The Hillman Imp


Some cars leave you with a soft spot.

One such car for me is the Hillman Imp which, for five years, was the vehicle that took me to prep school in the mornings. It was the car which I remember skidding around in 1970’s snow. The car I was sick in when we suffered a bout of norovirus from my father’s cooking of pig’s trotters when my mother was in hospital giving birth to my brother. It’s also the car that I experienced my first crash in – one minute zooming along a country land and the next minute upside down in a field full of sheep.


After production ceased in 1976 the Hillman Imp was regarded for decades as the epitome of heroic failure of the British motor industry. With its engine in the boot and quirky looks the Imp was a joint venture between Government and the Rootes Factory in Glasgow, which became curtailed when Chrysler took over Rootes. By then the Imp name had become synonymous with faulty chokes and throttle glitches, issues that might have never arisen had it not been rushed into production.

But hold on a minute.

The Hillman Imp is a wagon with excellent handling, a superbly responsive engine and any number of practical touches, from an opening rear screen and folding rear seats to an “ergonomic” instrument panel. It was ground-breaking at the time and arguably no British car with four seats since has had such radical looks, save perhaps the Austin Princess or the Rover 75.


The Hillman Imp is also a rust-bucket, which means there are less and less of them around. Which, in turn, means they are a good investment if you have somewhere dry to store one.

I had a look around and found some models in good shape for as little as five grand. If you get the right one (and there are plenty of barn finds on EBay) you may be in for a windfall once it’s been done up.


2 thoughts on “The Hillman Imp

  1. I cut my teeth on these, got the first one for £60 (which I had to borrow). It had a blown head gasket but the seller assured me it was an easy job. It was, it lasted a good three months before blowing again. I bought a Haynes manual and removed the engine. Once the head and block had been skimmed and I’d learned all about torque wrenches I had no further problems. Not with the engine anyway. The next job was the gearbox.

    After a while I became the local ‘expert’, it was fun though, both to drive and to take to pieces…both regular activities.

  2. “As little as five grand” you say ? That’s “little” round your way, is it ?
    Or for as little as £500 you can buy a proper car – such as my Jaguar XJ6, mint condition inside and out and only 50k miles – or, to be more accurate – you can’t, because I already have and it isn’t for sale.
    Or a real performance saloon, such as my ’95 supercharged 155mph Jaguar XJR that cost me as little as £1,400 complete with an “XJR” number-plate, and has passed every MoT since with nothing more than one new brake-pipe and new anti-roll bar rubbers in 7 years.
    Tomorrow I collect another bargain, a Peugeot 406 Pininfarina Coupe with a 3-litre V6, last owner for 12 years. At just £795 how can you go wrong ?
    Don’t get me wrong – I love old cars and have owned everything from Jags, Rovers, Triumphs,Minis, Moggy Minors, MGs, Alpines, Alvis, Jensen, Ferrari, ’59 Cadillac, Olds Rocket etc etc, and the dinky little Sunbeam Stiletto version of the Hillman Imp in one of those vivid shades of Gold or Sky Blue is an attractive little car, but five-grand ????
    With only a little care and attention, I’m sure that you can find something equally attractive for far less to turn upside-down and be sick in……..

Leave a Reply