The cars : Hillman Hunter/Rootes Arrows development story

The Arrow range was conceived as a smart-suited replacement for the Audax range of Minx/Supermix models and their badge-engineered counterparts. Some have called this the last Rootes car, although the Avenger has equal claim to that title. Launched in 1966/67, the new range of cars came in several guises, from the Hillman Minx at the bottom of the range, to the Humber Sceptre right at the top.

Prime performance

Hillman GT

The Arrow range came about as a result of The Rootes Group management’s determination to replace the Audax range of cars with something very conventional, and therefore, more inexpensive to produce. Why was this decision taken, given the buoyancy of the UK car market, and the confidence of the younger buyers coming into it? After all, the early 1960s were a time of great design advancement, with BMC in one corner going following an ambition front-wheel-drive policy, and Ford in the other, demonstrating a flair for design optimization within strict cost control.

Rootes, on the other hand, had put everything into the rear-engined Imp, and at the time, when the company’s thoughts became focused upon the matter of the Audax’s replacement, the Imp had yet-to-be launched. Given that, and the company’s confidence in the Imp, it made sense to devise a larger car designed around the same philosophy: advanced thinking, a rear engined layout, and flamboyant styling.

In 1962, the idea got off the ground, when it was conceived as a smaller, cheaper car, to augment the Swallow project. Initially, its styling was the responsibility of the Rootes design team, led by Peter Ware, and as can be seen from pictures of it in the projects and prototypes section, the styling schemes investigated were of a fairly conventional looking three-box mid-size saloon, with strong overtones of the Imp. The car was designed around a new engine, suspension and floorpan, and as such, Rootes hoped, would move the marque forwards.

Clay model: clear Imp influences there...
Clay model: clear Imp influences there…

Sadly, soon after the launch of the Imp, it became apparent that the Rootes Group profit situation was not good. The investment at Linwood had proved to be a huge drain on resources, even before the launch of the Imp; but, when the car did make it onto the market, Rootes’ negative cashflow situation was seriously exacerbated by the Imp’s lack of sales success and mounting warranty costs. And that seriously affected Rootes management’s confidence in the Swallow. Not only that, but the planned investment in such a car was too much for the financially strapped company. An alternative was needed…

Enter Arrow

In early 1963, that alternative plan was drawn-up: Arrow would be enlarged to cover the area that Swallow had vacated. The intention was for Rootes to build a lighter, slimmer car, built around the existing engine/transmission package as used in the Audax range. To simplify the product range, it was conceived that the Arrow would replace the Minx, Super Minx, Sceptre and Rapier models – and right from the beginning, saloon, estate and coupe versions of the new car were planned for.

The elementary work undertaken on the Swallow project did not go to waste though. In styling the Arrow, much of the previous car’s design features were incorporated, and that is why the saloon proposal could make the transition from project plan to full-sized clay model, approved by management in less than ten months.

A rejected proposal for the B Car (Avenger); this boxy saloon with its unusual haunch did not appeal to manangement, but it took clear influences from the Arrow. Note the Sunbeam badging on the front of this car; it was planned that export Hillman Hunter models would be badged in this way. (Picture: "Cars of the Rootes Group", by Graham Robson)
A rejected proposal for the B Car (Avenger); this boxy saloon with its unusual haunch did not appeal to manangement, but it took clear influences from the Arrow. Note the Sunbeam badging on the front of this car; it was planned that export Hillman Hunter models would be badged in this way. (Picture: “Cars of the Rootes Group”, by Graham Robson)

Arrow took shape as a “pure Rootes design”, as Graham Robson describes it, with the styling being led by Rex Fleming. The Rapier and estate version were overseen by Roy Axe, a designer that would go on to lead a long and successful career at Chrysler and Austin-Rover.

When Rootes received its first injection of cash from Chrysler in 1964, the Arrow project did not deviate from its intended course, meaning that it is this car, that should claim the title of “the last Rootes car”. Although, Chrysler’s purchase of a stake in Rootes did not change the design and implementation of the Arrow, it did mean that there was finally, a healthy amount of cash washing around the company. This allowed for the Arrow to enjoy a rapid and well-funded gestation period.

Rootes go Hunting

The Arrow monocoque was around 70kg lighter than the Super Minx, with an overall weight of 262kg. Structural rigidity was 4650 lb ft/deg, which was not bad for a 1966 four-door saloon. The body structure was built by Pressed Steel Fisher Ltd., and was comprised of seven separate sub-assemblies. (Picture: Style Auto)
The Arrow monocoque was around 70kg lighter than the Super Minx, with an overall weight of 262kg. Structural rigidity was 4650 lb ft/deg, which was not bad for a 1966 four-door saloon. The body structure was built by Pressed Steel Fisher Ltd., and was comprised of seven separate sub-assemblies. (Picture: Style Auto)

In comparison with the existing Minx range, the new car was considerably lighter, more square shouldered, and definitely more conventional in its engineering approach. Model-on-model, the new car was upto 135kg lighter than the outgoing one, and this meant that although the existing engine range was used, the new cars would be considerably more lively.

For a car that was launched in 1966, the Arrow was very contemporary in style, shedding the 50s fussiness that typified the its progenitors. The plain-jane three-box reflected its time perfectly, and it would integrate seamlessly in the the UK landscape, thanks to its similarity with Roy Haynes’ Ford Cortina mark II and Vauxhall Viva HB. As it transpired, this school of design did not stay in the ascendence for very long, being overtaken by the Detroit inspired “Coke bottle” cars, typified by the Ford Cortina mark III, Vauxhall Victor FE and Rootes/Chrysler’s own Avenger.

In the chassis department, the Arrow was conventional (in later terms), but proved significant for Rootes, as it was the company’s first car to sport MacPherson strut front suspension, allied to a solid rear axle. This resulted in safe and secure, if uninspiring, handling.

