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