Arriving in style in

big Humber bird

Humber Super Snipe

IF you wanted to arrive in style in a statement of pure British solidity and elegance you had some fine choices in the mid-1950s.

Having been around at the time I remember them all but one that always got a ten vote from me was the great, inspirational Humber Super Snipe.

A monstrous lumbering dinosaur some might say, but at the time this car, which, in the pecking order of the day was just below Daimler and Bentley, represented that crossover between mere production line motoring and pure luxury.

A product of one of the oldest companies in the British Motoring industry, the Coventry-built Super Snipe had a wealth of manufacturing experience welded into its seams.

The first car to bear the Humber name appeared in 1899 and the company was acquired by the Rootes Group in the 1930s.

Humber majored on its Hawk four-cylinder saloon a car often seen in 1950s black and white British movies.

But the Super Snipe of the time was the real star of the show, not just as a lounge on wheels but as a very tough car. In 1952 it successful completed a demonstration run of 3,285 miles under winter conditions through 15 European countries in three days, 17 hours and 59 minutes.

At the heart of the beast was the Humber four-litre six-cylinder Blue Riband engine which gave up to 116bhp and a maximum speed of 90mph plus.

You could always tell if you had a Super Snipe on your tail because of the streamlined and pointed bird mascot on the bonnet. Not the sort of thing you see these days due to stringent pedestrian safety rules.

But the Super Snipe was certainly not the largest Humber on offer. If you really wanted to put your mind and money into it there was always the monumental Pullman Limousine or the similar Imperial which had no sliding partition so that it could be driven as a saloon by the owner.

In 1958 a sea change swept through the halls of Humber and a much more modern Super Snipe was launched. Again a superbly comfortable car but in the image of the 1960s and another winner for Rootes.

Sadly the Humber name disappeared in the ranging furnace of trouble that destroyed most of the UK's motor industry.

As for the Super Snipes of the 1950s? Many found their way to the garages of funeral directors or wedding car proprietors to eke out their final years doing what they did best - conveying passengers in dignity and style. Some languished in scrapyards to be reduced to a pile of red dust by the demon rust.

But the odd few made it through and have been preserved - usually at great cost - by a devoted band of owners and are to be seen in all their grandeur at classic car shows alongside other British greats.


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