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The Imp Site

in Renfrewshire, Scotland

The remaining buildings at Linwood were being demolished during 1996. They started with the main assembly shed, and took down the adjoining engine/gearbox shed early '97. The main assembly line control panel, which remained intact until May 1996 or so, was removed complete, by the Glasgow Transport Museum, who wanted to re-construct it somewhere... probably at the Transport Museum at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow.

    Linwood No More

It isn't your average documentary: not businesslike, but maybe deliberately amateurish. It's kind of bittersweet. Interviewing different people involved in building the Imp, it gives the fond memories as well as the regrets and the anger. Several Scots give their opinion of what the(ir) Imps mean to the Scottish and/or themselves, portraying the present state of Imp affairs.
Many scenes include the Imp that Highland Printmakers of Inverness bought and had converted into a work of art. It's bright blue and (for one thing) has silver antlers. It's remarkable, like the programme itself, which I would call an unusual piece of journalism, featuring many aspects of the Imp.
Nothing positive is said about Chrysler's management.

September / October 1996 a TV production company shot a documentary for BBC Scotland's Art & Popular culture series Ex-S about the story/history of the Imp and Linwood. Some of the filming took place in and around the old Linwood site: the last chance to film Imps at their birthplace.
The production Linwood No More was completed by January 1997, and shown on tv in February.
Thanks to Alan Ramsay of the Glasgow Area Centre I got to see it. (Thank you very much for the tape, Alan !)

Where to build
The debate over the production plant site (Glasgow/Linwood versus Merseyside or other English depressed areas.

By the end of the 1950s, Rootes was ready to expand. There were acres of ground south-east of the Ryton plant on which it was refused permission for development. Instead pressure to go to a development area produced a decision to establish a new factory at Linwood, near Glasgow, right across the road from Pressed Steel's new pressings plant. There was no cash to spare so advantage was taken of a large Government loan (in honour of the development area) which would have to be serviced by large interest payments for at least a generation.

Plants in development areas:
BMC: Bathgate
Ford: Halewood
Standard-Triumph: Speke
Vauxhalle: Ellesmere Port

In 1960 (on 30 September) the announcement was made that Rootes would built a factory at Linwood.

By 1962, Rootes had injected £23,000,000 into this plant near Glasgow just to make the little Imp.

An overhead cam motor is expensive to make.
Die-casting the Imp engine called for a completely new plant.

Linwood, the Imp factory   

In less than twelve months the contractors had got up two production blocks each covering 324,000 sqare feet, as well as the die-casting plant.
By December 1962 all the offices, canteens and the rest was ready. By January '63 the whole million square foot project was finished. The whole affair floated on giant concrete rafts supported by 2000 concrete-and-steel piles.

So this brand-new Imp was to be built in a brand-new factory where car-making expertise was nil. Most employees were Scots, with the odd Coventry-man thrown in for flavour. A few of the key men went to Coventry for training, but the majority (with a shipbuilding background) were trained on the job.

Other file: Setting up the Linwood factory

November 1962 there were already 450 Rootes people working at Linwood. Spring 1963, when the Imp was born, he had 3000 servants plus 2000 more making the bodies at Pressed Steel.

The plant was designed for a maximum output of 3,000 Imps a week. That would be some 150,000 Imps a year. But it is unknown whether this was ever really the target rate. (see also the confidential memo 'Some company guidance on answers to questions at the Linwood opening' - item 1 on Production quantities)

By 1966 it was producing 40 vehicles an hour (plus C.K.D.s) on a one-shift basis. Rootes was expecting to increase that to 2,000 a week by 1967 - still day shifts only. Pressed Steel, the adjacent body factory, had been bought and was called Rootes Pressings Ltd. It's employees would have to work night shifts and overtime.

New Linwood Car Factory of Rootes (Scotland) Ltd.

Linwood, the Imp factory

  1. Administration
  2. Die-Casting Plant
  3. Adjacent Factory of Pressed Steel Co. Ltd.
  4. Unit Machine Shop
  5. Car Assembly Block
  6. Transporter Bridges
  7. Personnel Block
  8. Car Despatch Area

Linwood fromt he air, 1965

British Railways built a special train
Ref.: RL 1400/C - click to enlarge

British Rail introduced a special train, the 'Imp Special', in October 1963. It could carry a 100 cars at a time, being a quarter of a mile long (400 meters). These overnight trains travelled from Linwood to the Midlands.

PR text on the rear of RL 1400/C:

British Railways Train A Hunderd Imp

An entirely new kind of train to be named the "Imps Special" has been introduced to carry Hillman Imp from their factory at Linwood, near Glasgow, to the south. This is a revolutionary "Company Express Train" for cars on lines fore-shadowed by Dr. Beeching's report.

