(unsorted bits and pieces)
Hillman (1907-78). Last made by Hillman Motor Car Company Ltd., Coventry, Warwickshire.
Humber (1901-76). Last made by Humber Ltd., Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire.
William Rootes quote:
No other man-made device since the shields and lances of the ancient knights fulfills a man's ego like an automobile
The Humber concern fused with Commer in 1926, Hillman joined in 1928. William and Reginal Rootes ran a distributing and exporting department of the Humber concern. The Rootes Group was founded in 1932.
At the end of the 30s there were six major British producers: Morris, Austin, Standard, Rootes, Ford, and Vauxhall. The Rootes Group, based on Hillman and Humber, was a combine formed in 1928 by a family that had built a large automobile sales concern and then moved from sales to production in 1932.
The replacement of Singer by Standard was simply the rise of one company and the decline of another, as evidence that open competition could still change the structure of the British automotive industry.
The Rootes Group acquired Karrier in 1934, Sunbeam and Talbot in 1935 and Singer in 1956.
The controlling genius at Rootes, from the 1930s to 1964, was 'Billy' Rootes, knighted as Sir William for his part in the war effort, and enobled as Lord Rootes (before the Apex/Imp was conceived).
After the war Rootes were content to maintain their position as builders of medium and large cars, the Hillman Minx and Humber Super Snipe being their market leaders. But they did not ignore the small car market. Eg. William and Reginald Rootes were very interested in the engineering that had gone into producing the VW Beetle.
After WW II, it was unclear what was to become of the Beetle factory at Wolfsburg. It had been captured by the Americans and handed to the British to administer. The factory was placed under the control of British army officer Major Ivan Hirst (19162000).
It was offered to representatives from the British, American and French motor industries. Famously, all rejected it. After an inspection of the plant, William Edward Rootes, Sir William, head of the British Rootes Group, told Hirst the project would fail within two years, and that the car "is quite unattractive to the average motorcar buyer, is too ugly and too noisy ... If you think you're going to build cars in this place, you're a bloody fool, young man."
In 1949 a project was started to design something similar. The prototype that Craig Miller and his team came up with was nick-named 'Little Jimmy' - but Jimmy had had the wrong stylists on his case and definitly lacked performance.
It wasn't until the mid 1950s that another project was begun, very low key. This eventually lead to the making of the Imp.
Rootes' Engineering Director at the time, Bernard 'BB' Winter asked Mike Parkes and Tim Fry to make an analysis of the current small car market.
Winter was a Service engineer, self taught.
Early 50s: The Rootes Group (Hillman, Humber, Sunbeam Talbot and Singer) went about their business very differently, pushing for sales whenever and wherever possible and gaining entree to the exclusive circles of diplomatic and social life in Mayfair and the like!
Adelaide: Before all its various agencies were dropped in favour of the Ford franchise, Maughan Thiem moved into a further line of motor vehicle business. In 1954 the company started to sell products of the Rootes group, and found that the Humber, Hillman, Sunbeam and Commer vehicles sold well. However, shortly after taking on this franchise the company changed over to Ford, and the Rootes dealership was relinquished.
The Minx was a very nice little car but it's handling was dreadful, and gearbox synchromesh was a problem.
Its badge-engineered sister was the Gazelle.
The Humber's engine was always developing oil leaks.
The luxury Humbers: solid if uninspiring middle-of-the-market models. Rootes had got by in their technical development by taking small steps and so they never broke any new ground. They spend lots of money on dealerships but very little on technical design.
In 1958, when Bernard Winter retired, Peter Ware took over as Director and Chief Engineer, Humber ltd. He was impressed by the sound commercial appeal of Rootes' models ("nice looking little cars"), but he was less than enarmoured with their standard of engineering ("awful gearshifts and brakes, and heavy steering").
"Quality control was almost non-existent. Engineering facilities, too, needed immediate attention. There were hardly any test rigs for component testing and the chassis engineering shop simply comprised a few pits. There was nothing whatsoever to test electrical components and no facilities either for endurance testing."
