Ashtrays: 1956-1967 Hillman Super Minx

The Minx name is mostly forgotten today, a legacy of the demise of its parent company, Hillman.

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However, Hillman used the Minx name for nearly fifty years on three or four generations of cars. As was typical of Rootes, the Minx name had a convoluted model history of small upgrades, badge engineering and variants such as the Super Minx with moderately modified bodywork. There is an awful lot of noise to sort out to get at the core of the Minx story. As with many of the cars of the time, the exact social significance and market positioning is rather hard to parse and I suspect one could devote quite a long time to gathering period reviews to reconstruct the Minx’s place in the market.

1966 Hillman Super Minx
1966 Hillman Super Minx: source

I seldom get to sit in cars of this age, first because I am not especially drawn to these British vehicles from this time and also because they are not very common, not with the doors open anyway. When you sit inside the car you notice how hard and metallic it is, with the body dominating the trim; these days trim of exceptional depth and complexity conceals the body and it is probably hard to find a car at any price with exposed metal inside.

For the average woman or man driving in the mid 1960’s this was entirely normal and they’d need to step into a wedding car such as a Rolls to experience an interior where the metal work could not be seen and where the soft fitting were anything but vinyl, hard plastic and that especially rough carpeting that manufacturers preferred at the time.

Cutting to the chase, we find a single drawer-type ashtray for the driver and front passenger. This one slid out with a notable squeeky roughness and I can imagine that many Minx’s had nice, thick cakings of nicotine on the panel over the tray. While some cars summon up fantasies of cross-continental drives (that 130 saloon I featured some time back and a 130 coupe that is forthcoming) this one summons up drives in the rain to a new supermarket that has sprouted outside Weston-Super-Mare. The wood trim is not doing much to raise the ambience but I suppose at the time it was a pleasant touch, reminding one that one didn’t have enough money for a Wolseley or Triumph maybe?

In the back, ashtrays mounted stupidly right over the arm-rest so that you need to move your entire arm to flick the debris into the trough. So, I can’t award many marks here for hedonism or ergonomics.

I am left wondering why anybody might want to buy a car like this. There’s nothing special to look at and the engineering is what I might term Soviet British. The suspension “was independent at the front using coil springs with anti-roll bar and at the rear had leaf springs and a live axle” according to the font of all wisdom, and that is not that appealing. You can see why Rootes faded away.

Although Opel and Vauxhall offered equally uninteresting cars, they were linked to large corporations with a broader outlook so they could draw on the resources of their head office for design, engineering and marketing. Rootes was as English as Alfa Romeo was Italian; perhaps I mean Fiat. And if corny old Italian brio added some romance to Fiat’s sometimes workaday cars, stolid English practicality could do nothing for cars like this.

Triumph and Rover could offer sporting appeal or decent luxury while Hillmans churned out expedient vehicles for what I assume were not very demanding customers. We often think that modern cars are mostly bland appliances. This car shows that the car as appliance can be found further back in time than 2004.

(Note: I’m not all that au fait with the byzantine history of Rootes and its badge-engineered cars. Further clarifcation on this expected and indeed welcome. If vexed members of the Hillman Owner’s Club want to chip in, feel free).

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

3 thoughts on “Ashtrays: 1956-1967 Hillman Super Minx”

  1. It’d be interesting to know how you came to be sitting in a Hillman Super Minx Richard. I remember a lot of these cars around in my youth, not because I’m ancient but because they seemed more durable than equivalent Cortinas , Victors and Cambridges. It’s important to bear in mind the advantage homegrown cars had at that time due to pre-EEC import tariffs. Of course there was also a greater sense of patriotism, many people in the market for a new car in the 60’s would have fought in the second world war. My uncle swore he’d never buy a Japanese car because of what they did to prisoners of war although he liked German cars. He relented of course and bought a Nissan Sunny.
    The Minx was the base model of the upper medium Rootes range and relatively good value. The design of the interior to my eyes looks nicer than Cortinas etc from that era. As for the leaf springs at the back, as pointed out on this very site, they were the norm in the 60’s, even being fitted to Ferraris and Lancias. I’ve never ridden in Super Minx but have driven and ridden in its successor, the Rootes Arrow which was fairly comfortable. I admit I have an impulse to defend the underdog and it seems that Rootes was the underdog (in those days) of the British motor industry, even more so when they were taken over by Chrysler. All I can say is, have a sit in a Cortina Mk 1 if you can and it might make you rethink your view of the Super Minx.
    Have a look at the dashboard of the more upmarket version, the Humber Sceptre:×1066/1966-humber-sceptre-mk2-1725cc-saloon.jpg . I’ll shut up now.

  2. Thanks for that absorbing comment. I’ll take a look at the equivalent Cortina next time I have a chance.
    The Humber Sceptre is rather nice if busy. The ashtray is potentially huge. It’s a few cuts above the SuperMinx, that’s clear. The Minx had black seating which creates a much less enticing ambience.
    Can you position the SuperMinx in today’s world – I suspect it would be situated among Mondeos and Insignias? What’s confusing is whether it’s much more than a Minx dressed up. Analogous might be a SuperMondeo with a different front and rear bumper? Yet I feel it’s not equivalent to a Vignale which is a SuperMondeo. It would be intermediate in a more spread out trim hierarchy. The Commodore/Senator difference again seems too much of a leap to be comparable.

    1. I suppose the Sceptre was the Vignale equivalent and I agree it had its appeal. I know I slagged the Arrow cars off here on these pages recently, and offended a reader greatly, but I was really criticising the low standards of the UK industry of the time, not singling it out. As Mark said, the Rootes cars had a quite pleasing character that made their Ford and Vauxhall equivalents look rather brash. I’m loath to use the term on this disgraceful day, but there was a comfortable ‘Britishness’ to them.

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