Humber Hawk Series I to IVA
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The 1957 Humber Hawk had a completely new body with unitary construction
which it would share with the 1958 Humber Snipe. The 2267 cc engine was carried over and an automatic transmission
was now available. The body was styled in Rootes own studios and featured more glass than previous models with a wrap around front windscreen, which gave it a considerable resemblance to a 1955 Chevrolet.
The Rootes engineers also surmised that the four-speed manual change might prove better suited to some tastes, however in practice this was not altogether true. There was an unfortunate choice of ratios, a long clutch pedal movement and a rather "notchy" steering
-column change which spoiled the experience.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to choose the manual transmission
was for no other reason that that it was much cheaper; the Borg Warner automatic cost an extra £172 10s including purchase tax, in the United Kingdom. There was a difference of only 8 mph between the maximum in first and second gears; and it was found during acceleration tests that no time was lost by starting off in second on level ground.
Many motoring writers of the era thought of the manual as a three-speed box for normal purposes, with an emergency ratio in reserve. Third, with a maximum of only 63 mph, was rather low to complement a top gear peaking at some 85 mph. By comparison with the "automatic" Humber Hawk, the manual had better acceleration figures; the difference was apparent also in the 50-70 mph range, when each vehicle was in direct drive, engine tune rather than transmission
drag being presumed responsible for the automatic's slower response times.
The Humber Hawk offered exceptional roominess and comfort for an engine capacity of only 2.3 litres. This was not achieved through any sacrifice in sweet running or tractability; in the 1950's it was a rare car indeed which could, like the Hawk, trickle along at 7 mph in top gear on its slow running throttle setting without transmission
snatch, and pull away evenly without violent vibration.
From that point the Humber Hawk would accelerate up to 60 mph in the same ratio with a variation of only 1 second in the four ranges recorded between 10 and 60 mph Only one second was gained by using third in the 40-60 mph range - which was further evidence that a higher gear might have improved the Hawk's performance.
A bench-type front seat was standard equipment, and was deeply recessed to provide extra room for the rear passsengers feet. The manual change lever was operated by the left hand. Optimum room for passengers in the rear comportment was achieved by placing the entire seat cushion forward of the wheel arches. While the Hawk was generally a sound and solid car, there were some minor irritations noted by motoring journalists of the era. These included a sub-standard rear view mirror, it being too small to give a proper field of view through the wide rear window, too shallow to allow for any vertical movement of the driver and, worst of all, would persistently shake out of adjustment.
Although wonderfully effortless and stable at sustained high speeds, the Hawk was somewhat prone to low-speed tyre
squeal, and the steering
was a little heavy for manoeuvring at very low speeds. There were several revisions during the car's life, each resulting in a new Series number. The 1959 Series 1A had minor trim changes and, more importantly, the gear ratios were revised in an effort to make it a true 4 speed manual.
The Series II launched in October 1960
had servo assisted front disc brakes, while the automatic option was no longer available in the UK. The Series III of September 1962
had a larger fuel tank and bigger rear window. The export model automatic option was also dropped.
More significant changes came with the October 1964
Series VI. The roof was made flatter, the rear window smaller and an extra side window fitted behind the rear doors. Synchromesh was fitted to bottom gear. An anti-roll bar
was fitted at the rear.
After Hawk production ended, Rootes came to concentrate on sectors offering greater volume, no longer featuring as a UK provider of large family cars. It had, in particular, been unusual for UK manufactured cars of this size to feature a spacious station wagon / estate car version: following the demise of the Humber Hawk, the UK market for large estate cars quickly came to be dominated by the Volvo 145 and its successors.
Sturt Griffith's Road Test
A name synonymous with quality automotive journalism in the 1950s was Sturt Griffith. He would take all cars on offer in any particular year, then drive it over a punishing course to determine what was good, and bad, with a particular car. Obviously his yardstick was the best on offer in any particular year - and something we do not have the benefit of today. While we make every endeavour to judge a car on its contemporaries, sometimes it is very difficult. We refer to many of his road tests in compiling our own, but for the record, the Humber Hawk review below remains as told in 1957
The latest version of the Humber Hawk is an entirely new car as far as its structure and body are concerned. The Hawk has been brought very much up to date, and its body is an elegant example of modern styling. Interior space has been greatly increased, and the boot is quite huge, rather at the expense of leg room in the rear seat. A wrap-around screen and rear window add a pleasing touch of streamlining
and increased visibility. The four-cylinder engine (originally "Sunbeam") has been retained, and is undoubtedly one of the most flexible and smooth large four-cylinder units in the world. It drives through a four-speed gearbox, 'with a column change.
