loading Loading please wait....

Hillman Imp buying guide (1963-1975)

Hillman Imp buying guide (1963-1975) Classic and Performance Car
HIllman Imp HIllman Imp HIllman Imp You might be wondering why the Hillman Imp has such a bad reputation. This spacious four-seater supermini is fun to drive, costs very little to run and buy, and it looks super cool today. The reputation stems all the way back to the production issues early on in the car’s life.

Like a lot of British cars, the Imp suffered some very serious production issues when it was introduced in 1963. Most of the car’s issues were solved by 1965 when the much-improved Mk2 cars went on sale, but the poor reputation remained.

It might not have featured the truly innovative layout and drivetrain, but the Imp could be considered one of the Mini’s toughest rivals. In many ways it was more practical, and the rear-engined layout made the Rootes car highly tunable and fun to drive. Its top-hinged rear window allowed it to carry far more than a car of its size could realistically be expected to, and handling was brilliant thanks to a low centre of gravity. The Imp definitely deserved better.

Which one to buy?

The most sought after Imp derivatives are the vans and estates, but not far behind are the Sunbeam Stiletto and Imp Californian, along with anything that features the twin-carb Sport engine. If you’re on a budget, don’t be put off buying a regular Imp saloon or a Singer Chamois; you’ll get an immense amount of fun per pound.

In terms of upgrades worth seeking out, some owners upgrade their brakes by fitting the larger servo and master cylinder of the Imp Sport. Helping the engine to breathe more easily is a good move; a free-flowing exhaust is worthwhile, along with a K&N air filter. Fitting an electric fan is also worthwhile; it aids the efficiency of the cooling system while also reducing engine drag.

Performance and spec

Hillman Imp Sport
Engine 875cc,4-cyl
Power 51bhp @ 6100rpm
Torque 53lb ft @ 4300rpm
Top speed 90mph
0-60mph 16.3sec
Consumption 34mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual

Common problems

• Most areas of an Imp’s bodyshell can rust; start with the leading edge of the double-skinned bonnet, the door bottoms, front and rear wheelarches plus the base of the inner wheelarch.

• Also check the entire floorpan, the rear suspension pans (where the coil springs are located), the spring mounting points and the box-section swing axles up front. • The all-aluminium engine lasts well if anti-freeze levels are maintained; Old antifreeze will quickly eat into the alloy, and block the radiator causing it to overheat.

• Look for head gasket failure by looking at the underside of the oil filler cap for mayonnaise. Another important check is the coolant level itself. If it drops below the base of the header tank, the engine will overheat and the block can warp as well as the cylinder head.

• As you accelerate, listen for pinking when the engine is under load. This usually points towards the fact the cylinder head may have been skimmed too many times. The only fix is a decent used head. Alternatively, the ignition timing might be out.

• Post-1966 engines got a stronger block, which is much less prone to deforming if it overheats. See if the top of the cylinder block features a straight edge or a curly one. If it’s the former, it’s got the stronger block.

• Start the engine from cold and check for blue exhaust smoke. Most of the time this points towards worn out inlet valve seals. The Sport has no valve seals, but its valve guides wear out instead – they’re cheap and easy enough to replace though. If the smoke doesn’t subside, the piston rings or cylinder bores have worn, which requires an engine rebuild. It’s not a difficult job, or you could buy an exchange rebuilt engine for reasonable money.

• When out on the road, get the car up to temperature. Watch the gauge, which should rise fairly quickly and sit at just below half at speed. If very slow to rise, or it doesn’t get above a quarter, the thermostat is either stuck open, or has actually been completely removed to hide other cooling issues.

• The water pump should have been changed within the last 25,000 miles; they fail even more quickly on rarely used cars, as the bearings fail so the engine then loses most of its cooling.

• Oil leaks are very common, but shouldn’t cause too much concern – the all-alloy engines and gearbox housings put more stress on all of the seals. There’s no rear crank seal, so expect some minor leaking – but much more suggests there may be a deeper problem.

• All Hillman Imps came with a beautifully-engineered four-speed manual gearbox from the factory. Changes should be precise and smooth, although the nylon bushes seated directly below the gearstick have most likely worn.

• All four gears got a synchro, which has probably worn badly on the first two. Thankfully a rebuild is fairly straight forward.

• The driveshafts feature rubber rotoflex couplings which perish. There aren’t any tell-tale signs, but a visual check will show if the rubber has perished or split. Fit only heavy duty replacements, cheaper items will prove to be a waste of time.

• The Imp’s steering should be light and precise. If the wheel is stiff to turn, or there’s play, it’s likely that the kingpins and bushes are tired.

Model history

1963: Basic and Deluxe Imps go on sale in the UK
1964: More up-market Singer Chamois hits the road
1965: Much revised and improved Mk2 Imp goes on sale. Special edition Rallye Imp is sold alongside the Rallye Chamois. Practical Commer Imp van also released
1966: 52bhp Singer Chamois Sport arrives on the scene, with the Sunbeam Imp Sport
1967: New bodystyles see the introduction of the Imp Californian, Chamois Coupé, Stiletto coupé and estate Husky
1968: Yet another facelift for the Imp, with different gauges and new trim for the Mk3
1969: New quad headlamps fitted to the Chamois and Sunbeam Imp Sport. New base—spec model introduced.
1970: Californian model killed off, van, Husky and Singer Chamois also seize production
1973: Base-spec Imp killed off again
1976: Production of the Hillman Imp stops

Key clubs and websites

• www.theimpclub.co.uk
• www.imps4ever.info
• www.hillmanimp.co.uk
• www.rootes-chrysler.co.uk

Summary and prices

A standard Imp can range anywhere from £300-£3500, depending on condition. A project at less than £1000 could be good value if you can do the work yourself, but it’s usually better to go for a good solid car from £1500-£2500. Rarer Singer versions, especially in sport trim, can fetch more money – but all represent great value.
HIllman Imp HIllman Imp HIllman Imp
Last updated: 30th Jul 2015
collapse this

Hillman Imp cars for sale

2 Search results
Hillman Imp
4995 4995 GBP
  • Lot 116

    Hillman Imp

    £30,000 - £35,000 est. £30,000 - £35,000 est.
    Auction Date: 27 Jul 2017
    • Mileage: 36310 mi
    • Engine size: 1000
    Auction Date: 27 Jul 2017
    Silverstone Auctions
    +44 (0) 1926 691 141 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • HILLMAN IMP Minx Series V 1964

    £4,995 £4,995

    1964 Hillman Minx Series V. Glen green with white roof and contrasting green upholstery. This lovely example has an exceptionally original interior especially the unworn dashboard area and floor covering with the new car aroma still present. Clearly a non-smoker car, Its factory chrome mouldings and coach-line panel together with factory wheel trims and wing mirrors all add to the overall appearance. rear seat belts are fitted and the rapid tyres are quite new. MOT'd until June 2018 with no advisories this super Hillman has covered very little mileage over the years and is a very strong driver with no faults. The underside is very solid and has been wax oiled. Owned by a Hillman owners club member for several decades it is an ideal starter classic. Absolutely any inspection is welcome. Viewing is highly recommended and we know you won't be disappointed. All major debit and credit cards accepted. Please contact us for any further information. Delivery can be arranged.

    • Mileage: 67000 mi
    • Engine size: 1.592
    For sale
Related Specification
Related content