The worst cars ever made, the Hillman Imp

The Hillman Imp, also known as the Hillman Limp , “had a distant relationship with build quality”, as quoted by Giles Chapman. The car was first conceived in 1955 after the Suez crisis. Previously, The Rootes Group was known for it’s large gas guzzling cars and lacked an economical small car.

The car was intended as a Mini competitor but production numbers never rivalled the Mini. Additionally, Reliability problems with the first cars caused sales to plummet after 1965. Arguably the Imp destroyed the Rootes Group’s reputation and they were taken over by Chrysler in 1967.

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Origins of the Imp

The original dashboard layout

The Imp went into production in 1963 and sold for £508. It had a revolutionary light-weight Aluminium engine that was mounted at the back. However the car was still tail heavy and this led to the need for a complicated rear suspension arrangement. Additionally the engine tended to overheat.

The car also suffered from political meddling. Originally intended to be made in Coventry. Instead, the “deprived” regions of Scotland were to gain a new car factory, for production of the Imp. This proved to be a bad idea, as the recalcitrant workforce and poor build quality, compounded the cars problems.

Problems problems, the Hillman Imp is a disaster

The imp was innovative, probably too innovative, with its pneumatic throttle and automatic choke. Both of which were replaced by more conventional units, in the MK II. however, the damage had been done, to the cars reputation.

The MK II Hillman Imp

The mark II saw some attempts to fix the cars problems. The balky throttle and choke were replaced, the suspension was modified and a water pump was added to aid cooling. Additionally, the cylinder head was modified. Other issues included water leaks and a sparsely trimmed and more expensive package, than the Mini.

The MK III Chrysler Imp

By 1968 The Rootes Group was no more and Chrysler revised the entire Imp range.

The dashboard was changed to include a number of smaller dials.

This turkey dragged on until 1976, when production ended, after losing the Government a ton of Money.

On the positive side they are quite nippy and fun to drive, once all the bugs have been fixed.

Collectable Imp Models

Corgi produced a Hillman Imp model (251) from 1963-66, this was available in Blue or Bronze (£40)

Dinky also produced an Imp model (138) from 1963-72, this was available in green or blue (£40)

Various Hillman Imps have appeared in the “Vanguard” range.

  • VAO4007 Hillman Imp Californian
  • VAO2618 Hillman Imp Metallic blue
  • VAO2619 Hillman Imp wardance
  • VA26000 Hillman Imp Road car in blue
  • VA26002 Coastguard Hillman Imp
  • VA7221A Hillman Imp in blue
  • PP1002 Pinky and Perky set

Atlas Editions released a Police Imp.

Oxford models also have a number of Imps in their range.

Finally, Rovex issued an Imp model in 00 scale, for their model railway range.

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