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Development of the Hillman Imp

First cold climate test
(Canada, 1962 - prototype)

Part of Kenneth Sharpe's memories

 

   niagara
KS2114: Dave Lloyd checking the car over
after unloading from Queen Elizabeth in New York

Crossing the Atlantic
A little later in the year the car was fitted with instrumentation for heater and cold starting tests in Canada. Rootes normally did not send cars to Canada for tests, so I think part of the exercise was to allow Mr. J.T. Panks of Rootes New York and Mr. W.A. Paterson of Rootes Canada to assess the car.
This was a difficult test to arrange, because in those days aircraft were not available that could fly a car to Canada and the St Lawrence Seaway is frozen over in the January test period, so the test team of David Lloyd and myself were booked on the Queen Elizabeth the day after Boxing day 1961 to start a 6 week test (including 5 days each way on the ship).

In case anyone should think we were travelling in luxury: we had been booked the lowest class of cabin down in the bowels of the ship. An urgent complaint to the Rootes dept that made travel arrangements, achieved a 1 class up-grade - very slightly better... and remember the North Atlantic in December is not a nice place to be.

New York
On arrival I remember receiving a note to report to Rootes' New York office. After finding the place we were greeted by Lord Rootes who told us to stay in New York until the weekend, to allow John Panks to try the car. Feeling we could be pressed for test time I rather cheekily pointed out that we had a test programme to carry out. I got a rather old fashioned look and was asked "Sharpe, who's company is it ?" - Needless to say we spent the next few days driving around New York vastly over-shadowed by the huge American cars of that period and watching our hotel bills greatly depleting our allowances.

 

Canada
   niagara
KS2122: The Imp at the Niagara Falls

The test then proceeded as planned through Albany to Rochester and the following day on to Niagara, where we were due to meet the Rootes Canada people and do some filming. Then on to the Rootes depot in Toronto to collect the spares that had been sent in advance. Rootes Canada provided us with a tender car and a representative, George Blaine. A Solex Carburettor engineer Fred Howlett arrived by air to complete the test team.
Our test took us up to Kapuskasing, where we were able to test at -33°C. Cold starting, carburetion and heater tests proved that the Imp engine was a good starter, but the waste heat was insufficient to provide adequate heating to the interior. A heater giving at least 50% more heat was required.

Commuter tests
After completing this phase of the test work, we went to Montreal to carry out low temperature commuter tests. Our base was several miles out of the city centre and the idea of the test was to check out the starting and traffic driveability with a typical week of driving to work and back on a daily basis.
There were no problems with the engine, but there was a major source of trouble with the battery. On these early prototypes the battery was mounted by the near-side front wing, this helped with weight distribution and accessibility (but being adjacent to the petrol tank was perhaps not such a good idea). The problem was that in a cold climate the battery was so cold, it would not accept a charge with the result - that after some 3 or 4 days 'commuting' - the engine just stopped due to a flat battery. This was under quite stiff test conditions of maximum electrical load (wipers on, radio on and of course heater on).
The rest of the test was uneventful and we returned from New York on the Queen Mary busy writing reports and thinking of the installation of a combustion heater as on the Corvair.

test crew
KS2116: Niagara

 

test crew
KS2201: The test team
L to R Dave Lloyd, Fred Howletts (Solex) and George Blain (Rootes Canada)
test crew
 
front Imp

 

test crew
KS2204: The motel at Kapuskasing, Ontario
Motels were good because we could store spare batteries etc near the car.

 

canadian town
KS2213:
Not sure what town
The Imp bonnet has been taped over to prevent snow and dirt entry.
canadian town / tape

 

test crew
KS2194: The arctic watershed
- from here all streams flow north to the Arctic Ocean - 1060 feet above sea level.
Reg. 5846 RW

  Test Route  that day    cumulat.  
 
Dec. 27 Ryton on Dunsmore to Southampton   121 121
 
Dec. 28 - Jan. 2   Travel to New York    
 
Jan. 3 City driving in New York 75 196
Jan. 4 48 244
Jan. 5 58 302
 
Jan. 6 New York
Albany
Rochester
310 612
 
Jan. 7 Rochester
Niagara
Hamilton
Toronto
370 982
 
Jan. 8 -
Jan. 11
Heater testing and cold start testing
around Toronto
429 1,411
 
Jan. 12 Toronto
Orillia
North Bay
225 1,636
 
Jan. 13 North Bay
Haileybury
Kirkland Lake
173 1,809
 
Jan. 14 Kirkland Lake
Cochrane
Kapuskasing
174 1,983
 
Jan. 15 -
Jan. 17
Heater and cold start testing around
Kapuskasing
80 2,063
 
Jan. 18 Kapuskasing
Cochrane
Noranda-Rouyn
242 2,305
 
Jan. 19 Noranda-Rouyn
Maniwaki
Ottawa
345 2,650
 
Jan. 20 Ottawa
Montreal
120 2,770
 
Jan. 21 -
Jan. 28
Heater, cold start and commuting
tests in Montreal
168 2,938
 
Jan. 29 Montreal
Champlein
Albany
Catskill
256 3,194
 
Jan. 30 Catskill
New York
177 3,371
 
Jan. 31 Embarkation    
Feb. 1
Feb. 7
Travel to Southampton    
 
Feb. 7 Southampton to Coventry 120 3,491


Development of the Imp / Ken Sharpe
Testing the Imp
Imp History
The Imp Site
Franka