Hillman Arrow and Hillman Hunter

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Hillman Hunter

Hillman Arrow and Hunter

1966 - 1979
United Kingdom
4 cyl.
1725/1496 cc
4 speed manual
Top Speed:
83 - 96 mph
Number Built:
1 star
Hillman Arrow and Hunter
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1


The Hillman Hunter started life in October 1966, born into an era of car manufacturer rationalisation where many manufacturers were being amalgamated, renamed or even closed down. The Rootes Group was made up of Hillman, Humber, Sunbeam and Singer. Rootes had acquired an interest in the Hillman Car Company around 1930 but the Rootes company had hit trouble by the 1960's and the Chrysler Corporation, during their first foray into Europe, took over in 1967.

First introduced into Australia as the "Arrow", the Hunter was a conventional design, square four-door sedan (and later estate) with a live rear axle and ohv engine (initially 1725cc with a 1496cc in 1970). The engine had already been previously used in other Rootes cars. The body design was little changed during its production run and its shape again was shared with other Rootes products such as the Hillman Minx, Humber Sceptre, Singer Gazelle, Singer Vogue and the Sunbeam Vogue.

There were a number of models introduced and small changes made:- the Mark II in September 1967; a GT version in 1969; a De Luxe (DL Saloon & Estate) version with 1496cc motor in 1970; basic Hunter designated the Super 1970; GL introduced 1970; Topaz limited edition 1975. Chrysler UK began to rationalize the Rootes range in the early 1970s and Hillman was the last name of the old crowd to disappear when the Hillman Hunter and Avenger became the Chrysler Hunter & Avenger in 1976.

Hillman Hunter Royal 660

The Hillman Hunter Royal 660 was one of those cars that started life with a good basic design and specification, but failed in the mechanical execution. It was good looking, tastefully fitted-out, with exceptionally good handling on good surface roads, above average performance and excellent seats. But there were plenty of faults - many of them directly related to production line deficiencies - that made getting behind the wheel and spending some time with the car both disappointing and frustrating. The 660 retailed for A$2698, and was the top-of-the-line car in Chrysler's Hunter range. Sitting on a 98.5-inch wheelbase, it shared the 1725cc high compression, twin carb engine with the Hustler. It gave 94 bhp at 5200 rpm and 107 lb/ft of torque at 4000 rpm that worked through a four-speed floor-shift box and 3.89 diff for performance that knocked over the standing quarter in a fraction over 18 seconds.

The suspension was coils, McPherson struts and an anti-sway bar at the front with a beam axle located by semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The recirculating ball type steering provided a turning circle of 33.5 ft, and braking was courtesy of 9.6-inch discs at the front and 9-inch drums at the back, servo assisted. As far as performance went, and production line issues aside, the 660 was much better than you would have thought. It was both sporty, responsive and was surprisingly almost best in class. At medium revs the engine was smooth and quiet, but above 4000 rpm it became noisy and rough - and few would have bothered taking it past 5000 rpm unless pushing hard. Fuel economy was reasonable, at 23.5 mpg hard driven according to road tests of the time.

The engine was not all bad news, and for the era was in fact very flexible considering the torque was developed at a fairly high 4000 rpm. Fitted with the 3.89 diff, the gear speeds were kept fairly low at 29 mph, 45 and 68 at 5500 - you can get better maximums by running to the 6000 rpm redline, but the motor's noise, as mentioned above, did not encourage that too often. On good road surfaces the 660 exhibited good handling. With mild initial understeer (that could be removed by running high front tyre pressures) and a pleasant and very controllable final oversteer, when really cracking along, it was fun to throw around. The quick and accurate steering helped here, but road testers noted that it felt dead in tight corners and didn't have enough self-centring. And there was a really bad issue with the wheels on full lock. It was noted by more than one owner that, when the wheels were on full lock for parking or U-turns, they had the un-nerving habit of staying jammed on full lock, so that you had to pull firmly on the steering wheel to have the front wheels regain composure.

Like the handling, the ride was reasonable on good surfaces - firm but pleasant. Another story, however, when on dirt or badly broken surfaces - then the 660 would assume a Jekyll and Hyde character. The suspension would reveal an alarming inability to cope with bumps, corrugations and gravel. The ride would quickly become uncomfortable, jarring the passengers and while showing any production-line issues, with all sorts of interior trim rattling worse than false teeth in sub-zero temperatures. Even worse, the rear axle location was so poor the tail end had the nasty habit of breaking away the moment it hit any substantial pot-holes. Corrugations in a fairly tight bend taken at even moderate speed would be enough to send the back around completely, bringing on a 180-degree lose, even though the driver may have a good deal of opposite lock wound on.

The faults that bumpy roads showed up in the Hunter's other departments were also considerable and annoying - it rattled badly and had a very loose feeling, screws had a tendency to pop out from under the dashboard and the spare wheel was held with the equivalent of a paper clip, such that over time, or after a bump in the road, it would dislodge from the clip-down strap and join the other parts of the car in creating noise - only this time a little muffled as it bumped around in the boot. A shame that all these problems were the result of poor production line quality - something the Japanese had sorted and which would eventually see them rise, while the once wonderful British marques fell.

If you could look past the way the car was put together, you would have found a really competent car, and one that should have afforded quality too. The interior layout and quality of materials was good. The design was good. The tall tombstone front buckets were good, and while not finished in leather their "brocade" vinyl covering and integrated headrests were certainly not poverty-pack items, and they were comfortable too. In fact, they would have again been class leading - but we figure there were so many other parts of the car letting it down that few took the time to realise that.

To distinguish the 660 from the lesser Hunter's Chrysler gave the car a woodgrain dashboard, safety padded top and bottom, with a lockable glovebox and extensive instrumentation. The tacho and speedo (mounted in front of the driver) were hard to read by day because their flat glass picked up strong reflection, mainly from the metal spokes of the steering wheel. And at night their non-adjustable lighting wasn't strong enough. The temperature gauge and ammeter were hidden by the driver's left hand, and the oil pressure gauge was off to the left. But the fuel gauge, mounted between the speedo and tacho, was excellent: it was graduated in two-gallon sections together with litre readings to give a very accurate indication of how much fuel was in the 10-gallon tank.

The tumbler-type switches were good to use, but the twin-switches set-up for the lights were unnecessarily complicated, two switches doing the work that one could have easily managed. The flow-through ventilation, which came through two big eye-ball vents at either side of the dashboard, were excellent. The air could be turned on or off by twisting easy-to-reach buttons in the centre of the eye-ball. Vision was good making the Hunter easy to park. The boot was good too, with deep, wide luggage space. The finish both inside and out was good, and with bright colours, brightwork and a vinyl-covered roof. With touches like the wooden dash, lots of gauges, good-looking layback seats and good carpet on the floor and ashtrays in all four doors it was, at least superficially, a classy, prestige medium-priced motor car. But the quality problems were a real issue.

The Hunter was produced until 1979 and then was sold off in its entirety to Iran where it is still produced today under the Peykan name.
Hillman Hunter
Hillman Hunter

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Also see:

Hillman Hunter Safari Brochure
Lost Marques - Hillman
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