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Hillman Imp (1963 - 1976)

Last updated 21 August 2014


Buying Guide


  • Imp’s were never rustproofed so although the shell is strong it can be attacked by rust.
  • Check the leading edge of the bonnet ­- once rust takes hold here the panel will be difficult to repair.
  • Inspect the door bottoms because drainage holes get blocked and allow the door to fill up with water.
  • Rear wheelarches are prone to rot, as are the arches at the front.
  • Carefully inspect the sills – the low value of the cars over recent years means plates may have been fitted as full sill repair was uneconomical.
  • Like many cars of this era, the spare wheel well can fill up with water and rot out.
  • No new panels are currently available so you’ll have to mend and make do.
  • Beware rot around the suspension mount as repairs are involved and expensive.
  • Make sure you inspect the floorpan from underneath as these can get very weak in places.
  • Rear spring suspension mounts can rot, especially the cups that hold the springs.
  • Box-section swing axles are prone to corroding badly, weakening the suspension.

Engine & Gearbox

  • All-aluminium, make sure it’s been maintained with the right mix of antifreeze and water.
  • As it weakens, the alloy will break up and bits of it will float into the radiator, reducing its efficiency.
  • Check the head gasket hasn’t blown by inspecting the radiator cap for a mayonnaise-like substance.
  • If the radiator hasn’t been doing its job properly, the cylinder head can warp and so can the block.
  • If the engine ‘pinks’ on the test drive check that the ignition timing is correctly set.
  • Fire it up from cold and check for blue exhaust smoke, which suggest worn valve seals.
  • If an engine does need to be completely rebuild, budget around £1000.
  • Check the temperature gauge – the needle should be between one third and halfway.
  • Water pump’s need replacing every 25,000 miles but also check the condition of the cooling hoses.
  • Oil leaks are often caused by worn seals.
  • Clunky gear changes on the four-speed manual ’box can be caused by worn bushes at the base of the stick.
  • Synchromesh was fitted to all four forward ratios, but is notoriously weak on first and second gear.
  • Clutch pedal should be light – if it isn’t the salve cylinder could be faulty.

Steering, Suspension & Brakes

  • The rack-and-pinion steering should be light – if it isn’t the kingpins and their bushes could be worn.
  • To check, jack up each front corner, hold the top and bottom of the wheel and rock it to check for play.
  • Drum brakes can bind so try to push the car (in neutral) on a level service.
  • Sometimes wheel cylinders don’t return properly – this can be caused by a blocked ventilation hole in the master cylinder.

Trim and electrics

  • Interior trim can be hard to find, but the club does have some items available.
  • Early seats can be patched up, but Mk3 (post-1968) are moulded and not easy to repair.
  • Exterior trim is hard to find so if it’s missing be prepared to scour the autojumbles.
  • Make sure all the instruments and switchgear work.

Can I run it on unleaded?

  • An additive or hardened valve seats is recommended by most owners.
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