Humber Super Snipe

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New Humber Super Snipe Series I - V

1958 - 1967
United Kingdom
Six Cylinder OHV
2655 cc (Series I) 2965cc (Series II - V)
105 bhp (Series I), 121 bhp (Series II - III), 124.5 bhp (Series IV), 128.5 bhp (Series V)
3 speed man (with overdrive) and 3 speed auto
Top Speed:
100 mph (Series V)
Number Built:
2 star
Humber New Super Snipe Series I - V
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3

Delmar "Barney" Roos

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.

The Super Snipe's design was contributed to by American engine genius Delmar "Barney" Roos who left a successful career at Studebaker to join Rootes in 1936. 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.

The Humber Light Reconnaissance Car

Within a year of introduction, World War 2 broke out in Europe but the car continued in production as a British military staff car designated as a 4-seater, 4x2, while the same chassis was used for an armoured reconnaissance vehicle, the Humber Light Reconnaissance Car. In 1946, post-war civilian production resumed and the Super Snipe evolved though 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.

Mark I Super Snipe.

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 2731cc 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. Throughout the years 1936 - 1952 the maximum power output of the engine was always given by the manufacturer as 100 bhp at 3400 rpm.

Mk II Super Snipe

For the 1948 Mark II the body was updated, headlights fitted into the wings and running-boards re-introduced. Transverse-spring independent suspension, first introduced on the Snipe and Pullman in 1935, continued to be used. A few drophead coupes were made by Tickford in 1949 and 1950. 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 "by pass" lamp. These were dropped in 1949 in favour of rectangular side lamps which were continued in the Mark III.

Mk III Super Snipe

The Mk III followed in 1950 and was externally very similar but had a Panhard rod added to the rear suspension 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.

Mark IV Super Snipe

The Mark IV of 1952 used a 1950 Hawk Mk IV body shell lengthened by 6 in (152 mm) but with a 4138cc 113 bhp (84 kW) overhead-valve engine based on one from a 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. The Mark IV was, naturally enough, claimed by the manufacturers to be "the finest Snipe to ever take the road." Everything about the car was new and the six cylinder o.h.v. engine was dubbed "the blue riband." The power available from the new engine was in excess of anything previously marketed in this series and the flexibility at low speeds was claimed to be exceptional. An increase of 13 percent in b.h.p. was the result of the new design even though the capacity was much the same.

The 113 b.h.p. was developed at the low engine revs, of 3400 r.p.m. Coupled with the shorter stroke, a seven bearing crankshaft and comparatively simple design made for exceptionally long life particularly when you took into consideration the higher gear ratios of the new model Snipe. The valves were operated by push-rods which were arranged vertically and in line with the rocker shaft divided into two. The inlet valves were larger than the exhausts having respective diameters of 1.74 in. and 1.51 in. Double valve springs were used. An interesting design feature was that all the valves had separate ports and an unusual detail was the use of spigoted sleeves in the inlet ports on Nos. 3 and 4 cylinders, ensuring accurate alignment of the manifold. The combustion chambers were fully machined and valve inserts were not used.

The camshaft was mounted to one side, supported by four bearings and located by means of a plate bolted to the front face of the crankcase. The pistons were supported by fully-hollow gudgeon pins held in place by circlips. Four grooves were located in the piston, the upper two housed the compression rings, the top being chromium plated. An oil control ring was fitted in the third groove, and a fourth groove below the gudgeon pin boss was provided so that a supplementary oil control ring could be fitted after the engine had done a high mileage. The separate inlet and exhaust ports were fed by a single down-draught Stromberg carburettor and the fuel pump was mounted on the side of the crankcase. It was mechanically driven from the camshaft.

A 10 in. Borg & Beck dry single plate clutch delivered the power to the gearbox. Here there was synchromesh on all four forward gears. The propeller shaft was offset slightly to the right of the chassis, resulting in a compact construction for the crown wheel and differential cage. The back end ratio was high at 3.7 to 1. Front suspension was by independent coil springs with the axis of the wishbone bearings set at an angle of 18 deg. to the chassis centreline. The direct acting shock absorbers were mounted in the centre of the coil springs and were attached to the chassis-mounted spring pan at the upper end, and anti-roll bars were also fitted.