The train - a quarter of a mile long - has been designed and developed by British Railways at their Cowlairs Works in collaboration with the Rootes Group and Auto-Freight Network ltd. of Coventry, who charter it.

The train consists of 20 "drive-on-and-off" car transporters, each of which is a converted passenger coach. The passenger body has been removed and replaced by a flat wooden platform with guide rails, 60 ft. long, with hinged flaps at each end.

There was another Imp train: the one that carried Imp engines and gearboxes from the Stoke plant to Linwood. (The return trip of Avenger bodies and pressed panels from Linwood to Ryton. - The Avenger engine/gearbox assemblies came also from the company's Stoke plant, like the Imp unit.)

The cylinder blocks for the die cast engine were cast in Linwood. Then they were sent down to the Stoke plant at Coventry. After machining and assembly they were returned to Linwood for installation. This was not something that PR was eager to mention.

Scott Glover (in an email to me, 7-Aug-2014):

"Imp engines were never made in Linwood. The original plan was that they would be, but there was legitimate concern that too much was being put on Linwood to do everything! As a result they were always made in Coventry, but the castings were made in Linwood."

Transporting Imps by truck

Scene from a promotional news flash.

     Minister of State for Scotland visits Linwood, January 1968

Minister of State for Scotland visits Linwood

THE Minister of State for Scotland, Dr J. Dickson Mabon, M.P. (right) spent two hours touring the Rootes plant at Linwood during a visit on January 9.

He was accompanied by Mr Peter Griffiths, (left) the Linwood manufacturing director, and also Mr Norman Buchan, the M.P. for West Renfrewshire and Under Secretary of State for Scotland.

Later Mr Mabon said: "I have enjoyed coming here. The firm has plans not only for increasing its production, but also for increasing its labour force.

"The Government is very anxious to encourage this type of development as it will be of great benefit not only to Renfrewsbire but to Greater Glasgow as a whole."

Arrow, Rootes newspaper,
February 1968, p.2

     Linwood: trim assembly line conveyors
Ready for Work - The new (Feb. 1968) trim assembly line conveyors being installed at Linwood. These conveyors can be used to carry either Arrow or Imp bodies.
 Mr. Burke Hyde, director of Operations
Mr. Burke Hyde, director of Operations

Burke Hyde writes about Rootes Plans

on the front page of Arrow, Feb. 1968:
Plans for the plants at Ryton, at Stoke, and Dunstable.

Part of the article:

At Linwood building extension, conveyor installations and alterations to paint and body build systems will greatly improve and modernise car assembly operations. You should know that provisions are being made to bring III additional work in 1968 in the form of light car range bodies now being purchased outside the company. Foundations are being put in to install five additional major press lines and supporting equipment which will increase our press capacity by 50 percent. The tool manufacturing operations are being rearranged and improved and additional tool design and manufacturing people will be required to tool our new car and truck models for the future.

By any standards the alterations and improvements to our plants and equipment are on a massive and unprecedented scale. [...]

You may have heard that at Ford in Britain, Simca in France and Chrysler in Australia each of these plants can, and do assemble comparable cars in half the time that we currently achieve in our Rootes car assembly operations. They also take less time to perform manufacturing operations such as machining and pressing.
This does not imply that people in those plants work much harder than our operators. They work more consistently from starting time to finishing time with agreed allowances for breaks and personal time. They have good plant and equipment similar to what we will have. They have an effective organisation with adequate technical support to keep the material and processes flowing. We are gaining strength in these areas daily.

In the other plants mentioned, technical and methods improvements are put into effect on a day to day basis. This is done with the co-operation of the unions and workers who realise that without a continuous increase in output per worker, there is nothing to divide up in benefits at the annual review. Bargaining for increases in wages and other benefits takes place once a year and not continuously. Workers and technicians work together and get on with the job.

Mr. Burke Hyde, director of Operations


(See also: Scott Glover's file on The Creating of Chrysler UK from the point of view of Manufacturing)


     foundations for three new major press lines for body stampings at Linwood

Foundations for 3 press lines for body stampings

Cleared for Action - The foundations for three new major press lines for body stampings at Linwood

Photo in 'Arrow' of February 1968, page 2

Gale hits Linwood

The hurrican which swept across central and southern Scotland on Sunday, January 15, 1968 blew the roof off a building at Linwood. The roof crashed down on to the previous day's production of cars, damaging 340 of them.

Luckily no people were around when the 650 sq.ft. roof section was whipped off the building by winds of over 100mph.

Badly damaged cars were being fitted with completely new bodies. Others were being reworked in the Linwood Body and Rectification Shop.

