Gallery : Rootes dealers and factories

Keith Adams

The Rootes Group head office in London


Thanks to Shahin of the PaykanHunter website (and regular of Autoshite), who put in some serious hours scanning a selection of amazing transparencies, we now have further insight into how the Rootes Group dealerships in the UK looked – and what you were faced with as a potential Hillman or Chrysler customer. This selection of images is absolutely fantastic, and as well as showing the buildings and stock in your typical dealership, they also reveal some truly delicious street scenes of an increasingly distant period of time.

Enjoy the images – and stay tuned for more!


Keith Adams


  1. Stunning quality – could almost have been taken yesterday.

    Is there anywhere we can find out where these pics were taken? I know a couple of the locations are named on their signage but a caption for each would be helpful

  2. Wow! Fascinating pics – what stands out is how modern some of the dealerships looked, and how uniform the corporate branding was (ironic considering they couldn’t make up their minds how to brand some of the cars) – good stuff!

  3. Stunning images, I’m so glad they exist. I remember the turqoise blue dealership livery in the early 1970s. Great to see cars featured such as the Hunter, Avenger and Sceptre.

    My late Uncle owned a 1972 Sceptre. He kept it till the mid 1990s and sold it to an enthusiast… for all I know it may still be around now.

  4. This, and the Telly Savalas Birmingham vid really make the 1970’s seem so bleak, and so much like a foreign country. Although at the time things seems so much more modern, colourful and brightly lit.

  5. Canterbury Motors – My Uncle owned the garage tucked away behind that place, Hewitts. It was primarily a haulage firm but in the 60’s (I think) they opened up the motor workshop and body repairs centre.

  6. Nice nostalgic shots there.
    I’ll have that Bedford CA at Normand Garage for £5 or 695
    Our local Rootes dealer was Red garages at Caernarfon. Now a supermaket 🙁

  7. I much prefer car dealerships back then. They had so much character when compared to the identikit glass and steel mini aircraft hangers that car dealers seem to prefer today.

  8. Thornton Engineering in Bradford – that brings back memories of a few visits with my dad every two years in the 1970s. But the Imp-based Husky and a few Avengers were always the second choice, not quite being tempting enough. In reality the solid stone building wasn’t as grim as the photo suggests, although Parkinson’s Ford outlet across the road was much brighter and more modern.

    Thornton’s building was on a typical Yorkshire hill, with workshops on the floor below, accessed by an unsurfaced – not even cobbled – road. Access and parking could be a challenge when Fourth Division Bradford City were playing at Valley Parade nearby. Before the tragic 1985 fire, of course.

    My dad knew one of the salesmen who, sensing boredom whilst the two of them chatted, and my interest in cars, allowed me as an eight-year-old to wander around the workshops downstairs.

  9. @Chris Baglin. The 70s where bleak alright, a bit like now but without the Internet or mobile phones. Unlike now though, the sun did shine during the summer.

  10. We recently lost a real old school car dealership in the small village of Woolpit, due to VAG insisting that to keep franchises, dealers must invest up to a million quid per showroom. It had already fallen into the hands of a motor group chain & now likes derelict already, as they moved to a town about 10 miles away. Must get up there & take some shots.

  11. Good to see Barlby Road again. In the late 70s I had a Series V Sunbeam Rapier. I was told that they had all been shipped down from Ryton to have their rear screens fitted there.

  12. The local Rootes/ Chrysler dealership was Myers and Bowman, who are still going strong selling Toyotas.

  13. A bit of trivia. Most 1970’s pictures of Chrysler dealers are of course, [penta] Chrysler then the make/marque names, Hillman, Singer, Sunbeam, Humber, Simca and so-on.

    Prior to July 1970 they were still called ‘Rootes Motors’ with the signage, [penta] Rootes. This change apparently came about as a directive from Detroit as Chrysler decided to drop Simca as a corporate name and took the Simca sign down from the French factories. So at the same time the Rootes name got changed to Chrysler UK.

    Probably not the best move. Sure Chrysler put up the cash necessary to modernize the factories in particular Ryton got a complete re-fit to produce the Avenger. But, it was Rootes/ex-Rootes people that designed the Avenger and Arrows ‘the Rootes Arrow range’ or ‘the new Rootes Avenger.’

    ‘Rootes Value Quality year 1970’ was the campaign headline in 1969/70 with the launch of the Avenger. An early handbook does not even mention the word ‘Chrysler’ from cover to cover. Just a pentastar above ‘Rootes’ on the cover. A few months later in November 1970 with the launch of the Avenger GT (4-door) the Rootes name is gone.

    The ‘new Hillman Avenger’ brochures have Hillman [penta] Rootes as the company’s logo with some of them then covered with a modification sticker Hillman [penta] Chrysler UK, the same thing happened in 1979 as Talbot stickers were just stuck over the Chrysler name!

    I think it was a mistake dropping the Rootes banner at that time. I guess it lost a few sales as some people would have associated ‘Chrysler’ with penny-pinching or arrogance over a smaller company. Not that this is necessarily true as Chrysler were really the victim rather than the villan!

