Buyer’s guide Rootes Ar­rows

Qual­ity cars at a bar­gain price, then and now, good Ar­row coupés and sa­loons are rare to­day


The fi­nal new cars de­signed un­der Rootes own­er­ship, be­fore the Chrysler takeover, ‘Ar­row’ sa­loons were styled prin­ci­pally by Rex Flem­ing, with Roy Axe re­spon­si­ble for the coupés. It was Rootes’ an­swer to the Ford Cortina – and the Capri – and although pro­duced in much smaller num­bers, they make an in­ter­est­ing al­ter­na­tive. Ro­bust run­ning gear made base mod­els pop­u­lar taxis world­wide, clock­ing up huge mileages, and helped the Hunter win the gru­elling Lon­don-syd­ney Marathon in ’68; the model con­tin­ued in pro­duc­tion in Iran for decades.

There were many vari­ants: Hill­man Minx/ Hunter, Singer Gazelle/vogue, Sun­beam Vogue and Hum­ber Scep­tre sa­loons, plus Sun­beam Alpine/rapier coupés, each with a range of trim, spec and en­gine op­tions. Base mod­els used the iron-head 1500 (or 61bhp iron-head 1725 in au­to­matic form); the iron-head 1725 was op­tional for man­u­als from late 1968 and can be found in a few other mod­els, such as early Singer Vogues and all Singer Gazelles. The stan­dard al­loy-head 1725 had 72bhp, but the twin-carb ver­sion in the Rapier and Scep­tre put out a use­ful 79bhp, which, with a close-ra­tio ’box and over­drive on third and top, gave it lively per­for­mance. The ul­ti­mate spec was the Hol­bay-tuned Rapier H120 and Hunter GLS, with ‘Hol­bay’ cast into the rocker cover and twin We­bers. If you find one, check its his­tory be­fore pay­ing top price, be­cause many parts have been swapped from car to car: make sure the spec is cor­rect.

Rot is the big­gest en­emy, and once it gets es­tab­lished, it’s rarely erad­i­cated prop­erly when re­pairs are made, due to the cars’ low val­ues – so check re­stored cars very, very care­fully and don’t be taken in by a shiny ex­te­rior. A restora­tion, un­less you do it all your­self and don’t count your time, will al­ways cost more than the car is worth.

Ar­row sa­loons, in par­tic­u­lar, tended to be cho­sen by age­ing mid­dle-class cus­tomers who garaged them and used them spar­ingly – some still turn up, long-co­cooned, in re­mark­ably orig­i­nal con­di­tion and are well worth res­cu­ing. There’s a keen fol­low­ing, if frag­mented be­tween dif­fer­ent mar­que clubs, and a small but ded­i­cated group of spe­cial­ists, so keep­ing a sound car in run­ning or­der is nei­ther dif­fi­cult nor ex­pen­sive.

Com­pared to some of its pe­riod ri­vals, the Ar­row range of cars rep­re­sents good value and de­serves greater recog­ni­tion.

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