The Hillman Imp was a heroic failure for The Rootes Group. There’s no question that it was a good car, but there were so many factors which conspired to scupper the car’s chances on the market that it was destined not to be the success that Rootes so dearly needed.
The 1963 Imp was the company’s attempt to mount an attack on the small car market, which had been revolutionised by the Mini in the UK. But Rootes decided to ape overseas rivals and stick with the then-common rear-engined layout – which ultimately aged the car before its time. Which is a shame, because it was a great little machine, with a 37bhp alloy 875cc Coventry Climax engine mounted at the rear.
The all-independent suspension made it nimble on bends and the opening rear screen added practicality. Had it come along before the Mini, it might have been the big little star instead of BMC’s baby. However, reliability issues and suspicion about its unusual nature robbed it of sales and it never recovered, despite being available until 1976.
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Mini steps backwards… The Suez crisis of the 1956 certainly had a lot to answer for: petrol shortages in the UK meant that those cars that could eke out the most from a gallon of Petrol were judged to be the most desirable. The Rootes Group certainly felt that way, and as a response to […]
The sporting version of the Imp looks as promising today as it did back during the 1960s. A lack of money would spell its end… Rootes’ engineers knew that the Imp chassis was capable of handling more power, and decided to work on a sporting variant. Using the existing all alloy ohc engine (tuned somewhat), […]
Rootes’ bouncing new baby The Slug The Slug was the brainchild Michael Parkes and Tim Fry, when they were asked to come up with a small car to generate sales volume for The Rootes Group. Initially powered by a Villiers flat-twin engine, the tiny rear-engined car paved the way for the Apex and then the […]
The Hillman Imp came about as a direct response to the Suez-crisis induced petrol shortages of 1956/57, even though Rootes had started small car investigations long before this. The first small Rootes car was Little Jim, but this was followed by the Slug in the mid-1950s. The Imp came from Project Apex, which was a […]