    Okay, no matter just one example of many unwise management decisions made at the time.

    Here is a promotion clip of the new Hillman Avenger. Shot in Malta late 1969.

    Can you spot the sexist joke regarding the Chrysler pentastar, the sexy woman in her mini-skirt? Think of the word ‘Rootes’ under the pentastar! I wonder how many joints the Director had smoked before he came up with that cliché.

    A badly shot film, the camera has caught the worst angles to picture an Avenger and the narrator too sounds like he is on pot!

    ”..1250 power ahhh..” 53bhp coupled to a 4.4:1 diff. There would have been some roar out of that white 1250DL across the sand flats! The 1250cc Avengers were a mistake. A 1500cc worked out more economical. Also the early Avengers with a red interior had a red headlining too. Giving the feeling of sitting inside an abattoir!

    The Avenger was a good car, the best of a bad lot in my opinion. Pity low gearing spoiled the early ones and their 5 bearing, low skirted engines really deserved to be taken all the way to alloy headed OHC. Chrysler did not understand just how close they were to having a Corolla beater in their hands.

  14. The Avenger is often overlooked in discussions about seventies British car, but it was the last Rootes model to be developed by Rootes and right until the end in 1981 as a Talbot, it still used Rootes engines over the inferior Simca engines used in most other Talbots. Also it featured on Top Ten best sellers for most of the seventies and buyers appreciated the Avenger’s low running costs, decent performance and refinement for the era, reasonable reliability and wide range of models.

  15. Looking for info on Hillman/Rootes sales and dealerships in Switzerland 1936-1939

    I’m particularly interested in evidence of Minx sales/requisitions to the Swiss Military during this period..

  16. Trying to find the Company name selling Rootes cars in the 1960’s.From premises in High Street Wimbledon,SW 19 9BA Street number 53 ?

  17. I always rate the Rootes designed cars far more over the Chrysler Europe products, even if the Alpine and Horizon were far more modern and looked stylish. The Rootes 1725 engine used in the Arrow cars was known to be a very durable unit that was very tuneable and quiet by the standards of the day, while the smaller engines used in the Avenger and basic Arrow cars had similar attributes. Also the high revving 875 cc engine used in the Imp gave this car 90 mph performance in the sporting versions, excellent for the late sixties.

  18. Rootes seemed to make better engines, even if the 875cc one was a bit over-engineered for the Imp.

    While their engines had a lot of tappet noise, Simca seemed to understand their home market better, & quite a few in mainland Europe too.

    • When mated to a five speed gearbox, as happened with the later Talbot models, the engines became a lot quieter and weren’t much worse at speed than their rivals. It was the diesel like clatter at idle and noise in low gears that was the main bugbear with Simca engines, when the Rootes engines were far quieter in this respect.

  19. A32 Dave Ryan clock number given to me as with my young men who served a five year motor vehicle Apprenticeship with Rootes Motors to later change to Warwick Wright Motors Ladbroke Hall London W10 Still walking through those gates in September 1969 and had the privilege to work along professional personal from the shop floor to the top managerial staff and finished in 1975 leaving as “ service reception engineer

  20. Little remembered now, but the Rootes Group was Britain’s third biggest motor manufacturer in the sixties and had dealers in most towns. I was eating at a diner in Keswick, which used to be Crosthwaite Garage, the town’s Rootes dealership, and a tiny garage existed in St Bees that had a Chrysler pentastar well into the eighties( at one stage it must have sold or serviced Rootes products). Also like BMC, Rootes were masters at badge engineering, you could buy Hillman, Humber and Singer variants of the Arrow range.

    • Yes indeed Glenn. Nowadays most of younger drivers won’t know the history of Rootes Group… more likely Nissan, Toyota, Honda, KIA, etc etc. My Aunt & Uncle were loyal buyers of Rootes products, owning a Hillman Minx MKIII, a Humber Sceptre (after a Chrysler 180 & 2L.)

      The Hillman versions were entry level, then moved up through Singer and Humber – not forgetting the Sunbeam Rapier of course. The Singer Vogue was a favourite of mine.

  21. Humber, until the range was reduced to a single model in 1967, was an alternative to Rover and Jaguar, producing large. luxurious cars that were known for their quality and comfort. The Super Snipe was a particular favourite of well off buyers in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

  22. So there was an “arrow body” car called Sunbeam Vogue… I never knew that. I do recall the Humber range of Hawk & Super Snipe and also a top model called Imperial in early 60s. From memory I believe the Sceptre had Overdrive as standard.

  23. The Sunbeam range of sports cars were very popular in the sixties, being seen as a rival to MG and Triumph. In Doctor No, where Bond is being pursued by The Three Blind Mice in a hearse, he is driving an open topped Alpine. Possibly good product placement as the Bond franchise was new in 1962 and Doctor No was one of the biggest films of the year. Also in Butterfield 8, Elizabeth Taylor has a Sunbeam, which would have been a rarity in America in 1960.

  24. One of my retired ex colleagues / friend is an enthusiast for Sunbeams and had an Alpine in the 1970s. He now has a Sunbeam Tiger (!966 D reg) lovely!

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