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Hillman Imp

Published: 5th Apr 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Hillman Imp
Hillman Imp
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But Rootes’ rascal is one of the best ever superminis!

Forget everything you think you know about the Hillman Imp and look at it from a fresh perspective. Here’s a four-seater supermini that handles brilliantly, is economical, has a slick gearchange, rides serenely and is ultra-cheap to buy and run. So why does the poor Imp have a reputation that’s so bad? The reason is the car’s history, which was dogged by problems from its introduction in 1963. Those faults were largely fixed by 1965 – but the damage was done and buyers were wary. It’s a shame it had to be like this. The Imp was one of the few cars that could rival the Mini with its kart- like dynamics and excellent practicality, while there was also a choice of bodystyles; saloon, coupé, Hillman Husky estate and Commer van derivatives were all offered. But just 440,000 Imps of all types were made and survivors are relatively rare. However, wth even the best examples astonishingly affordable, you don’t need to skimp when buying one.


Although the Imp wasn’t well rustproofed, the bodyshell is strong, so structural corrosion isn’t that common. But corrosion in general is par for the course, so check the bonnet, door bottoms, sills, wheelarches, all seams and spare wheel well, as well as the floorpans and suspension mountings.

Although the all-aluminium engine has a reputation for fragility, if properly cared for it’ll just keep going, although the water pumps tend to wear out within 25,000 miles and oil leaks are normal. The key is to maintain the right concentration of anti-freeze within the cooling system; once it gets too weak, corrosion will set in. Check for signs of overheating such as a blown head gasket and listen for pinkling, which suggests the head has been skimmed one time too many. The system needs careful bleeding, too.

If the gearchange isn’t slick, suspect tired linkage bushes; new ones cost £10. More of an issue is worn synchro on first and second, signifying a rebuild is due; revived boxes cost £500. Another weak spot is the rubber driveshaft couplings, which perish; decent new ones are around £50 apiece.

Interior and exterior trim are very hard to find, so check it’s all there. Some of the brightwork is stainless steel, some is anodised aluminium while the badges are mazak, so they tend to age badly. The electrics tend to be reliable, but pre-1968 switchgear is now hard to find.


Project Imps are worth up to £200, while usable cars fetch £800-1500 – but exceptional cars can go for up to £2500. However, values rise further where the Stiletto and Chamois are concerned; they can go for up to £3,500, although most examples are worth more like £1000-2000.


Driving a well-sorted Imp provides a real buzz – combine a rev-happy engine with light and precise steering and you’ve got a perfect recipe for driving fun. Throw into the mix a light and precise gearchange along with a wonderfully compliant ride and things get even better. As if this isn’t enough, the Imp’s light weight means the brakes don’t have to work too hard, while the rear weight bias isn’t apparent in normal driving – but press on and it can bite you – rather like a 911.


1963: Hillman Imp launched with basic or Deluxe trim
1964: Singer Chamois arrives
1965: Imp Super on sale, with Imp Mk2 launched in September. Now available as Super and Deluxe only. Limited edition Rallye Imp and Rallye Chamois released along with Commer Imp van
1966: Singer Chamois Sport and Sunbeam Imp Sport appear, with 52bhp
1967: Imp Californian, Chamois Coupé, Stiletto coupé and Husky (estate) arrive. The first three have fastback styling and four headlamps. 1968: Mk3 Imp appears, with new instruments and improved trim 1969: Chamois and Sunbeam Imp Sport get quad headlamps. New entry-level edition reintroduced
1970: Hillman drops Imp Californian, van and Husky while Singer discontinues Chamois. Sunbeam Imp Sport remamed Sunbeam Sport
1973: Basic Imp dropped once more
1975: Imp Caledonian special edition launched, with red paint and white side stripes 1976: Last Imp is produced

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