Humber Super Snipe

The Humber Super Snipe is a car which was produced from 1938 to 1967 by British-based Humber Limited.

Humber Super Snipe
Humber Super Snipe Series II first reg nov 1959 2965cc and having now become a red(dish) car.JPG
Humber Super Snipe Series II
ManufacturerHumber (Rootes Group)
Body and chassis

Pre-war Super SnipeEdit

Humber Super Snipe
1500 (approx) made[2]
Body and chassis
Body style
  • 4-door saloon
  • Sports saloon
  • Drophead coupé
Engine4086 cc Straight-6 side valve
Wheelbase114 in (2,896 mm)[3]
Length175 in (4,445 mm)
Width70 in (1,778 mm)
PredecessorHumber Snipe

The Super Snipe was introduced in October 1938, derived by combining the four-litre inline six-cylinder engine from the larger Humber Pullman with the chassis and body of the Humber Snipe, normally powered by a three-litre engine. The result was a car of enhanced performance and a top speed of 79 mph (127 km/h) —fast for its day.[3] Its design was contributed to by American engine genius Delmar "Barney" Roos who left a successful career at Studebaker to join Rootes in 1936.[4]: p247 

The Super Snipe was marketed to upper-middle-class managers, professional people and government officials. It was relatively low-priced for its large size and performance, and was similar to American cars in appearance and concept, and in providing value for money.

Within a year of introduction, World War II broke out in Europe but the car continued in production as a British military staff car, the Car, 4-seater, 4x2, while the same chassis was used for an armoured reconnaissance vehicle, the Humber Light Reconnaissance Car.

Military operatorsEdit

Super Snipe Mark I to IIIEdit

Humber Super Snipe Mark I–III
Humber Super Snipe 1951 ex military
  • 1945–1952
    production 3909 (Mk I)
  • 8,361 (Mk II)
    8,703 (Mk III)[5]
Body and chassis
Body style
Engine4086 cc Straight-6 side valve (I to III)
  • 114 in (2,896 mm) (I)[3]
  • 117 in (2,972 mm) (I to III)
  • 180 in (4,572 mm) (I)
  • 187 in (4,750 mm) (II)
  • 191 in (4,851 mm) (III)
  • 69 in (1,753 mm) (I)
  • 74 in (1,880 mm) (II & III)

In 1946, post-war civilian production resumed and the Super Snipe evolved through several versions, each designated by a Mark number, each generally larger, more powerful, and more modern, until production ended in 1957 with the Mark IVB version.

Mk IEdit

The Mark I was essentially a 6-cylinder version of the 1945 Humber Hawk, itself a facelifted pre-war car. A version of the 1930s Snipe remained available, with the 1936-introduced 2731 cc engine. However, the standard Super Snipe engine was the 4086cc side-valve engine that had appeared in the Humber Pullman nearly a decade earlier, in 1936, and which would continue to power post-war Super Snipes until 1952.[6] Throughout the years 1936–1952 the maximum power output of the engine was always given by the manufacturer as 100 bhp at 3400 rpm.[6]

Humber Super Snipe Mark I (1946)

Mk IIEdit

early Humber Super Snipe Mark II 1949

The Mark II announced in mid-September 1948 was mostly redesigned in chassis and body. Now a full six-seater with a bench-type front seat it was given a wider track and a variable ratio steering unit. The gear lever was now mounted on the steering column. Like Humber's Pullman the headlights were fitted into the wings and running-boards were re-introduced.[7] The transverse-spring independent suspension, first introduced on the Snipe and Pullman in 1935, continued but with 14 leaves instead of eight.[8]

The smaller-engined Snipe was discontinued. Early Mark II Super Snipes can be distinguished by round lamps below the head lamps. The left one was a fog lamp, and the right one was a "pass" lamp with a low narrow beam for passing cars when using dipped headlights. These were dropped in 1949 in favour of rectangular side lamps which were continued in the Mark III.

The Times motoring correspondent tested the new car at the end of 1948. The spare wheel was criticized as being difficult to extract and the indirect gears were, he thought, not as quiet as they might be. Overall the finish reflected the excellent taste that distinguished Rootes Group products[8]

125 drophead coupés were made by Tickford in 1949 and 1950.[citation needed]

Mk IIIEdit

Humber Super Snipe Mark III 1952

The Mk III followed in August 1950. Easily identifiable by spats over the rear wheels[9] it had a Panhard rod added to the rear suspension[6] which limited sideways movement of the rear wheels and so permitted the use of softer springs. The 1950 car can be readily distinguished from the previous model by the simpler dome-shaped bumpers and the rectangular stainless-steel foot-treads on the running-boards.