As per the original Arrow design brief, every version would use existing power units, although they were overhauled for their new applications. The ohv units were treated to a new five-bearing crankshaft, and in order to fit under the Arrow’s lower bonnet, they were inclined at a slight angle. The 1964 all-synchromesh gearbox was retained, as was the existing rear axle.

In the marketplace

In between its launch in 1966 and its demise in 1979, the Arrow’s development was really only one in a marketing sense. Badge engineering was the order of the day, and the differing needs of customers was handled with a bewildering array of marques and models. In contemporary road tests, the Arrow range never could be described as a pacesetter, and once the 1970s arrived, this well-engineered saloon was left behind by its contemporaries.

Initially built at Ryton, then Linwood from 1969, with bodies by Pressed Steel Fisher, the Arrow range typified Rootes, rather than Chrysler. By 1976, it was left on the fringes of Chrysler Europe’s range, being left behind by a new generation of SIMCA based products. Production was moved to Ireland in 1976 in order to make way for the Chrysler Alpine, it remained in production, sadly unmodified, until 1979.

The badge engineered variations are broken down below:

Hillman

1970 Hunter De Luxe estate: it took four years for the five door version of the Hunter to make an apperance on the market. The Estate body, however, appeared in 1967. Called simply the Hillman Estate car, it was based upon the Minx... (Picture: Chrysler press photo, supplied by Graham Arnold)
1970 Hunter De Luxe estate: it took four years for the five door version of the Hunter to make an apperance on the market. The Estate body, however, appeared in 1967. Called simply the Hillman Estate car, it was based upon the Minx… (Picture: Chrysler press photo, supplied by Graham Arnold)

The Hillman version of the Arrow was launched in 1966, and along with the Singer Vogue, it ushered the new Rootes style onto the marketplace. Called the Hunter, it replaced the Super Minx; available with 1496 and 1725cc engines and, and immediately began to sell well. The Minx version of the Arrow followed a year later (in saloon and estate form, although the Minx name was never attached to the five-door in the UK), and it amounted to little more than a downmarket of the Hunter. Differences were not just limited to trim and equipment, though, as it used an iron-headed version of the 1496cc engine (developing 54bhp). This principle was applied to the 1725cc Minx a year later (iron-headed again, producing 61bhp), but 1970, and in the spirit of Chrysler-sponsored rationalization, the Minx was dropped to make way for the Hunter De Luxe.

The trim-looking Hunter estate (sporting Sunbeam Rapier rear lamp clusters), appeared on the scene in 1970, the same time that the Hunter GT was made available. The sporting Hunter replaced a model based upon the Minx (but called, simply, the Hillman GT), and could boast a healthy power output of 79bhp. Performance was adequate for its day: 0-60mph in 13.5secs and a top speed of 97mph, but compared with the 1971 Cortina 2000, it began to look a little second rate.

In 1972, the Hunter received a further facelift, which was the announcement of the 93bhp Holbay-engined Hunter GLS, with Humber Sceptre-style front end styling. Beyond this, the Hunter did not receive any further improvements (of substance). The Hunter was rebadged a Chrysler in late 1977, receiving its last minor facelift, in order to fit into the rationalized range (the Sceptre/GLS grille was fitted to both remaining models, with vinyl roof and Rostyle wheels were added to the the Super). Production of the Chrysler Hunter continued (in Ireland) until 1979, when it was retired after a production run of 470,000 units.

Humber

The Humber Sceptre Mk III was the optimum Arrow, featuring the best trim package and a 79bhp version of the venerable 1725cc engine. Interior was plush indeed, with a wood veneer dashboard panel and luxuriously trimmed seats – in more modern terms, it would be the Ghia X or Vanden Plas EFi of the range.

Externally, it was distinguised by its handsome four headlamp nose (reminiscent of the Sunbeam Rapier) and the later Hunter GLS. An extremely appealing estate version was added in 1974, which used the Hunter estate shell and a complete set of Sceptre interior appointments. Externally, it was finished off with chromed roof rails, and as such, was considerably ahead of its time, as the idea of a plushly trimmed estate car had yet to find favour with rival manufacturers.

Humber Sceptre production continued until 1976, when it was phased out as a result of product rationalization. With its demise, the Humber name went to its grave.

Singer

In the same way that the Hillman Hunter/Minx was, the Singer Arrow was developed to replace two ranges (Vogue Mk IV and Gazelle Mk VI), with a single body shell. The existing names were carried over, but the Arrow-type Vogue, which appeared alongside the Hillman Hunter in 1966 and the Gazelle, which appeared a year later, were little more than an exercise in badge engineering.

These Singers were extremely closely related to their Hillman brethren, so it comes as no surprise that they were phased out in 1970 following further range rationalization.

Sunbeam

The Sunbeam Rapier was launched in 1967 and could be best summed up as "gentleman's tourer". It was a stylish car indeed, but sadly, was not developed during its life. (Picture: Chrysler press photo, supplied by Graham Arnold)
The Sunbeam Rapier was launched in 1967 and could be best summed up as “gentleman’s tourer”. It was a stylish car indeed, but sadly, was not developed during its life. (Picture: Chrysler press photo, supplied by Graham Arnold)

The Sunbeam versions of the Arrow were the extremely stylish Rapier/Alpine models, which were styled by Roy Axe. The pillarless two-door coupe was heavily based on Arrow underpinnings, right down to the suspension layout and engine configuration. The 1725cc Rapier came in two rates of tune; the 76bhp standard version, and the 93bhp H120. The H120’s engine featured twin dual-choke Weber carburettors, and was developed by notable Rootes tuners, Holbay.

