Hillman Imp : Project Slug

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 Imp…

Stage One

Stage Two

Pictures supplied by Graham Arnold


  1. …And I thought the standard production Imp was an unattractive car!

    What was the purpose of having two headlamps next to each other in the middle of the bonnet? Very peculiar. Its as if they wanted to give the thing quad lamps and could only afford two, so they put them next to each other.

    And being rear engined, the front end was effectively the boot, so when you go to get stuff out of there the headlamps are pointing up at the trees…

  2. Is there any more info on the 600cc(?) Villiers flat-twin engine or if the engine was used in other microcars and motorbikes?

    And while it was stated on the main Hillman Imp article that the cost and delays involved to switch the Imp to FWD were not worth it, did anyone attempt to convert the Imp into a Front-Engined FWD car (similar to Polish attempts to make a FWD Fiat 126) or use the Engine and Gearbox in other Imp-replacements prototypes prior to the Talbot Sunbeam (that used the Imp’s engine)?

  3. @ 5 The Villiers Engine was a one off Design commissioned by Rootes, though possibly an enlargement of an existing Design? It was the Villiers Gearbox that was causing the problems hence the recruitment of Adrian West.

    The Imp Club has many one off pictures that never made it to production, some of these archives was on display at Coventry Transport Museum a few weeks back for the Imps 50th, some unusual items like a Humber version with strange front grill, and a Hatchback conversion which could possibly have worked is it looked similar to the mk3 Escort Bustle tail.

    The pictures mainly date from the very early 60s, However there was strongly rumoured that Chrysler played with a Front wheel Drive version, I do have a picture on my Garage wall of a Cutaway showing the Engine/Gearbox turned around (Like a big Audi) and sporting its ungainly overhang, whilst the doors and windscreen are the same the rear looks like a Simca 1100 grafted on with its saggy bottom rear end, The picture has Autocar stamped on it but no one in the Imp Clubs knows much about it? So could possibly be a Magazine Speculation?.

    If you think BL were very slow to rationalise Chrysler were just as bad, as the rear engine Simca 1000 has no interchangeable parts with the Imp, (though pictures exist with Imp badges on the Simca, I have yet to find any evidence the FWD Simca 1100 gearbox/engines were ever considered for the Imp.

  4. 6)dontbuybluemotion

    Will I able to find the one-off pictures on their forums at Imp Club since I cannot seen to find it on their site? The Autocar picture of a FWD Imp sounds interesting.

    One thing I am trying to figure is how the production Imp engine could have benefited from using Desmodronic valves which when fitted to the prototype Imp units were said to have ran successfully, forgetting about the Desmodronic system’s inherent costs and complication for a second.

  5. Nate you could try and ask on their forums for info… good luck ! But you will probably be told “Look on Franks’s site” http://www.imps4ever.info/ . Though I cannot remember much of a mention of “Desmodronic valves” on Her knowledgeable and ever expanding site, The only thing I can vaguely recall as a brief mention in the Henshaw book of the Apex, exactly as you say “Down to money” Rootes were flat broke at the time and the last thing they needed was more unknown reliability and development costs.

    The picture that was on my wall (has fallen off somewhere) was bought some years ago at our National gathering on one of the auto jumble stands, Have never come across it before and possibly nothing to do with Rootes/Chrysler, but a speculation of what Chrysler could be upto ? hence the clubs knows little about it? I could scan the copy I have for you and pass it onto Keith if you want.

  6. dontbuybluemotion

    Thanks for answering my questions.

    Yep, got that bit of info from Henshaw’s Apex though while getting that Rootes were flat broke at the time, in what way could any production car have benefited from using Desmodronic Valves from the late-1950s onwards?

    If you could scan the copy and pass it to Keith, would very much appreciate it thanks.

  7. Thanks dontbuybluemotion, Keith.

    The picture of the Front-Engined FWD Imp Hatchback seems to be inspired by the Hatchback Imp shown in the Hillman Imp prototype section of this site, can kind of see what you meant with rear sort of resembling the Simca 1100 though the rear also seems to possess some faint styling elements from the Saab 99 as well.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. AROnline live » The cars : Hillman Imp

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.