The Suez crisis of the 1956 certainly had a lot to answer for: petrol shortages in the UK meant that those cars that could get out the most from a gallon of Petrol were judged to be the most desirable.
it was a situation that arose when the Arabs discovered that they could hold the world to ransom using their control of the majority the world’s oil supplies. . The situation blew up in September 1956 when Colonel Nasser decided to nationalize the Suez Canal. The British tried to stop him the intervened and the Arabs decided to close their oil pipeline across the Mediterranean.
In the ensuing war, the Arabs blew up the Syrian pipeline that provided 20 percent of Britain’s petrol supply. Of course the ment that all oil supplies from the Middle East would need to be transported in giant oil tankers around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
Petrol rationing returned to the UK in December 1956 and people began to clamour for more economical means of travel. The sales of 900-1000cc cars quadrupled in the period from 1956 to 1957, while car sales in the wider market slumped.
German bubble cars began to appear, and although they may have been awful to drive, with questionable safety, they did achieve more than 40 miles per gallon, which was the most important statistic a car could boast in those petrol-starved times.
The Rootes Group certainly felt that way forward was to respond to these hard times, they decided that the utmost priority should be given to its new economy saloon.
……..a small car project begun, not so much to come up with an economy car like the Mini, but to provide an idea of what sort of affordable car could be made with performance to rival.
Parkes and Fry proposed a 2 adults – 2 children car, that could do 60 mph and manage 60 mpg Looking at the competition Fiat 500, BMW 700, Citroen 2CV , considering costs, they opted for a rear engine.
Privatly known in Rootes as the “Apex” project, the Imp was to be the first post-Second World War small car by the Rootes group.
They wanted the car to be a fun ride also.
It should be able to compete with the small Fords and BMWs, including the Mini.
At the time Coventry Climax were building an aluminium alloy engine that Tim Fry thought might fit, so he wrote them to get the installation drawings.
Coventry Climax co-operated and Fry succeeded to fit both it and a radiator into the tiny engine compartment.
The 750cc racing engine was tamed and just about every component was changed. But it remained unlike most car engines, being made of aluminium, with an overhead camshaft. The size was increased to 875cc, producing 39bhp.
A gearbox cased in aluminium, was specially designed to match the lively engine, with synchromesh on all four gears unlike the 1959 Mini.
It had the third and fourth gear set rather high, to reduce noise and improve economy. The new transaxel was technically advanced. At that time, it may have been the best gearbox ever produced, and it still does not have too many equals.
It was launched in 1963 a neat, refined little four-seater. The Hillman Imp.
The Imp was a massive and expensive leap of faith The company did not have any recent experience building small cars, even though it started off as a car builder by offering the then small Hilman Minx back in 1931. However the Minx had since grown larger and larger, and by the time the Imp was introduced it was well established as a medium-size family car.
Rootes had to build a new computerised assembly plant on the outskirts o Glasgow, in the town of Linwood.
this time for the Scottish Economy. The country was recovering from World War II and the newly nationalised industries were working flat-out to get the British Economy back on its feet. At the same time, competition was weaker as countries like Germany and Japan had still not recovered from the effects of the war. Traditional manufacturing industries enjoyed a brief reprise before the effects of competition and the development of newer industries saw their eventual decline.
the hilman imp certainly was a part of the boom that was going on however with a few issues the
Maybe if the Imp’s reliability had not suffered as a result of being rushed through the final stages of design, and if it had been marketed better, it might have been as successful as it perhaps deserved. the last production was in 1976. it still remains an a part of our culture in Scotland and is at the heart of how industrial glory days of the past.