Happy Birthday: Hillman Hunter turns 50

Mike Humble

hunter-press

 

Even though BLs Marina is remembered either fondly or with dread, it wasn’t just Leyland who built a very average motor car. One such example has turned fifty this month and that car is the Hillman Hunter.

November 1966 saw the introduction of a new range of family saloons that today seem rather ordinary, but roll back half a century and this all new saloon was a light year apart from other Rootes group of that era. Slightly larger than Fords Mk2 Cortina, the Hunter came with two engine sizes – a 1500 and 1725cc unit that were a updated and five bearing crankshaft version of an existing design.

 

hunter-drawing-office
A Rootes Group styling image of the signed off design that was to become the Arrow range of Hillman / Humber / Singer and Sunbeams medium car range for 1966

 

Hillmans parent company – The Rootes Group were never going to eclipse the might of the Ford Cortina (BL had the same issue a few years later with the Marina) but at least they had a car to compete with. Replacing the Super-Minx model in 1966, the Hunter spawned a number of badge engineered models such as the Singer Vogue and Sunbeam Rapier amongst others.

Barely a year after launch, the Rootes company was taken over by the American Chrysler corporation who allowed the Hillman name to continue for another ten years but other brands such as Singer and Humber were eventually deleted. Models from 1976 onwards then became known as the Chrysler Hunter but time was running out following the arrival of the Chrysler Alpine model.

 

1972-hunter-gls
Models under the Humber or Sunbeam brands were notably luxurious. The Hunter GT featured twin carbs while the top line GLS model (above) also featured lashings of burr walnut, a close ratio gearbox and a highly tuned 1725cc engine breathing through a brace of Weber DCOE40 carbs modified by Suffolk based engineering firm Holbay.. they sounded superb!

 

UK production of the Hunter ceased back in 1979 but a deal with the Iran National Motor Group that dated back to the 1960s saw Hunters built in Iran from 1967 in kit form. By 1976 the car was fully built in Iran under the “Paykan” brand. Oddly enough the word Paykan translates from Persian to English as Arrow – the name that Rootes gave the car as a code when being originally designed.

Hunter Trivia

  • Built from 1966 to 1979
  • Saloon – Coupe (Sunbeam Rapier) – Estate variants
  • 1.5 or 1.7 engines with manual, auto and manual overdrive gearboxes
  • The 1968 London to Sydney rally was won by a works Hunter driven by Andew Cowan
  • GLS models featured a tuned engine from Suffolk based engineering firm Holbay
  • Effectively replaced by the Talbot Solara
  • Iranian Paykan models were built until 2005

 

 


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