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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
Manufacturer Rootes Group
Production 1938-1967
Assembly United Kingdom
Australia [1]
Body and chassis
Related Humber Hawk
Humber Snipe
Humber Pullman
Humber Imperial

The Humber Super Snipe is a car which was produced from 1938 to 1967 by the British-based Humber car company, part of the Rootes Group.

Pre-war Super Snipe

Humber Super Snipe
Humber Military reg 1939 4000 cc allegedly.JPG
Production 1938-1940
1500 (approx) made[2]
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
Sports saloon
Drophead coupé
Engine 4086 cc Straight-6 side valve
Wheelbase 114 in (2,896 mm)[3]
Length 175 in (4,445 mm)
Width 70 in (1,778 mm)
Predecessor Humber 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 operators

Super Snipe Mark I to III

Humber Super Snipe Mark I-III
Humber Super Snipe 4086cc 1952.JPG
Humber Super Snipe Mk III (1952)
Production 1945-1952
production 3909 (Mk I)
8,361 (Mk II)
8,703 (Mk III)[5]
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon [5]
drophead coupe [5]
estate car [5]
Engine 4086 cc Straight-6 side valve (I to III)
Wheelbase 114 in (2,896 mm) (I)[3]
117 in (2,972 mm) (I to III)
Length 180 in (4,572 mm) (I)
187 in (4,750 mm) (II)
191 in (4,851 mm) (III)
Width 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 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.

Mk I

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)


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 coupés 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.

Humber Super Snipe Mark II (1949)


The Mk III followed in 1950 and was externally very similar but 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.[7]

Humber Super Snipe Mark III (1951)


Humber Super Snipe Mark IV
1955 Humber Super Snipe Mk IV sedan.jpg
1955 example
Production 1952-1958
production 17,993 (IV)[5]
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
Engine 4138 cc Straight-6 ohv
Transmission 4-speed manual
Wheelbase 116 in (2,946 mm)
Length 197 in (5,004 mm)
Width 71 in (1,803 mm)
Height 54 in (1,400 mm)[8]

The Mark IV of 1952 used a 1950 Hawk Mk IV body shell lengthened by 6 in (152 mm) but with a 4138 cc 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. 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 £1,481, including taxes.[9]

1955 Humber Super Snipe Mk IV sedan rear.jpg

New Super Snipe Series I to V

Humber Super Snipe Series I-V
Humber Super Snipe Series III.jpg
Production 1958-1967
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
Engine 2651 cc Straight-6 ohv (I)
2965 cc ohv (II-V)
Transmission 3 speed manual
Overdrive and automatic optional
Wheelbase 110 in (2,794 mm)[3]
Length 185 in (4,699 mm)[10] (I & II) 188 in (4,775 mm) (III to V)
Width 69.5 in (1,765 mm)[10]
Height 62 in (1,575 mm)[10]

In October 1958, a new Super Snipe was introduced. 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. 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 eventuate.

Series I

The Series I Super Snipe had 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 Super Snipe was smaller on the outside, but larger on the inside, with improved performance and more modern appearance, similar to mid-1950s American Chrysler Corporation cars like the 1958 Plymouth Fury.

Series II

For the 1959 Series II, the engine was enlarged to 3 litres, 2,965 cc, by increasing the bore to 87.2 mm (3.4 in). 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 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.[10]

Series III

The styling of the 1960 Series III is distinguishable by its four headlights and revised full-width grille. The nose of the car had also been lengthened by 3.25 inches (83 mm) to accommodate an additional pulley mounted on the front of the crankshaft so that air conditioning could be included as an option, principally for the North American market.

Series IV

The 1964 Series IV had a slightly higher-tuned engine giving 124.5 bhp (93 kW) as against 121 bhp (90 kW). 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

The final Series V version of the Saloon saw an upper body restyle, (also applied to the Hawk Saloon) 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 128.5 bhp (95.8 kW), and synchromesh was fitted to all ratios in the gearbox—on the previous versions it had only been on the upper two. 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 (July 1967) had this to say of the car: "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".[11] Rootes Group ceased Humber production with the Series VA in July 1967, by which time the company was under control of the American Chrysler Corporation, as Chrysler Europe. The last of the Humbers were assembled by Chrysler Australia at Fishermen's Bend Port Melbourne, Australia in the early 1970s. There were several attempts to fit existing Chrysler V8 engines in this body, but proved unsatisfactory. Advance plans and prototypes were produced for a completely new V6 motor installed into the Chrysler 180/2L and marketed as a Humber in the UK did not eventuate.

Humber Imperial

The Imperial version had a vinyl roof, automatic transmission and hydrosteer power steering as standard, though a manual 3-speed transmission could be ordered. It also featured electrically adjustable rear shock absorber settings, a rear heater and optional West-of-England cloth-trimmed seats.

Humber Imperial 1964-67

Export markets & foreign assembly

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. 1.0 1.1 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. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 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. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Sedgwick, M.; Gillies. M (1986). A-Z of Cars 1945-1970. Devon, UK: Bay View Books. ISBN 1-870979-39-7. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Humber Super Snipe Saloon (road test)". March August 25, 1950. 
  7. "The Humber Super Snipe Mk III". June 13, 1951. 
  8. "Second Hand car guide supplement". April 1960. pp. between pages 768 & 769. 
  9. "The Humber Super Snipe Road Test". August 5, 1953. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 "The Humber Super Snipe". February 10, 1960. 
  11. Motoring & Driving Register, July 1967, pages 23-28.

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