Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Humber Sceptre Article

Bruce Gibbs (a previous owner)wrote this article for the March edition of 'Just Cars' and I have reprinted it below.

In late 1965, the Rootes Group introduced the new Humber Sceptre Mark I sedan that they described as “a superbly equipped Sports Sedan”. Twelve months later, it was face-lifted and the Mark II version was introduced. Originally it is believed that Rootes were going to use this model as a new Sunbeam Rapier. The interior of the Sceptre supports this, as it is a modernised and stylised version of the 1965 Rapier Mark V wooden dashboard. Rootes Australia did not import the Sceptre, but a number of both Mark I and II models have reached our shores, (particularly Melbourne)as private imports and my Humber Sceptre is one of those. It is believed to have arrived there in the early 1970’s and was in daily use by two owners until it was taken off the road in 1986. Part of the 1986 registration label remains and I have a copy of the third party insurance for that year showing the owner’s name.

It sat in a shed unused until 2000 when a Rootes enthusiast in Sydney saw it for sale and bought it. In November 2001 Bruce bought the Humber Sceptre when the speedometer showed 60,000 miles.

It was originally Autumn Gold with black Ambla upholstery and white roof-lining. It was delivered with the standard 4 speed full synchromesh gearbox with electric overdrive on 3rd and 4th gears. A sticker on the Motorola radio says it was supplied and fitted by Gordon March Ltd, 1 Broomfield Rd, Coventry on 17th November 1966. It is powered by Rootes’ new “1725” alloy head 5 bearing motor that produces 91 Bhp (68kw) @5500rpm and 105.9 lb ft (144Nm) torque@ 3500rpm. This was a sporty engine for a small sedan in 1966 and it even compares well to the ‘149’ EH Holden 6 cylinder engine, which supplied 100bhp (75kw) at 4400rpm with torque of 145lb-ft (197Nm) at 2000rpm.

Despite its 20 years of continual use and then 14 years of storage, the car was well preserved. The paint had faded, but the interior remained in excellent condition. It had suffered a few knocks and featured more than five shades of ‘Autumn Gold’ paint. The first Sydney owner had the motor reconditioned by a well known Hillman (Rootes) mechanic in West Gosford. A new exhaust system was fitted, along with a new radiator, clutch and pressure plate. It also had the rear brakes cleaned and reconditioned and new alternator fitted. The car was soon running, registered and in almost daily use as a commuting vehicle on Sydney’s north shore.

Some small items still needed doing mechanically when I bought it, so I took it to Rebel Restorations at West Gosford where Gary got the engine and electrics purring. Gary found some light rust in the inner sills and repaired them as well. Now it had grey sills as well as its many shades of Autumn Gold. The car was very driveable and stayed this way until 2005 when I took it to King Creek Smash Repairs where George had agreed to repaint it in ‘Rosso Red’, similar to the original red colour. In the sales information, the Humber Sceptre could be ordered in ‘Pippin Red’ with black upholstery. This sounded a good combination and very 60’s, especially with the lashings of chrome and stainless steel trim there is on my Humber Sceptre.
In the meantime, I had been busy on eBay and had obtained, from England, a new old stock left and right hand side grille set, as well as the centre, which arrived still in its original wrapping, all new and glistening! I also found new front and rear windscreen rubbers and Ralf Moore Glass found me a new windscreen. New ‘1725’ badges and name badges were also found in England. I was also lucky enough to get from England a used, but almost perfect seal that goes between the windscreen rubber and padded dashboard surface to replace the original that was well warped by the Australian sunshine. New hub caps and stainless steel wheel trims were found. Locally, I sourced new door, window, glass and boot seals and new window channels from Grippy Rubber.

With all the NOS and replacement parts ready to apply, George from King Creek set about stripping the Sceptre by removing all the trim, door panels and glass. The bonnet and the boot were taken off and repaired separately. Every blemish was marked and any old repairs were reworked and the crinkled left front frame was straightened. The body was then totally undercoated and rubbed backed before going to the spray booth for the finishing colour. The wheels were repainted white and new thin white wall tyres fitted, then set aside whilst the car was rubbed back and polished.

It was then off to the upholsterer, where all-new black carpet was fitted, including to the lower parts of the door trims. The boot, previously fitted with a carpet mat in the factory, was totally lined with carpet and black felt. Sound proofing was put under the bonnet to replace the rather tacky looking effort Rootes had put in around the engine back perimeter in an attempt to make the inside of the Humber whisper quiet like its bigger siblings, the Hawk and Super Snipe. Soundproofing was also applied to the boot lid.

Whilst all this was happening, parts were sent off for re-chroming. This included the front and rear bumper bars, bumper overriders (minus their rubber cushions), all four door handles and buttons, the boot handle and its cast surround, and finally, the cast locking petrol cap and assembly. At the same time, I got stuck in to polishing and cleaning all the stainless steel strips and fittings, and all the remaining chrome on the window frames and interior door handles.

The final product met all my expectations - the bright shiny red paintwork, the gleaming chrome and stainless steel, the white wall tyres – it all looked sensational. Since “completion” of the project, I replaced all the water hoses, along with the front brake pads and calipers. The brake and clutch master cylinders were also overhauled and new front brake hoses fitted.

1 comment:

  1. I love hearing about classic car restoration. It can be so hard restoring parts, especially for such a rare car. Some cars aren't in great shape and need lots of repair. However, it sounds like this turned out great!