Our video this week features a car you rarely see anymore, especially in the US, the Hillman Imp. The video takes a look at the production of the Hillman Imp at the plant in Linwood, Renfrewshire, Scotland. The program includes interviews with past members of the Linwood workforce. It also examines the wider workforce, trade union, management and government relationships which existed throughout much of UK manufacturing in the 1960’s and 70’s.
The Hillman Imp was a small economy car made by the Rootes Group and its successor Chrysler Europe from 1963 until 1976. It was made in many different forms and in addition to the Hillman marque was also marketed as both Sunbeam and Singer. Unveiled in 1963 after much advance publicity, it was the first British mass-produced car with the engine block and cylinder head cast in aluminum.The Imp was a direct competitor to the now much-more-famous Mini. It used a space-saving rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout to allow as much luggage and passenger capacity as possible in both the rear and the front of the car. It also used a unique opening rear hatch to allow luggage to be put in the back seat – very much a predecessor of today’s hatchback.
In addition to its all-aluminum engine, it was the first mass-produced British car to have an engine in the back and the first car to use a diaphragm spring clutch. The balk-ring synchromesh unit for the transaxle compensated for the speeds of gear and shaft before engagement, which the Mini had suffered from during its early production years.
For more on the Imp we can also watch this video from the show “The Car’s the Star”.
For more on the Impe, make sure to check out The Imp Club. You can also read up on the Imp in “Our Imp: A Celebration” by Paul Coulter, “Rootes Cars of the 1950s, 1960s & 1970s – Hillman, Humber, Singer, Sunbeam & Talbot: A Pictorial History” by David Rowe, or “Hillman Imp: All models of the Hillman Imp, Sunbeam Stiletto, Singer Chamois, Hillman Husky & Commer Imp 1963 to 1976 (Essential Buyer’s Guide)” by Tim Morgan.