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The contribution to Australian motoring history by Rootes

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 04, 2022 9:15 pm    Post subject: The contribution to Australian motoring history by Rootes Reply with quote

The contribution to Australian motoring history by Rootes

Rootes Australia was the Australian affiliate of the Rootes Group, a British motor vehicle manufacturing company.

The company was formed immediately after the Second World War initially operating as an importing and distribution firm.

In 1946, it began assembling Hillman Minx vehicles at Port Melbourne, Victoria and this was the first instance of a British motor manufacturer establishing a production line in Australia.

By 1954, the company had gained a 5.4% share of the local market and subsequently announced plans to create a full local manufacturing facility.

A 35-hectare site was acquired for this purpose at Harrisfield (now known as Noble Park), near Dandenong in Victoria. However, the proposed plant was never built.

Hillman, Humber and Singer models were assembled successfully for a number of years. The company also produced models which were hybrids of the three makes.

By the mid-1960s, falling sales and an ageing model line-up meant the Rootes Group was in trouble both in Britain and Australia.

In December 1965, Rootes Australia was merged with Chrysler Australia and assembly operations were continued at the Port Melbourne facility with Hillman and Humber cars and Commer trucks were now sold by Chrysler dealers.

Chrysler was quick to phase out the Humber brand, with assembly of the Hillman Arrow and Hunter range then commenced in early 1967.

Chrysler Australia also utilised Port Melbourne for assembly of the Dodge Phoenix from 1968 and Mitsubishi's Galant from 1971.

The last Hillman Hunter was produced in November 1972, and with the Dodge Phoenix and Galant assembly transferred to Tonsley Park in South Australia at the end of 1972, the Rootes Port Melbourne facility was closed.

One of Rootes Australia’s more interesting models was the 1966-67 Hillman Gazelle.

Mixing an upmarket Singer body and interior with a high-compression, alloy-headed 1725cc Sunbeam Rapier engine, the Hillman Gazelle was a unique Aussie variation on Rootes’ decade-old ‘Audax’ sedan. And it was easily the world’s best.

A robust 63kW gave the four-speed manual Gazelle almost 100mph (161km/h) performance, but it was simply a stop-gap measure before Hillman’s all-new Hunter launched in 1967.

Significant models produced by Rootes Australia included the following:

• Hillman Minx - assembled from 1946.
• Humber Super Snipe - assembled from 1953.
• Sunbeam Mk III - assembled circa 1955
• Sunbeam Alpine - assembled circa 1955
• Humber Hawk – assembled to 1964
• Singer Gazelle - assembled from 1957 to 1961
• Hillman Super Minx
• Humber Vogue - assembled from 1962 to 1965.
• Hillman Imp - from 1964
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