Alternate History Hot Rod Dilemma, Stellantis Edition: Humber Snipe or Opel Kapitän?

Alternate History Hot Rod Top 1600x900

When the shooting stopped— or at least paused— after World War II ended, the automobile factories of every major car-building nation in the world had been converted to military production and/or bombed to rubble… with the exception of those in the United States. That meant that Americans could start buying shiny new ’46 and ’47 models (after a brief but maddening period of car shortage that had Americans desperate enough to buy such non-cars as the wretched Crosley), which meant that gearheadedly-inclined returning GIs could buy cheap hooptie prewar cars, drop hairy engines in them, and create the greatest automotive culture the world has ever seen. Over in Europe, though, potential hot-rodders were lucky to have any car; in Great Britain, the economy was so hammered that food rationing continued until 1954. Germany had been bombed to hell, then split into two countries.

But imagine an alternate version of the 1939-1980 period, not one in which the war ended differently but one in which the war never happened. A world in which Germany and Britain remained unbombed and prosperous, freeing their car freaks to do what they do best: stupid engine swaps into cheap 1930s cars! In such a world, the knacker’s yards and schrottplätze would have been packed with affordable project cars, each awaiting an ill-advised engine swap. With that in mind, you must choose between two prewar vehicles made by Stellantis precursors, each paired with a big 1970s engine from the appropriate nation. Here we go!

Alternate History Hot Rod 1934 Humber 1600x900

Humber Limited began building bicycles in 1887, eventually becoming part of the Rootes Group and then Chrysler Europe (providing our Stellantis connection). The Rootes Brothers began building Humber Snipe luxury sedans in 1930, with production continuing all the way through the 1967 Super Snipe. In our war-never-happened United Kingdom of the 1970s, a beat-up 1934 Snipe 80 Tourer would be readily available for conversion to an evil-looking fenderless street rod for a reasonable quantity of pounds and shillings (in our alternate history, the travesty of British currency decimalization would not have taken place, and we won’t even get started on the hateful metric system here). Once you’d sprayed it in primer, added a suicide knob to the steering wheel, and thrown on some Very Dangerous drag slicks, what engine would your Hot Rod Humber receive in place of its original 3.5-liter flathead straight-six mill?

Alternate History Hot Rod Jag V12 Badge 1600x900

You’ll want twelve cylinders, of course, and you’ll want a car that uses them all. That calls for a Jaguar V12!

Alternate History Hot Rod Jag V12 1600x900

A ’34 Snipe with exposed 326-cube Jaguar V12 and no mufflers whatsoever would look and sound ideal, especially after being equipped with a half-dozen of Skinner Union’s finest carburetors. You’d want the four-on-the-floor manual transmission from an E-Type, of course.

Alternate History Hot Rod 1938 Opel 1600x900

Opel is now part of the mighty Stellantis Empire, of course, and we all know the tremendous impact the Manta had upon German car culture. That means we have no choice but to choose a 1930s Opel for our Alternate History Hot Rod Dilemma, and the correct choice to pair with the swanky Snipe 80 must be a stately Kapitän. In an alternate-1970s Germany in which Kapitäns never were made to fight alongside Mercedes-Benzes at Stalingrad (and never served as the basis of the GAZ-M20 Pobeda), you might have been handed down your Großvater’s battered old 1938 Kapitän to play with. Clearly, the original 2.5-liter six had to go… but what powerplant should go in its place?

Alternate History Hot Rod Porsche V8 1600x900

A 1970s German engine with great visual impact and plenty of horsepower? This situation calls for the 4.5-liter, overhead-cam V8 developed by Porsche for the 928. As an added bonus with our alternate history, Adolf Hitler ended his days as an obscure Vienna watercolorist shunned by his horrified neighbors for his extremist views, which means Ferdinand Porsche designed more and better cars instead of running slave-labor factories and doing time in a French prison, which would have resulted in an even better 928 engine! The “spider” fuel-injection manifold of a 928 V8 would look just right under the hood of a slammed, chopped, and channeled Kustom Kapitän.

But would the Kustom Kapitän be more fun than the V12 Snipe? You must decide.