As was the style at the time, the H120 received Rostyle wheels and a natty little boot lid spoiler. The wheels, and not the spoiler would be standardized in later years. When the gorgeous Alpine 2-seater roadster was dropped in 1968, it was replaced by a cheaper version of the Rapier, with simpler trim and a downrated 72bhp version of the 1725cc engine. A sad end, it has to be said, for the Sunbeam Alpine line…

The Sunbeam Alpine lasted until 1975, and the Rapier, a year later. Neither models were replaced by Chrysler Europe, as the Matra SIMCA Bagheera was never officially imported into the UK in right hand drive form. Even if it had been, it would have appealed to an entirely different clientele.

In mainland Europe, there were also Sunbeam versions of the Arrow saloon (as there were of the Avenger), but these were never sold in the UK in large numbers; only being offered for a few months during 1970, following the death of the Singer Vogue.


Written with reference to “Cars of the Rootes Group”, by Graham Robson

Thanks to Quentin Gallagher for further information.

Keith Adams

76 Comments

  1. The Alpine / Rapier looked fabulous to me and I nearly bought one but couldn’t quite make the asking price at the time. The high end versions were well equipped inside with a lot of instrument dials and very comfortable. Cheaper versions just had basic instruments and no rev counter. Access to the rear seats was not great but there was plenty of legroom when you got in although headroom was just about adequate as you would expect from the roof line. The 1725 engine was a gem in any state of tune and could be made to run like a sewing machine with a bit of TLC. The boot was also massive but with a small opening.

    Unfortunately, like many cars of the era, rustproofing was not a strong point and there were several rust traps, especially under the front wings in front of the A pillar and round the rear wheel arches. The long doors could also sag on the hinges if not greased regularly.

    As I recall, handling was reasonable but not terribly exciting, generally like the Hunter. Stable and predictable but the simple beam rear axle could tramp if you were heavy on the throttle on a wet road.

    I still look longingly at the Alpine versions in classic car shows!

    • I had one in metallic blue. LBL749E if I recall. Great car, eventhough I bought it in1974, from a guy at Harwell. Sadly the three day war(?), Meantpetrol rationing slit becameabowser for my spitfire 4. Great instruments, quick and huge illuminated boot great car, great days!

  2. I see the The Sunbeam Rapier and think, wow that looks nice, and i am amazed its related to a 4 door Saloon car

  3. Back in 1982, I had a 1973, 1500 (DL I think ) Hunter, followed, a year later by 1975 GLS, She was metallic turquoise and I loved that car. I was 19 at the time, wish I had both that car and a full head of hair these days!
    Great site, a real pleasure to look through so many interesting articles

  4. I knew an ex rootes workshop manager in the early 70s and quality control was a major problem.He said the ones driven to the garage were bad enough but when they arrived on a low loader you knew you had your work cut out.Oneh120 was a tooth out on the timing gear

  5. @7 My father worked for Roots, Chrysler and so on till the late 90s. During that time he would get one or more new company cars a year they used to come on a Friday and Saturday was spent with it up on the ramps with the spanners, i don’t think the concept of quality control existed at Linwood.

  6. My parents had a Hillman Minx in the early 70s, it was pale blue with blue vinyl seats. XPF667G, they brought it from Shackletons Garage in Merstham Surrey, trading in a Triumph Herald 13/60 convertible.
    It was a good car, don’t ever remember it going wrong. My mum sold it in 77 to a guy who drove the local mobile library. The last time we saw it it had been round the clock! Rust in peace

  7. Does anyone know the differences between a Hillman GT and a Hillman Hunter GT. My dad had a GT on an H plate and am now unsure if it was a Hunter GT or just a GT. My dad always called it a Hunter.

    I have a photo of it that I must scan in, then I’ll post it.

    • The Hillman GT was launched in 1968. It was renamed Hillman Hunter GT at the same time as the Minx and Singer models were renamed Hunter. It used the Sunbeam Rapier twin carb engine and remained part of the range until 1975. They were very rare.

    • Like many cars of that era, the Hunter GT got Rostyle sports steel wheels fitted (before the popularity of alloys). These were also used on Ford Capri’s, Vaux Viva’s and Magnums etc. Actually looked quite good but needed re-painting from time to time!

  8. OK, thanks for that.
    I wonder what model it was my dad had then. I had thought that the GLS replaced the GT, as THAT had the Holbay engine in it.

    Ah, according to Wikipedia, “The final Minx was replaced by a Hillman Hunter De Luxe model in 1970”. So, an H plate GT could have been a Hillman GT OR a Hunter GT.

    • An H plate would have been a Hillman GT. The GLS came out in 1972 and used the Rapier H120 ‘Holbay’ engine. I think the Hunter GT eventually became one of these mystical models- that was in the brochures and price lists but you could not actually buy. Incidentally the red car at the top of the page is an early Hunter GT.

      • I have a Chrysler brochure printed in October 1974. The Hunter GT is shown but really the Hunters at that time did not suit a GT as such.

        All the Sceptres had the alloy headed, high lift camshaft and twin Strombergs. There were not many Hunter GT’s sold but that engine was numerous in the Sceptre.

  9. It’s normally the basic spec models that are in the brochures and price lists but almost never seen on the roads.

    The idea is to tempt potention buyers into the showrooms with the low price & to get them to upgrade a trim level or 2.

  10. The Hillman Hunter. There were loads of them on the roads when I was a boy. While British cars of the time were earning a bad reputation the Hunter was generally known for being a rugged reliable workhorse. A bit thirsty but reliable.
    I heard a man say once, ”..everything goes like a Hunter but nothing stops like the Hunter..”

