Moving Down, Scaling Up (Part Three)

The 1963 Hillman Imp was Rootes’ answer to BMC’s Mini, but a latecomer to the market and, ultimately, a commercial failure. We conclude its story.

1965 Hillman Imp Mk2 advertisement (c) somethingawful.com

Autocar magazine had been given early access to an Imp De Luxe for testing and published its road test just a day after launch. The price including tax was £532, a £24 premium over the standard version. The reviewer praised the new engine’s smoothness, quietness and willingness to rev. They noted that, despite an unusually high 10:1 compression ratio, it ran without any trace of ‘pinking’ or ‘run-on’ on Premium(1) grade petrol.

The recommended top speed of 70mph (113km/h) was easily exceeded, and a maximum of 83mph (134km/h) was recorded one-way. The 0 to 60mph (97km/h) time was measured at 23.7 seconds. Fuel consumption over the course of the road test was 38.1mpg (7.4 L/100km).

No coolant temperature gauge was fitted, and the reviewer had to Continue reading “Moving Down, Scaling Up (Part Three)”

Moving Down, Scaling Up (Part Two)

Continuing our recollection of cars developed in response to the demand for smaller and more economical models. Today we feature the Hillman Imp.

Image: motor-car.net

In the 1950’s, the cars produced by the Rootes Group were the very embodiment of middle-class respectability. Brothers William and Reginald Rootes, with the backing of the Prudential Assurance Company and Midland Bank, had assembled a stable of marques, including Hillman, Humber, Singer, Sunbeam and Talbot, all of which occupied the broad middle market.

There were some distinctions between them; Humber was the more upmarket brand, whilst Sunbeam models had a slightly sporting appeal, but the differences were marginal and largely historic. What Rootes emphatically did not possess was a small car brand, or expertise in that segment of the market.

Rootes was also initially slow to Continue reading “Moving Down, Scaling Up (Part Two)”

Theme: Materials – Glassback Imprimis

The humble little Imp was a trendsetter in several ways. But I’m not talking about pneumatic throttles… not today anyway.

Image: classiccarcatalogue
Image: classiccarcatalogue

Question: Does the 1963 Hillman Imp feature the earliest European production example of a ‘glassback’ or opening rear window? I’m going to stick my neck out and say it does. Yes, the 1959 Austin A40 (Farina) Countryman’s split tailgate arrangement could be said to predate it, as indeed did that of the earlier Chevy Nomad but I’m discounting both on the basis that not only is there a solid looking steel pressing holding the glass in place, it also forms part of a hinged drop-down section. (An arrangement the Range Rover cleaves to). Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Glassback Imprimis”

1963 Hillman Imp Road Test

“A new car from Rootes”. Mr Archibald Vicar motors north of the border in the Hillman “Imp.”.

1963 Hillman Imp colour

“From The Practical Car Driver”, Dec 1963, we present what looks like a transcript of a road test of Rootes’ legendary rear-engined Mini-slayer, the Imp. Drawings by Miss Caroline Dallington. Owing to the poor quality of Caroline’s original drawings, stock photographs have been used.

One always relishes visiting North Britain. The North British, from Glasgow to Edinburgh and from Banff to Braeval, are far and away the most entertaining subjects in this Sceptered Isle. To their repertoire of skills which include brewing, distilling and the making of beer they have added another: building motor cars. Thus The Practical Car Driver has dispatched me to Linwood, to Continue reading “1963 Hillman Imp Road Test”