A Mk III tested by The Motor magazine in 1951 had a top speed of 81.6 mph (131.3 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 19.1 seconds. A fuel consumption of 17.7 miles per imperial gallon (16.0 L/100 km; 14.7 mpg‑US) was recorded. The test car cost £1,471 including taxes.[10]

Mk IVEdit

Humber Super Snipe Mark IV
1955 example
production 17,993 (IV)[5]
Body and chassis
Body style4-door saloon
Engine4138 cc Straight-6 ohv
Transmission4-speed manual
Wheelbase116 in (2,946 mm)
Length197 in (5,004 mm)
Width71 in (1,803 mm)
Height54 in (1,400 mm)[11]

The all-new Mark IV Super Snipe announced mid-October 1952, Earls Court Motor Show time,[12] used a Hawk Mk IV body shell lengthened by 6 in (152 mm) but with a 4138 cc 113 bhp (84 kW) overhead-valve engine also used in a Rootes Group Commer truck. Chassis and suspension components were uprated to take the greater weight and power of the Super Snipe, those parts ceasing to be interchangeable with those of the Hawk. From 1955, overdrive was available as an option, followed in 1956 by an automatic gearbox.

Shortly after the car's announcement Leslie Johnson, Stirling Moss, and two Rootes Group staff, drove a new silver-grey Super Snipe from Oslo to Lisbon, travelling through fifteen European countries in 3 days, 17 hours and 59 minutes. The run demonstrated the car's high-speed reliability in far from ideal conditions.[13]

In 1953 The Motor tested a Mk IV and found the larger engine had increased performance with the top speed now 91 mph (146 km/h) and acceleration from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 14.7 seconds. Fuel consumption had increased to 15.5 miles per imperial gallon (18.2 L/100 km; 12.9 mpg‑US). The test car cost slightly more at £1,481, including taxes.[14]

The Automatic Mk IV saloon tested by The Motor in 1956 Ref. 21/56 Continental, recorded a maximum speed of 97.0 mph (mean) and 98.9 mph (best). 0–60 mph acceleration was 14.8 sec, with a 0–90 in 38.2 sec, The Standing Quarter Mile was 20.4 sec. The axle ratio was 3.7:1 and maximum bhp 122 on a 7.13:1 compression ratio, as stated in the data panel of this road test.

In 1957 The Times commented that the car was handsome if somewhat dated. It attracted favourable attention from passers-by and gave its occupants a satisfying sense of solidity and respectability. The two separate front seats were described as "enormous" and it was noted their backs could be reclined to the horizontal for a passenger to sleep. The steering was described as generally imprecise, uncomfortably low-geared for parking, and in need of power assistance. The car represented "remarkably fine" value for money.[15]

New Super Snipe Series I to VEdit

Humber Super Snipe Series I–V
Series V registered July 1966
  • production 6,072 (I)
  • 7,175 (II)
  • 7,257 (III)
  • 6,495 (IV)
  • 3,032 (V)[5]
Body and chassis
Body style
  • 4-door saloon
  • Estate car
  • Limousine
  • 2651 cc Straight-6 ohv (I)
  • 2965 cc ohv (II-V)
  • 3 speed manual
  • Overdrive and automatic optional
Wheelbase110 in (2,794 mm)[3]
  • 185 in (4,699 mm)[16]
  • (I & II) 188 in (4,775 mm) (III to V)
  • 69.5 in (1,765 mm)[16]
  • 70.5 in (1,791 mm)[17]
Height62 in (1,575 mm)[16]
Kerb weight3,584 lb (1,625 kg) (S. III Estate)[17]

Series IEdit

In October 1958, a new Super Snipe was introduced and first presented to the public at the opening of the Paris Salon de l'Automobile.[18] Confusingly, the designation returned to the Super Snipe I, but this time the variants were identified by a series number. The new car was based on the unitized chassis and body of the four-cylinder Humber Hawk, but with a new 2.6 litre, 2,651 cc, six-cylinder overhead-valve engine based on an Armstrong Siddeley design with bore and stroke of 82.55 millimetres (3.250 in) and near-hemispherical combustion chambers producing 112 bhp at 5000 rpm.