    About every farmer had a Hunter, the Toyota Avensis of its era I’d say. There were loads of them and were probably the best 2WD car for towing there ever was. A farmer where I grew up had a Hunter for a long time and would tow insane loads with it. He replaced the Hunter with a MK5 Cortina which he thought was a great car until his rough use of the towing bent the rear crumple zones of the Cortina!
    He went back to the Hunter after that, a Chrysler Hunter with the Sceptre front end. That Hunter was around for a long time as I remember. Some people said the Chrysler Hunter was easier on petrol than the Hillman, probably due to the electronic ignition the Chrysler Hunter had and I’ve heard stories of recovery drivers removing the ignition parts of the Chryslers and fitting them to the earlier Hillmans.

    I wonder did Rootes make hay with the Hunter/Arrow series when the Hunter or New Minx was new at the time of the big strike at Ford?

    When Rootes died in mid-1970 to be re-branded as Chrysler UK so did the low priced Hillman Minx (became Hunter DL) and the Singer Vogue became Hunter GL where the Laycock overdrive was optional.

    There was a lot of confusion with the Hunters power output which may have lost it sales to the Cortinas. Minx, DL and Supers had the all-iron low compression engine while Vogue, GL and some Hunters at Super trim level had the more potent high compression alloy headed engine.
    The Rootes 1725 was a good wearing engine but like a lot of engines at the time they could suffer from oil starvation which killed them at a young age. They really needed STP to give them a long life.

    A very underrated and forgotten car the Hunter. If it were 1975/6 and I was after a new car I’d be straight down to the Chrysler dealers with a waxoil gun and a tin of STP to buy a Hunter Topaz (had the overdrive as standard on this special edition.) A late MK3 or MK4 Cortina? I reckon a good Hunter was still a wiser buy.

    • Also I think the Hunter and Avenger suffered from Chryslers lack of engine development. The Rootes 1725 was probably more robust than the BMC B and most of the Ford units as well (the Vauxhall engines I remember being about the worst.)

      While its obvious that Chrysler came to favour the Simca side of Chrysler Europe, after all Simca made more profit, Uncle Walter didn’t develop the Simca engines either so its no suprize the former Rootes cars remained with ohv under the lid.

      While the Avenger engine was not the same as the Rootes 1725 they were similar, you could fit a Holbay 1725 to an Avenger gearbox as many rally drivers did and as a friend of mine plans to do with a MK2 Avenger 2-door.

      The real shame is that the Avengers engine was designed to be relativity easily developed to OHC and assuming also an alloy head we could have had a very real Cortina alternative.
      Remember also that Rootes were thin wall casting specialists, likely why their transmissions had a good reputation, so we can assume that the Avenger/Rootes OHC would have worked! Ford got a bad reputation with the early Pinto and none of the Pintos were ever economical.
      When you consider that the Japanese engines of the time (I mean the mid-late 1970’s) were known for both durability and economy (they were 10 years ahead with engine technology at the time) it was because they were alloy headed OHC units.

      So a Hunter fitted with an OHC 1800cc Avenger engine? Could have quite easily happened and have made the tough old Hunter exportable as well as putting an Avenger bang on par with the Japanese, if not further ahead considering handling characteristics.

      Chrysler UK went to the Government for a £200m bailout in 1976, about a year after the first BL bailout.

      Its a pity that at least a fraction of the money that was frankly wasted on BL was not granted to Chrysler UK to develop the Avenger engine to alloy OHC. It seems nobody was thinking in Chrysler UK.

      • Would have to agree on the idea of the Hunter receiving 1800-2000cc Avenger engines.

        What is also a pity would be Rootes not being in a position to evolve like Isuzu did after the latter moved on from license built designs by the former, since even the Isuzu Bellel was said to still have some Rootes heritage (with the GL engines still having some Minx origins and allegedly including a 2-litre petrol as well as spawning DL diesel engines).

  11. Pat has fond memories of the Arrow cars! My late uncle owneda 1972 Humber Sceptre which was a lovely car. In 1975 while working in Iran, I visited the Peykan (Iran National) car factory where Hunters were built from CKD kits. The Peykan was the most popular taxi in Tehran. (Apparently Peykan was the farsi word meaning ARROW)

    • Yes Hilton the Sceptre was indeed a lovely car and I was seriously getting the hots for a 1967/8 Sceptre in Persian Blue (there is a link to Iran if ever there was!) that was for sale a while ago.

      I remember, yes happy memories, of Hunters and Avengers. They also seemed to just go too! They actually started in the mornings, were comfortable and good to look at. I loved them if I am honest!

      Peykan also made MK1 Avengers for a few years, I wonder do they still have the tooling? Mayne a way to achive a bit of entnte cordial with Iran? Oh hey, fantasy!

  12. Thinking about Hunters has woken up an old memory from 1978/9, I forgot about the following Hunter story.

    My Father had a MK3 Morris 1800 at the time which was none too reliable and I remember my Mother hating driving it, the word, ‘ropey,’ was often used. The Crabs had some merit but driving them with that bus-like steering column angle was indeed like trying to drive a bus with flat tyres.
    Her brother, an uncle of mine had a brown Hunter, a 1975 Super I think – it had the shiney bits around the boot which the Hunters for 1975 got.
    She was always borrowing that hunter! I forgot about that. Any long distance trip she borrowed the brown Hunter instead of the Crab!

    So look at the Hunters steering column angle as but one example, the comfortable seats and the good visibility you can see why a lot of people preferred to drive a Hunter rather than a so-called advanced FWD BMC. The Hunter ‘only’ had recirculating ball steering and that in some respects had merit over early rack and pinions.

    Unless my memory is playing tricks on me the Hunter was a nicer place to be in over the Crab too. Those mouse trap BL interior door handles! Snap – Pain!

    You know when you compare the Rootes cars to the BMC’s it tells a story. Rootes knew a lot more about what made people happy with a car.

    For a laugh youtube, ‘Chrysler UK ad’ there is a 1974 Chrysler commercial, ”…The Hunters, roomy and reliable, yet Hunters are not at all expensive to run..”

