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Homepage. This page: An intro to the ongoing restoration of a fine pre-war Humber motorcar

John's Humber 12 Sports Tourer rebuild.

In 1994, John got to hear about an unusual pre-war tourer while he was displaying his own classic, a 1934 Hillman Minx. Here is the story of how he heard about this rare 12hp Humber car, and the story of it's restoration to date.
Two photos of the Humber 12 as found

'HESPERUS', a 1934 HUMBER 12 Sports Tourer.

It was during the 1994 rally season that my wife Carol and I were waiting with our then current old motor car, a 1934 Hillman Minx; at the start of a charity road run. You know the sort of thing - vintage cars, motorcycles, tractors, and some steam traction engines and even a Sentinel steam lorry chug off on an organised trip around the local villages, and then the participants pile into a chosen local hostelry at lunchtime, for some ‘Nosh, Noggin, and a Natter’.
Out of the crowd of onlookers a man approaches “Is this Hillman yours?” He asks. “Yes it is.” I reply. “I own a car like this. A bigger brother actually. It’s not a saloon it’s a tourer”. At this point my brain fully engages. A Hillman 14 tourer ? Is that what he means? Trying not to seem over interested, I ask a few tentative questions, and make a few suggestions as to type. Eventually my guesses are dismissed as he finally announces “It’s a 12 horsepower 4 seater Sports Tourer. One of six produced by Humber in 1934”. Did he say a Humber Sports? ....Sports? What does a Humber Sports Tourer look like for goodness sake?
Trying to hide my growing curiosity and a bout of over enthusiasm, we eventually swap our addresses and went on our separate ways. A year or so later I met the gentleman again. This time I persuaded him to let my wife Carol and I, visit him at his home to view the mystery motor. This we duly did, and when the garage doors were finally swung open, the car was there, but camouflaged under a pile of cardboard boxes and other assorted rubbish.

The Humber sees the light of day.

With the non motoring contents of the garage now piled onto the driveway we saw the car for the first time in all its “glory”. A 1934 Humber Sports Tourer. Hand painted and rust stained white coachwork dotted with random small areas of grey aerosol primer, a saggy black hood, and two enormous headlamps from some other car acting as supposed driving or fog lamps mounted on a bumper with sawn off ends. Dashboard removed. A badly cracked laminated windscreen. Faded dark blue leather upholstery that was as crisp as a pork scratching. The whole sorry looking tub was standing forlornly on rusty wire wheels all complete with flat and perished tyres. I stood, stared at, and examined as much of the car as possible. Very interesting, I thought. Then my imagination ran riot. Mentally I put on my rose tinted restorers spectacles and slipped into a state of optimistic euphoria, the curse of many, if not all old car nuts. A restoration project………two years………. maybe three. Having calmed the grey matter, once again we said our farewells to Jack and returned home.
I eventually bought the Humber in 1996, the 28th of December to be exact. My good friend Paul and his son Will helped me to haul the car out of its resting place of twenty five plus years. Fortunately the Humber’s two thousand or so resident wood worm all held hands and the cars extraction took place without further damage to the half eaten ash framed body. We then trailered the motor back to a barn on Paul's farm and closely examined in the cold light of a very cold day what I had just purchased…………………..
A two or three year restoration……. 1997 was spent removing non original parts while constantly soaking the remains of the ash frame and every other piece of wood with copious amounts of paraffin, an inexpensive form of wood worm killer. Next all of the electrical system was removed including the notorious Lucas ‘Startix’ self starting system. A non original Zenith carburettor and its manifold adaptor were also removed. An extensive list of “spares wanted” was put together for auto jumble visits.

Health woes intervene.

