Rootes Group Car Club takes over Club Corner

From now until the end of October, we are paying homage to Bygone British Marques, with a great range of vehicles on show.

As part of the exhibition, Club Corner has been taken over by the Rootes Group Car Club, with display vehicles including a 1938 Hillman Minx, 1936 Hillman Hope Ute, 1938 Hillman V14, 1945 Hillman Minx Mk1, 1970 Sunbeam rapier Fastback, 1965 Hillman Imp, 1966 Hillman Imp Racer, Hillman Californian, 1967 Series V1 Minx, 1954 Humber Hawk, 1965 Superminx station wagon and a 1961 Series 111B Minx Convertible.

Our Bygone British Marques display coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Rootes Group Car Club and Club member, Murray Brown, said taking up prime position in Club Corner was a great way to celebrate the milestone.

The Rootes Group began in 1895 as a humble family-run cycle repair business. Within four years the family had moved into selling cars and during the First World War, started reconditioning aeroplane engines for the Government.

After the war ended, the Rootes family set about expanding the wholesale car arm of the business and became the largest distributors of Austin motor cars. From here on, it was an upward trajectory until the 1960s, with the acquisition of struggling motor car companies Hillman, Humber, Commer, Sunbeam, Talbot and Karrier.

By 1937, the Rootes Group employed 10,000 people and made a wide range of vehicles from luxury limousines, family cars and sports cars to commercial vans and trucks. They also boasted one of the largest export businesses in the British motor industry.

In 1946 they added an assembly plant at Port Melbourne to their empire, and employed 800 people there. Vehicles were produced from CKD kits, with local content also put into the cars.

In the ‘50s, vehicle sales increased year on year and in 1955 the Rootes Group acquired Singer Motors, with its outdated range of cars and financial difficulties. Within months, a new Singer model, the Gazelle, was launched. It was based on the new Rootes Audex body, which also formed the foundation for the new Hillman Minx.

But fortunes change and just nine years later, in 1964, Rootes were in serious difficulties, with their reputation damaged by the poor performance of the Hillman Imp, produced to compete with the Mini. By 1967, Chrysler had taken full control of the Rootes Group, but failed to restore its fortunes, and sold what was left of it to Peugeot in 1978, who were predominantly interested in its sales network for its Peugeots and Citroens. Chrysler had closed the Port Melbourne factory in 1972.

The Rootes Group Car Club remains as a tribute to the success of the family-run group of companies, and the great motor vehicles they produced.

Bygone British Marques also features a 1956 Commer TS3 Prime Mover, a David Brown 2D Tool Carrier Tractor, a 1962 Sunbeam Rapier Sports, a 1946 RACV Bedford Tow Truck, and a 1962 Daimler Dart.

 If you haven’t visited yet, come and have a look – if you have already been, come and take another look! We’ll see you there!

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