1968 Singer Vogue: Reader Resto

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With slim pillars and optional Rostyle steel wheels, the Vogue looks smart and considerably younger than its 47 years With slim pillars and optional Rostyle steel wheels, the Vogue looks smart and considerably younger than its 47 years With slim pillars and optional Rostyle steel wheels, the Vogue looks smart and considerably younger than its 47 years
To ensure the Vogue feels and handles better than new, restoration included break overhaul, new Nolathane bushes, and steering parts To ensure the Vogue feels and handles better than new, restoration included break overhaul, new Nolathane bushes, and steering parts To ensure the Vogue feels and handles better than new, restoration included break overhaul, new Nolathane bushes, and steering parts
Vogue had minor panel damage almost everywhere and rectifying poor quality repairs, Greg spent many months on the car's bodywork Vogue had minor panel damage almost everywhere and rectifying poor quality repairs, Greg spent many months on the car's bodywork Vogue had minor panel damage almost everywhere and rectifying poor quality repairs, Greg spent many months on the car's bodywork
Rebuilding the engine proved a far easier task for Greg Rebuilding the engine proved a far easier task for Greg Rebuilding the engine proved a far easier task for Greg
Careful dissection of bubbling panels revealed further rust beneath but nothing terminal Careful dissection of bubbling panels revealed further rust beneath but nothing terminal Careful dissection of bubbling panels revealed further rust beneath but nothing terminal
Internal structures were liberally doused in fish oil before sound sections of metal were welded into place Internal structures were liberally doused in fish oil before sound sections of metal were welded into place Internal structures were liberally doused in fish oil before sound sections of metal were welded into place
This area was weakened by previous damage and corrosion and replaced by a  section excised from a donor Vogue This area was weakened by previous damage and corrosion and replaced by a section excised from a donor Vogue This area was weakened by previous damage and corrosion and replaced by a  section excised from a donor Vogue
Hillman engine has some lightweight sump as on London-Sydney rally winner Hillman engine has some lightweight sump as on London-Sydney rally winner Hillman engine has some lightweight sump as on London-Sydney rally winner
Wood-trim wheel replaced cracked original, which Greg has kept Wood-trim wheel replaced cracked original, which Greg has kept Wood-trim wheel replaced cracked original, which Greg has kept
Cloth seats and lashings of timber made Vogue stylish late-'60s travel Cloth seats and lashings of timber made Vogue stylish late-'60s travel Cloth seats and lashings of timber made Vogue stylish late-'60s travel
Random scattering of instruments and toggle switches is typically British. Random scattering of instruments and toggle switches is typically British. Random scattering of instruments and toggle switches is typically British.
Plans for the car include as many club events as the Staffords can attend Plans for the car include as many club events as the Staffords can attend Plans for the car include as many club events as the Staffords can attend
Rootes Group owner Chrysler discontinued the Singer brand and the badge disappeared in 1970, although some Sunbeams were badged as Vogues Rootes Group owner Chrysler discontinued the Singer brand and the badge disappeared in 1970, although some Sunbeams were badged as Vogues Rootes Group owner Chrysler discontinued the Singer brand and the badge disappeared in 1970, although some Sunbeams were badged as Vogues
The Staffords with their Singer Vogue The Staffords with their Singer Vogue The Staffords with their Singer Vogue

Greg Stafford picked up a partially-restored 1968 Singer Vogue back in 2010 and discovered the car had some major body problems - not all of them rust related.

 

1968 Singer Vogue

Readers who lived through the 1960s should immediately recognise the shape of Greg Stafford’s Rootes Group sedan. 

In profile, the smart-looking car is almost identical to a Hillman Hunter that took Scot Andy Cowan to an unexpected London-Sydney rally win in 1968. But this isn’t a Hillman Hunter.

Created by those masters of badge engineering, the Rootes family, this was the last car to carry the famous Singer brand name. Its polished timber dash provides an immediate clue to the car’s target market; those owners who aspired to own a Triumph or Rover 2000 but couldn’t afford one.

To be fair, the Singer was a good thing in its own right with plenty of boot and interior space, front disc brakes and a 1.7-litre engine with optional overdrive gearbox that delivered 150km/h.

Singer -vogue -3-658

In 1970, this Vogue came to Australia with its original UK owner and was used around Melbourne for years before being taken off the road in the early-’90s for a restoration that was never completed.

"I didn’t even discover the car, I went to look at it on behalf of a mate," Stafford recalls. "He was a fellow club member and had offered to buy it but he was a bit worried about how much rust was in it and whether the overdrive would give trouble."