 

SuperSurvey

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16 Responses

  1. Ok, sticking to the topic, since I re-read this and we must pick between only the two Stellantis precursors mentioned, whereas I misread it initially as mixing and matching engines/chassis from two Stellantis precursors, I’d have to go with the Opel Kapitan.

    But, I’d shove in a 5-cylinder 3L turbodiesel from a Mercedes 300SD into that Kapitan, and increase the size of the threads in the injector pump to feed more fuel. Might be able to get 300 horsepower out of such an engine, without sacrificing reliability. That would make the Kapitan accelerate from 0-60 mph in around 5 seconds, and with the appropriate gearing selection, possibly exceed 140 mph. And it would likely get a reasonable 25-30 mpg.

    Too bad an old Tatra T77A would be out of the choices for a donor. That had a drag coefficient comparable to a modern Tesla Model S PLAID. With a 70s-era turbodiesel, highway fuel economy in that chassis could match or exceed anything non-EV you could buy today in the U.S.

  2. Oh man, so many possibilities…

    How about an Alfa Romeo Disco Volante touring coupe with a 2.1L 4-cylinder mechanical-injection diesel swap from an Opel Rekord D, tuned to about 110 horsepower with a Garret turbocharger?

    You’d have a light-weight canyon carver AND Autobahn cruiser of about 1800 lbs, getting around 70+ mpg @ 70 mph and 30+ mpg @ 120 mph, that would be capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in around 8 seconds and reaching roughly 130 mph(with altered gearing), and using a mechanically reliable engine to boot. What’s not to like about that?

  3. As a kid, mum and dad owned a mid 60’s Super Snipe, so I had to vote for that.

    The one thing I remember was that it maxxed out at about 80 mph. But that was going uphill or downhill. Something about the original motor being based on struck motor – all torque, slow revving ?

    1. STEF IS HERE TOO?!!
      Jason, David, Murilee—and now the legendary author of the article on the best place to defecate at racetracks: WOOT! I do hope you will be contributing articles here: there seems to already be plenty of snark, but it’s woefully lacking in Puffalump content.

      As the sun no longer shines darkly, it is now time to explore one of the many pins I drop on roads in GMaps which resemble the polygraph tape produced when 8yo me was asked about Candy Rope missing from Horners Corner Store… Hey, if I haven’t commented here by the 12th, would someone kindly dispatch the Coast Guard to search the service roads off the Blue Ridge Parkway around Peaks of Otter, please? I’ve likely stuffed it backwards into a ravine, and, if alive, am living on hoarded ketchup packets whilst hungrily eyeing my 3-legged rescue mutt. If I’m not still animated, at least save the mutt and assure him he is a Good Boy if Somewhat Scruffy. Thanks!

  4. In our timeline the go-to engine swappin’ engine in Britain was Rover’s ex-Buick alumin(i)um V8. But so many of those were swapped into Ford Populars that something like a Humber – basically a radically embiggened version of the same engineering concept as the Ford “Pop” – would need half again the cylinders just to keep up.

  5. The alternative history has not changed the laws of taxation and supervision in Germany…those were already set before WWII, taxation by displacement, and shortly after (1951) the infamous TueV road testing.

    When you were scouting the junkyards for exiting projects those two paradigms would eventually always lead to a cheap to run and tax, but safe; meaning less HP than the original, OM615 (200D) in a former stately looking higher ranked body of the same make. I have seen and smelled W111 coupes and Ponton convertibles like that.
    Without access of the general population to cheap fuel and let’s say “relaxed” attitude towards putting more power than originally engineered into a chassis…this is still not going to be a lot of fun.

    Now back to Britain…

  6. The Kapitan all the way. It fits better with the rodded look. Though would Porsche have ever had the funding or desire to create the Beetle in this universe? Maybe in this timeline, it was a Lloyd that became the German people’s car.

  7. So many alternate WWII histories are dark, I really like this war-never-happens one. Uninterrupted Grand Prix. Merlin V-12s mainly famous for speed records. Instead of the VW Beetle, the Citroen DS becomes the American ideal of a European car…

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