Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: Sunbeam Imp – A Different Rear Engined Car For Rome

posted at the Cohort by Bruno Ferlito

Finding a compact car with a rear engine in Rome, and Italy generally, cannot be difficult. From 1955, first with the 600, then the 500 Nuova as well, later the 850 and finally the 126 and 133, Fiat were selling substantial numbers of rear engined cars for nearly 50 years. All in, I suspect you’re looking at  perhaps 12 million or more cars. So, seeing a rear engined car in Rome is not an event. But I suspect this one is.

A Sunbeam Imp, or to our British readers, a Hillman Imp. The only volume British car with a rear engine, aimed at the Mini and Ford Anglia from 1963 and assembled in a purpose built factory close to Glasgow Airport. As you probably know, not a commercial success, or in its early formative and market important years, a technical success either. Around 440,000 of all variants were sold in 13 years, compared to 300,000 Minis a year in the late 1960s.

The Hillman name was used in the UK for first and entry level cars. Semi-luxury Singer Chamois and sporty Sunbeam Imps were available in various forms at various times, but the Sunbeam name was also used in many export markets, across a lot of the Rootes range, such as the Sunbeam Arrow saloon. In the home market, this would have been a Hillman Imp Super, but is likely fitted with a 50bhp version of the 875cc engine and some other market specific differences. The Minilites are an aftermarket extra, as is the deletion of the unloc external handles on the rear engine cover.