This engine was matched to a three-speed manual transmission with optional Laycock de Normanville overdrive on second and top gears, or Borg Warner DG automatic transmission. Power steering was available as an option. Also offered was a touring limousine model with glass partition.

The new car was smaller on the outside, but larger on the inside, with improved performance and the appearance of a reduced size 1955 Chevrolet 4-door sedan.

Series IIEdit

In October 1959 the Series II entered production[19] with its engine enlarged to 3 litres, 2,965 cc, by increasing the bore to 87.2 mm (3.4 in). A new Zenith carburettor was fitted and the engine's output was raised to 129 bhp at 4800 rpm. A new eight-bladed fan improved engine cooling. Girling 11.5 in (292 mm) disc brakes were introduced on the front wheels with 11 in (279 mm) drums on the rear axle. A stiffer anti-roll bar was fitted to the front suspension.[20]

A Series II with overdrive and power steering was tested by The Motor in 1960 and had a top speed of 94.7 mph (152.4 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 16.5 seconds. A fuel consumption of 24.6 miles per imperial gallon (11.5 L/100 km; 20.5 mpg‑US) was recorded. The test car cost £1,601 including taxes. The basic car cost £1453.[16]

Series IIIEdit

The styling of the Series III which the Rootes Group announced in October 1960 was distinguishable by its four headlights and revised full-width grille. This Snipe was the first British car to fit two pairs of headlamps. The suspension of the car had been considerably modified along with the car's floor structure which improved the car's high speed stability. The front of the car was redesigned to give a lower bonnet line. The nose of the car was also lengthened by 3.25 inches (83 mm) to accommodate an additional pulley, mounted on the front of the crankshaft, that enabled air conditioning to be included as an option, principally for the North American market. Separate ducts were provided for heating and cooling air to the passenger compartment. The engine received improved bearings with a changed lubrication system and was given better cooling with a quieter fan. Seats were redesigned to give more leg space for back seat passengers.[21]

When tested by The Times complaints focussed on a perceived need for more logical grouping of instruments, a horn ring obstructing the driver's view of the instruments and an over-bright white choke warning light. The power steering seemed to lack "feel". In direct top gear a speed of 95 mph was obtained, less if overdrive had been engaged.[22]

Series IVEdit

For the October 1962 Motor Show there were minor improvements. The rear window was changed to give the roof line an improved appearance and now more nearly match the original 1955 Chevrolet shape. Engine output was now rated at 132.5 bhp (99 kW) bhp and the rear axle had been given a higher gear ratio. Manual gearbox cars received a new type of diaphragm clutch made by Borg and Beck and the petrol tank was enlarged from 12.5 to 16 gallons capacity.[23] It can be distinguished by its revised rear-window treatment (doesn't wrap around quite as much as earlier models), Snipe bird badge on grille, opening quarter-light windows in the rear doors, and other trim differences.

Series V and VaEdit

In October 1964 the final Series V version of the Saloon saw an upper body restyle, (also applied to the Hawk Saloon and the Rootes Group's smaller Hillman Super Minx and its derivatives) with a flat roofline and rear window, six-light side windows and a larger, taller windscreen. The Estate body in both marques remained unchanged. Twin Zenith Stromberg 175CD carburettors were fitted along with a Harry Weslake tuned cylinder head, increasing the power to 137.5 bhp (102.5 kW), and synchromesh was fitted to all ratios in the gearbox—on the previous versions it had only been on the upper two. Major modifications were made to front and rear suspensions and they required less maintenance. Sound insulation was further improved.[24]

Hydrosteer power steering was available as an optional extra, as was an automatic transmission (Borg Warner Type 35 on Series Va), and metallic paint finishes. The motoring correspondent of the Motoring and Driving Register wrote: "The Humber Super Snipe is an assured car for travelling comfortably from town to town and even on the new fast motorways. Yet its powerful engine allows it to handle the challenges of smaller lanes where the speeds rise and fall with each change of direction and each corner negotiated."[25]

