Early Imp vans were called "Commer Vans", and first appeared in November '65 (introduced in September). Production continued up to July 1970. In four years and eight months a total of 18,194 was build.
Manufacturers: Commer Cars Ltd., Luton, Bedfordshire.
The market for small vans was quite large in Britain (as they fell into a loophole in the tax laws), and all the British manufacturers were represented in this sector. Therefore the Commer van version of the Imp was put on the market as early as possible, costing £408 including taxes.
The Commer Imp van in Mark I form has no fancy grille. It does have a nice dashboard. It is spartan and sturdy like a working car might be: only one swivelling quarter light, only one sun visor, no carpet, no temperature gauge, no cardboard in the front compartment, thick wheels, stronger bumpers, etc.
Note the extra ring in the side panel
RL 2362: PR photo of the Commer Imp van.
E.V.O. documentatie T.D. Feb. 1968
Johan Arend's van with Rootes Service stamped on the side - May 2001
The van isn't just a windowless estate, it was redesigned - one of the criteria being that it had to be tall enough to transport milkchurns. The body is extended over the engine bay which results in a high floor, which in turn necessitated a high roofline. (How tall does a milkchurn stand ?) The total loading capacity was 70 cu. ft. (2m³). The floor was flat and the rear loading door was top-hinged.
The commercial Imp was fitted with a low compression engine, but power only fell to 36bhp. It could run on the cheapest grade of fuel. The driveshafts were uprated and it got the new 6¼" clutch (which was developed with a van in mind).
To cope with the extra weight over the tail, the van used both heavy-duty crossply tyres and stronger wheels (12" x 4"J). As it was build to take a 5cwt (350 kg) load, it had to be able to deal with 45psi at the rear when fully-laden (and be able to climb kerbs). It's turning circle is 29', whereas an Imp saloon takes 30'6".
It has an exhaust with the tail-pipe angled down. This keeps the fumes from getting sucked into the car, or blow on the legs of someone loading at the rear.
The Imp van proved to be very popular in its class of lightweight vans.
British Royal Mail had them tested and they were found to be ideally suitable for the task. The van's fuel consumption met the GPO required standard easily. The high floor made it easy to load heavy items. This would have been a nice chance for the Rootes Group on a long term delivery contract. Alas, the deal was called off as even the smallest 36bhp van engine enticed post officers into joy-riding Royal Mail property. The little vans were much too fast. Considerable restriction was needed in the manifold to bring the performance down to an acceptable level. But GPO kept their doubts and Rootes failed to win the contract.
While total Imp sales varied, due to strikes and (at first) reliability problems, sales numbers for the van and the Husky stayed much the same. For those who wanted a small commercial, these Imps were a very good buy.
The well-publicised problems of the early saloons may have frightened off the commercial customers to whom reliability is paramount.
Furthermore the Imp van was presented as the replacement for the uninspired but faithful old Minx-based Commer. For this it just wasn't conventional enough.
I found an advert for a Commer Imp in a Dutch magazine of 1966:
"A luxury delivery van with a remarkably comfortable ride. Incl. heater, windscreen washer and in the colour of your choice. Hfl. 4995". In that year Hillman Imps had to fetch Hfl. 6235.- and more.
The only LHD Commer Imp still existing was owned for years by Guus Andrea, now by Dion Fluttert or maybe he sold it on.
I do not know to where vans were exported, but none were ever shipped out to New Zealand or to France. Rui Pinto in Portugal owns a C.K.D. Vans were produced in Portugal, but they are not common there, now.
I have Commer Imp photographs of Chrysler Benelux c/o Public Relations adviesbureau; Robert Maillard; Dennenboslaan 58; Brussel 15 - tel. 71.17.29, dated February 1968. Therefore we know that an effort was made to sell them in the Belgian - Dutch - Luxembourg area:
Bestelwagen met 4-cilider benzinemotor van 36 PK. Nuttig laadvermogen 350 kg. Muurvaste wegligging, snelle acceleratie, handig parkeren.
March 1968: Commer Imp Van at £441 plus tax.
Optional extras (ex-works only): £12 for painting in standard colours; £8 for a passenger seat; and £1.50 (£1.25) for windscreen washers.
In October 1968 when the van continued its existence as Hillman Imp van, rather than Commer Imp van, the Mark II designation was discontinued. It got a new dashboard layout with full width facia and round dials; new seat upholstery and different external trim.
A few of the vans enjoyed a red interior trim.
After a production run of only five years it was killed off...
Oldest registered Commer Imp Van in The Imp Club: B462 00293 HUO (Loch Blue). (chassis numbers) But I do not know the present situation. Maybe older vans than this one are alive, maybe even MOT-ed.
Photogr.: Jaap ten Hoeve
Photo taken at the RAI, Amsterdam (1966/67?)
Nieuwe Commer Imp
On the side it reads:
Photogr.: Jaap ten Hoeve
Photo taken at the RAI, Amsterdam (1966/67?)
De nieuwe Commer Imp bestelwagen
Nu ook bestelwagen van Hillman Imp
op basis van de Hillman Imp is nu ook een bestelwagentje gebouwd: de eerste Engelse bestelwagen met de motor achterin. De laadvloer is 137,5 cm lang en 122,5 cm breed. De laadcapaciteit van deze nieuwe Commer Imp is 275 kilo. Als de passagierszitting verwijderd wordt, ontstaat een extra laadruimte van 0,396 m2. Volgend voorjaar zal met de aflevering in Nederland worden begonnen. De prijs zal vermoedelijk liggen in de buurt van de vijfduizend gulden.
Nu ook bestelwagen van Hillman Imp. - De Tijd De Maasbode, Amsterdam, 11-dec-1965. Geraadpleegd op Delpher.nl op 11-03-2016
Now Van of Hillman Imp as well
based on the Hillman Imp now a little van gets built as well: the first English rear-engined van. The cargo floor is 137.5 cm deep and 122.5 cm wide. The loading capacity of this new Commer Imp is 275 kilos. If the passenger seat is removed, creating a bigger cargo area of 0.396 m2. Next spring delivery will begin in the Netherlands. The price will probably be around five thousand guilders.
The Imp Club, in the person of Area Centre Organizer for Blackheath/ North Kent: Derek Couldry, organizes a yearly Husky & van Get-Together, usually in May. Derek Couldry is also the Model Registrar for both Huskies and vans.
This is the only event put on by a model register. These Van & Husky get-togethers have had good support, especially considering so few vehicles were built - and of those, many had short lives - it is little wonder the Van & Husky Register is one of the smallest in the club. Yet every year owners come from as far away as the west country and even The Netherlands to be at the event that is dedicated to these models.
Other clubs that may cater to Commer Imp Vans:
| The Imp Site
The Imp family
Commer Imp van
Commer Imp van - technische kenmerken (weights / measurements)
Commer Imp van wins Trophy for the Best Period Service Vehicle
File version: 12 March 2016