This post has been updated on 9th July 2020 to include the obituary of Timothy Rootes one of the Patrons of RACT (click)
The official opening of the permanent home of the Rootes Archive at Apollo Office Park, Wroxton, Banbury, Oxon., U.K.
A short introduction –
I first became aware of the Rootes Archive Trust some years ago when I came upon various articles referring to it while doing internet research on other automotive topics.
But its importance and scale really became apparent to me when I was asked to make a presentation, on behalf of the Warwick Healey Archive, to the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) AGM at the British Car Museum, Gaydon, in October 2017. I discovered that my fellow presenters were members of the Rootes Archive Trust. Lo and behold one of their presenters and a trustee, was an ex colleague of mine, from Peugeot (U.K.), Andy Bye. We were delighted to meet each other again, particularly in those circumstances. it was amazing to learn that we were both involved in preserving the records of great British motor cars.
Andy and I have kept in touch since. Earlier this year I was able to arrange for him to have a tour of the Warwickshire County Record Office, owner, since 2016, of the Warwick Healey Motor Company archive. It gave him some ideas as to how the future of the Rootes Archive could develop, despite the fact that the WRO is probably twenty to thirty times larger than the RAT premises at Wroxton. After all, the WRO holds documents going back to the 11th century and has to accommodate historic records for the whole of Warwickshire. The Healey Motor Company archive represents a small fraction of the whole.
So it was that Andy invited my wife and I to the Grand Opening of the Rootes Archive at Wroxton on Sunday 22nd April. I am not being nice for the sake of it, or do I seek to curry favour, I don’t have to, but I would like to say that the event was brilliantly organised. All the trustees and supporters must have been told to get on their ‘prayer mats’ to pray for good weather; they were well rewarded. They just could not have hoped for better, particularly in April in England! It was a delight for me personally to see a selection of Rootes cars on display. I made good use of my camera as you can see below.
I have deliberately not gone into the fascinating history of the Trust here because it is told in full on their website. There is a link to the website at the end of this post. However, I will say this – The origins of the Rootes Archive goes back to 2003 when the ARCC (Association of Rootes Car Clubs) was alerted to the fact that a store room in the old factory in Humber Road, Coventry, was about to be refurbished and the contents ‘trashed’. Those contents comprised thousands of engineering drawings and documents pertaining to Rootes Group cars. A rescue party was soon formed and with much good will on the behalf of Peugeot management, the documents were saved for posterity. But what to do with them? Visit the Rootes Archive Trust website to read the story…….
To anyone reading this post who is not familiar with the car brands owned by the Rootes Group at the height of its power, I will list them as follows –
Hillman, Humber, Singer, Sunbeam and Talbot. Each one of these marques had an illustrious heritage before being brought into the Rootes Group at various stages.
Singer, Sunbeam and Talbot had been particularly successful in their various categories of motor sport.
The Group also owned a Commercial Vehicle division located in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, England. The principle brands were Commer, Dodge and Karrier. It was great to see examples of those vehicles present on Sunday.
Here is the day in photos –
The Rev. Bill Rootes, the grandson of William Rootes (later Lord Rootes of Ramesbury) cut the ceremonial ribbon to denote the official opening of the Rootes Archive building at Apollo Park Wroxton. Accompanied by a running commentary from Andy Bye (to the left of the photo).
Gordon Jarvis Chairman of the Trust welcomes guests. Matt Ollman, Trust Treasurer and Nick Rootes, to his left.
Lord Nicholas Rootes bringing good wishes to and admiration of the Trust and its members, on behalf of the Rootes family.
The Mayor of Banbury, Cllr. Colin Clarke, being shown some of the Archive documents.
Engineering drawings filing cabinet
Cars on display
Older cars –
1936 Singer 9 Sports Le Mans
One of the ‘Ruddy Team’ cars
1939 – 1955 Singer 9 Roadster
Early 1950s Sunbeam Talbot Alpine
Late 1940s /early 1950s Minx
Mid 50s Minx
Early 1960s Super Minx convertible
Super Minx Estate
1972 Hillman Avenger Tiger Mk I
1976 Hillman Hunter Topaz
Sunbeam Alpines and Tigers
1962 Sunbeam Harrington Le Mans – for me joint ‘car of the show’ together with the Sunbeam
Pre 1964 (i.e. before the removal of the tail fins) Sunbeam Alpine with neat Hard Top.
Non standard bonnet louvres
1965 Sunbeam Tiger – All Sunbeam Tigers were built by Jensen Motors, West Bromwich, Staffs., England.
Another non standard bonnet
Sunbeam Rapier and Singer Gazelle – badge engineering at its best!
c 1967 Sunbeam Rapier Series V
Sunbeam Rapier Series III Cabriolet next to a Singer Gazelle version
1975 Sunbeam (fastback) Rapier H (Holbay) 120
Hillman Imp and variants
1975 Super Imp
Customised Imp. Love it!
Post 1982 ‘Clan’. Although still referred to as a Clan Crusader, officially the Northern Ireland built car dropped the Crusader name. Rear mounted Imp engine in fibreglass monocoque body.
Pre 1974 ‘original’ Washington, Durham, England Clan Crusader.
Other cars seen on the day –
1962 Pontiac Bonneville two door hardtop
Audi TT RS – R with Arrow Audio Visual logos
1966 MGB GT
1936 Commer N1 Van
1956 Commer TS3 ‘Cab forward’ truck
A TS3 two stroke diesel engine made by Tilling Stevens, also part of the Rootes Group. Incidentally, Howard Pettigrew, from NZ, made contact via email to point out the the TS in TS3 denotes ‘Two Stroke’ not Tilling Stevens as some, including me, thought.
What an eclectic collection of mainly British cars and commercial vehicles. I hope that you have enjoyed reading about the opening of the Rootes Archive and looking at the cars that were gathered for the event, as much as I enjoyed being there.
Awards received by RACT –
FIVA Culture Award for Research 2020