Hillman Imp loaded on board
March 1st 1966
Hillman Imp FKV 133D being loaded on board for trip to Oslo
   
    Hillman Imp loaded off board
The Imp being hoisted from the SS Braemar at Oslo
   
    Hillman Imp on snowpacked road
Travelling down the west coast of Sweden?
    Imp at St. Moritz - FKV 133D
Flight Lieutenant J.A. Quilley with FKV 133D on recce run  -  photo: Peter Brown; PB/25 
 
    Hillman Imp loaded on board
 -  photo: Peter Brown; PB/24

The Imp Site

This is the tale of the reconnaissance run to help plan the reliability run, using a Hillman Imp.

The story of Operation Europe

Reliability test

In the Winter of 1952, a four litre Humber Super Snipe pilotted by four professionals, including Stirling Moss and Leslie Johnson, travelled non-stop from Oslo, the capital of Norway, down to Lisbon in Portugal, passing through 15 countries on its way. This in itself was a remarkable long distance drive, but when it is learned that this distance of something approaching 4,000 miles was covered in a little under 90 hours, then it serves as proof of the wonderful reliability and performance of a then modern luxury car.

Hillman Imp

Ever since the introduction of the Hillman Imp in 1963, certain people at the Coventry factory have wanted to repeat this run. They believe that what was done in 1952 with a 4 litre car, could be equalled, if not bettered in 1966 with the under one litre engine of the Hillman Imp.

Consequently when the factory was approached by the R.A.F. Motor Sports Association earlier this year with the idea of attempting such a run, the plan was put forward with enthusiasm for the approval of the Directors. The Honorable Brian Rootes liked the idea and authorised the factory to back the R.A.F. 100% in their effort.

The planning

The whole project was then handed over to Norman Garrad and his team who began the organisation of the operation. As will be appreciated when planning a venture of this magnitude, it is necessary to go through every point of detail to discover and erase any likely difficulties or obstructions, however small.

Detailed planning began with the mamouth task of plotting the route, checking the road conditions, times of ferries, frontier points and many other vital details. Continental dealers were informed of when en where assistance would be required and last, but by no means least, the car - an absolutely standard Hillman Imp de Luxe, 875 c.c. - was thoroughly prepared by the factory Service Department.

The 'recce' run

Within 10 days of receiving the 'go ahead' everything was ready for the next stage of operation. This was to consist of an extensive reconnaissance run to check the route, road conditions and time, as well to establish interest amongst the foreign dealers.

Accordingly, on the afternoon of Tuesday March 1st, the Imp, driven by Peter Brown of Rootes and Flight Lieutenant J.A. Quilley, one of the R.A.F. team, boarded the M.S. Blenheim bound for Oslo.

Two days and 508 miles later, on March 3rd, the ship docked at Oslo after weathering the rough North Sea, and the packed ice of the Oslo fjord.

The time was 6.00 AM, the weather 32 degrees below freezing and snowing. As the Imp was lowered gently onto the quayside, to be met by a representative of our Rootes dealer in Oslo, Kolberg Caspary, the car was given a final check over before leaving that evening for the border town of Halden, where the 'recce' run was to start the folowing morning.

Friday March 4th, 7.00 AM, and the little Hillman sets out towards the Swedish border and eventually Andorra, 2,500 miles further down the road. The conditions were fair and the deserted roads provided a good fast run down the west coast of Sweden to the first ferry at Halsingborg. Fortunately the crossing had recently been freed from the grip of ice, and services were almost back to normal. After landing at Halsinger the road runs through the Danish capital, Copenhagen, and down to the last ferry at Rodbyhavn. The Puttgarten landing makes the entry into Germany and from here the road runs through forest and agricultural land to join over 400 miles of autobahn bypassing Hamburg, Hanover and Cologne.
This section is a severe test to the car as it cruises at maintained high speeds averaging 63 m.p.h. Nearly 1,000 miles is now behind the Imp.

Continuing from Cologne, the road rises from the Rhine valley over pave' into Aachen and across the Dutch frontier through Maastricht, in Liege (Belgium) on towards Bastogne, scent of bitter wartime fighting, and into Luxembourg. The river Moselle is crossed at Metz (France) before the Imp travels through Nancy and climbs 2,400 ft. into the Vosges foothills as the Swiss frontier at Basel comes into sight.