Rootes had rather limited design talent on board. For the 1958 Super Snipe they had borrowed the general lay-out of the Armstrong Siddeley Saphire engine in exchange for farming out assembly of Alpines.
Sporty Sunbeam Rapier
Peter Ware's arrival coincided with the proposed announcement of the new Sunbeam Alpine sportscar. He took one of the pre-production cars for a test and found the steering heavy, the hood difficult to erect and poor torsional rigidity over rough road surfaces.
Production had already been arranged and a launch date fixed, but the car handled like a jelly and the doors rattled. While the problems were sorted out, the car's launch date was delayed by nearly a year - much to Armstrong Siddeley's annoyance, since they were to undertake assembly.
By the early 1960s, the existing Rootes range monopolised their entire factory space.
So contruction of the Alpine had had to be farmed out to Armstrong Siddeley Motors.
And for the Imp a new site had to be developed.
By both financial and commercial criteria the Apex project was a risky one. It committed the company to building an entirely new car, to learning about a new high-technology casting technique and to building the cars in a new factory 300 miles away from the base.
While the company already had land at both Dunstable and Coventry, the government of the day would not issue Industrial Development Certificates for new sites, or major extensions to existing factories, in those areas already considered heavily given over to industry.
In the event, Rootes chose Linwood, near Glasgow, as the site for their new factory. This decision was hardly in Rootes best interests, if only because of the difficulties in communication that distance created as far as the manufacture of an 'all-new' motor car was concerned. However is was next to an existing factory owned by Pressed Steel, who were to be responsible for making the bodyshells. And in May 1961 work began on building the plant.
At the very end of the 50s, Leo Kuzmicki joined Rootes. He was well-known for his race-engine work with Norton motorcycles, and VanWall. He would stay with Rootes until his retirement in the 70s.
1961: the Acton Strike. The Rootes Motors Incorporated financial situation was desperate.
Despite flagging finances Rootes went ahead with the Sunbeam Tiger programme, hoping it would give a much needed boost to sales in America (the UK market wasn't really considered). It was quite a strain on the resources to build the Ford V8 engined Tiger and the project maybe should have been stopped.
It was a nice automobile, it had a lazy sort of power and a total refinement.
The Tiger spawned other Chrysler V8 projects, one based on the Humber Sceptre, the other on the Humber Super Snipe, neither of which came to fruition.
Chrysler wanted a foothold in the UK, like Ford and GM had done already. In 1964 Chrysler bought a proportion of Rootes' voting and non-voting shares. (An interest of 30% ?)
A series of strikes at the Linwood factory crippled production. There were 31 stoppages in 1964 alone.
Chrysler representatives to join the Board of Rootes Motors Ltd.
Lord Rootes, Chariman of the Rootes Group and Sir Reginald Rootes (Deputy Chairman) with Mr. Geoffrey Rootes, (Managing Director of Rootes Motors Ltd.) and the three Chrysler directors who are joining the Rootes Motors Ltd. board during October, photographed together at the Paris Motor Show to-day.
They are - left to right: -
30th September, 1964
Lord Rootes died Christmas 1964. Sir Reginald Rootes was elected succeeding chairman. The new Lord Rootes became deputy chairman and continued as managing director of Rootes Motors Ltd.
N.P. Catchpole became secretary of Rootes Motors Ltd.; vice secretary: A.F. Rankine, who would retire soon afterwards.
The group would be administered in 3 operating divisions with divisional managing directors:
home distributing companies
|B.G. Rootes||T.D. Rootes||R. Watson Lees|
|William Ross, Secretary of State for Scotland (3rd from right) talks to an operator in the die casting division during a visit to Rootes' Linwood factory. Lord Rootes, 2nd from right and G.H.B. cattell look on.
[Autocar, 22 January 1965]
J.T. Panks - managing director, export division Rootes Ltd.
M.A. Freshney - managing director Rootes Motors Inc., New York
E.J.B. Mackie - managing director Rootes Motors (Canada) Ltd., New York
G.R. Hartwell - managing director, home division, Rootes Ltd.
G.W. Rossiter - remains a director of Rootes Ltd. and joins the headquarters staff as administrative director
G.H.B. Cattell - managing director, Humber Ltd.
