A-Z of marques No.22 Humber
Saturday 06 December 2003
The marque: Primordial British make beloved of bank managers and police chiefs
The history: Thomas Humber set up his bicycle company in Sheffield before expanding to Nottingham, Beeston, Wolverhampton and, in 1889, Coventry. Motorcycles came in 1895, the first car in 1899, and by 1908 Coventry's former Folly Lane had been renamed Humber Road.
Humber bought Luton's Commer lorry company in 1926, but losses mounted and by 1928 Humber and Hillman had merged under the influence, and later control, of the Rootes brothers. Humber continued as the more upmarket maker with Hillman producing mass-market cars.
One popular model was the Snipe, which as an open Super Snipe was used by Field Marshal Montgomery in World War Two. The name continued after the war, supplemented by the smaller four-cylinder Hawk and the grander Pullman limousine. New 1948 models brought quasi-American styling, and in 1957 another range included a Super Snipe with an engine by Armstrong Siddeley.
The Sceptre, launched in 1963, was based on a Hillman Super Minx but with more power, a lower roofline and a sporty dashboard.
This was meant to be a new Sunbeam Rapier, but European fuel consumption tests, mistakenly carried out with the wrong axle ratio, proved disastrous. "That's far too thirsty for a Sunbeam," Lord Rootes allegedly said, "so we'd better make it a Humber."
The next Sceptre was a Hillman Hunter with a vinyl roof, extra power and smarter trim. It died in 1976.
Defining model: Super Snipe Series III - four headlamps.
They said: Middle class, middle income, middle England.
We say: And it protected Monty from the pythons.
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