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.