Curbside Capsule: Monday Morning Rarities – A Genuine CC 1965 Hillman Imp, And Its Australian Production

Hillman Imp CC

I was quite happy to see last year what will be a very rare CC find in Australia or indeed almost everywhere, a Hillman Imp. This must be one of only a handful of ‘daily driver’ Imps in the country, and is owned by the same people as the 1951 Minx posted recently.

Hillman Imp 2

While I know the owners this is a genuine CC find, as it was photographed as I was driving down the street on my way to an appointment for work. I know they have had the car for around 30 years and it is essentially standard.  To be fair it is not in actual daily use, and they have a more modern car in addition to the Imp and Minx.

Imp engine bay

Imps in Australia were sold from 1964-70, however didn’t see the same model evolution as in the UK, essentially they were all Mark 1 cars with local updates applied.  In particular to the air intake and filtration given the disastrous results obtained from driving the original cars on unsealed roads that were very common then even within towns (roughly 15% of roads in the country were sealed); pistons could wear to the point of needing replacement before hitting 10,000 miles.  Note the large cylindrical air cleaner fitted to the later Mark 2 car photographed above, with the convoluted hose to air intakes below the rear window (via the double-skinned body cavity), which was the first attempt to deal with this problem.

The radiator is mounted on the left side of the engine bay, with the water pump and powerful ducted fan there too.  The engine is laid over at a 45-degree angle, to lower the centre of gravity as well as its height under the parcel tray behind the rear seats.  The rear body crossmember panel un-bolts and is removed to allow easy engine removal.

Imp air intake

Further improvement in dust avoidance was gained with the final air intake position within the door opening, being ahead of the rear wheels!  Seen here missing the plastic covering grille; also this particular car was produced in New Zealand so I’m not sure it is exactly the same as Australian cars in terms of cutting the hole.  On the GT model (equivalent to the Sport models in the UK) the intake was on the other side, because there was not enough room for the large air cleaner and the twin carburettors.  The car sold well initially and was a poster child for Rootes’ CKD operations, but sales hit a brick wall once the problems became apparent.

IMP interior

While the Imp was sold in Australia until 1970, they retained the ‘binnacle’ dash to the end rather than updating to the full-width dashboard introduced in the UK in Oct 1968 most likely because they were still working through a stockpile of CKD kits hanging around since those optimistic early days!

The label transfers for the switches have worn away here, but the stalk controls operated the indicators (aka turn signals) on the right side (with electromagnetic self-cancelling rather than a pawl) and pulled to sound the horn, while the left stalk would activate (up) or flash (down) the high beam lights.  The left toggle switch turned on the headlights and parking/side lights and the right toggle switch was for the wipers.  There was a squeeze bulb for the washer on the left side of the binnacle and the ignition switch was on the right side (switched for LHD versions I assume), in those pre-steering lock days.

Just out of shot to the lower left is the lever that selected windscreen, cabin or no ventilation; wearing a non-retractable seat belt your foot is the best option for moving this lever!  At the bottom of the picture the gear knob can be seen for the all-synchro four-speed transmission.  Obviously the radio is a later addition.

Imps National Rally Ballarat

However it is a car that I don’t think we’ve had an actual CC find before, which I don’t find surprising given it is probably only the third or fourth Imp I’ve seen on the road in 25 years, outside of shows or club events.  The white car above is an Australian Mk3 version, wearing the grille used on Singer Chamois elsewhere.

IMP new paint

Update: since taking this photo (last year) the car has been undergoing some restoration work including a repaint and retrim; I saw it again today.


Further Reading:

Roger Carr’s comprehensive history of the Imp: Carshow Outtake: 1967 Commer Imp Van – In Need Of Some Gritty Determination

Paul’s CC article from the early days of the site: Curbside Classic: Sunbeam (Hillman) Imp – The British Corvair