Humber Hawk

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Humber Hawk
Manufacturer Humber (Rootes Group)
Production 1945–1967
Assembly United Kingdom
Port Melbourne, Australia [1]

Hillman 16 (1936-37) six-cylinder; Hillman 14 (1938-40) four-cylinder;

Humber 16 (1938-44) six-cylinder
Successor No Successor

The Humber Hawk is a four-cylinder automobile which was produced from 1945 to 1967 by British-based Humber Limited.

Humber Hawk Mk I & II[edit]

Humber Hawk MKI & II
Humber Mark-I 1946 1.1.jpg
Production 1945–1949
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
Engine 1944 cc Straight-4 side-valve
Transmission 4-speed manual
Wheelbase 114 inches (2896 mm)[3]
Length 178 inches (4521 mm)[3]
Width 69 inches (1753 mm)[3]

The Hawk was the first Humber car to be launched after World War II, but was not really a new vehicle, being heavily based on the designs of the pre-war six cylinder 1936-37 Hillman 16 & Hillman Hawk & the four cylinder Hillman 14 (1938-1940). It replaced the six-cylinder Humber 16 (1938–44) which itself was a rebadged version of the Hillman 16 (1936–37).

The engine dated back to the early 1930s, when it was first used in the Hillman 12 and was a 1944 cc, side-valve, four-cylinder unit and it drove a live rear axle through a four-speed gearbox with centrally located floor change.

The four-door body was mounted on a separate chassis and was of the six-light design (three windows on each side) with a sunshine roof as standard. Suspension was independent at the front using a transverse leaf spring, and at the rear the axle had half-elliptic springs.

The Mark II version of September 1947 was not even a facelift, the main difference being a column gear change with a control ring fitted to the gearbox making it impossible to crash the syncromesh gears. The engine was given a new water jacket, the petrol tank received a breather to prevent air-locks and provision was made for a car-radio and retracting aerial. There was no change to the car's external appearance.[4]

Top speed was around 65 mph (105 km/h).

Humber Hawk 1946 rear view

Humber Hawk Mark III to V[edit]

Humber Hawk Mark III-V
Humber Hawk V registered February 1954 2267cc.JPG
Production 1948–1954
production 10,040 (III)
6,492 (IV)
14,300 (V)[2]
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
Limousine (Mk V only)
Engine 1944 cc Straight-4 side-valve (Mk III)
2267 cc Straight-4 side-valve (Mk IV & V)[2]
Transmission 4-speed manual
Wheelbase 105.5 inches (2678 mm)[3]
Length 174 inches (4420 mm)[3]
Width 70 inches (1778 mm)[3]
Height 64.75 in (1,645 mm) [5]

The Mark III Hawk was a completely new car and was first shown at the London Motor Show in October 1948, but it still retained the earlier engine (side-valves, 1944 cc, 56 bhp at 3800 rpm) and transmission albeit with new rubber mountings. The new body was styled by the Loewy Studio[2] and the separate headlights of the old model were gone, along with the separate front wings. The chassis was new, with coil-sprung independent front suspension replacing the previous transverse leaf spring. The body was now an integral component of the car's structure. The rear axle was also a new design with hypoid gearing. The body could be finished in a wide range of colours, both as two-tone and metallic. The metallic finishes would be offered on all the Hawks until the model's demise in late 1967/early 1968.

When compared with the prewar style body with vestigial running boards the car's weight was less by 3 cwt or 336 lb (152 kg) and the new flush-sided body gave room for the front bench seat to be three inches (75 mm) wider. The rear seat was a full five inches (125 mm) wider. Overall the car was six inches (150 mm) shorter and one and a half inches (40 mm) lower. Despite the lower height the new hypoid back axle allowed more head room in the rear seat.[6]

Mark IV

In the early spring of 1951[7] the Mark IV version arrived with a larger, 2267 cc engine incorporating, as before, an aluminium cylinder head[8] and with a 58 instead of 56 bhp output. However at mid range speeds around 15 percent more power was generated.[7] The Mark IV also used larger, 15-inch wheels. The steering was now more highly geared and was commended by commentators for its lightness when manoeuvering the car in a confined space despite 53% of the car's 2996 pounds (1358 kg) being carried by the front wheels.[9]

