Mods and Con­se­quences

Rootes Audax

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Front Page - Richard Dredge

Launched in 1956, the Rootes Audax range com­prised the Hill­man Minx, Singer Gazelle and Sun­beam Rapier. The range may seem com­plex – nine se­ries of Minx and Gazelle, five of Rapier – but changes be­tween one se­ries and the next were gen­er­ally mi­nor. There were just two en­gine fam­i­lies: an over­head-valve unit (1390cc, 1494cc, 1592cc, 1725cc) and a 1497cc over­head-cam lump, the lat­ter fit­ted only to the Se­ries 1 and 2 Gazelle.

In pe­riod, Brab­ham, Alexan­der, Hartwell, Cas­tles of Le­ices­ter and Nerus of­fered tun­ing kits and Rootes mar­keted per­for­mance parts and ac­ces­sories. In most cases, ear­lier cars can be fit­ted with the run­ning gear of later mod­els. So a Se­ries I Minx can be given a 1725cc Hol­bay race-spec en­gine from a Hill­man Hunter, dou­bling the power, de­spite be­ing ba­si­cally the same en­gine.

Rootes parts spe­cial­ist Mike Lan­g­ley com­ments: ‘ You’ll need to do your home­work when it comes to the de­tail. For ex­am­ple, early cars had drum brakes while later mod­els were fit­ted with discs, but there are two it­er­a­tions of disc brake and in­di­vid­ual parts are not gen­er­ally in­ter­change­able.

‘Con­ven­tional tun­ing op­tions (elec­tronic dis­trib­u­tor, gas- flowed head and ex­haust) im­prove ef­fi­ciency and power and these days it’s pos­si­ble to tur­bocharge, su­per­charge and add fuel in­jec­tion. Rootes cars have been fit­ted with Mazda en­gines, Rover V8s and there’s an elec­tric Singer Vogue in Aus­tralia (elec­tricvogue. blogspot. You could even fit the run­ning gear from a Sun­beam Tiger, but I’ve come across that only once.’

In 1964 Rootes in­tro­duced a four­speed syn­chro­mesh gear­box that’s slick, strong and of­ten has over­drive. It was used in the Hunter and is a great con­ver­sion for any ear­lier car; you need to fit a Hunter clutch on a suit­able fly­wheel. These over­drive 1964-66 gear­boxes sell for £450.

Mike adds: ‘These cars can be up­graded to keep up very hap­pily with mod­ern traf­fic, al­though I have yet to build one that feels as com­fort­able as a mod­ern car on a


GO HOL­BAY For the ul­ti­mate en­gine, fit a Hol­bay H120. Bal­anced and fit­ted with an al­loy cylin­der head, twin DCOE We­bers, four-branch man­i­fold and hot cam, it’s quite a com­plex con­ver­sion, but the parts are out there if you search. BRAKE UP If you’ve got an early Audax with drum brakes, it’s sim­plic­ity it­self to fit the front sus­pen­sion – com­plete with disc brakes – from a 1964-67 model. The parts are read­ily avail­able and needn’t cost more than £100. UPRATE THE CARBS The orig­i­nal sin­gle-Zenith car­bu­ret­tor is un­re­li­able and in­ef­fi­cient, which is why fit­ting a We­ber 34 ICH is pop­u­lar. It’s easy to source and will fit a Minx or Gazelle, but for a Rapier fit a down­draught twin­choke We­ber. CLUTCH BAG The 7½in di­aphragm clutch used from 1966 tends to be weak – ear­lier spring clutches are more re­li­able. You can switch be­tween the two but you’ll need to source a suit­able fly­wheel with the dow­els and bolts in the right places. TIME TO IG­NITE A lot of these cars are fit­ted with a Lu­cas dis­trib­u­tor that’s seen bet­ter days, while the points go out of ad­just­ment. Many own­ers fit elec­tronic ig­ni­tion for eas­ier start­ing and smoother run­ning. SEAT STUFF Like many 1950s cars, Audax seats are not very sup­port­ive, which can lead to back pain. Thanks to the floor be­ing flat, all sorts of re­place­ments can be fit­ted. Ex­pert Mike Lan­g­ley favours Alfa Romeo seats as they’re read­ily avail­able. FEEL­ING EX­HAUSTED £2000 £100 £150 £150 £100+ £50 £200+ Lots of ex­haust sys­tems are avail­able. Some own­ers fit a stan­dard pat­tern in stain­less for re­li­a­bil­ity, oth­ers get gas-flowed pipes made for ex­tra power and a throat­ier sound – though a good set can cost £600.

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