Hillman Californian Ref.no. R61793
January 1967 - April 1970
The Imp Californian model was introduced in late 1966 but didn't go on sale until 12 January 1967. It continued in production for only 3 years until February (or April ?) 1970. During that period approximately 6100 were sold to the public in Great Britain. It is difficult to say how many went abroad.
When the Californian first went on sale it could be bought for £650 (£71 more than the Super Imp), in 1970 it was fetching about £715.
It was well received. Motor Racing of February 1967 wrote (their very first item in 'Pit Patter'):
Rootes' sporting trend continues with the Hillman Imp Californian, with lowered roofline and markedly raked fastback body line. Curved side windows increase shoulder room, deep-slope windscreen and many other subtle refinements make this a most attractive 80 mph coupé.
Did they mean to say they thought it very pretty but way too slow?
The styling (Bob Sayward's saloon modified by Ron Wisdom, who later moved on to the Rover styling dept.) was its only reason for existence. It was a sporty looking Imp, being a (single headlight) coupé. But it only had the standard engine, not the new Sport unit.
Said styling involved more than altering the rear roofline, though. The windscreen was less steep; the roof was 1½" lowered; the steering column was lowered a bit too. Michael Parkes, half of the Imp designing duo, had insured that there were enough means of adjustment for taller people (he himself being over 6ft tall). The rear window has been so angled that it stays free from road dirt. The opening rear window of saloon models was sacrificed. The roof is already sloping downwards a bit above the rear seats. The sealing trim is glued on the metal.
The name was reused from the Hillman Minx Californian - which was the Minx coupé. Rootes hadn't used that name since 1953.
Positive camber on the front wheels was reduced by 1 degree, done by lowering the swing-axle pivot point by ¾". This resulted in a front suspension height reduction of half an inch, and it improved both the looks and the handling of the Imp. (Later this was made standard on all models.) It reduced final oversteer. If you take your foot of the throttle, when you're cornering fast, the Californian's attitude hardly changes. It made for throwaboutable Imps and confident drivers.
Another source (Autovisie, 27 Ja. 1967) states that rear camber was lessened with about 3¼ degree, to reduce wear of tyres and for looks. Handling characteristics were barely changed by this alteration.
Topspeed is unchanged from the saloon model, even though the windtunnel showed a bit more resistance than the saloon. There is more sound from the wheels on the road.
Trimwise there were two distinct models, both adopting the same trim as fitted to the corresponding Mk2 and Mk3 Imp Supers. The front seats were reclining and it did have one innovation that has since then become quite common: a split rear seat. It was thought that this would compensate a bit the inconvenience of not having an opening rear window.
After the Hillman Californian was introduced in January 1967, the Chamois coupé followed three months later in April. Mechanically is was the same, but the trim, inside and out, was up to Singer standards: it had the mock front grille, side flashes and overriders. It cost £665, like the Chamois Sport.
Its production ceased at the same time as the Californian: April 1970. Chrysler discontinued them because of their disappointing sales.
Only outside the U.K. ?
On the European continent after 1967 there were no Imps sold other than Sunbeams. (I think...)
In the Netherlands the Sunbeam Californian costed 7675 guilders in 1967, 6190 in 1968 (as the pound sterling had devaluated) and 6994.40 in 1969
|This is part of a photo taken in 1967 in the halls of RAI in Amsterdam.||photo: Leo Top|
John Dawson's Californian and a half is a golden bronze Californian plus its two-wheeled trailer: the bonnet & front end, and the back of an Imp welded together. As far as I know both the boot lid and the engine lid open up. I think it isn't with its original owner anymore. It was sold together with the dinky toy version of the couple, equally golden brown.
The photo is a trailer at Imp 97, not in concours state, but cute anyway...
Nigel Turner also has an Imp trailer, ½ an Imp. His is a soft-top.
The red Californian of Jan van den Akker won the Concours d'Elegance of the English Car Ralley (a yearly event at the Valkenswaard circuit near Eindhoven, The Netherlands) for a few years in a row.
|Hillman Imp Californian - 1986 Coronation Rally
Vanguards CGVA40002 / VA40002
Release: May 2000
Following the conversion of his 1967 Imp Californian into a rally car, Jack Salter chose to enter the 1986 Coronation Rally for historic cars in South Wales. In its most basic rally condition the car achieved a very creditable 47th overal and an excellent 4th in its class.
|Singer Chamois Coupe - Silver Metallic
Vanguards CGVA04006 / VA04006
Release: March 2005
|Singer Chamois Coupé - Black - 40th Anniversary
Vanguards CGVA04005 / VA04005
Release: February 2004
Limited Edition of 2,000
See the Commer truck transporting Hillman Californians: it looks like two-tone Californians were available from the factory?