name that the company re-used it for early versions of the A30 in 1951 and Mini in 1959.
Until the First World War Austin built mainly large cars, but in 1909 they sold a single-cylinder small car built by Swift of Coventry called the Austin 7 hp. After this they returned to bigger cars.
In 1920 Sir Herbert Austin commenced working on the concept of a smaller car, mainly to meet the needs of young families aspiring to own an affordable motor car. This idea was spurred on by the introduction of the Horsepower Tax in 1921. His design concept marked a departure from his company's conservative motoring past and Austin received considerable opposition from his board of directors and creditors. Because the company was in receivership Austin decided to carry out the project himself on his own account and in 1921 hired an 18-year-old draughtsman, Stanley Edge, from the Austin factory at Longbridge, Birmingham to aid in the drawing of detailed plans. This work was carried out in the billiard room of Austin's Lickey Grange home.
Edge convinced Austin to use a small four-cylinder engine. The original side valve engine design featured a capacity of 696cc ( 55mm x 77mm ) giving a RAC rating of 7.2 hp, the cast cylinder block featured a detachable head and was mounted on an aluminium crankcase. The crankshaft used one roller and two ball bearings and the big-ends were splash lubricated. Edge also carried out the design of other mechanical components such as the three speed gearbox and clutch assembly. Austin was largely responsible for styling the Seven's design, which was reportedly influenced by the design of the Peugeot Quadrilette. The "A" frame chassis design was believed to have been influenced by the design of an American truck used in the Longbridge factory in the early 1920s.
The design was completed in 1922 and three prototypes were constructed in a special area of the Longbridge factory, and announced to the public in July 1922. Austin had put a large amount of his own money into the design and patented many of its innovations in his own name. In return for his investment he was paid a royalty of two guineas (£2, 2s), (£2.10) on every car sold.
Nearly 2,500 cars were made in the first year of production (1923), not as many as hoped, but within a few years the "big car in miniature" had wiped out the cyclecar industry and transformed the fortunes of the Austin Motor Co. By 1939 when production finally ended, 290,000 cars and vans had been made.
by Paul Sweeney
The latest new arrival at the museum is a lovely 1974 Sunbeam Rapier manufactured by the Rootes Group as part of their, "Arrow" design series that also included the Hillman Hunter.
The Rapier Fastback Coupe as it became known is a 2-door pillarless hardtop launched in 1967. This particular car was a local find just a few kilometers from the Museum. She has a current WOF/MOT, the engine runs smoothly and starts up easily.
The Rapier Fastback was a four-seat coupé based on the chassis of the Hillman Hunter Estate. Although the Rapier used the tail lamps and rear valance from the Hunter Estate, the rest of its superstructure was unique.
The Rapier used the Rootes four-cylinder, five-bearing 1,725 cc (105.3 cu in) engine, which was tilted slightly to the right to enable a lower bonnet line, in common with the other Arrow models. With its twin Stromberg 150CD carburettors the engine produced 88 hp (66 kW; 89 PS) at 5200 rpm. Overdrive was standard with the manual gearbox, and Borg-Warner automatic transmission was an optional extra.
The Fastback Rapier continued almost unchanged until 1976, when it was discontinued without a replacement. During its lifetime it formed the basis for the more powerful Sunbeam Rapier H120, introduced in October 1968 and identifiable by its boot-lid spoiler and polished sill covers: it shared its Holbay Engineering-tuned 110 hp (82 kW; 112 PS) engine (with twin Weber carburettors) with the Hillman Hunter GLS.
The Rapier was also the basis for the slightly cheaper but similarly bodied, single-carburettor Sunbeam Alpine Fastback introduced in October 1969. Rapier running gear (though not the estate chassis) was also used in the Humber Sceptre MkIII, Hillman GT and Hillman Hunter GT models from the Arrow range.
Between 1967 and 1969, the Rapier was built at Ryton-on-Dunsmore, but from 1969 until its demise in 1976, it was built at Rootes' Hillman Imp factory at Linwood in Scotland. In all, 46,204 units were built (including Rapier, H120 and Alpine versions).
Maximum speed of the Rapier was 103 mph (166 km/h) and it could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) from rest in 12.8 seconds. In the United States, it was marketed as the Sunbeam Alpine GT.
by Daniel Bysouth
Starting at a new company is always a scary thing to do; Keith and I both started at M.J. Green’s on the 2nd January in the mid-80s. For me only the second place I had ever worked, for Keith over 30 years at Mann Egerton’s made the move very difficult and he was to struggle in a big way.