The car is available with a normal four-speed transmission
at an inclusive price of £1,698, with an overdrive operating on top gear at £1,796, and with Borg-Warner automatic transmission
at £. 1,874. The car tested was the overdrive version, in which the differential ratio (and hence all the gear ratios) are slightly lower than in the standard car. The result of the lower ratios is to confer more flexibility, evidenced in the form of better hill climbing and acceleration, to the normal gears. Overdrive cart be reserved for the touring highway, where it gives pleasantly low engine speeds when cruising fast. Whether the additional cost of the overdrive is merited is a matter for each prospective purchaser to decide for himself. armed with the knowledge that its virtues are not substantially realised in metropolitan driving.
The Hawk is a well-designed and pleasant car. There are, however, a few points about it which owners will criticise. Inherent in the basic design is a huge hump in the centre of the front floor. This must preclude a third passenger in that seat, at least in any degree of leg comfort, for other than short runs. The inclination of the front squab cannot be varied, and I did not find the seat comfortable. Presumably, the seat could be altered in the workshop to suit most owners. On the credit side, the Hawk- is a car that handles particularly well when cruised fast, and which provides a good standard of riding comfort over indifferent roads. ,
In overdrive the Hawk does not climb well and serious hills will require the use top gear. Very severe ascents, such as Scenic Hill, require the use of third gear, and in this ratio the Hawk will climb almost any highway grade. The gears used on the test hills to ascertain their potentialities, and the speeds attained, were:
- LAPSTONE (average grade 1 in 16, maximum 1 in 131): The Hawk climbed this hill comfortably in overdrive.
- BODINGTON (average 1 in 11): Normal top gear at 50-52-48 mph.
- RIVER LETT (1 in 12, maximum 1 in 81): Third gear in a lively climb at 40-36-48 mph.
- SCENIC HILL (1 in 10, maximum 1 in 8): Top gear, with the assistance of third for 200 yards in the central section, at 50-20-23 mph The average gradient of this hill is just too great for top gear.
- MOUNT TOM AH (1 in 12, maximum 1 in 9): Top gear at 50-29-38 mph.
- KURRAJONG, WESTERN SIDE (I in 121): Overdrive at 50-43-39 mph Speed fell off throughout the climb.
The power to weight ratio, with a load of 3cwt, is not high at 51 b.h.p. per ton. Overall gearing in top is moderate, yielding 17 mph at 1,000 r.p.m. Overdrive gives a road speed of 21.8 at the same engine speed. With overdrive engaged, the Hawk will cruise very fast indeed on good highways. One finds that, on safe roads, 75-80 mph does not distress the car in any way, and its good handling
qualities become manifest. In top gear the car maintains good flexibility down to 27 mph The engine remains smooth at full throttle down to 18 mph in this gear.
The average speed over the test route was 45.3 mph Weather was variable, with some light rain. For prompt overtaking, one should use second gear up to 27 mph, third gear up to 35 mph. and top gear above this speed. Naturally the car is not particularly lively in overdrive. The maximum urge (a torque of 1201b-ft) is developed at 39 mph in top gear and 26 mph in third gear. The times for acceleration were: Third Gear: 20 to 40 mph, 5.5 sees.: 30 to 50 mph, 7.0 seconds. TOP GEAR: 20 to 40 mph, 8.6 seconds.: 30 to 50 mph, 8.8 seconds.; 40 to 60 mph, 9.9 seconds. Overdrive: 40 to 60 mph, 14.1 seconds.
Roadholding, Steering and Braking
The new Hawk gives above-average road adhesion- on cornering, and it is indeed difficult to induce a slide on dry bitumen. The car is inherently stable and well balanced, and when it does slide there is no difficulty in controlling it. Behaviour is also good on greasy or loose road surfaces. On fast bends body roll is moderate, and the tyres
are unusually quiet. Riding comfort is also good and the Hawk does not bottom easily on badly potholed roads. The Burman worm-and-peg steering
mechanism is rather on the slow side, requiring 4.5 turns from lock to lock. Due to a pronounced understeering characteristic, the steering
is not particularly light.