    The Chrysler Man can!

  13. These were generally reliable and desirable cars in 1725cc form. Also due to the reliable engines, many lasted well into the eighties as cheap runabouts. It’s a shame Chrysler lost the plot a bit by using Simca engines in their later models, as the Rootes engines were reliable, poweful and refined. Perhaps if the Alpine used the 1600 and 1725 Hillman engines it could have really scared the Cortina.

  14. Rootes engines were reliable powerful and refined. For a British 1960/70’s engine that’s really saying something!

    My goodness there were actually good cars made in Britain at the time, how has history forgotten this?! When you say whats a British 60’s or 70’s car people automatically think BMC/BL and generally laugh. (okay this is the wrong forum to say so!)

    I think Rootes and Triumph were the business. BL got a long lingering public sector death, Rootes got a more rapid private sector death.

    Rootes>Talbot, what an incredible change in a decade! From a Hillman Minx to a Talbot Horizon. Chalk and cheese for sure.

    Is Chrysler to blame? Another big, ‘what if,’ regarding the British car industry. What if Chrysler buggered off a few years earlier than 1978 (and took their lack of rustproofing with them) and by government or partnership with a competent manufacturer (say VW or Renault) Rootes was resurrected (Three Spires Motors?)

    Hmmm just let BL die and grow former Rootes into a player? I guess that would have been politically unacceptable at the time although there is a certain logic to let BL crash and save Rootes. Being a smaller manufacturer they would have been easier to manage and grow.

    For sure, the Chrysler Alpine with the 1725 would have been a different car. It seems like Simca was driving Chrysler Europe and Chrysler UK was an afterthought.

  15. Back in 1973 I rode in a hired Hunter Auto saloon. Although I was not driving and it being an automatic, it seemed to pull quite well and maintained good cruising speeds up to Scotland.

    I used to like the badged Singer Vogue too, which had oblong headlamps while the early Hunters had round. The twin headlights on the Sceptre really distinguished it from lesser versions.

  16. Had a 1970 Sunbeam Rapier 40 years ago turquoise in colour, lovely car with that overdrive on 3rd & 4th gears. First MoT after buying it, sills needed welding as those satin sill covers hid a lot. Head gasket went but an easy fix. Also remember fixing a misfire with a pair of new diaphragms in the twin Strombergs at 50p each.
    The warning lights in the dashboard could be dimmed for night time by flicking the lenses.
    Went down to Cornwall for 2 weeks in 1997,first time I filled it to the brim and hadn’t realised how big the fuel tank was at about 12 gallons.

    Part exchanged it for a Citroen Dyane (!).

    • I remember the final run-out Sunbeam Alpine used the Rapier’s coupe bodyshell. But to me it just seemed to be a cheaper version of the Rapier, as the traditional Alpine’s were usually soft tops.

  17. @ Pat, I agree, all this talk of British cars being rubbish in the seventies is untrue. Yes there were a few lemons like the Triumph TR7, but there were also good cars like the first generation Granada, the massively underrated Vauxhall Magnum and FE Victor, Hillman Hunters and Triumph Dolomite. Bear in mind continental Europe produced some real rubbish like the Fiat 131.

  18. The main counterpoint was the arrival of Japanese cars in many crucial markets, & a lot of European makers upped their game in that decade.

  19. Was the Arrow capable of being fitted with larger engines whether an inline-6, Type 180 V6 or a Chrysler-sourced V8? Know the latter was fitted into an early 1960s Audax Humber Sceptre.

  20. The Hunter was quite a tough, reliable car that was popular as a taxi in Newcastle for many years, and became a cheap used family car well into the eighties. It was probably the closest car we had to a Plymouth Valiant, its American sibling that was known for its ability to take big mileages well and to take on maniacs in tankers( big Duel fan talking).

    • Glenn, I remember the Hunter taxis in Newcastle in the 1970s were operated by a firm called “Slaters” and were usually painted yellow. They were seen frequently at Newcastle Station & Airport. The Hunter’s minor facelifts kept it looking fairly fresh especially when they fitted oblong headlamps.

      I think all the Iranian Peykan’s had those lamps too and many were used as Taxi’s in Baghdad… heavy going in the extreme heat for the cars so they must have been durable.

      • I suppose the boxy styling didn’t date as badly as the curvy designs in the early 1970s. In fact many later 1970s cars were straight edged which helped things.

      • I think there was a rule that all taxis in Newcastle had to be yellow. They were mostly Mk3 Cortinas when I was up there

        • I don’t remember Newcastle Cortina MKIII Taxi’s, but take your word for it. I think I did see yellow Cortina MKIV taxis in Newcastle though.

    • Have heard of Hunter Windsor V8 conversions (akin to the Sunbeam Tiger), though wonder if a Triumph I6 would have been a step too far?

  21. The Hunter was a sound design let down by poor marketing and a dreary interior on base models. The use of the semi-strip speedo from the previous model Minx Mk6 in the base models was incredibly short sighted as it was dated in 1968, never mind 78. The Hunter estate was also a useful and spacious motor, but the French involvement killed off the Rootes engines in favour of the rattly and harsh Simca units which were pretty much universally hated in the UK. My late father (a mechanic) owned a Minx Mk6 for about 5 years and we were able to make the 1725 run like a sewing machine. We finally got rid of the Minx when rust came through the front wings / a-pillars from underneath. Rust was also a perennial problem with the Hunter. I must admit that a Humber Sceptre Mk3 with the 1725 engine and 4 headlight grille would make an interesting and practical classic.

    • Humber Sceptre…That’s what my late Uncle bought after owning a Chrysler 2 litre. The Sceptre (in bronze)was a lovely car inside & out and he sold it to an enthusiast when he gave up driving himself. Another favourite of mine was the badged Singer Vogue.

