Imp Caledonian

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Hillman Imp Caledonian

Caledonia is the ancient Roman name for the northern part of Great Britain north of the Firth of Forth, approximating Highland Scotland. Although the Romans made repeated attempts from the 1st to the 3rd century to subdue the indigenous tribes they called the Caledones, they never succeeded.

The limited edition Caledonian model was launched by the Chrysler dealers in Autumn 1975. The price was in the region of £1275, still quite a few pounds less than a Sport.


On the 3rd page of their own newspaper Chrysler News of 1975, October 15th, Chrysler (UK) Ltd. wrote the following:

Here's a mighty little midget from the Chrysler range that goes a long way towards restoring the value to your pound.

For the Caledonian is no ordinary Imp. It comes complete with a host of trimmings and luxury extras and costs you scarcely more than the Imp de Luxe.

It's Chrysler's way of giving you a better deal for your money, in an all new luxury package.

From the moment you set eyes on the Caledonian you'll notice the difference; it's finished in a dashing cherry red with door mirrors, reversing lights, overriders, a decorative rear panel, side stripes and special sports wheel trim. And when you get inside, you'll notice the changes. The seat trim, for example, is in special patterned red fabric, the front seats recline right back and there's a push-button radio.

All of which, if you added it item by item to an Imp De Luxe would cost you a packet. But specially packaged the way it comes every Imp Caledonian will actually save you £166 on the price you'd normally pay for a car with all these luxury extras.

Add to this the Imp's exceptional fuel economy, flexibility and reliable performance and you'll understand why the Imp Caledonian will be practically irresistable.

One word of warning: Chrysler are only making a limited number of Imp Caledonians available, so the faster you get to your Chrysler Dealer and ask for a test-drive, the better chance you have of saving money on a Caledonian.

From the report by Robert Allan in Impressions vol. 8 (1988), no. 6

For a few years now, as Caledonian Registrar, I have collected records of Caledonian Imps, both those still on the road and those departed to the great showroom in the sky (where head gaskets last forever!).

The Caledonian is:

  • a P-reg, 1975-76 limited edition Imp (made Oct 75 - Mar 76)
  • a Hillman Imp Deluxe (but it may have 'Super' trim)
  • Cherry Red paint, colour code PRP, with double white side stripes.
    There is a rumour that this is ex. London Transport. It is certainly NOT true.
  • exclusive tartan cloth reclining seats
  • sport wheel trims
  • over riders front and rear
  • full carpet
  • 6 push-button Chrysler radio with speaker on the driver's side rear trim panel
  • L6 engine with sport cam, oil drain tube, alternator (as on all late cars), spin on oil filter etc.
  • stainless steel door mirrors made in France (may be different depending on the county of registration)
  • automatic reversing lights on an aluminium number plate panel.
  • Peter Crook adds to this list: a heated rear window (Impressions Dec. 1996)
The Caledonian is a rare and valuable model; conserve it, be aware of it.

There are two controversies concerning the Caledonian:

1) Some have 'de-luxe' interior trim, that is black painted millboard panels on the doors and rear panels, with no cappings. Some have 'super' trim, that is black plastic covered board with plastic covered black cappings. The trim code is 000 on my cars which are of the 'de-luxe' variety.

2) Some cars were originally painted Cherry Red (my own are), others were supposedly re-painted in the factory having been returned from the dealers with faulty paintwork.

The first point is clearly correct. There are two types of trim in Caledonians as can be easily verified by going to National Day.
The second point is more difficult, but you can check by scratching the paint on your Caledonian to see what colour is underneath. My own cars - MRA969P and MRA970P are too late to have been re-painted, being numbers 110968 and 110963 respectively. As original fitment MRA970P has Dunlop SP68 tyres.

Caledonians on file

In my records I have information of 41 standard cars and 12 modified cars (with 998cc engines etc.). I am told that approximately 2000 Caledonians were made between 1975 and 1976. If the total production of Imps is 440000 then 1 in 220 was a Caledonians. That would mean that of 1300 members cars there should be at least 6 in the Club.
Clearly there are more than that, and for two reasons. Firstly a lot of the 440000 cars made had already met their maker for the second time by 1975, and thus the ratio of Caledonians to others on the road in 1976 is greater than 1:220. Secondly, club members being astute connoisseurs, less of the limited-production cars are currently being scrapped - thus there are proportionately more Caledonians, Vans, Chamois, Stilettos etc. on the road than the production figures would predict.

The lowest chassis number I have is 104306 and the highest is 112653. I do not have all production figures, but clearly more than 2000 cars were manufactured during this period, so they were not all Caledonians. That implies that either several batches of Caledonians were produced or (as suggested above indirectly) some cars were returned from dealers to be re-manufactured. If anyone can help with this issue of production figures and runs I would like to hear.

Finally, this letter is largely based on hearsay, and observation of a few real cars. I apologise, and urge you to correct me where I am misinformed.

When Chrysler were winding down production of the Imp in 1976 and were planning the Caledonian model, they originally intended the car to be white with red stripes. In fact six of these white prototypes were produced and eventually sold.

Imp Caledonian - Rootes press photo R 67095
Imp Caledonian - part of Rootes press photo R 67095, which shows the Hunter Topaz and the Imp Caledonian together. Yes, I had fun colouring it in and I know I'm not so good at it ;-)

As Peugeots 405 / 406 were painted in Cherry Red, too, Caledonian paint is still available.

Allen's own Caledonian is from January 1976. He has owned it since being a student.

Caledonian seat covers


Imp Caledonian. - Chrysler News Vol. 1, No. 1 (1975, October 15th). - p. 3. - [Recent Car Releases: News and reviews]

Caledonian : report by Robert Allan in Impressions vol. 8 (1988), no. 6

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Caledonian Register at Imp Club - Mercia Area

© Franka

The Caledones were one of the main Pictic tribes. Picts weren't Celts,
although eventually all of them adopted the Celtic language.
Caledonia was invaded by Agricola, a Roman general, in A.D. 83.
By the time the Romans came to Britany, the Celtic language had spread
over the entire country. Except for the Northwest of Scotland
where the last of the prehistoric languages remained: Pictic.
Caledonia is one of very few English words that have derived from Pictic.