Roger Nathan is both a racer and a tuner. He made a name for himself in the early sixties racing Lotus Elites and then set up in business developing tuning kits for Imps
Willy Griffiths joined Roger Nathan Racing after being a racing mechanic with Team Lotus. He was specifically in charge of Imp development and ran the Nathan racing shop. The Coventry Climax knowledge he gained with the Lotus cars came in very usefull. (Griffiths then went on to Paul Emery Cars, to a similar position, until setting up business on his own account)
It all started in the summer of 1963 when a considerate Rootes dealer (customer of the Nathan family car business) brought one of the very first Imps to his tuning shop. The idea was that since Roger Nathan had a known proficiency with Climax-powered racing cars and the Imp's engine may be considered an offshoot of Climax, he might well be the man to make an Imp go.
Autocar 22 January 1965
Motor Racing Febr. + Apr. 1966
|The Nathan twin overhead camshaft Imp engine fitted with Tecalemit-Jackson fuel injection. The 849cc version gave 98 bhp and 998cc 125 bhp.|
Nathan saw a chance to steal a march on other tuning specialists. Imps in those early months were not easy to get and the dealer gave him a free hand.
Willy Griffiths, head man at Nathan Racing, was responsible for most of the detail development work on the Nathan Imp. Roger Nathan and the customer, too, were agreeably surprised with the favourable results. Having earned a head start in improving Imps, the Nathan workshops were soon busy on customised conversions, backed up by a development programme.
For this purpose they prepared and raced their own Imp. First they used a Climax-engined car, but in 1965 that got replaced by an Imp unit. It's a 998cc block and similar to that used on the rally cars. The reduction in power has been largely offset by the reduction on weight and improved handling. If the lap times are slower, then only marginally so.
The Rootes Group bought an Imp from him for development analysis and they saw the 110mph Nathan Imp in action during a private Goodwood demonstration session.
Moto Baldet set up a selling organisation for Nathan conversions in Northampton.
The Nathan Imp (Impudence II) is a fully stripped Group 3 saloon, the 'anything goes' group, as Nathan wanted rid of the front suspension. Group 2 would not allow that.
Racing Car Show, 1966, January 19
Roger Nathan (Racing) Ltd. - Stand 54
"Roger Nathan has been a prominent competitor in British circles for some time. He won the Autosport Championship in his Lotus Elite in 1963, and since then has been seen in a Brabham BT8 spots-racing car, first fitted with a Climax engine, and later modified to take an Oldsmobile V8, and more recently in a much-modified Hillman Imp. Towards the end of last season this car became really well-sorted, and ended the year with a number of up-to-1,000cc saloon car race victories."
"On their stand Nathan Racing are exhibiting a completely new sports-racing car, designed by Frank Costin and built in the Nathan workshops in Acre Lane, London. The car is fitted with a Stage-4 998cc Hillman Imp engine, giving 97 bhp at 7,500 rpm, and transmission is by a four-speed close-ration gearbox. An 850 cc version will be ready later in the year for the American market.
Four stages of tune for Hillman Imps will also be on show, and these include such special Nathan-designed items as manifolds, silencers, camshafts, valves, head gaskets, sumps, oil coolers, cooler adaptor blocks, and Smith accessories, light-weight body parts, close-ratio racing gearboxes, valve springs and shock absorbers.
This stand is one for the Hillman Imp boys."
Imp Improvements. - CCC Sept. 1966:
Roger Nathan's Imp conversions are pretty well-known, and have received considerable impetus as a result of Roger's own racing successes with 'Impudence'.
Stage 1 is said to increase the power output to 49 b.h.p. at six-four and put the maximum speed up to around 90 miles an hour,
stage 2, which at £80 is just over twice the money, puts up the power to 55 b.h.p. at six-eight. Top Speed? 95 m.p.h., they say.
Stage 3 is the one which takes you over the ton, and for still more work they get 62 b.h.p. at 7,000 r.p.m. and a top speed of 105
Stage 4 is the full-race job and can be done on three engine capacities - 850, the standard 875, and the big-bore job which, in Roger's case, works out at 999 c.c. This stage of tune, which is too complex to go into here, will produce up to 97 b.h.p. from the big engine.
On top of all this, Nathan can supply and carry out suspension modifications and alterations to the braking system, including the fitting of disc brakes to the front. The address? Lynton Garage, Fortis Green, N.2.
The Nathan Imp twin overhead camshaft was displayed at the 1967 Racing Car Show. Roger Nathan reported a succesful show:
- 16 Costin-Nathans (either open or closed) were ordered - most of them for export.
- enormous interest was shown in Nathan's engine developments.
Roger Nathan Racing Ltd.
A move to new and larger premises, anounced in CCC April 1969:
8 Minerva Road
Swiss Mountain Grand Prix
|In entry list only:|
|Costin-Nathan Hillman GT||Charles Graemiger||S1.3|
|Did not finish:|
|39||Albert Powell / GB||Costin-Nathan Hillman GT||0||P1.0|
|Norman Abbott / GB|
1000 km Monza
|In entry list only:|
|35||Roger Nathan / GB||Costin-Nathan Hillman GT||Roger Nathan||P1.0|
|Frank Ruata / F|
1000 km Monza
|Did not qualify:|
|31||Jacques Bigrat / F||Costin-Nathan GT Hillman||Jacques Bigrat||P1.0|
|46.||206||John Markey / GB||Costin-Nathan GT Hillman||Falken Racing||5
Meet Impudence, the 110mph Hillman : the hot Imps are coming; 1. - Roger Nathan's 110mph Imp / photography Farrokh Dhalla. - Small Car 1964, September. - p.12-14
[Anti-Mini lineup] Setting the saloon-racing world on fire, it's the 110mph Roger Nathan Cooper-looper fireball performance from a teeny 875cc
Nathan-tuned and Hartwell Stage III Hillman Imps: improving the performance of popular cars. - Autocar 1965, 30 April, p.872 - 874
Roger Nathan (racing driver + tuning expert) offered several tuning packages and Autocar tested one, BLC 808B. It had a 998 and could top 107mph. 0-60 in 12 secs. Brakes were unchanged, suspension too (well, it was slightly lowered).
The testers were impressed but hesitant where the car's high speed behaviour was concerned.
reprint in Impressions 1987, June.
Roger Nathan's Hillman Imp : Impudence II, prepared by Roger Naathan Racing Ltd. - Motor Racing 1965, October. - [John Blunsden Track Test No. 41]. - p.319,321
Nathan tuned Hillman Imp RN 95 Imp H. - Car & Car Conversions 1966, May
Imp improvements. - Cars and Car Conversions 1966, September. - p.185-188
About the accessories and equipment available for the Imp.
reprint in Unique Master Portfolio. - p.46-49
according to reprint dated 1967
Roger Nathan amongst others
Some converted Imps we have tried. - Car and Car Conversions 1966, September. - p.195-196
Emery stage 1; Hartwell stage 3 (CLJ 195C) ; Nathan's Impudence II (317 XOV)
Reprinted in Unique Master Portfolio, p.64-65 (quoted as from 1968)
Roger Nathan, Mod 'n' mend your Imp. - Popular Motoring 1966, December. - p.60-61
File version: 7 March 2017