        • That’s right Richard. The Gazelle was the equivalent badged model to the Hillman Minx and I believe the Singer Vogue was slightly more upmarket than the Hunter. As was the Sceptre!

          The Vogue got oblong headlamps before they were added to the Hunter’s.

          • The Gazelle was a 1500 like the Minx but had much higher trim. was the Vogue the first British car with rectangular headlamps- or was it the Viva HB?

  22. The Chrysler generation of Hunters were used for transport for RAF officers( I saw two at RAF Leeming in 1981). It’s likely by 1978, when the two Hunters were registered, Chrysler were winding down production( assembly had moved to Dublin) and the deal was very good for the RAF.
    A year later, the MOD struck a deal with Vauxhall, which saw 3000 Chevettes ordered as transport pool cars, and a fleet of Cavaliers being ordered for officer transport. I do recall being stuck behind an Army Cavalier in Shropshire with the officer and his wife in the back and an NCO driving him through the countryside.

  23. Recently read of Leo Kumicki and Philip Laughton working on a Twin-Cam conversion of the 1500cc Minx engine on a testbed (which was not fitted to any cars), along with a number of SOHC variations (which were allegedly fitted to a few cars).

    Curious to know whether this would have happened before or after Rootes acquired Singer, or if the Twin-Cam / SOHC Minx engines were likely an in-house project with little to no Singer input.

  24. @ Spyder… It’s very close but I think the Viva HB got oblong headlamps first, then the Singer Vogue very soon afterwards, but I might be wrong!

  25. I’ve been watching a clip of Get Carter, where Cliff Brumby is thrown off the roof of the car park, and the police cars that arrive to investigate are Hillman Hunters.

  26. In 1981 I nearly had a hand-me-down, R reg from memory so 1977-ish, Hunter as a company car. I’ve always remembered it as a Hunter (GL?) but it might have been a Sceptre as it had been a junior director’s car – status not age, he was retiring. I drove it quite a few times and remember it as being a nice car but it felt very narrow to me. My own car was an FD Victor which according to Wiki was about 4″ wider and it felt it.
    At that company was the one and only time I drove or even went in a Marina. It was an old rep’s car which was being sold and I had to take it for an MOT – a wonderful feeling, I couldn’t care less if it passed or failed – and to a car wash. All I remember is I got soaked, I couldn’t have been wetter if the door window hadn’t been there. I don’t like Marinas…

    At a previous company the sales manager had a Hunter GLS which was impressive. It amused me to see the twin 40 DCOEs under the bonnet of a car from what I at least considered to be a fairly staid manufacturer.

    5 or 6 years later I briefly had a 1600 Avenger as an emergency replacement for a stolen 2.0 Mk3 Cortina. I hated it with a passion, apart from the heater and heated rear window which were the fastest acting I’d ever had, and might still be.

  27. Not long after my Dad bought a Vaux VX4/90 in 1966, our neighbour bought a newly launched Hillman Hunter in red. I remember the Hunter looked modern for its day and a good match for Vauxhall & Ford offerings… better than BMC equivalents?

    • @ Hilton D, the Hunter was aimed squarely at the Cortina and Victor buyer, a conservatively styled and engineered car that didn’t scare off buyers like the ADO 17, which was also more expensive and bigger. It is a testament to the 1966 Hunter that it survived in production for 13 years and was one of the biggest selling cars of the seventies. Also it didn’t seem to suffer from many reliability issues.

      • Thanks Glenn. I agree – and it was a worthy successor to the Super Minx. Rootes did well with badge engineering back then (like BMC) and the Arrow range provided a good section of trim for most buyers.

        My favourites were the Humber Sceptre & Singer Vogue, though Chrysler ownership rationalised the range later.

        • @ Hilton D, the Humber Sceptre was a seriously underrated car, seventies versions were as well equipped as a Cortina 2000 E, but the 1725cc engine delivered better economy and similar performance from the lighter body. Also the estate version was popular with farmers due its huge boot, ability as a tow car and strong reliability. The Arrow range proved one thing, not all British cars of this era were unreliable and badly made.
          Even the Irish assembled Chrysler models, for all they were getting old by the late seventies, still had a following as a cheap, reliable taxi and family car.

          • Well said and the 1725cc engine was well proven having been used in previous Rootes cars like the Super Minx and Sunbeam Rapier. I think the fastest Hunter was the GT version?

            I must admit to liking the Cortina 2000E and MKIV Ghia too. I’m at an age when cars of the 60’s and 70’s appeal to me more than todays high tech offerings.

  28. @ Hilton D, the 2000 E moved the Cortina upmarket with its velour seats and vinyl roof and the Ghia was Rover like inside, with all the wood and chrome. However, the Humber Sceptre was still a class act for less money and the 1725 could easily keep up with a Cortina 2000 E.
    On a different note, in the 1974 Likely Lads Christmas special Terry’s taxi is a Hunter De Luxe and the taxi that transports him to the docks in the film version is a Hunter as well. It did seem taxi fleets liked the Hunter as it could take high mileages and city centre driving well.

    • Glenn, the Newcastle Taxi firm Slaters used a fleet of yellow Hunters in the 1970’s which congregated at the Station & Airport.

      A neighbour in our street got a new Cortina 2.0 Ghia in met blue as his company car. It looked great especially when brand new in his drive. A client also had a Ghia in met brown with cream vinyl roof. Good times…

  29. Had the Rootes Arrow remained a smaller car as was originally envisaged before it was later enlarged after the abandonment of the Swallow project, were there any plans for lower-displacement 1250-1400cc versions of the 5-bearing crankshaft 1500-1725cc Minx engines or was the original intention for it to feature similar displacements as the aging Minx / Super Minx?

