Hillman/Sunbeam Imp

 

The Hillman Imp is a small economy car that was made by the Rootes Group and its successor Chrysler Europe from 1963 until 1976. Being a direct competitor to the BMC's Mini, it used a space-saving rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout to allow as much passenger and luggage capacity as possible in both the rear and the front of the car using a unique opening rear window hatch to allow luggage to be put into the back.  The all aluminium engine was derived from the same Coventry Climax unit used in many racing cars, especially Lotus. The car was built at a purpose-built factory at Linwood in Scotland.

The Imp was successfully rallied in the mid/late 1960s and was used by  Bill McGovern to win the British Saloon Car Championship in 1970, 1971 and 1972. All in all a brave project for Rootes who were more at home with selling tweedy Singer Vogues to bank managers, rather than being at the cutting edge. The car was sold under the Hillman, Sunbeam and Singer marques as the saloon/hatch, a fastback coupe (Californian) and a van/station wagon (Husky)

Corgi Toys had a long relationship with the car producing road cars, rally cars and Police cars over the years, all this began in 1963. After the exotica of the other recent models a British mini-car seems a bit mundane, but it's true to the Corgi brand with fine detailing and a new unique feature in the opening rear window - mind you not many cars had such a thing to model - and the second set of folding rear seats released in the year.

251 Hillman Imp

The Hillman Imp was released in November 1963. It remained in production as a civilian car through to 1969, so a good long run for a Corgi. You will see it in shades of metallic blue and in bronze with a white side stripe. The bronze one is harder to find and will cost you more than a blue one. There is a very rare version made for Jensen's department store in Denmark. These are pale blue with Jensen's decals, they are priced well over £1,000.

I've placed the Dinky offering alongside for comparison and for once it matches Corgi punch for punch. Of the two, and this is the first time it happens, the Dinky is the better model. Corgi hasn't lost anything at all - it's just that Dinky have raised their game and this is one of the very best Dinkys ever. It is worth spending time looking at these two, they are both excellent without being flashy. And they both came with luggage...

The Corgi suffered with a very familiar problem, almost all playworn Imps come with broken suspension. The suspension on the Imp (and Batmobile, MGB, Mustang, Marlin, Ghia, etc) is provided by a plastic moulding which is part of the interior seat unit. Plastic eventually breaks and you get sag, on the rear it is a real problem with the Imp as it means the tyres are continually dragging on the mechanism for folding the rear seat. I've fixed a couple of these now by removing the baseplate (drill out the rivets) and then removing and discarding the plastic suspension, I used wires sourced from Flowers cut to length. To make room for them and to hold them in place I cut slots in the underside of the interior unit with a Dremel. The baseplate is replaced with 2mm machine screws and we have a car with working suspension.

328 Monte Carlo Rally

The Monte Carlo Imp was released in January 1966 alongside that year's Monte Carlo Mini, to give it a chum presumably. It's really nice too. It remained in the range for one year and is not that easy to find, consequently values are high. It was a controversial year that year in the Monte. The BMC Minis crossed the finishing line 1,2,3 and Roger Clark was 4th in his Cortina. Meanwhile Rosemary Smith won the Coup des Dames in this Imp. Until, that is, the French started arguing about headlamp bulbs. Apparently all the British cars used illegal bulbs and got disqualified, funnily enough leaving all the winning places open to the French, fancy that.

340 Monte Carlo Rally

This is the rarer of the two Monte Carlo Imps, this one coming a distant 22nd in the 1967 rally although winning its class, production cars under 1,000cc. It was on sale from 1967 to 1969 but sold in very small quantities so is pricey if you can find one.

 

    Dinky Toys    
Corgi Toys 251; Hillman Imp; Blue Metallic Corgi Toys 251; Hillman Imp; Metallic Bronze, White Side Stripe Dinky Toys 138; Hillman Imp Corgi Toys 328; Hillman lmp; 1966 Monte Carlo Rally Corgi Toys 340; Sunbeam Imp; 1967 Monte Carlo Rally 22nd; Cowan & Coyle; RN77
Corgi Toys 251; Hillman Imp; Blue Metallic’ Corgi Toys 251; Hillman Imp; Metallic Bronze, White Side Stripe Dinky Toys 138; Hillman Imp Corgi Toys 328; Hillman lmp; 1966 Monte Carlo Rally Corgi Toys 340; Sunbeam Imp; 1967 Monte Carlo Rally 22nd; Cowan & Coyle; RN77

 


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Last Edit: 12/06/2022 Page Added 29/05/2022