Humber Hawk February 1954 rear view

A 2267 cc Mk IV car tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1951 had a top speed of 71.4 mph (114.9 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 30.0 seconds. A fuel consumption of 24.2 miles per imperial gallon (11.7 l/100 km; 20.2 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £850, including taxes.[5]

Mark V

The Mark V Hawk announced in September 1952 was given a larger clutch, larger rear shock absorbers, a strengthened body-frame and other minor mechanical changes. A new treatment was given to the car's front. It was also available as a "luxury touring limousine".[10] A lowered bonnet line and wrap-around bumpers with over-riders distinguished this model from the Mk IV[11]

Humber Hawk Mark VI and VIA[edit]

Humber Hawk Mark VI-VIA
Humber Hawk reg May 1957 2267 cc.JPG
Production 1954–1957
production 18,836 (Mk VI)
9614 (MkVIA)[2]
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
Engine 2267 cc Straight-4 overhead valve [2]
Transmission 4-speed manual with optional overdrive
Wheelbase 105.5 in (2,680 mm)[3]
Length 181 inches (4597 mm) (saloon)[3]
Width 72 inches (1829 mm)[3]
Height 65 in (1,651 mm)[12]
Curb weight 27.75 cwt or 3,108 lb (1,410 kg)

The main change with the Mk VI, which was new in June 1954, was the fitting of an overhead-valve cylinder head to the engine. The rear of the body was slightly changed, which made the car longer. In 1955 an estate version with fold-down tailgate appeared.[2]

The April 1956 Mk VIA was a fairly minor upgrade, with changes mainly to the interior. A de-luxe version was added to the range.

A replacement, slightly more powerful and with an entirely new body was announced in May 1957.[13]

Mark VI registered 6 August 1954
Road test

The motoring correspondent of The Times claimed that any previous Hawk owner would be "astonished" by the Mark VI's 20 per cent more powerful engine's ability to effortlessly swing the car along at 70 mph. Cold starting was very good. The engine was not always so willing to start when cold. The tyres were inclined to squeal on not very sharp corners taken at any more than a modest speed.The brake lining area is now 40 per cent more than on the Mark V. The driver's windscreen wiper is badly located.[14]

A Mk VI estate car with overdrive tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1956 had a top speed of 79.7 mph (128.3 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 25.2 seconds. A fuel consumption of 22.8 miles per imperial gallon (12.4 l/100 km; 19.0 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1405, including taxes.[12]

Humber Hawk Series I to IVA[edit]

Humber Hawk Series I-IVA
Humber Hawk Series II side.jpg
Production 1957–1967
production 15,539 (I)
6813 (IA)
7,230 (II)
6,109 (III)
1,746 (IV)
3,754 (IVA) [2]
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
Estate car
Engine 2267 cc Straight-4 ohv
Transmission 4-speed manual all-synchromesh
Overdrive and automatic optional
Wheelbase 110 in (2,800 mm)[3]
Length 185 in (4,700 mm)[3]
Width 70 in (1,800 mm)[3]
Height 61.5 in (1,560 mm) [15]

The new Hawk announced in May 1957[13] had a completely new body with unitary construction which it would go on to share with the 1958 Humber Super Snipe. This was the biggest bodyshell for a saloon/estate car built in Great Britain at the time. The 2267 cc engine was carried over, though with modifications to the distributor mounting, and other details; and an automatic transmission, the Borg Warner D.G. model, was now available. The body was styled in Rootes' own studios and featured more glass than previous models, with wrap-around front windscreen, which gave it a considerable resemblance to a base model 1955 Chevrolet 4-door sedan. The missing rear quarter-lights were returned in series IV. The estate version featured a horizontally split tailgate—the lower half opening downwards (to provide an extra length of luggage-platform if necessary) and the upper half upwards. The fuel-filler cap was concealed behind the offside rear reflector.

There were several revisions during the car's life, each resulting in a new Series number.

The 1959 Series 1A had changed gear ratios and minor trim changes.

The Series II launched in October 1960 had disc front brakes, servo-assisted. The automatic option was no longer available on the home market.

The Series III of September 1962 had a larger fuel tank and bigger rear window. The export model automatic option was also dropped.

More significant changes came with the October 1964 Series IV. The roof was made flatter, the rear window smaller and an extra side window fitted behind the rear doors. Synchromesh was fitted to bottom gear. An anti-roll bar was fitted at the rear.[16]

The final Series IVA of 1965 saw the automatic option re-introduced, this time being the Borg Warner Model 35.