W. Garner - managing director of Rootes (Scotland) Ltd.
On the Imp there were snags to be sorted out;
The Arrow range was just getting into high gear.
Motor, 1965, week ending October 1965:
Rootes/ Chrysler move
Rootes (Australia) Ltd. have proposed an amalgamation with Chrysler Australia Ltd. with the object of gaining the advantages to be offered by the Australian government to those companies whose products are moving towards a local content of 95 per cent. Details on the special tariff terms are not yet known, but it would not be economic for Rootes alone to set up plant to comply. By merging with Chrysler, they will have about 14 per cent of the Australian market and will stop assembling Simca cars in favour of a locally-made Hillman to gain tariff advantages.
The Simca-Rootes Division of Chrysler Motors Corporation
In 1966 Rootes purchased the Pressed Steel plant in Linwood. This was part of a deal under which Rootes were taken over by the Chrysler Corporation, a takeover which was to have immediate and far reaching effects. Within two years the luxury Humbers were axed, as were the sporting Sunbeam Alpines and Tigers, leaving the company floundering only the Imp and the Hunter ranges remaining.
Peter Ware left in 1966.
Rootes 1967 losses tripled with regard to 1966. In 1966 they had doubled. In 1965, '66 and '67 Rootes lost 16 million pounds. The UK government (under Wilson) saw no other solution than to give the Rootes group in American hands.
Reginald (Reggie) Rootes retired in 1967. William's son Geoffrey took over as chairman - and promptly handed over the keys to Chrysler.
In 1967 Chrysler acquired a majority of the Rootes shares and took over the company. In the 1950s Chrysler had begun absorbing other companies in and out of the automotive industry. In 1966-67 it acquired control of Simca in France, Rootes Motors Ltd. in Britain, and Barreiros Diesel in Spain -- which were renamed Chrysler France, Chrysler United Kingdom, and Chrysler España. (In 1979 these were sold to P.S.A. Peugeot-Citroën in exchange for minority shares in Peugeot-Citroën.)
Chrysler modernised the plants, set up the Avenger and reorganised the Rootes group, presided by Gilbert Hunt. Hunt had been heading the Massey-Ferguson Holdings since 1960. May 1967 he took over Chrysler's Rootes group.
Modernising the Ryton plant supplied a small success. Chrysler invested 100 million pounds, 35 million for the new Avenger. In 1968 and 1969 the books showed a little profit. (1969: Fl. 6 million)
In 1969 the Hunter range joined the Imp on the Linwood production lines, and the following year the Avenger was launched (with many component parts being supplied by the Scottish factory).
|British car industry as a whole:|
Production numbers for 1970 were 5½% lower than 1969. In the first 8 months of 1970 export was reduced with 15%.
2700 strikes in 1970, many in the car industry.
Over the first half year of 1969 9.1% of cars sold in the UK were imported. The same period of 1970 it was 13%.
Total profit for BLMC over the first half year of 1969 was £9,500,000.- while over the first half year of 1970 is was £100,000.-
Consequences were a reduction in the gamma of car models, amongst other things.
July 1969: Rootes withdrew from international motoring events. The anonymous spokesman said "The commercial value obtainable is now outweighed by the costs". The company's recent successes:
1970 saw the the company's name changed from The Rootes Group to Chrysler U.K. ltd. This was also the year that the Avenger appeared (known on the continent as Sunbeam 1300/1600). Hunt hoped the Avenger would save Chrysler UK. Unfortunately the strikes of this year, both at the Chrysler plants and at the suppliers, caused a loss of 10 million pounds.
Due to the unrest, the introduction of a new model, larger than the Avenger, was postponed, and later given to Chrysler France instead.
The first half year of 1970 Rootes showed a loss of £10.8 million. Chrysler was unhappy.
In Spain Chrysler had bought Barreiros, which hadn't made profit since they bought a majority in 1967. In 1970 they contemplated firing 2500 employees.
