Hillman Imp : Rootes Asp

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

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), and allying it to a pretty (Tim Fry, along with Bob Saward and Ron Wisdom, styled) body, the engineers stirred the pot to produce the Asp.

Rootes approached Jensen Motors and asked them to study the feasibility of producing the Asp for them, at the rate of 500 units per week. The plans would have centred around a steel bodied car, which would have used the standard 875cc engine, with the option of a more highly tuned 998cc variant. The car certainly had potential, and cannily, Rootes planned for the fall-back of glass fibre construction, had steel proved too costly.

Sadly, the Asp project was dropped through lack of resources (this was at a time when Chrysler had yet to take a controlling stake in Rootes), allied to negative feedback from America… An ironic decision given the enormous number of MG Midgets and Austin-Healey Sprites BMC managed to shift Stateside.

Pictures supplied by Roy Axe


Pictures supplied by Gerry Ford




  1. Given the negative publicity rear engined American cars were attracting in the states, once Americans gained control of Rootes, any rear engined projects were doomed.

    • Even in Europe it was recognised that FWD was the future, VW was only saved by it’s water cooled front engine expertise brought in from NSU, Renault went front engined with the 4 and Fiat’s last rear engined car was the 127.

        • The 126 was not a Polish car, it was originally designed and built in Italy. That it was also produced in Poland was part of Fiat’s excellent strategy to expand behind the iron curtain. The last 126 were built in Poland though and – very late in its life – also received a hatchback that was designed in Poland.

  2. The yanks were dabbling with FWD then but they started at the wrong end of the market with the Toronado, the exact opposite of economical and practical.

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