Basle is reached at 11:30 AM on Sunday 6th March, and the hotel is a welcome sight after almost 28 hours continuous travelling. The target average of 40 m.p.h. is easily bettered at this stage of the journey.

From Basle to Zurich and along the southern shore of the lake through Sargans, and into Liechtenstein, the smallest country in Europe.

Onwards then to Austria, the 11th country to be visited, and from here the road winds its way over the Tyrol through the fashionable ski resorts of St. Anton and St. Moritz. Once over the Italian border the road drops down and runs alongside the picturesque Lake Como. This part of the recce' was unfortunately navigated on a Sunday afternoon and enormous traffic build ups were experienced through Lecco, continuing almost to Milan. From Milan the fast smooth autostrada to Genoa, where the Sunday night 6th March was spent.

Monday morning and the crew set out without the usual Monday morning blues for a pleasant drive along the Mediteranean coast to Monte Carlo, to meet up with Mr. Norman Garrad and the camera crew. Monday afternoon was spent on the terrace of the Hotel Metropole discussing the recce' run so far, and of course, an evening at Monte Carlo would not be complete without a visit to the famous casino.

Back to work and 9.30 AM on Tuesday the Imp leaves the hotel forecourt, this time shadowed by the Humber Imperial film car, driven by I.D. 'Tiny' Lewis and containing the Film Director Stanley Schofield. The day is spent along the coast and later in the Pyrennes filming the Imp's antics as it motors swiftly towards Prades for the night stop, Tuesday 8th March.

Finish

Wednesday 9th, and the final stage to Andorra. The road twists and winds its way up through the Pyrennes to a height og 9,000 ft, and the small border post at the top. This was to be the official end of the recce' run and so, after a short shopping spree, and a large lunch in the magnificent Andorra Park Hotel, the team sat down to discuss the run in detail. They were well pleased when they learnt that the distance of 2,500 miles had been covered in 51 hours actual travelling time, with a fuel consumption approaching 35 m.p.g.

From this recce' run, it was now possible to form a far more accurate picture of how things woul go on the actual run.

The puzzle was now sorting itself out and many of the numerous questions could be answered.

Going home

Satisfied with their efforts the team returned to England with all speed. The road from southern France to the northern coast is straight and fast.

The crew motored hard to reach the famous town of Le Mans by Thursday night 10th March, where they stayed at the Hotel de Paris, the centre of activity during race week. An early start the next morning enabled them to reach the airport at Le Touquet by lunch-time and after a brief bumpy flight they were touching down at Lydd, near Hastings, back once more on the home ground.

Decision

So ended a large step in the planning of Operation Europe, and following a week of intensive planning and discussions before the actual attempt was made. The most suitable date to start, it was decided, would be March 29th, 5.00 am from Oslo.



Proposed itinerary and times for 29 countries in 110 hours

From To Distance Time allowed Time Gone Date/ Hour Dark
Start from Oslo   -- -- --
29/ 0500
 
Oslo Halden 77 Miles 0130 0130
0630
 
Halden Udevalla 75 0122 0252
0752
 
Udevalla Goteborg 55 0100 0352
0852
 
Goteborg Halmstad 96 0148 0540
1040
 
Halmstad Halsingborg 55 0100 0640
1140
 
Halsingborg Helsingor Ferry 0045 0725
1225
 
Helsingor Vordingborg 89 0200 0925
1425
 
Vordingborg Rodbyhavn 37 0040 1005
1505
 
Rodbyhavn Puttgarden Ferry 0215 1220
1720
 
Notes:
This assumes an early arrival at the ferry,
but allows 30 minutes for any unexpected delay.
It is also possible that under good conditions
the earlier ferry (1450) may be caught.
Puttgarden Hanover 186 0300 1520
2020
*
Hanover Koln 190 0305 1825
2325
*
Notes:
An extra 5 minutes has been allowed to make contact with the support car.
Koln Aachen 40 0035 1900
30/ 0000
*
Aachen Valkenburg 17 0030 1930
0030
*
Valkenburg Liege 20 0035 2005
0105
*
Liege Luxembourg 95 0200 2205
0305
*
Luxembourg Metz 40 0050 2255
0355
*
Metz Nancy 40 0045 2340
0440
*
Nancy Epinal 42 0050 2430
0530
*
Epinal Basle 90 0215 2645
0745
*
Basle Zurich 53 0120 2805
0905
 
