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Six big British barges

(UNION) JACK THE LAD Published: 17th Sep 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Six big British barges
Six big British barges
Six big British barges
Six big British barges
Six big British barges
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Fancy some upper crust motoring but on beer money? Here’s what we think are the best of British!

HUMBER SNIPE/IMPERIAL

£1000 - £5500

TOP DRAWER Value for money, traditional name, Rolls-like interior, good cruising ability

WORKING CLASS Dubious driving appeal, woolly handling, three-speed manual gearbox

With Rover and Triumph not really into large luxury limos, it was left to Humber to provide a serious alternative to a Jag and perhaps even a Roller with its upmarket Hawk derived Super Snipe and Imperial models. Both identified by their quad headlamp frontal and lavish cabins they are more suitable as chauffeurs’ cars due to the fact that the handling always deterred fast driving antics thanks to a three-speed column shift and pitchprone handling. But comfort certainly reigns and inside there’s as much wood and leather as you find in a Rolls.

AUSTIN 3 LITRE

£500 - £4500

TOP DRAWER Spaciousness, MGC engine, ingenious engineering
WORKING CLASS Unbalanced looks, lack of prestige

If the Westminster was a bigged-up Cambridge then the 3 Litre was pumped up 1800 – but more so because apart from the hull it was almost an entirely new car, featuring a conventionally sited engine and rear wheel drive. It also used a detuned MGC engine and featured self levelling rear suspension, still Hydrolastic. On paper the 3 Litre looked promising but less than 10,000 were made in its four year lifespan – those odd frontal looks hardly helping. But the 3 Litre is finding a niche today.

FORD ZODIAC/EXECUTIVE

£1000 - £6000+

TOP DRAWER Value, spares availability, Mk3 looks, gutsy performance
WORKING CLASS Mk IV handling and looks

By the time the Mk3 Zodiac surfaced Ford wanted to make the Zodiac more aspirational and a viable alternative to a Jaguar and so gave it proper refinement the Mk2 always lacked. The flagship Executive model (1965) boasted leather, bucket seats and much more. When the MkIV came along, it had more appointments than a Jag, including standard power steering (from Oct ‘67) and a sliding sunroof. The Dagenham dustbin tag was fast being banished thanks to sophisticated design details such as all-round disc brakes and independent rear suspension – all S-type stuff although not as well developed. Mk3s with their rock and roll looks are most wanted but the MkIV will catch on one day.

AUSTIN WESTMINSTER

£600 - £6000

TOP DRAWER Rarity, Austin-Healey engine, Vanden Plas version
WORKING CLASS Only fair performance, spares availability

A bigger more plush and powerful Cambridge, with its C ‘six’ engine, the Westminster remains a Healey for households as they shared the same basic engine and running gear. In the later A99/110 ‘Farina’ styled versions 120bhp was on offer as was a four-speed transmission with overdrive and disc brakes to stop it all. Perhaps overshadowed by the Vanden Plas variant which featured Rolls power (right), Westies are rather undistinguished and underrated but fans love ‘em and rightly so.

VANDEN PLAS PRINCESS

£750 - £8000+

TOP DRAWER Name, pedigree, Rolls-Royce engine and luxury, value
WORKING CLASS Scarcity, lack of respect

Is this the next best thing to a Rolls? Coachbuilder Vanden Plas took what was basically a Westminster A99 and made into a luxowagon plus fitted the old Rolls four-litre FR60 engine to such effect that a Bentley version was almost made. Auto, power steered, picnic tables, the Princess R had the lot as standard and virtually to Rolls standard too – the only thing you could pay extra for were for electronic damping to make the car handle better but this was never meant to be a sports saloon. Made from 1964-68 a healthy 6500 were built although they are rare sights these days.

VAUXHALL CRESTA & VISCOUNT

£700 - £4000+

TOP DRAWER Chevrolet styling, roominess, value, Viscount appointments
WORKING CLASS Rust levels, general apathy, spares, lacks prestige factor

Anything Ford can do, Vauxhall wanted to do as well and so when the PC Cresta range was introduced, Vauxhall wasted little time in upstaging Ford’s mere Executive with a touch of automotive autocracy – a Viscount no less. A more cultured Cresta, it based power windows, power steering, automatic transmission and big luxury leather seating, all topped by a fashionable exterior vinyl roof. The Sunday Times voted it the Executive car of 1966 and their lowly values today make them very good buys – we had one years ago as a project car. Downsides? You simply can’t restore a Vauxhall like a Ford, Jag or Rolls due to spares supplies.

DAIMLERS

£1000 - £10,000

TOP DRAWER Name, dignified nature, V8 go, roominess, value, good back up
WORKING CLASS Ungainly looks, stuffy image (for some)

We’ve grouped this little bunch of Majestic and Majors dignitaries together for simplicity as they are essentially the same car, based on the One-0-Four. Daimlers got disc brakes all round before Jag saloons and with the 4.5-litre V8 there was 220bhp ‘minimal’ and that’s because Daimler’s dynometer only ran up to that figure; as Jaguar discovered they are somewhat better than this! Their frumpy looks disguised decent driver’s cars, not quite up to Jag levels but better than most. Today they make good left field choices who like dignity and decorum above the flash cash of a more common Jag…



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