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Hillman Imp

Hillman Imp Published: 25th Sep 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Hillman Imp
Hillman Imp
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Why should I buy one?

If for no other reason it’s because everyone thinks only about the Mini! But there’s more to it than that – Hillman’s Imp is both cheaper and more practical than that BMC brick plus it’s arguably prettier, especially the fastbacked models. Imps drive really nicely, sport a great hatchback facility and there’s a sense of fun about them – just like a Mini, only different.

What can I get?

As the Imp was produced for just 13 years and never sold as well as the Mini, the choice can be limited but apart from the standard spec models there’s the twin-carb Sunbeam Imp Sport which is a fine but ignored Cooper rival – ditto the plush Wolseley Hornet/Riley Elf-rivalling Singer Chamois. A super rare variant is the Chamois Sport – a Sunbeam spec engine in a Chamois for the ultimate in upmarket Imps. Also available if far rarer is a range of fancy fastbacks across all specs; the Imp Californian, Chamois Coupé and sweet vinyl-roofed Sunbeam Stiletto but bear in mind these variants don’t possess a hatch and so loading is awkward, unlike the Commer Cob van, and a Hillman Husky estate. There’s an Imp for everyone – if you can find them that is.

What are they like to drive?

The Imp was all new when launched and without doubt was as radical as the Mini. Blessed with a lovely race-derived engine (that was also used by Lotus for its Elite in another form) and a low centre of gravity the happy-golucky Hillman is as much fun as the BMC rival even if the thrills are delivered differently. Rear engined, and RWD, it’s a different although not inferior handler to the Mini and not half as ‘skiddy’ as a similar in concept VW Beetle – wider modern radial tyres also make a world of difference. As testament to their all round ability Imps boast a fine competition history, although the 51bhp Sports (and Stiletto) aren’t quite as quick or special as a Cooper and front disc brakes were never offered. On the plus side, standard Imps are far more refined than a Mini on the motorway, the driving position is without doubt superior and the interior not so spartan or found ergonomic wanting.

What are they like to live with?

While spare parts aren’t quite as easy to source as they are for the Mini, the Imp is pretty well served both by classic specialists and an active and friendly owners’ club. Apart from the usual rust worries, the all-alloy overhead construction of the Imp’s engine can cause some concern to ham-fisted mechanics although holds few fears for good DIY enthusiasts. A torque wrench is essential if stripped threads are to be avoided while the overhead camshaft has to be shimmed up, just like the XK Jag unit. While some two feet longer than the Mini, Imps are just as compact to park in the smallest of garages, more than acceptable, thanks to four seats and a hatchback boot, as daily drivers and easy to keep mobile although tuning parts aren’t so prolific like the Mini. Because Imps haven’t caught on as a classic, you get far more car for your money. Five grand will net you one of the very best Imps with the Stiletto being only slightly dearer. On the other hand, Imps are unlikely to soar in future value.

We reckon

Launched four years after the Mini, but if the Imp had been released first, then we’d all be raving about this little car that in no way is second stringer to the Issigonis masterpiece…

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