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Testing the (pre-production) Imps

The Imp started life as a very tough youngster indeed. It had undergone years of severe and intensive testing, in snow and in tense heat and dust. It has been left out in blizzards, driven hard and non-stop on the Silverstone race-track, stood up to the notorious Belgian pave, and tested to destruction over the East African Safari Rally course. It lived for some time as an Ottawa commuter, being driven 15 miles to and from the city each day and left out at night in sub-zero temperatures.
For months before its announcement, teams of Rootes apprentices and pupils drove production-line models up and down between Glasgow and Coventry to test the cars' reactions to different handling and driving styles.

  Die Stern 1962 - Baby-Hillman mit Heckmotor
  Motor fast waagerecht im Heck  

Baby-Hillman mit Heckmotor

Die ersten Bilder vom neuen fünfsitzigen Hillman-Kleinwagen, der im Frühjahr 1963 auf den Markt kommt. Der Motor liegt fast waagerecht im Heck und hat 875 Kubik-zentimeter Hubraum. Für das Gepäck sind zwei Kofferräume vorhanden, von denen der hintere durch die hoch-klappbare Heckscheibe zu erreichen ist.

Baby Hillman with engine in the back. The first images of the new 5-sitter Hillman small car, that comes on the market spring 1963. The engine lies almost horizontally in the back and has 875 cm3. For luggage there are 2 spaces available of which the rear can be reached via the up-folding rear window.


Die Stern, 51 / 1962

Garret Walker remembers

Ken Sharpe remembers

Bill Slocket remembers       (page still unpublished, must check status with Bill)

I was a Fitter tester at Ryton on the Apex Project from about 1961 up to 1969? if my memory is right.

Alan Lane remembers

Matthew Lambert (March 16, 2008):
"Alan spoke of an Edward Vaughan - test driver - with some fond & funny memories."
"He says when they were driving the prototype around in '62/'63, when they pulled into the petrol stations, if people asked about the car they would say it's from Germany."

Tested and Proven (Rootes booklet; p. 14)

Crash testing the Imp

Tests by motoring journalists

Painter: David Shepherd    
Fiction, but fun:
"They were testing in Africa. A chap called David Shepherd was the painter [wiki].
"He was painting trees and elephants when they drove past and kicked dust up on his painting. He got rather pissed off, so they stopped and had a chat with him. The test drivers told him all about the car and he asked if he could do some sketches of the Imp and put it into his painting, which he did. When the painting was finished, it was given or sold to Lord Rootes and it is still in his home estate.

Clark Dawson: "Paul Burch, who had a lot to do with Rootes Development, told this story and got Rosemary, himself and me a copy."


From: Garret Walker
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2012

I hadn't seen or heard of the picture until now. On 'our' test [Kenia, March 1963] we didn't have anything so exciting. The names mentioned in the short description don't ring a bell. I don't know whether there was another pre-production test or if there were other tests after the car was in production.


From: David Shepherd
Sent: Fri. 14-Sep-2012

[...] You have revived many happy memories I have of the Hillman Imp. I am afraid that the situation which you describe, regarding how my painting came about, is complete fiction, although it makes a wonderful story!

I received a commission from the Rootes Group to paint a painting of the Imp in Africa for their calendar; it certainly made an exciting picture. To achieve this I photographed the Imp at the factory and then added my own material for the elephant and baobab tree. I then painted the painting from the photographs and my existing material.

Since receiving your email, we have been doing some research into who owns the painting now. It would be lovely to know where it has ended up as I have long since lost track of it. Do you have any information as to its whereabouts?

Many thanks for your interest and I hope that I have answered your questions.

Best regards
David Shepherd

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© Franka
Edition: 15 Sep. 2012
File started: 30 April 2011