Arrow, February 1968, p.3

Dutch Newspaper Het Vrije Volk of Friday 13 February 1981 (clipping source) wrote that until the end of December Sunbeam Avengers would be made in Linwood and then the factory will close, laying off 4800 employees. Not that long ago the car factory employed 9000 workers. In companies that deliver to Linwood another 7000 will be made unemployed. Peugeot-Citroën will pay the legally determined benefits for their ex-employees plus they will pay their debts, but they will not return the loans received from various governments.

Much later the Linwood factory was called The Phoenix Retail Park.

just before tearing down   

Colin Rooney gave me this picture. It shows Ray ...'s Loch Blue Imp visiting Linwood just before it was all torn down.

From: Alan Ramsay
Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999
Subject: [imps] Linwood No More... almost

We held our Imp Club area meeting at the Linwood site on Monday there, and indeed, the last vestiges of the CAB (engine/gearbox assy) building are currently being torn down. Only the main office block, and the die-casting plant building remain of the original factory.....

We managed to get some nice pics of 10 Imps in front of the wreckage, so no doubt this will appear in the magazine at some point, but what also happened is we all decided to 'save-a-brick'.......a wee momento, y'ken !

Someone mentioned setting up a stall at National to sell some, à la Berlin Wall... anyone want one ? For a nominal carriage fee, y'understand...

And to remind ye's, if anyone is ever in the vicinity of Linwood the last Monday of each month, you'll find us at the Brewers' Fayre pub./resto. at the Phoenix Centre... it's on the site of the old South Side of the car-plant, and we reckon we park a mere De Vilbiss paint-gun sputter away from the site of the old K-Building paint-shop...

Linwood - Pictures of Linwood both in 1963 and 1997 - "Home of the Hillman Imp" (David Pentland's site)

Another site with Linwood photos is Russ Maddock's Sunbeam Pages

Sign outside the Linwood plant

From: David Thomson Gray
Date: Sat, 13 & 17 Sep 2005
Subject: Re: press steel factory - Re: New Guestbook Entry

My late father worked in the Press Steel factory and in the trim shop Rootes side up to 1967.
[...] The only memories I have of the Rootes car plant is traveling along the Linwood road and seeing the Hillman Imps on the overhead conveyor, moving slowly from Press Steel to the Rootes factory. I was only a child at the time. As for information on the trim shop: my father told me about an invention of his, which greatly improved the installation of the piping on the seat covers. That was introduced not only at Linwood, but also at the Ryton plant at coventry. The history of the Rootes plant may come over as all doom and gloom, but a tremendous amount of innovation also took place. I still live in the village of Elderslie, Renfrewshire, which is only about 1 mile from the site of the former plant. [...]


Car manufacturing at Linwood : the regional policy issues / David Sims, Michael Wood. - Paisley : Department of Politics and Sociology, Paisley College, c1984. - (Clyde Valley industrial policy archive). - xii, 94p ; 30cm, spiral
Author: Sims, David, 1922-
Subjects: Economic conditions - Regional planning

Report of the court of inquiry under Professor D.J. Robertson into a dispute at Rootes Motors Limited, Linwood, Scotland / presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity. - London : H.M.S.O, 1968. - ([Great Britain. Parliament. Papers by command] cmnd ; 3692). - [2], 43 p ; 25 cm
ISBN 0101369204
Notes: At head of title: Industrial Courts Act 1919
Author: Great Britain. Dept. of Employment and Productivity
Subject: Collective bargaining
Document Type: Government publication

Closure at Linwood : a follow up survey of redundant workers / Douglas Payne. - Edinburgh : Manpower Services Commission, c1984. - 30p : 1 ill. ; 30cm
ISBN 0863920489 pbk
Document Type: Government publication

The Imp Site
   Imp history
      Linwood Car Factory of Rootes (Scotland) Ltd. - (this web page)
         The official opening of Linwood

Rootes build in Scotland, a 16 page 1963 booklet

  • Die-casting Plant
  • Pressed Steel
  • Unit Machine Shop

    Linwood : the first ten years

    External links:
    Glasgow Museums: Museum Of Transport
    YouTube: UK TV Program 2006 BBC1 Linwood and The Hillman Imp

  • © Franka
    File version: 2019, Aug. 8th

    Scottish-built cars and commercial vehicles

    Between 1900 and 2000 Scotland has seen more than 50 car makes built within its borders including the single-figure production of the St Magnus in the Orkney capital of Kirkwall, a handful of St Laurence's built in Laurencekirk, the Dalhousie from Camoustie and the mighty Beardmore production of light and medium cars at various locations in the Central Belt in addition to the 6000 taxis they manufactured at Paisley for London and Manchester.

    Evocative names from the past such as Arrol-Johnston, Argyll and Albion
    higher-volume Scottish-built cars: Rootes group models such as Avengers and Imps, and Volvo's Fisher-bodied 1800S coupes