    What is confusing about the Rootes Group’s plans with both the Swallow and initially smaller Arrow projects (mentioned above), is the former was planned to feature 1250-1750cc Coventry Climax engines derived from the 1216cc FWE (used in the Lotus Elite) despite being a larger car in comparison yet the smaller Arrow was to apparently feature larger displacement Minx engines (instead of adopting an approach comparable to the roughly similar Isuzu Bellett that replaced the Isuzu built Hillman Minx).

    That is not forgetting the rear-engined 4-door Spartan sketch, which appears to be a proposal for either an enlarged Imp aka Super Imp or smaller Swallow derived car powered by an 1100cc engine presumably a production version of the unbuilt 998-1150cc tall-block version of the Imp engine.

  30. In the stories I write the Rootes Arrow range consisted of Hillman Minx/Hunter saloon & estate car, Singer Gazelle/Vogue saloon & estate car, Humber Sceptre saloon & estate car and Sunbeam Alpine/Rapier/HS120 fastback coupe. Unfortunately not many of these cars survive today.

  31. My favourites were the Singer Vogue and Humber Sceptre… higher up members of the Rootes family. My late Uncle owned a 1972 Sceptre in metallic bronze.

    • Miranda’s mum Dee Hart Dyke was seen driving an estate, think a Singer in the open garden programme she did with Miranda on more4

      • Little remembered today, the Sunbeam Rapier H120 was quite a desirable and powerful Capri alternative and could reach 110 mph flat out. Also the styling was quite distinctive with the vinyl rood, fastback rear and four headlamp front end.

        • I remember the Rapier H120 but only in adverts and brochures… never actually saw one for real. I did see a few Alpine’s when they shared the Rapier bodyshell. I still like the look of those cars with 4 round headlamps. BMW included!

          • The Alpine was a more basic and slower car than the Rapier and was phased out in 1975 in favour of the Chrysler Alpine, a totally different car. The Rapier H120 was the performance model, with 108 mph on offer and on a par with a two litre Capri, but offering overdrive for a more relaxed drive. I always liked them and the Rapier is now a rare classic.

  32. I read somewhere that 2.3m Paykans were made in Iran over 40 years, which would make the Arrow/Hunter one of the most successful British cars ever!

    The Iranian pickup version was still in production until 2015 as the Bardo 1600i

  33. Have always wondered if Rootes and Isuzu Motors for that matter would have benefited from renewed ties with each other instead of both being swallowed up by Chrysler and General Motors respectively.

    Consider the following:

    – The Isuzu Florian that appeared almost around the same time was of similar size to the Rootes Arrow and had a similarly long production run (along with spawning the Isuzu KB / Faster pick-up).

    – Like the Arrow based Sunbeam Alpine Coupe / Sunbeam Rapier Coupe, the Isuzu Florian would form the basis of the Isuzu 117 Coupe and appear pretty much around the same time.

    – The Isuzu Bellett was of similar size to the Hillman Super Minx and appeared only a year after the latter.

    – The Isuzu GH/GL/G/Z petrols and possibly even the C/DL/F dieselized versions trace their linage back to the Minx engines that only grew to about 1725cc (despite investigation into an enlarged engine of around 1.9-litres for the Sunbeam Alpine sportscar).

    – The Hillman Avenger was of similar dimensions to the Vauxhall Chevette / Opel Kadett C that formed the basis of the Isuzu Gemini and Isuzu Piazza.

    All of which certainly opens up more options for various Rootes models had the two companies opted to renew ties and embraced standardization / commonisation in mechanicals and other components.

    • I think both companies ended up being swallowed up because they were too small against the opposition. However I always wondered why the Japanese companies went it alone instead of working with the British counterparts.

      If Rootes had gone down this route with Isuzu, would we seen better cars? Isuzu struggled with their cars in the Japanese markets, would their models sold here or would the rootes models sold there?

      Also would have BMC been better linked up with Nissan?

      I think the problem with the British companies was that they always knew best, this would have happened especially being so close to WWII.

      • @daveh, Rootes problem was, unlike BMC, Ford, Vauxhall and Leyland, was they were mostly a producer of cars and only had a limited presence in the commercial vehicle market with their Commer vans and no presence in the bus market. They certainly couldn’t fall back on profits from commercial vehicles and buses to help out their car business, as happened in the early days of British Leyland, and relied mostly on car sales. Also the cost of developing Linwood and the problems with the Imp hurt the company and they were driven into a takeover by Chrysler.

      • Indeed, both BMC and Rootes could have benefited from further ties with Nissan and Isuzu respectively though it is best to define exactly what it would mean in practice.

        Not so much envisioning it as BMC and Rootes simply and rather cynically piggybacking off the engines and platforms of Nissan and Isuzu respectively, since the latter were simply building upon British designs that the British carmakers were either unwilling or incapable of developing further themselves despite such developments likely appearing originally in the experimental departments of both BMC and Rootes.

        BMC really needed a slightly enlarged A-Series half-relation by the early/mid-1960s loosely akin to the Nissan A OHV / Nissan E OHC (possible descendants include the GA / QG as well as the Micra’s MA, CG and CR) engines as well as a trio of conventional RWD cars akin to the Nissan Sunny (B10 to B310) along with the Pininfarina styled Nissan Bluebird 410 and Nissan Cedric 130 (along with elements of Vauxhall Viva HA and Vauxhall Victor FB/FC).

        Interestingly Fiat’s Dante Giacosa also proposed the Simca Aronde’s chassis being standardized with the Fiat 1100 Type 103 on cost grounds, though it is a question of whether Rootes and Isuzu could come to an agreement on standardizing the chassis of the Arrow/Florian and Super Minx/Bellett as well as the Minx/Minx-derived engines respectively.

