The Hillman Imp

BY JAMES CAMPBELL

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.

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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.

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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.

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