By Rod Ward
Humber is now remembered for comfortable, well-made quality cars. They built stately carriages, perhaps lacking in performance, for lower-ranking ambassadors and provincial mayors. Unlike most other British car firms, there are few notable characters with leading roles in this story. There is no William Morris, Cecil Kimber or Bill Swallow here. Even Thomas Humber himself, who established the marque’s high standards of quality, faded away into obscurity before the 20th century. The Rootes brothers, who owned the firm for over 35 years, were dynamic operators but Humber was only one of their marques. Humber employed some great engineers, who moved on to other companies, such as Sunbeam, Bentley and Jaguar, where they did their best work. In the early years Humber jumped (often with success) on to every current bandwagon; the cycling craze of the 1890s, the taxi boom of 1907, aviation from 1909, and of course the motor car. Humber military vehicles made a substantial contribution in the Second World War and the following years. Then Humber subsided into its role in the Rootes Group as the makers of staid and solid saloon cars and limousines. The last period as a badge-engineered Hillman Hunter under Chrysler ownership was a sad anti-climax. This tale relates to solid virtues and well-made products, delivered discreetly to buyers who probably preferred their Humbers served that way.