1973: the Chrysler concern is in turnover the 5th entreprise of the world. In 1974 they were 15th, and in 1975 they were in the red. John Riccardo, heading the concern, held little love for the UK part of the company. Apprehensive of the English social perils, the Americans thought France to have better earning capacity. Chrysler France did make a profit during 1964-1973.
|Profit and Loss at|
Rootes / Chrysler UK
in million Pounds Sterling
In 1971, '72 and '73 Chrysler made a slight profit, despite the tug of war between employers and employees, by making only marginal investments. But this policy, together with the increasingly unfavourable sales opportunities for the old range (Imp and Hunter), and the worsened market situation eventually finished Chrysler UK.
July 1974, with the oil crisis nearly over, Rootes (Chrysler UK) could not be called completely healthy, despite the popular 1250-1500 models.
Rumours had it that a replacement for the Imp was on its way: a combined model from Rootes and Simca, replacing the Simca 1000, too.
The first half of 1975 gave a loss of 15.9 million pounds. The second half showed no improvement.
The Rootes marques Hillman and Sunbeam held only 7% of the British market, a drop from the original 12%. This on a market at a low.
Christmas 1975 showed that Chrysler UK would not be able to solve the problems. The British economy was a sorry sight. Too little growth, not enough investments, not enough industry.
Neither Harold Wilson (British prime minister) nor John Riccardo chose to confer diplomatically. 29 October 1975 Riccardo had give the government an ultimatum: either they would fork out a substancial investment or 25,000 employees would be sacked.
Features Hillman Avenger, Hillman Imp, Sunbeam Sport,
Hillman Hunter, Humber Sceptre, Sunbeam Rapier.
Carpe diem : the memoirs of Geoffrey Rootes / Geoffrey Rootes. - [s.l.] : priv. pub., 1991
Notes: Private edition of 200 copies
Subject: Rootes, Geoffrey
Document Type: Autobiography
The Rootes brothers : story of a motoring empire / John Bullock. - Sparkford : Stephens ; Motorbooks International, 1993. - 248p, p of plates : ill : ports ; 24cm
ISBN 1852604549 (Hardcover)
Dimensions (in inches): 1.01 x 9.48 x 6.48
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 1,096,531 ; Our Price: $34.95
Subject(s): Motor vehicles, Trades ; Rootes, Reginald ; Automobiles - History ; Rootes, William ; Great Britain ; Rootes, Billy ; Rootes Group - History ; Rootes Motors Ltd - History
Bullock, John, 1924-
May 9, 1992 - Chrysler builds in Austria
GRAZ - Het Amerikaanse Chryslerconcern heeft samen met de Oostenrijkse onderneming Steyr-Daimler-Puch Fahrzeugtechnik in het Oostenrijkse Graz een autofabriek in gebruik genomen en kan daarmee nu, just like General Motors (Opel en Vauxhall) en Ford, ook in Europa auto's produceren. The plant is called Eurostar en zal aan een 1.600 mensen werk bieden. Eurostar has started the production of the Voyager, Chrysler's APV/spacewagon.
For Chrysler it's their second attempt. In the seventies they acquired the Rootes Group (Hillman, Sunbeam, Humber) in Engeland and Simca in France, but it did not become a success en uiteindelijk moest Chrysler die fabrieken afstoten.
The departing Chrysler-topman Lee A. Iacocca is convinced things will work out better this time and he flew to Austria for the opening of Eurostar. Eurostar is the first large car plant of Austria.
SUNI III, Sunbeams United National International III, was held in Big Sky, Montana in July 1999. SUNI III was a weeklong event held to appreciate ALL makes of the Rootes marques, with a Concours d' Elegance, two days of autocrossing, a Rallye through Yellowstone National Park, an awards banquet, technical sessions, a vendor/parts swap meet, etc.
The Imp Site
Team.Net:The Rootes Group - An umbrella page for more specific sites on Hillman, Singer and Sunbeam cars.
