I’m currently researching a piece for CC covering the history of Britain’s Rootes Group, the company behind Hillman, Humber and Sunbeam cars, as well Commer trucks, and found this wonderful piece of period promotional film dressed up as reportage.
The Safari Rally through Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika (now Tanzania) has long been recognised as one of the toughest rallies on the world rally calendar, and this comes through. What also comes through is how much world class rallying has changed in 50 years.
And if you’re familiar with the BBC from the 1950s to the 1970s, you’ll recognize the voice of Raymond Baxter, a Spitfire pilot, a rally competitor with Rootes and subsequently the Publicity Director for BMC and perhaps the Corporation’s most distinctive, clearest and authoritative commentators and presenters for technical, scientific and motorsport programming.
So, settle back, pour yourself a coffee or whatever (a rum and coke, Mr Shafer?) and enjoy the triumph of those plucky British underdogs, and start identifying and recording the defunct variety of brands you’ll see. To help, to inspire, or to remind again how much rallying has changed, the first car you’ll see is a Renault 4. And, yes, Pat Moss was Sir Stirling Moss’s sister
What’s not to enjoy?
For our American cousins it is worth mentioning that the Minx was a Loewy studio design of 1956 – which was similar (but shrunken) to the 1954 Studebaker Commander. The parent Rootes Group and Studebaker have more in common – both struggling in an increasingly competitive market – Rootes ‘refreshed’ the basic body tub right into the mid – ’60’s in various disguises – as did Studebaker with its Commander.
These were tough cars with attractive Lowey touches – a real world car that never was.
Wow , THANK YOU ! .
I didn’t have the time to watch it but I did anyway , I’ll have lunch to – morrow .
This takes me back , looks a lot of fun to me .
Not sure what you mean by never was as Hillmans sold plenty in the U.S. in the 1960’s .
Thanks Nate. I meant that like Studebaker – Rootes were relatively under-capitalised and what was advanced and attractive in ’56 was out-dated by ’66 compared to the competion. The Arrow body late ’60’s Minx sucessor had less of the style and flourish of the earlier iteration. I’ve owned both – the earlier car – a ’58 – felt really special and just right. Studebaker and Rootes both finished in the ’60’s – the latter being taken over by Crysler when they ran out of cash.
Very enjoyable, but what dear old Raymond Baxter forgot to mention was that a VW Beetle was the overall winner in 1962 ( not for the first time ) Even Pat Moss got a podium in her Saab, but the Hillmans didn’t.
Of course they were mostly privateers in those days, with works support if they were lucky.Remarkable to see three generations of big Peugeots competing against each other ( 203, 403, and 404 )
Hillman got a class win, hence their promotional film
Thats a great start to my day I have a one of those in my carport blue and white great car,
Wow. Hillman actually built a car that won a race. Let alone ran for more than 50 miles with Lucas electrics…I am impressed
The Hillman Minx rebadged Humber 80 won the inaugural 1959 saloon car championship in NZ mostly because they handle better than anything else then available on our fast flowing circuits, Lucas electrics are quite reliable I’ll have you know as long as you keep the maintenance up Ive not touched the ignition system other than to replace the plugs on my Hillman for at least four years yet it starts every time I need it to and it has been on daily driver duty recently.
Hillman hunter is still in production in iran after almost 5 decades.pick up&4 doors are still on the road(wagons too).1725 cc slant four is industractable.
That is interesting! the first Hunter (’67) was the best one in my book.. slimmed down bumpers ..and a strong engine not sucking emissions ..I recall the zero to fifty time was 9.3 seconds ..and that was QUICK compared to any other 1967 family sedan with 4 cyls
Iranian Hunters are out of production now the last few years saw them fitted with Peugeot engines not the venerable 1725 which was first released in 55 in 1390cc form,
A Hillman Hunter won the 1968 London to Sydney marathon
I’m no Rootes Fanboi but Hillmans were good little tanks back then ~ loads of them doing Yeoman Duty Down East in those days and they didn’t rust out in 5 years like any Japanese car did (not that were many Japanese cars before 1965 IIRC) .
Lucas electrics are just fine , the devil (as usual) was in the details , marginal quality control at initial build .
I drive a Lucas Equipped LBC every day , it still runs a generator and the lights & wipers , heater fan all work just fine , the Lucas ” Wind Tone ” horns blow loudly and musically .
If you drive 50 year old cars made with 1920’s & 1930’s technology , expect to need to fiddle with them occasionally .