Zurich Sargens 62 0135 2940
1040
 
Sargens Feldkirch 20 0030 3010
1110
 
Feldkirch Landeck 55 0130 3140
1240
 
Landeck Zernez 54 0130 3310
1410
 
Zernez St. Moritz 20 0030 3340
1440
 
St. Moritz Point Alpha 45 0130 3510
1610
 
Point Alpha Milan 60 0130 3640
1740
 
Change of drivers    -- 0030 3710
1810
*
Milan Genoa 90 0140 3850
1950
*
Genoa Savona 30 0045 3935
2035
*
Savona San Remo 60 0200 4135
2235
*
San Remo Menton 18 0040 4215
2315
*
Menton Nice 19 0040 4255
2355
*
Nice Frejus 40 0100 4355
31/ 0055
*
Frejus Aix-en-Provence 72 0135 4530
0230
*
Aix-en-Provence Salon 21 0025 4555
0255
*
Salon Arles 25 0030 4625
0325
*
Arles Montpelier 46 0055 4720
0420
*
Montpelier Narbonne 63 0125 4845
0545
*
Narbonne Perpignan 40 0045 4930
0630
 
Perpignan Bourg Madame 60 0140 5110
0810
 
Bourg Madame Sao de Urgel 40 0100 5210
0910
 
Sao de Urgel Andorra 10 0015 5225
0925
 
 
Allow 35 minutes for turn around and
then reverse route to Oslo as follows:
Andorra Start of retrun run -- -- 5300
31/ 1000
 
Andorra Sao de Urgel 10 0015 5315
1015
 
Sao de Urgel Bourg Madame 40 0100 5415
1115
 
Bourg Madame Perpignan 60 0140 5555
1255
 
Perpignan Narbonne 40 0045 5640
1340
 
Narbonne Montpelier 63 0125 5805
1505
 
Montpelier Arles 46 0055 5900
1600
 
Arles Salon 25 0030 5930
1630
 
Salon Aix-en-Provence 21 0025 5955
1655
 
Aix-en-Provence Frejus 72 0135 6130
1830
*
Frejus Nice 40 0100 6230
1930
*
Nice Menton 19 0040 6310
2010
*
Menton San Remo 18 0040 6350
2050
*
San Remo Savona 60 0200 6550
2250
*
Savona Genoa 30 0045 6635
2335
*
Genoa Milan 90 0140 6815
1/ 0115
*
Change of drivers   -- 0030 6845
0145
*
Milan Point Alpha 60 0130 7015
0315
*
Point Alpha St. Moritz 45 0130 7145
0445
*
St. Moritz Zernez 20 0030 7215
0515
*
Zernez Landeck 54 0130 7345
0645
 
Landeck Feldkirch 55 0130 7515
0815
 
Feldkirch Sargens 20 0030 7545
0845
 
Sargens Zurich 62 0135 7720
0920
 
Zurich Basle 53 0120 7840
1040
 
Basle Epinal 90 0215 8055
1255
 
Epinal Nancy 42 0050 8145
1345
 
Nancy Metz 40 0045 8230
1430
 
Metz Luxembourg 40 0050 8320
1520
 
Luxembourg Liege 95 0200 8520
1720
 
Liege Valkenburg 20 0035 8555
1755
 
Valkenburg Aachen 17 0030 8625
1825
*
Aachen Koln 40 0035 8700
1900
*
Koln Hanover 190 0305 9005
2205
*
Hanover Puttgarden 186 0300 9305
2/ 0105
*
Puttgarden Rodbyhavn Ferry 0215 9520
0320
*
Rodbyhavn Vordingborg 37 0040 9600
0400
*
Vordingborg Helsingor 89 0200 9800
0600
*
Helsingor Halsingborg Ferry 0045 9845
0645
 
Halsingborg Halmstad 55 0100 9945
0745
 
Halmstad Goteborg 96 0148 10133
0933
 
Goteborg Udevalla 55 0100 10233
1033
 
Udevalla Halden 75 0122 10355
1155
 
Halden Oslo 77 0130 10525
1325
 


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Both the table and the 'story' are on plain paper (rather narrow and longer than letter-size), no header, no date nor signature present.

© Franka