I had a much easier time; I joined a team of 3 in the paint shop. The team comprised Andy, the chief painter who had been with the company for many years and was also taking on managers duties - he was very good at both. Second was Steve AKA ferret, a very good painter indeed, highly skilled and had a wicked sense of humour, and finally Carl, a prepper / painter and a real clever lad. We all just got on so well. I was looking forward to prepping and getting some painting experience.
Our paint shop was an old wartime Nissen hut which was red hot in the summer and like the North Pole in the winter. The panel shop was across the yard and the only access was an electronic ramp; not ideal but the beaters managed. We had an interesting paint store and mixing room. To enter the store you had to unlock a massive heavy duty thick steel door, and the same again to enter the mixing room.
I think I should have said that we were sited on the old WW2 airfield of Martlesham Heath. It was a far cry from Mann Egerton’s but it appealed to me and also had a strange feel to it. The company was owned by two guys called Dave and Mikey, Mikey being the ‘M’ of MJ Green.
He was such a brilliant bloke - we hit it off straight away as we both had the exact same sense of humour, which got us into many sticky situations, more of which later! One Friday I asked him what he was up to at the weekend and he told me that as his Mum's birthday was on the coming Saturday, he would go to see her. Strange thing was, my Mum's birthday was on the Sat too, not only that but both our Mums lived in the same village. Stranger still, they were great mates. I knew Mikey’s Mum well and always spoke to pass the time of day when ever I saw her. Thus, Mikey and me got on like a house on fire.
Now, down the side of our paint shop was a grassy strip of land that at one time was used to store wrecked cars. Towards the far end was an apple tree which had seen better days. Mikey told me that at one time he had an large Alsatian dog which was chained to the tree at night as a guard dog. The dog had free range of the grass strip and could not get run over as his chain only reached to the edge of the grass. If anyone was about he would go mental, enough to scare any one away. At home, he was Mikey’s pet and as meek as a lamb.
Mike had noticed that the dog was really wound up and upset one morning and this went on for a few days. Mike wanted to know why, so one night he bedded down in the paint shop and kept lookout through the side window. He could see the dog and the road and at around 3am he heard a car pull up. He looked out and saw it was the local Bobby on his beat. Thinking the Bobby may have seen his car tucked away, Mikey thought he should explain why he was there.
Before he could get out of the building to speak to him, Mikey was amazed to see the Bobby had started throwing stones and yelling at the poor dog.
The dog flew towards him - teeth bared, growling and barking for all he was worth. He got so far, then came to an abrupt halt at the end of his chain and landed in a heap.
The Bobby laughed loudly, got back into his car and sped away. Now Mike is clever, he wanted evidence, so the next night he was again in the work shop but this time he had his camera.
Again in the wee hours along came Mr. Plod. Once more he picked up a stone and chucked it at the dog, who immediately raced towards him and promptly sank his teeth into the Bobby’s leg.
Mikey howled with laughter as the copper yelped and ran to his car, hopped in and was off like Graham Hill. That six feet of extra chain that Mikey had added was just right! He didn't bother with the photograph; his chain idea was so off-the-cuff. It never happened again and the Bobby never said a word about it - he was seen limping a bit though!
The next 14 out of 17 years were spent pushing the boundaries of technology in body and paint, we had such great time that even the great Gerald Wiley could not have written. Some of these times will be coming soon in future stories I have in mind.
Now I mentioned that it was a strange place. I was alone in the paint shop late one afternoon, it was dark and I saw a face at the door waving for my attention - I was only 4 to 5 feet away. He was in uniform; an officer's cap, white shirt, tie and braided cuffs. I thought it was probably an American from one of the bases nearby.
I opened the door and stepped outside onto the large open square. I was dumbfounded to find there wasn't a soul in sight. As God is my witness, there was nowhere for a person to hide out of sight. I spoke to Mike about it and he said that this sort of thing had happened to him many times. Fact is that it was not the last time something like that would happen.
There are so many adventures that I could tell you about - it would take years. I will select the best and share them with you in future stories. I promise your chuckle muscle will get some exercise, but for now, thank you for reading my little story – I hope you enjoyed it.
Part 1 - Triumph Stag
Part 2 - Interceptor
Part 3 - Rolls-Royce
Part 4 - Her Majesty vs the Honey Monster
Part 5 - Rolls, Allegros and an MGB causes trouble
Part 6 - Rain
Part 7 - Brassy and a Rover SD1
Part 8 - A P6 and a Big Bird
Part 9 - The End of an Era
Part 10 - Unipart Man Cometh
Part 11 - Honey vs. the USAF
Part 12 - Meeting my Heroes
Part 13 - A Winter's Tale
Part 14 - Winds of Change