        Both Rootes and Isuzu would have required some earlier changes before further ties could be considered, with the former avoiding acquiring debt-ridden Singer, following Rover’s example in pushing back against government interference on building a new factory outside of Ryton and squashing the subversives of Acton strikes at British Light Steel Pressings that appeared during Rootes expansion and likely detracted resources during the Imp’s development.

        Otherwise not sure if Rootes actually had a pre-war to post-war opportunity to expand its presence in the commercial vehicle and bus segments by accumulatively acquiring smaller commercial vehicle and bus companies within the UK below Associated Commercial Vehicles / ACV.

        For Isuzu Motors it would be not having real-world Hino Motors split off from Isuzu in 1942 as well as retaining/acquiring Kawasaki motorcycles (since they were all part of the same Keiretsu), which would have made for a larger carmaker compared to real-life that via a production version of the Kawasaki KZ360 prototype would even has a presence in the Kei Car segment as well as styling from possibly Michelotti (in place of the later Hino Contessa).

        Even then it is likely Rootes would have benefited from a merger/takeover by an alternate Leyland Motors (with Jaguar instead of Rover), where Rootes expanded ties with Isuzu together with Triumph’s expanded ties with Saab (later merged to Saab-Scania would have laid the groundwork for a passenger car / commercial vehicle alliance between Leyland (plus Rootes), Isuzu and Saab-Scania.

        It is also interesting to note Lotus’s involvement with Rootes / Chrysler UK via the Lotus Sunbeam, whose engine used the Vauxhall Slant-Four as a starting to accelerate development of its own engine with the Vauxhall version used in the Chevette and the Chevette/Gemini-based Piazza using Lotus-tuned suspension whose engine happens to trace its linage back to the Minx engine.

        Practically speaking Rootes could have benefited from the extra 224cc of a Minx derived 1949cc Isuzu engine and the extra 2 decades or so of development Isuzu undertook instead of being limited to just 1725cc, which along with spawning turbocharged, diesel/turbodiesel and stillborn 16-valve variants could have been used by Rootes until it was ready to be replaced by a 2-litre production version of the Brazilian Block Avenger engines. Failing that, have read either an Isuzu DOHC head or even a downdraft G160 OHV alloy head could potentially fit onto an Alpine block as well as a 5 speed close ratio gearbox selections that can also bolt up the Hillmans with a little adjustment.

        • Also forget to mention the possibility of Isuzu becoming involved in the development of the Imp (particularly in regard towards a 4-door version) in return for standardizing the componentry of the Super Minx/Bellett and Arrow/Florian.

          That way Isuzu either has a smaller model below the Bellett to take on the Toyota Publica and Mazda Familia of the period providing the company with a 3 car range or by way of an expanded Isuzu with Hino Motors and Kawasaki in the fold, allows Isuzu’s model range be further expanded to 4 cars ranging from the Isuzu Kei Car equivalent of the Kawasaki KZ360, followed by the Isuzu version of the Imp (in place of the Renault-derived later Michelotti-styled Hino Contessa) along with the Bellett and Florian.

  34. The lack of development of the Imp is always a puzzling one as the car was mostly unchanged during its 13 year life. It’s a shame as the 875cc engine was a high revving unit and the rwd design meant the car had plenty of luggage space in the front and an opening rear window for small items of luggage. I know early examples suffered from overheating and heavy oil consumption, but once these problems were beaten, the Imp became a reliable small car.

    • Agreed and like to believe it would have achieved better success had Rootes not been forced to accept bad logistics (e.g. Linwood) instead of an expanded Ryton factory in return for a loan nor had the Acton strikes potentially detracted from further developing and resolving the Imp’s early issues. Sharing the costs of the Imp’s development with a possible partner in Isuzu earlier on would have also helped as well.

      The Fiat 850 / SEAT 850 / SEAT 133 and other derivatives (including the Spider, 850T/Familiare/900T as well as the Fiat designed Simca 1000 / 1200) gives a rough idea as to how the Imp could have evolved on top of other unrealised Imp developments such as a semi-automatic gearbox,Asp sportscar, microvan, smaller 800cc and larger 948cc versions of the original Imp engine (950 being the actual limit of the production Imp engine as opposed to the limited-production 998cc units) together with tall block 998-1150cc+ versions.

      • @ Nate, I think the Imp was a lost opportunity and being forced by the government to build,a new factory at Linwood, where the workforce had no experience of building cars, added massively to the car’s development costs and it was never updated much. It could have actually done quite well in Europe where rear engined cars were popular.

        • Just realized the Imp was also another victim of the UK’s EEC entry being vetoed in 1963 and with other factors also led to the company switching from the rear-engined Swallow prototype to the more conventional front-engined Arrow.

          There are those who with the benefit of hindsight say Rootes should have switched to a FWD layout for the Imp by typically citing the Mini (as well as the story of Issigonis meeting with Mike Parkes and Tim Fry from time to time and at one point even driving each other’s Imp and Mini prototypes), yet few realise Rootes invested a lot of money in the Imp and the car was too further along in development for them to simply scrap it and start over.

          That is why a better approach in the event Rootes were able to sort out the Imp’s problems earlier on in its development (at Ryton of course) would have been to further expand the number of Imp variations and consistently update the design before contemplating a FWD replacement.

    • My brother once owned a 1963 IMP deluxe which went pretty well if a bit noisy (whine) at speed. It did have a couple of mechanical problems but once sorted, it was a useful practical car back then (1967?)

  35. I’ve recently purchased a hillman hunter estate what a state old hilda is in but im brave and have a welder its got massive loading space and I’m going to fix it up she won’t win any welding come beauty contest but I will love driving this old car it will have to have the 1500 avenger engine as the old owner left her for dead with plugs left out and the rats decided to make home in the back its rotten just on the points wer everyone is saying scrap it but im not letting go of my hilda hunter so William will be proud and pointing saying you stupid twat lol

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