The rear was suspended by half elliptic springs and dampened by telescopic shock absorbers. The body was of pressed steel, and a four-door, four-light construction with hinged quarter lights in the front windows. The overall effect of the design was an elaborate scaled-up version of the previous Snipe model, and the visibility through the wide, deep, curved front windscreen was excellent. All four doors were forward hinged, offering wide entry or exit to the car. The front seat was finished in a neat pleated design and of the bench type capable of seating three people in absolute comfort. The rear seats were not obstructed by the wheel arches and the back squab was curved at its extreme ends, allowing passengers to lounge at an angle. The luggage compartment was the largest ever provided on any previous Humber, giving a total capacity of 19.5 cubic feet.

The comprehensive equipment list included a two-speed screen-wiper, a foot dipper arranged also to serve as a footrest, ashtrays front and rear, a thermostatically controlled cigar lighter, a rug rail on the back of the front squab, an interior light for the boot, a clock mounted separately above the windscreen, a two-stage instrument panel lighting and reflectors fitted at the rear below the stop lights. The semi-circular speedometer was calibrated In miles and kilometres and was shrouded to prevent reflection in the windscreen, while the remaining instruments, petrol and oil gauge, temperature gauge and ammeter were recessed to obviate glare. There was also ignition and high beam warning lights. The steering column gear lever was both long and well-placed. The full circle horn ring and pleasant design of the steering wheel added to the good taste of the interior appointments.

From 1955, overdrive was available as an option, followed in 1956 by an automatic gearbox. 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 decreased to 15.5 miles per imperial gallon (18.2 L/100 km; 12.9 mpg-US). The test car cost slightly more at UK£1,481, including taxes.

New Humber Super Snipe Series I to V

The Series I New Super Snipe was introduced in 1958 with a 2655cc Six Cylinder engine, and sharing the same bodyshell as its smaller engined stablemate, the Humber Hawk, which used a 2267cc four cylinder engine. Although mainly sold as a "saloon", other versions of the vehicle included the "Limouisine" and "Estate" models. The New Super Snipe featured a 3 speed manual transmission with optional overdrive - early examples had the overdrive available on both second and third gears, however later models would have the overdrive restricted to 3rd gear only. Available as an option (and in keeping with the luxurious nature of the car) was the ever-reliable three speed Borg Warner auto.

1960 saw the introduction of a larger 2965cc engine for the series III. This engine would remain unchanged (except for different carburettor setups) right up to the last Humber made, the Series V of 1967. Also introduced that year was the familiar 4 headlamp setup. Claimed by many to be a first for the British car industry, particularly on medium priced sedans, the extra headlights at least made it easy to distinguish a Series 3 from its predecessors.

The Series V, introduced in late 1964, was squared up considerably in comparison to the previous Series I to IV models which had all shared the same basic shell. The Series V also sported twin Stromberg 175 carburettors, boosting power to 128 hp and propelling the car up to speeds close to 100 mph (160 km/h). In 1968 the Super Snipe was discontinued, and the Hillman Hunter style of Humber Sceptre that was previously based on a Hillman Super Minx bodyshell took its place as the last model of Humber available, being continued up to 1976.
Humber Super Snipe Mark I
Humber Super Snipe
1954 Humber Super Snipe
1959 Humber Super Snipe Series II
1959 Humber Super Snipe Series II Estate
1961 Humber Super Snipe
1965 Humber Super Snipe

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The History of Humber (USA Site)
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Neal B Culver
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I owned a 1966 Humber Super Snipe Estate for a time back in the 80's and again in the late 90's. It was a delightful vehicle. The engine was smooth and dependable. It was quiet and solidly built. As a station wagon it had a very useful carrying capacity. It cruised nicely on the freeway and had many subtle refinements. What a joy to sit in the back seat at a drive-in restaurant and make use of the little fold down wooden tables attached to the back of the front seat. It was not only luxurious but practical.
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