BODY IMPERFECTIONS

Stafford discovered the car had some major body problems; not all of them rust related.

"Just about every panel had been dented at some stage and that plus the rust would have been beyond the capabilities of my friend so the repairs would have been expensive," he says.

"I told him to go ahead with the deal, though, and I’d buy the car from him."

The Vogue was trailered to Stafford’s then home in suburban Melbourne where he overhauled the brakes and tuned the carburettors before driving it to his current home 200 kilometres away.

Singer -vogue --rear -quarter -patch -658

"I was amazed at how quiet it was," he recalls. "Only later I discovered the amount of sound deadening that the semi-luxury Vogues had and local Hunters didn’t."

Work on the body began in 2006 with acquisition of a Hunter donor car. Rusted and damaged sections of the Vogue were cut away and replaced by sound metal from the Hunter and the doors were removed and worn hinges repaired.

"I’d already restored a few cars including a Hillman Gazelle my partner has driven for 10 years, so I’ve got a MIG welder and a lot of panel beating tools," he explains. "However, the techniques I used to repair this car were something new for me."

With new metal replacing rust and damaged areas repaired, body joins and box sections were treated with fish oil then the body sent to a paint shop for stripping and refinishing in Alpine White.

A new grille came with the car but needed repairing and the bumpers and some smaller parts were re-chromed by Classic Chrome in Geelong.

Singer -vogue -resto -2-658

Refitting body trim strips presented a problem as many of the original attachment clips were broken or missing.

Greg made new clips in plastic, screwed them to the body and then slid the brightwork into position.

"Chroming can be a real problem and this is where club contacts can be very useful. Another member had work done by Classic Chrome and the quality was good so I took his advice."

DIY ENGINE

Rebuilding the engine proved a far easier task for Greg, who picked up skills in this area from his mechanic brother.

The engine had been reconditioned, judging by its already-machined crankshaft, so all that was required was a set of oversize bearings.

Replacement pistons came from an engine acquired as a spare for the Gazelle and a new ring gear was fitted to ensure reliable starting.

Singer -vogue --engine -bay -658

Unlike Australian Hunters, which have sumps made from more durable steel, the Vogue oilpan is cast aluminium. The final underbonnet touch was an electric fan which Greg had owned for ages.

The Vogue trim and timberwork were both in good condition and the carpets had been replaced in 1992. The standard steering wheel was cracked and was replaced by a stylish but inexpensive wood-rim wheel.

To refurbish discoloured headlining, Stafford got a close-to-new appearance by spraying it with vinyl paint.

"The colour is a bit brighter than the original but unless I tell someone what I’ve done they don’t notice!"

Among luxury touches are rear courtesy lights activated by a dash switch and a heated rear window. It also has four inertia-reel seatbelts fitted by the previous owner who used the Vogue as family transport.

Rostyle steel sports wheels were optional on Rootes Group cars and used by various British brands during the 1960s and ’70s.

Singer -vogue -wheel -658

The set fitted to Stafford’s car was acquired from a club member in South Australia and sandblasted and recoated before Greg’s partner Elaine painstakingly repainted the inner sections black.

He still has the original wheels and hubcaps but has discovered that the wheels use a different offset from those on Australian Hunters.

Plans for the car include a trip to view this year’s Bay To Birdwood Run and as many club events as Greg can attend.

"It’s a really nice car to drive and I’ve got every confidence that it will take us to South Australia and back without a worry," he says.

WHAT IS IT?

The Vogue was the final new model to carry the famous Singer badge. Based on the better known Hillman Hunter, the Vogue sold from 1966-70 and the vast majority went to Brit buyers.

Singer -vogue -front -2-658

Most obvious differences between this model and the basic Hillman include the more complex grille, which echoed the even more luxurious Humber Sceptre version, a timber dash and optional overdrive on manual cars. The engine had twin carburettors as fitted to the locally-made Hillman Hunter GT.

A station wagon version was added to the range in 1967 and outsold the sedan by 47,000 to 31,000.

Early wagons had less power than the 55kW sedan but that odd situation was redressed late in 1967. There was also a 1.5-litre Gazelle aimed at the fleet market.

After Rootes Group owner, Chrysler, spiked Singer in 1970, the Vogue name was transferred briefly to the Sunbeam range.

 

OWNER SNAPSHOT:

Name: Greg Stafford

Best Part of Restoration: Assembly. Every time you look at a disassembled car it looks worse.

Worst Part: Having to cut pieces out not knowing if I could get replacements to fit.

Next Project: I've got four cars so I'll quit while I'm ahead.

 

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