A new conception of executive luxury – 1966 vintage.
The bookshelf has been meticulously rearranged, read and enjoyed of late. However, one among its number is sadly no more. In the recent fine weather, distanced from the world in a sunny back garden, but with a call of nature due to my drink problem (a pint of water every twenty minutes in this heat), I returned to find but one page left and the cover.
The Times Motoring Annual from 1966 was in a decrepit state, the stiff breeze discarding the remainder in various neighbouring gardens I suspect. Saddled with the remains, I felt duty bound to honour this tome and the remarkably Archie Vicar-esque review of the Humber Imperial. With less drinking references, mind.
The unknown author revels in the cars exceptional comfort and equipment for the price of £1,796 (including purchase tax) finding the three litre, six cylinder engine (making 137.5 bhp no less) made for a “whispering, executive express.”
Over a nine hundred mile test period, averaging “somewhere between 15-18 mpg”, the armchair character and easy, three speed Borg-Warner automatic transmission “soothes away the tensions of the British road” and will easily seat five in comfort. However, if one searches for a swifter and livelier machine, the Princess R with 175bhp must have been the S-line of the day.
Returning to the Coventry made, Rootes Group Imperial, finds our correspondent brimming with the cars 101mph top speed and finding the 50-70mph envelope the car’s “subdued hum, engine far from straining and little wind noise. Impressive. With surprising ease, the Imperial rode over bad surfaces, sailed through winding lanes on an even keel with no sickening lurch or roll to kill the ride. With the adjustable Armstrong shock absorbers set to “firm” with a skilled pilot behind the wheel, this limousine could hold its own against many a more sporting car.” A frisson of AMG here, nearly sixty years in advance?
There is also admiration for the power steering that “doesn’t sacrifice feel at speed but is perfect for town centre parking” and finding both front and rear anti-roll bars added to the Humber’s stability. Brakes? Well, another plus point, for “the front discs and rear drums were safe and progressive” but finding “the car’s tail eager to wag should one apply the power too sharply. Nothing a quick flick of the wheel can’t resolve.”
To the interior and our scribe gushes on. “Both front seats are first-rate; wide, deep and fully adjustable. The rear bench can seat three with large amounts of knee and elbow room. West of England cloth upholstery and the trim throughout lend the Imperial a club-like insulated atmosphere, set off by the fine Thrupp & Mabberley coachwork, walnut veneered fascia and door rails, folding rear picnic table and deep pile carpets.” My cup runneth over.
Of course as a seasoned veteran of the day, not quite everything was as well received. Staying inside due to the poor weather, “the wipers left the curved corners of the widescreen un-wiped and not all the door locks worked properly. Warming up the engine often proved tediously slow.” Those West Midland maladies continue; “the essential controls are close to hand whereas the dashboard has an unnecessary fussy appearance with some fifteen switches, levers, knobs, five dials and six separate warning lights to distract the driver.”
His mini diatribe continues with “the gas pedal is uncomfortably offset right, finding myself forever catching my heel on the handbrake alongside the door and for the six foot chap or one wearing a hat, the Imperial does not offer good headroom.” Not finished yet, either: “Forward visibility’s great but it’s a matter of guesswork when reversing with the length of that tail.” Oh dear…
Luckily, those tears before bedtime are cleared safely away when matters arrive on trim levels. “There are three cigar lighters, armrests and ashtrays in abundance, courtesy lights front and rear including a little one in the generous glovebox. The boot is huge, the doors have child proof locks and built-in seat anchorages.” Phew. And he likes the car up front too, “fog, spot and dual headlamps give good night time penetration and the black, fabric finished roof adds a touch of distinction.”
His opinion given, no stars or marks out of ten are to be found. Just a list of technical information that the potential purchaser might be in need of. Those not already mentioned above are the 15 foot seven and a half inch length, a width of five foot ten, a turning circle of 37 feet, 16 gallon petrol tank (blimey!) and upfront weight at 22 and a half hundredweight – 1020 Kilograms to you, sir.
No picture of the car is provided, nor mentions of dealer or more pertinently, where to administer service or repair. With our motoring correspondent being employed by the Times Newspaper, a more covert meeting with Mr. Vicar at some suitable hostelry on Watling Street was arranged, to ruminate over matters far more pressing; ale, sausages and where to purloin the best fags, I’d wager.
It appears that the good Mr. Vicar also managed to get his hands upon the Rootes Group’s Sixties flagbearer, albeit in this case, a lowly Super Snipe. Read his review here.