Court of Inquiry into the dispute at Rootes Motors Limited, Linwood, Scotland
Rootes Group. Service Division
Cars of the Rootes Group : Hillman, Humber, Singer, Sunbeam, Sunbeam, Talbot / by Graham Robson. - Motor Racing, 1990. - p ; 28 cm
Works Team: The Rootes Competition Department / by Michael Frostick. - Coventry : Mercian Manuals, 1997. - vii, 141p : ill : facsims, map, ports ; 22cm
Other books by Michael Frostick: Return to Power; The Jaguar Collection; The Jaguar Tradition; 'Pinin Farina' Master Caochbuilder (1977); 'Pinin Farina' Architect of cars (1978); Triumph : the whole story (1994); etc.
Rusty Memories / John Bullock. - Thoroughbred and Classic Cars; vol. 21, no. 4, p. 127; January, 1994
Scoop! / John Bullock. - Thoroughbred and Classic Cars; vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 100-105; January, 1994
Classic Motoring Years / Jeremy Coulter. - Thoroughbred and Classic Cars; vol. 18, no 9, pp. 104-109; June, 1991
Vintage Views: Sunbeam / John Craft. - Grassroots Motorsports; vol. 4, no. 10, pp. 66-69; November, 1987
Sharp Looks : Interview with Roy Axe (Rootes Designer) / Eric Dymock. - Thoroughbred and Classic Cars; vol.21, no. 10, pp. 45-48, July, 1994
Rootes Group Competition Manager Norman Garrad / Alex Gabbard. - Vintage Motorsport; pp. 21-24; September-October, 1989.
The Sunbeam Also Rises / Harry James. - Automobile Quarterly; vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 206-216; 1964.
Back to His Rootes / Barney Sharratt. - Popular Classics; vol. 5, no. 6. pp. 88-91; February, 1994
Roy of the Rootes / Barney Sharratt. - Thoroughbred and Classic Cars; vol. 20, no. 8, pp. 62-66; May, 1993
Quality Control / Mike Taylor. - Thoroughbred and Classic Cars; vol. 15, no. 12, pp. 62-67; 1988
Sunbeam / Jonathan Wood. - Thoroughbred and Classic Cars; vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 112-117; October, 1985
Miscellaneous Ramblings: Chrysler-Rootes Merger. - Road and Track; p. 18; September 1964, and p. 17; October, 1964.
Rootes Models. - Road and Track; p. 31; December, 1967
Sunbeam 1901-76: Nostalgia. - Popular Classics; vol. 3, no. 6, p. 104; February, 1992.
What's The Matter With England?. - Automobile Quarterly; vol. 10, no. 5, pp. 18-33; 1st Quarter, 1972
Tiger Alpine Rapier / by Richard Langworth. - London : Osprey, 1982. - 175p : ill : facsims, 1form, ports ; 26cm
Chrysler : rescue and regeneration / Thomas Clive. - Personnel Management (ISSN 0031-5761). vol.8 (1976) no.4 (April). - p. 24-27,45.
Subject: Chrysler United Kingdom-UK; Problems; Business conditions; Changes.
Multinational and host governments : lessons from the case of Chrysler U.K. / Stephen Young; Neil Hood. - Columbia Journal of World Business (ISSN 0022-5428). vol.12 (1977) no.2 (Summer). - p. 97-106.
Subject: Chrysler United Kingdom-UK. Multinational corporations. Corporate planning.
The Effects of External Uncertainty: The Cases of British Leyland and Chrysler-Peugeot UK. / Stephen R. Jenner. - Journal of General Management (ISSN 0306-3070). vol.5 (1980) no.4 (Summer). - p. 40-53.
The Crippling of Chrysler / J.G. Norman. - Management Today. 1981 Feb. - p. 50-53.
Program in Search of a Policy: The Chrysler Loan Guarantee / Freeman, Brian M; Mendelowitz, Allan I. - Journal of Policy Analysis & Management (ISSN 0276-8739). Vol. 1 (1982), 4 (Summer). - p. 443-53.
De Rootes Group (Hillman, Humber, Sunbeam, Talbot) werd de Britse fabriek van Peugeot.
THOUGHTS On the Business of Life / Malcolm S. Forbes; William Rootes. - Forbes : business and finance, ISSN 0015-6914. - vol. 168 (2001), afl. 2 (23 07), pag. 176 (1)