It was during November of ’97 when I first began to feel unwell. Carol and I had just returned from an excellent holiday to Kenya. From then on things unfortunately went down hill. I just got so very tired during my waking hours. I didn’t want to do anything and the Christmas holiday was spent watching television or sleeping for most of the time. My get up and go, had got up and gone/…/….overtired? Well that’s what I thought the problem was.
The New Year duly arrived and in those days we were always involved in a local school pantomime that was organised by a family friend. The pantomime was always performed in late January. The Panto Drama group were a great crowd of people, comprising friends, parents, and people just happy to be part of the team. The annual productions have made considerable sums of money to reinvest into new equipment for the school. Carol both acted on stage and helped out with the make up for the production, and I helped out backstage. I had really felt unwell from the Tuesday evening through until the following Saturday morning. On the morning of the 10th January 1998 was the day I suffered a major heart attack. My family drove to 'A and E' at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge. I was then rushed into the coronary care unit where I was stabilised and drugged up to the hilt.
“The show must go on” they say, and it did ………..without me. No words can express the debt of gratitude that I owe to the unsung heroes of our national health service, who have given me another chance, on more than one occasion as it transpired. At this point I have to admit that I had been a smoker for many years and fooled myself that smoking low tar cigarettes gave me some kind of immunity to smoking related illnesses. There’s no fool like an old fool, I hear you say. Despite losing the use of around twenty percent of my heart muscle, the Doctors had got my heart to function somewhere near normal once again. I returned home in the late January under strict medical supervision. Late in February, I was admitted back into the same hospital this time by ambulance, with the siren wailing and blue lights flashing. I had suffered a second but milder heart attack. Once again I was hospitalised. The Humber project was of course, at a complete standstill. The whole year was spent going to and from the very excellent Addenbrookes and Papworth Hospitals (the ultimate restoration specialists). Once again the long recovery process started.

Restoration progresses.

The pace of the Humber restoration settled down to slow, slow, oh so slow. The timings of the various high points of the restoration have become muddled over the years and despite me having a lot more hospital treatment, the car restoration has actually progressed.
Most of the Humber’s plated metal parts have been rechromed, the seats have been re-upholstered, and the windscreen glass replaced. The head lamp shells were badly dented and scratched, and the reflectors were tarnished. These were sent of to a specialist in the restoration of Lucas lamps, he returned them to me beautifully restored and as good as new. A new wiring loom was purchased and installed. I rigged up a small petrol tank and eventually the engine was started and successfully tested. Most of the ash frame and other wood work was replaced. New metal inner rear wheel arches were fabricated. The wheels were blasted and stove enamelled black and shod with a new set of Dunlop tyres. The two doors, the scuttle and then the bonnet were painted March blue as per the cars original factory specification.
And so it goes on. The original Luvax shock absorbers were sent away and completely overhauled. A DWS triple scissor jack system was fitted. (One jack is fitted in the middle of the front axle and two more jacks were fitted on either side of the rear axle). A new set of 5 hub caps were made up by a local metal spinning company. I made up a vintage looking high level stop light to give the back end extra protection in modern traffic. Countless minor jobs were attended to by friends Paul and William, without whose help I would have probably given up. They eventually moved the Humber into my garage at home and the Hillman went to be garaged barn on their farm.

The 1934 Hillman goes to a new home.

Throughout this period my finances were taking a hell of a pounding and in order to fund the completion of the Humber’s restoration, the decision was taken to sell the Hillman. This very reliable car, that had served us so well was sold and went to a couple in Nottinghamshire who I am told still regularly rally the Minx (2008). These days my every day runabout is a 1963 short wheelbase Land Rover. A 'Forth Bridge' on wheels (you never quite get them finished), I had purchased the Landie locally as an 88” pick-up but eventually transformed her into a station wagon. The Humber project now moves along steadily and the running boards and rear wings are latest parts under restoration. One day a friend inquired about the Humber. "Have you still got that old wreck of the Hesperus". I was about to tell him where to go, when I suddenly thought aha! Now at last I have a name for her*…………….
(*Hesperus is the name of a Greek god..........but never mind).

John Clarke
Humber 12 Sports
Humber 12hp car under restoration
Thanks for the story John!! if anyone else out there would be interested in having their classic or vintage car story told here, even if like John's car it isn't yet finished, please drop me a line. Further owner-stories can be found in the Your Classic Cars section here at oldclassiccar.

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