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 Paul Sweeney
The latest addition to the British Car Museum collection arrived this week - a stunning 1955 Austin Princess Vanden Plas. It is the only one in New Zealand and was chauffeur-driven all it's working life.
This video features stills and video of the car taken on 03 May 2015, when it represented the Museum at the annual Marineland Car Show at Meeanee Speedway.
Below are still photos of the car at the museum shortly after it was delivered from Taupo in early November 2014.
by Paul Sweeney
I called to visit Ian Hope at his British Car Museum on the Hawkes Bay coast near Havelock North earlier today and was pleasantly surprised to find a new addition to Ian's remarkable motor vehicle collection standing outside (above). It is a bright green 1957 Vauxhall Wyvern - the 4 cylinder model.
The car is not entirely original as Ian believes various items of trim have been added at some point to make the Wyvern resemble the more desirable 6 cylinder Velox model.
by Paul Sweeney
The latest addition to the British Car Museum collection is a lovely 1937 Ford Model Y saloon (built 1932-1937).
The Model Y is the first Ford automobile specifically designed for markets outside the United States of America, replacing the Model A in Europe. It was in production in England, where it is sometimes remembered as the "Ford Eight",reflecting its fiscal horsepower rating, from 1932 until September 1937.
The car was also produced in France where it was known as the Ford 6 CV from 1932 to 1934, and in Germany as the Ford Köln from 1933 to 1936. Smaller numbers were assembled in Australia (where a coupé version was also produced), Japan, Latvia (branded as the Ford Junior) and in Spain (branded as the Ford Forito). Plans to build it in the U.S. were scrubbed when a cost accounting showed that it would only be slightly cheaper to build than the Ford Model B.
The car was powered by a 933 cc, 8 hp Ford Sidevalve engine. The little Ford was available in two and four-door versions. In June 1935 a reduced specification two-door model was the only closed-body car ever to sell in Britain for just £100, a price it held until July 1937.
The suspension was by the traditional Ford transverse leaf springs front and rear and the engine drove the rear wheels through a three-speed gearbox which, right from the start, featured synchromesh between the top two ratios. The maximum speed was just under 60 mph (95 km/h) and fuel consumption was 32 miles per imperial gallon (8.8 L/100 km; 27 mpg-US).
Even by the standards of the time, the UK-built Ford 8, like its major competitor the Austin 7, was found noteworthy for its "almost unbelievable lack of brakes."
by Paul Sweeney
Say hello to the latest addition to the British Car Museum collection: a stunning original 1955 Alvis TC21/100 'Grey Lady'.
First things first: I was lucky enough to drive this original unrestored beauty today! 4 forward gears, lovely smooth gear change and a sweet, quiet but powerful straight six 3 litre engine. It also boasts a fully operational sun roof, sun blind in the rear window, full leather seating, walnut dash and door trims - it even has a heater! Luxury indeed - for this car was no 'everyman's motor'. The Alvis is firmly in Rolls Royce-class territory, albeit more compact and practical for those crowded British towns and roads.
Power is produced by an overhead valve, 3 litre naturally aspirated 6 cylinder engine, with twin SU carburettors and 2 valves per cylinder that provides power and torque figures of 104 bhp (105 PS/78 kW) at 4000 rpm and 221 N·m (163 lb·ft/22.5 kgm) at 2500 rpm respectively.
The car was available in four-door saloon and drophead versions essentially the same as the TA 21. The doors now had chrome-plated window surrounds and swivelling quarter-lights were fitted to the rear doors. The saloon bodies were made for Alvis by Mulliners (Birmingham) and the dropheads by Tickford. A sunshine roof remained standard as did "separately adjustable front seats; heater and air-conditioning unit; Trico windscreen washers" drawing the comment from Autocar "In detail fittings . . . this car leaves little to be desired".
TC.21/100 Grey Lady
The TC.21/100 or Grey Lady announced on 20 October 1953 came with a guarantee of a speed of 100 mph resulting from an improved exhaust system and an engine compression ratio raised from 7:1 to 8:1 to take advantage of the availability of better petrol. The final drive ratio was raised from 4.09:1 to 3.77:1.
A paired front fog lamp and matching driving lamp became a standard fitting. The bonnet gained air scoops and wire wheels were fitted to try to enliven the car's image. A heater was fitted as standard but a radio remained an expensive option.
A saloon version tested by The Motor magazine in 1954 had a top speed of 100.1 mph (161.1 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 15.4 seconds. A fuel consumption of 20.6 miles per imperial gallon (13.7 L/100 km; 17.2 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1,821 including taxes.
Nevertheless just 18 months later the Times' Motoring Correspondent tested and reported on the Grey Lady under the headline "Few Concessions to Fashion Trends". His opening gambit was that this Alvis was now one of the few British cars that did not look American and, he said, there was little concession to the cult of streamlining beyond the two air scoops in the bonnet.
He wrote that spacious internal headroom and wire wheels completed that picture. It was noted the instruments were not in front of the driver but in the centre of the dashboard (instrument panel) and so the speedometer was apt to be masked by the driver's left hand. However the front seats were comfortable and rear seat passengers received padding on the wheel arches surmounted by armrests.
