Carshow Outtake: 1967 Commer Imp Van – In Need Of Some Gritty Determination

Hillman Imp van_2

This brings back a childhood memory or two, combining the Hillman Imp van, and God’s own country, known to those who aren’t fortunate enough to live there as Yorkshire.

Hillman Imp

The Hillman Imp van was the light commercial based on the Hillman Imp saloon, sold in North America as the Sunbeam Imp. Paul Niedermayer’s great write up covers the estate car (known as the Husky) and the small van version, initially badged as Commer and later as Hillman. All variants had the same rear mounted 875cc OHC engine, actually taken from a fork lift truck maker but also designed for motorsport use.

Hillman Imp montage

This was placed at the rear, with a trailing arm rear suspension, rather than the swing axles seen on Beetles and Corvairs, and as a result the Imp had perhaps even better handling than the Mini. It soon lost out to the Mini though, through arriving 4 years later, having a smaller dealer network and even graver quality issues.


In 1970, my parents bought a 1965 Imp as our first-ever second car to complement a 1966 Hillman Super Minx. On its first school run, it broke down, with some form of drive shaft or throttle cable failure (accounts are varied, but I do know our local doctor pushed us out of the traffic). Undeterred, my parents replaced it with a 1968 Imp van about two years later, which was similar to this one except for its dreary grey paint and small folding rear seat.

Hillman Imp van_1

At the time, we lived in Wakefield, in the Yorkshire coalfield area (now a very faded remnant but that’s another story), a place where Yorkshire Grit was evident and useful. Yorkshire Grit is not actually a stone, although it is derived from gritstone or Millstone Grit, a coarse sandstone used for the grinding wheels for flour mills and for knives, but is a concise term summing up the determination and perseverance sometimes required to survive and prosper in heavy industry, and a harsher physical and climatic environment than, say, southern England. No link at all to the Yorkshireman’s inflexibility, toughness and general air and capability for “getting stuff done.” You know this guy has it:

So, an Imp van, the first I’ve seen for some years, offering “Coarse Yorkshire Grit” brought a smile, and some great memories. “Coarse” is a nice play on words too; maybe referring to a coarse (larger) grit (stone) or to the Yorkshireman’s occasional verbal expression of frustration or (usually) achievement.

Imps at Easter