Humber ImperialEdit

Intended to match BMC's Rolls-Royce engined Vanden Plas Princess 4-litre R the Imperial shared the basic specification and performance of the Super Snipe with the addition of a vinyl roof, fully reclining front seats, automatic transmission and hydrosteer power steering as standard. However, a manual 3-speed transmission could be ordered. The car also featured electrically adjustable rear shock absorber settings, a separately controlled rear passenger heater and optional West-of-England cloth-trimmed seats as well as many smaller amenities such as individual reading lamps.[24]

Humber Imperial 1964-67

The Rootes Group ceased production of the Series Va version in July 1967, by which time the group was under the control of the American Chrysler Corporation. The last of the big Humbers were assembled by Chrysler in Melbourne, Australia. Plans to introduce a V8 engine, and for the Chrysler 180/2L to be marketed as a Humber in the UK did not materialise, although a small number of Chrysler LA engine (318ci) powered prototypes were built.[26]

Export markets and foreign assemblyEdit

While the post-World War II home market for the car continued as before, the Rootes Group also marketed the car for export. The Super Snipe was assembled in Australia, commencing in 1953 with the Mark IV.[1] From 1956 the car was available with automatic transmission, but the model was discontinued shortly afterwards.

Super Snipes were also assembled in New Zealand for a number of years by Rootes Group and Chrysler importer Todd Motors which later became Mitsubishi New Zealand.


  1. ^ a b Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring, 1986, page 226
  2. ^ Sedgwick, M.; Gillies. M (1989). A-Z of Cars 1930. Devon, UK: Bay View Books. ISBN 1-870979-38-9.
  3. ^ a b c d Culshaw; Horrobin (1974). Complete Catalogue of British Cars. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-16689-2.
  4. ^ Hendry, Maurice M. Studebaker: One can do a lot of remembering in South Bend. New Albany: Automobile Quarterly. pp. 228–275. Vol X, 3rd Q, 1972.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Sedgwick, M.; Gillies. M (1986). A-Z of Cars 1945-1970. Devon, UK: Bay View Books. ISBN 1-870979-39-7.
  6. ^ a b c "Humber Super Snipe Saloon (road test)". Autocar. 25 August 1950.
  7. ^ "News in Brief". The Times. No. 51181. 20 September 1948. p. 2.
  8. ^ a b "Humber Super Snipe". The Times. No. 51271. 5 January 1949. p. 6.
  9. ^ "Humber Limited". The Times. No. 51781. 28 August 1950. p. 3.
  10. ^ "The Humber Super Snipe Mk III". The Motor. 13 June 1951.
  11. ^ "Second Hand car guide supplement". Practical Motorist. 6 Nbr 68: between pages 768 & 769. April 1960.
  12. ^ "-". The Times. No. 52443. 15 October 1952. p. 3.
  13. ^ "Humber High Speed Road Test". The Times. No. 52489. 8 December 1952. p. 4.
  14. ^ "The Humber Super Snipe Road Test". The Motor. 5 August 1953.
  15. ^ "High, Wide And Handsome". The Times. No. 53769. 19 February 1957. p. 5.
  16. ^ a b c d "The Humber Super Snipe". The Motor. 10 February 1960.
  17. ^ a b Boddy, William (January 1961). "Impressions of two British Estate Cars". Motor Sport. p. 41.
  18. ^ "A New Humber Super Snipe". The Times. No. 54270. 1 October 1958. p. 8.
  19. ^ Rootes and Chrysler U.K. Passenger Car, Retrieved 18 July 2017
  20. ^ "Super Snipe Joins 100 M.P.H. Cars". The Times. No. 54591. 14 October 1959. p. 8.
  21. ^ "Super Snipe Gets Two Pairs Of Headlamps". The Times. No. 54901. 13 October 1960. p. 8.
  22. ^ "Comfort And Quietness in the Super Snipe". The Times. No. 55064. 25 April 1961. p. 17.
  23. ^ "British Cars Of 1963". The Times. No. 55517. 9 October 1962. p. 16.
  24. ^ a b "A New Humber". The Times. No. 56147. 20 October 1964. p. 16.
  25. ^ Herriott, Richard; Vicar, Archie "1967 Humber Super Snipe Review. Motoring & Driving Register, July 1967, pages 23–28.
  26. ^ "History of Humber cars". Retrieved 23 June 2016.

External linksEdit

Rootes Humbers