In spite of the large tyre
size and weight of the car, however, the steering
does not call for any serious effort on corners. Very little reaction is felt in the hands over bad roads. The turning circle is 39ft, which is not abnormal in view of the long wheelbase of the car. The Lockheed brakes
gave a good so performance and showed themselves to be quite free from fade on the 31-mile descent from Kurrajong Heights in neutral. Pedal pressures are moderate and results are satisfactory. The brake-lining area is 181 square inches. The handbrake is of the pull-up type at the driver's right side. It effectively stopped the car down a gradient of 1 in 8.
Apart from the driver's seating position, discussed above, the controls are nicely arranged, with a wheel well raked and not too close to the body. The pedals are large and are well spaced, but are a little too high from the floor. The driver's window requires only H turns of its crank for full movement, but it is rather stiff in operation. Vision in all directions is excellent, thanks to the wrap-around screen and rear window, and the high seating position. The column gearshift has its pivot point above the line of the steering
column, and is consequently set uncomfortably high in relation to the wheel. Its action is, however, positive and the synchromesh is slow but infallible. The overdrive switch is conveniently located on a finger beneath the wheel rim.
The instruments are before the driver and comprise speedometer
and gauges for fuel tank and water temperature. There is also a clock in the centre of the fascia. Bright warning lights are provided for oil pressure, generator and turn indicators. There is also a high-beam warning, coupled to a foot dip-switch. The minor controls are well spaced about the fascia and are easy to identify by touch. The handbrake is in a sensible location at the right of the driver's seat. Convenient features are a reversing light, self-parking wipers, and a dip-switch which is also a foot-rest. Unfortunately the wipers do not overlap and leave a large unswept V in the centre of the screen.
The four-cylinder engine is a particularly pleasing example of its type, and it gives extremely good torque and flexibility in the lower speed ranges. This is in some measure due to the Zenith carburettor. Engine bore and stroke are 81 by 110mm, and the compression ratio is 7.5 to 1, which gives a b.m.e.p of 131 lb at 2,300 r.p.m. Access is particularly good to all engine components, and to the gearshift and hydraulic reservoirs. It is an easy engine to work on. The transmission
has the following overall ratios: overdrive 3.5, top gear 4.5, third gear 6.8, and second gear 11.2.
The drop from top to third gear is a little wider than usual, and may be due to the maker's intention that this shall be used as a three-speed gearbox, by normally ignoring first gear. The unit construction of frame and body is a good example of up-to-date engineering, and it gives a car virtually free from , drumming and torsional flexure. Suspension
is conventional by coil springs at front with an anti-roll bar
, and in rear by semi-elliptic springs
. All wheels are damped by telescopic shock absorbers.
The seats are both of bench type and have widths of 521 in and 59in respectively. The seat squabs are particularly deep from front to rear. They are covered in synthetic material. Legroom is ample in front for two, but in rear the knee-room is only 10 inches when the front seat is in the centre of its travel (measuring 51 in). Headroom (seat to roof measurement) is 34in for both seats. The fascia has an attractive design and is of metal with an imitation walnut pattern. There is large glovebox opposite the passenger and a small open pocket in the depth of each front door. There is also a small open pocket in the centre of the fascia, where the radio control would otherwise be disposed.
Haircord carpet is used in the front and rear. The hump in the front floor is particularly large, but the tunnel across the rear floor is normal. Very wide retractable armrests are provided in the centre of both squabs, and there is a side armrest on each door. Ventilation is adequately provided by an excellent ram system to the front floor and by vent panels in each front window. The boot is unusually large for an English car and provides a luggage capacity of approximately 19 cub, ft. The spare wheel is ingeniously clamped to one side of the boot, and the wheel-changing tools are neatly fitted in clip-stowages. The boot lid is counter-balanced.
About the Humber Hawk (as of 1957)
With overdrive, A£1,796 (inc. tax).
Five/six seater, very large boot. Wheelbase, 9ft I in; overall length, 15ft Sin; track, 4ft 8in; clearance, 7in; tyres, 6.40 x 15in; tankage, gals.
Unladen, tank full, 27£cwt; laden weight as tested, 30£cwt.
Four-cylinder engine of litres capacity, developing 78 horsepower (gross). R.A.C. rating, 16.5 h.p. Four speed plus overdrive gearbox. Unitary construction of car.
Touring Fuel Consumption and Average Speed:
24.3 miles per gallon at an average speed of 45.3 m.p.h over the test route.
Maximum Speeds (in touring trim):
Overdrive, 89 mph; normal top gear, 82.5 mph; third gear, 61 mph; second gear, 36 mph.