Watched the whole thing. Good car drama.
The only thing that really surprised me was the shattered glass. Laminated glass was standard in America at that time. You’d think Euro cars would have it installed for an event like this even if it wasn’t standard.
Of course they were laminated otherwise there would have been nothing left of the windshield except for a few shards. Did you not see how they looked like laminated glass that had a rock thrown at it at speed? They might well have been killed if that wasn’t laminated glass.
We had regular safety glass in our R4. One night it cracked into a million pieces while it was parked. I suppose it was slightly damaged and the dropping temperature was all it took to make it shatter. We replaced it with laminated glass at a much higher price.
My first car, circa 1969, having received it as a hand-me-down from my brother, who had bought a Mini Cooper (the real deal, not what’s available today). Never had any trouble with it, but we were gearheads who worked on our cars constantly. We always liked the somewhat-shared DNA with the Sunbeam Alpines that we saw cruising around, if not the Tigers. The last one that I ever saw was in Santiago, Chile, about 5 years ago, in pristine condition.
The Alpine is a sports coat on a Hillman Husky/Commer Cob floorpan.
Wow ! Who would have known that ! Thanks ! :)) ..what was it that gave the Humber 80’s the handling edge over the others?? ..front susp?? rear axle set-up??
Very stiff body and good suspension plus guys like Harold Heasley who could really drive, his winning car still survives somewhere in the south island, Robbie Francevic started out in his dads Humber 80 and Dennis Marwood was the last successful campaigner until about 64.
See the 62 Aussie Falcon trying out its newly toughened front end along with its competition the wallowing EK Holden Special two cars that few others will recognize, but the Super Snipes,Rovers MK2 and MK3 Zodiacs from England plenty of Peugeots as expected DKWs Mercs and VWs from Germany, most of the world represented though no American cars present their times of being able to withstand harsh treatment was well and truly over by 62.
DKW was the surprise entrant for me.
LOVED IT WOT A VIEW OF A VANNISHED WORLD
Quite a find there. Trying that in a 3 Litre Rover just doesn’t seem right. Those zany olden days folks…
I’d rather watch this a hundred times over rather than those new computerized missiles that the WRC uses today. They’re technically interesting, but I prefer quaintness over hostility any day of the week.
It’s really unbelievable what they did. Taking on the African bush in a Fiat 600 or a Renault 4? I grew up with these kind of vehicles and i love them.
20:15 “and the waitresses costumes were as stimulating as the tee…” lol those were the days.
Amazing to watch, I don’t think any current cuv/crossover would have surivived that sort of treatment. Modern cars might be more reliable, but more durable? I’m not so sure about that.
I was thinking the same thing … maybe now only a Subaru could do this. I know these cars had a few “heavy duty” parts added, but my perception is that today’s unit body cars (yes, I know many of these cars were unit body also) with modern low-profile tires and less ground clearance would not survive. On my recent trip to Turkey, I noticed that the majority of cars in the rural areas were older RWD Fiats of the 124 and 131 variety. Perhaps more affordable, but I suspect also more durable.
I wouldn’t toot the same horn here. No doubt the safety cage design has advanced so much that today’s unit bodies are tougher than yesteryear’s. You need tougher struts, but that’s about it.
Watch some crash compilations for anecdotal evidence.
The bodies might be strong enough, but the ground clearance is not suitable than these showroom-standard cars and there would be roads shown in this film that they would not traverse without damage if at all. Even so-called offroad versions eg VW Alltracks would have less clearance. With a few exceptions cars are designed for good sealed roads now, even most crossovers.
Modern bodyshell stronger than a Minx surely you jest Modern rally cars require a full cage just to hold together and stiffen the body for the heavy duty suspension components the cars of the Hillmans era were factory stock
Just so ~
You’d have to have been there in the 1960’s to see how incredibly tough these old Unibodies were ~ lots of steel and no ” crumple zones ” for safety back then .
Heavy beasts too ~ part of why they’re so slow & ponderous .
Modern cars absorb crash energy by collapsing to save your life .
MY late father Mr.Hasib Arab was the Co-Chairman of Arab Bros.Motors,Nigeria Ltd.
Arab Bros.Ltd were the Sole Agents Andy distributors to the Rootes Group in Nigeria
Between the years 1950-1961.
In 1961,My late father sold the Company to the Nigerian Government and thus became
In my late Father Time,Arab Bros had almost the Monopoly of car sales in Nigeria.
Nasri Hassib Arab