Leather upholstery, pile carpets and walnut facings for the dashboard and lower parts of the window frames completed the traditional picture. He did however say that "the driver who is sensitive to the "feel" of his car will enjoy every moment of his motoring irrespective of the traffic" and reported the car's behaviour on corners was extremely stable though potholes like those caused by recessed manhole covers proved very heavy going for the springing.
The Graber body would be displayed at the 1955 Earls Court Motor Show
Finally, enjoy this short video I found on YouTube. It was filmed and posted by an awed Aussie who saw a Grey Lady in the street and had never heard of Alvis before ... clearly it had quite an impact on him! Interesting that one doesn't have the wire wheels that our is sporting.
Ian Hope took delivery of the latest addition to the British Car Museum's collection this week - a beautiful cream Rover 75 (P4 Cyclops if you prefer). The car was originally bought new in England in December 1951 by a Mr WP Saunders, an expat Kiwi from Arrowtown. Total miles from new only 88,000.
The engine still starts first time and runs very quietly and smoothly. I know this because I had a little drive in it today, lucky me! I was also very pleasantly surprised by the lightness of the steering - this remains even today a really enjoyable car to be in and to drive.
BAckground (from wikipedia)
The Rover P4 series is a group of mid-size luxury saloon automobiles produced by the Rover Company from 1949 until 1964. They were designed by Gordon Bashford.
Their P4 designation is factory terminology for this group of cars and was not in day-to-day use by ordinary owners who would have used the appropriate consumer designations for their models such as Rover 60, Rover 75 and Rover 90.
Production began in 1949 with the 6-cylinder 2.1-litre Rover 75. Four years later a 2-litre 4-cylinder Rover 60 was brought to the market to fit below the 75 and a 2.6-litre 6-cylinder Rover 90 to top the three car range. Variations followed. In profile not unlike a crouching sturdy British Bulldog these cars were very much part of British culture and became known as the "Auntie" Rovers. They were piloted by topmost royalty including Grace Kelly.
The P4 series was supplemented in September 1958 by a new conservatively shaped Rover 3-litre P5 but the P4 series stayed in production until 1964 and their replacement by the Rover 2000.
Announced by Mr S B Wilks, managing director, 23 September 1949 the new Rover 75 — now the only Rover in production — was first displayed at the opening day of the Earls Court Motor Show on 28 September. It featured controversial modern styling which contrasted with the outdated Rover 75 (P3) it replaced. Gone were the traditional radiator, separate headlamps and external running boards. In their place were a chromium grille, recessed headlamps and a streamlined body the whole width of the chassis. A steering column-mounted gear lever was fitted.
The car's styling was derived from the controversial 1947 —is it coming or is it going?— Studebakers. To understand the controversy it should be noted that Rover's P3 had almost no boot at all yet that had been considered rather more than adequate. The new car's bonnet-like extension to its rear was ridiculed. Furthermore the driver sat well forward with a short bonnet and the rear wheels were set well back behind the back seat. All the new car's proportions were different from the previous Rover and all the other new English cars.
Another, at the time minor, distinctive feature but this one did not catch-on was the centrally mounted light in the grille where most other manufacturers of good quality cars provided a pair, one fog and one driving light often separately mounted behind the bumper. Known as the "Cyclops eye" it was not continued in the new grille announced 23 October 1952.
Power came from a more powerful version of the previous model's 2.1 L (2103 cc/128 in³) Rover IOE straight-6 engine now with chromium plated cylinder bores, an aluminium cylinder head with built-in induction manifold and a pair of horizontal instead of downdraught carburetters. A four-speed manual transmission was used with a column-mounted shifter which was replaced by a floor-mounted mechanism in September 1953.
A car tested by The Motor magazine in 1949 had a top speed of 83.5 mph (134.4 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 21.6 seconds. A fuel consumption of 27.8 miles per imperial gallon (10.2 L/100 km; 23.1 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1106 including taxes. The turning circle was 37 feet (11 m).
Road & Track ". . . and I honestly believe (barring the Rolls-Royce) that there is no finer car built in the world today." Bob Dearborn, Tester Road & Track. Road test no. F-4-52, August 1952.
Here she is, freshly arrived today from the South Island, this elegant old girl is a 1956 MK7 Jaguar. Powered by the XK140's DOHC 6, these cars allowed you to reached over 100 mph in the lap of luxury.
Ian's newest baby still runs well - in fact the bonnet was still warm when these photos were taken today. Once Government-owned, she is finished in dark blue with the original red leather upholstery still looking opulent and luxurious. Note the unusual gear selector location; it is somewhat awkwardly positioned on the steering column behind the steering wheel - unsurprisingly an idea that didn't catch on.
Below our photos is a video about the MK7; enjoy the old footage which includes some of these racing. Tip: you may want to mute the ghastly and inappropriate music.
Here are the first photographs of our newest addition to the collection, a stunning 1962 Sunbeam Rapier. We are also including a link to an original sales brochure for the car, and a fascinating short documentary from the 'Classic British Cars' series featuring a very similar example of the marque.
New: just added a video found on YouTube of our actual car.
Click here to view the sales brochure