Some "Series" cars are found with a floor-type gear change replacing the (good quality) standard column-mounted gearstick — these are later owner modifications resembling the original factory option, and the parts necessary for this were obtained from the Commer Karrier Walk-thru–type vans and light lorries which were also made by the Rootes Group at this time. All of the automatic transmission–optioned cars were fitted with the column-type selectors only.

A Series I car without overdrive was tested by the British The Motor magazine in 1957 had a top speed of 83.9 mph (135.0 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 19.7 seconds. A fuel consumption of 22.5 miles per imperial gallon (12.6 l/100 km; 18.7 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1261, including taxes of £421.[15]

In March 1967 Rootes announced that production of the Humber Hawk, along with that of the Super Snipe and Imperial had ceased.[17] The announcement stated that the cars' place in their range would be filled by Chrysler Valiants imported from Australia,[17] although there is no evidence of the UK car market having been flooded by Valiants following the announcement.

After Hawk production ended, Rootes came to concentrate on sectors offering greater volume, no longer featuring as a UK provider of large family cars. It had, in particular, been unusual for UK manufactured cars of this size to feature a spacious station wagon / estate car version; and, following the demise of the Humber Hawk, the UK market for large estate cars quickly came to be dominated by the Volvo 145, introduced to the UK in March 1968,[18] and its successors.

Scale models[edit]

  • Meccano Dinky Toys; No. 165 (production 1959–63), Series 1 Hawk, approximately O scale (1:44).[19]
  • Meccano Dinky Toys; No. 256 (production 1960–64), Series 1 Hawk Police car, approximately O scale (1:44).[20]


  1. ^ Gavin Farmer, Great Ideas in Motion, A History of Chrysler in Australia, 2010, page 365
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Robson, G. (2006). A-Z of British Cars 1945-80. Devon, UK: Herridge. ISBN 0-9541063-9-3. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Culshaw; Horrobin (1974). Complete Catalogue of British Cars. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-16689-2. 
  4. ^ Improved Humber Hawk. The Times, Wednesday, Sep 24, 1947; pg. 2; Issue 50874
  5. ^ a b "The Humber Hawk". The Motor. February 21, 1950. 
  6. ^ Redesigned Humber Hawk. The Times, Wednesday, Oct 13, 1948; pg. 3; Issue 51201
  7. ^ a b An Improved Humber Hawk. The Times, Tuesday, Apr 17, 1951; pg. 3; Issue 51977.
  8. ^ "Our Experts Advise: Humber Hawk Cylinder Head". Practical Motorist. 7 (nbr 76): 417. December 1960. 
  9. ^ "Humber Hawk Saloon (road test)". Autocar. September 22, 1950. 
  10. ^ New Rootes Models. The Times, Wednesday, Sep 24, 1952; pg. 2; Issue 52425.
  11. ^ "Second Hand car guide supplement". Practical Motorist. 6 Nbr 68: between pages 768 & 769. April 1960. 
  12. ^ a b "The Humber Hawk estate car". The Motor. April 11, 1956. 
  13. ^ a b Roomier Humber Hawk. The Times, Wednesday, May 29, 1957; pg. 5; Issue 53853.
  14. ^ Performance Matches Looks In Humber Hawk. The Times, Tuesday, May 10, 1955; pg. 7; Issue 53216
  15. ^ a b "The Humber Hawk". The Motor. June 12, 1957. 
  16. ^ Sedgwick, M.; Gillies.M (1989). A-Z of Cars 1930. Devon, UK: Bay View Books. ISBN 1-870979-38-9. 
  17. ^ a b "News and Views: No more big Humbers". Autocar. 126 (nbr 3708): 66. 9 March 1967. 
  18. ^ "News and Views: Now available in this country is the Volvo 145 estate car....". Autocar. 128 (nbr 3765): 29. 11 April 1968. 
  19. ^ Ramsey, John. The Swapmeet and Toyfair Catalogue of British Diecast Model Toys. Swapmeet Toys and Models Ltd. p. 31. ISBN 095093190X. 
  20. ^ Ramsey, John. The Swapmeet and Toyfair Catalogue of British Diecast Model Toys. Swapmeet Toys and Models Ltd. p. 47. ISBN 095093190X. 

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