The Imp Site

Imps on Duty

Police Imps

Coventry City Police

There's a photo of a fleet of brandnew (panda) Imps outside Little Park Street: the Coventry City Police proudly presented their Imps.
Alan Colman of the West Midlands Police is researching vehicles used by his force from 1900 onwards.

Dunbartonshire Police

Dunbartonshire Police used Imps, too.

"Specially equipped Hillman Imps have been supplied by Rootes (Scotland) Ltd. to Dunbartonshire police for patrolling congested holiday traffic roads along Loch Lomond, Loch Long and the Gareloch. The cars, which have seating for only the driver and carry extensive special equipment, will operate in pairs linked by radio telephone. A special blue and white colour scheme makes the cars very conspicious."

News and views : Loch Lomond Imps. - Autocar 1967, June 15

In the sixties the police motorcycles previously utilised by Dunbartonshire Police Force for escort duty were replaced by two standard Hillman Imp Police Cars, one was blue and the other was white in colour. The chief mechanic then decided to swap the respective doors, boot lids and engine covers of both cars to form a 'panda effect'. Both cars were used along the scenic A82 Loch Lomondshire road as basic escorts, using a leap frogging system of one imp going ahead of the other and stopping oncoming traffic where the roads were sufficiently narrowed. Their high profile appearance soon made them a tourist attraction at every rest stop with the subsequent nickname of Pinky and Perky attributed by police and public alike.

Mike Scott, Grampian & Highland ACO and owner of the well-known Dunbartonshire Police Imp replica, send me this text (shortly after Imp 98):

Dunbartonshire Hillman Imp Police Cars

One of the areas covered by the then Dunbartonshire Police Force (Present Strathclyde Force) was the scenic A82 Loch Lomondside road which ran from Dumbarton to Fort William. In the sixties it was a narrow twisty road which followed the contours of the lochside with road traffic enduring the consequences of meeting oncoming vehicles at every corner whilst trying to take in the scenic splendour.
In the mid sixties a great deal of heavy construction work was being carried out at Loch Awe which necessitated the movement of a large number of abnormal loads on the A82.

At that time the police motorcycles previously utilised for escort duty were replaced by two standard Hillman Imp Police Cars, one was blue and the other was white in colour. The Chief Mechanic decided to swap the respective doors, boot lids and engine covers of both cars to form a 'panda effect' without the need of paint resprays.
Both cars were then fitted out with the ful1 width front and rear police boards with the front board having a hinged section which, when opened up, exposed the distinctive 'wide load' sign. In order to make them more high profile both front and rear boards along with the roof panel were painted yellow.

External equipment comprised the fitting of a bonnet mounted siren, roof mounted hazard orange indicators, Marschal roof beacon, rally spotlight with internal handle and P.A. loudspeaker.
Internal modifications consisted of the removal of the passenger seats in order to carry equipment for road traffic and marine scenarios. The internal roof lining was fitted with zips to access the roof mounted equipment. The radio transmitter was housed in the front boot area with the tuner and handset mounted on the dash board alongwith the associated switches for the aforementioned accessories.
The only engine modification noted was the replacement of the dynamo with an alternator.

The equipment carried was as follows:-
Road traffic cones, road hazzard signs, life jackets, two man lifebelt, flares, rubber quoits, rope casting device, sundry ropes, sledgehammers, bolt-cutters, crowbars, Tapley-meter, measuring tapes, canvas stretcher and first aid, and tool box to aid any breakdowns encountered enroute.

Both cars were used together in 'wide load' scenarios which comprised of basic escorting until the roadways narrowed sufficiently to utilise a system of 'leap-frogging' the vehicle between the lay-bys available. This involved one Imp going ahead and stopping oncoming traffic at a predetermined point and radioing the other Imp that the road ahead was clear. In many locations the radios were inoperative and the first public car stopped would be allowed to carry this message to the awaiting convoy at the last lay-by.

from above

When not involved in their specialist wide load duties both cars were utilised in normal one man patrol duties attending at many road traffic and marine accidents on the Lochside. Their high profile appearance soon made them a tourist attraction at every rest stop with the subsequent nickname of "Pinky and Perky" being attributed to them by both police and public.

The cars tour of duty lasted four years until motor-cycles reclaimed their previous status. A serving Strathclyde Superintendent who drove the Imps latterly has stated that in nearly 30 years service he has never witnessed anything that was more effective in this scenario  -a fitting tribute to the Loch Lomond Imps.

Strathclyde Police

The Dunbartonshire Police joined up with other local forces to become Strathclyde Police.

    Pinky and Perky, newspaper photo

Strathclyde Police magazine, Oct. 1983 shows a photo of 'Pinky and Perky', the two Imps used by the Dunbartonshire Constabularly in 1967: GSN 840E and GSN 860E. The force bought a blue and a white Imp and swopped panels.

Also, there exists a brochure from Berger Paints that features the two police panda Imps.

From: Alistair Paul
Date: 28 Dec.2013
Subj.: Pinky and Perky

My father's garage did the paint work and fitting out of the two Imp patrol cars. While you are right in that the police force did order a blue and a white Imp, they were fully resprayed with a, new at the time, Berger paint. The Berger company is an old English company, founded in the 1700s by a German, Louis Steigenberger (later Berger).

The paint was a new high reflective version in various colours and we used it on our breakdown wagons as well as on various police cars. My father had opened a garage in Bonhill, Scotland, in the early 1950s and developed a relationship with the then Dunbartonshire Police (before they joined up with other local forces to become Strathclyde Police).

Berger Paints made a big feature of this at the time and used the Imps in sales literature (brochure), of which I still have one, but it is in Scotland and I am in Belgium.

We did a lot of work for Strathclyde Police over the years. Although I was just a child back then, I do remember visiting the police garages on many occasions. Our main contact with them was through the late Chief Superintendent McKeller, who was head of the Traffic Division back then.

June 11, 2000 the 'North-east of Scotland Road Run' was held. Scores of vintage trucks and haulage-associated vehicles first did the stage between Kendal and Lockerbie. Then came the old Carnation milk run from Dunfries, heading North to Aberdeen.
A restored Hillman Imp police car (that once escorted wide-load goods vehicles in Strathclyde) lead the rally's third stage, travelling from Stonehaven to Hunt, via Deeside and Donside.
The rally was first run in 1999.

    Police Imp, of the Kent Police Dept.
MKN 106F, Kent Police at Maidstone

Kent Police

Photo of MKN 106F taken by the Kent Police Photographic Department.

Maidstone, High Street.

Newspaper article:

     Police Imp, of the Kent Police Dept.
MKN 109F - One of the new Kent Panda cars. Kent and Sussex Courier Photograph.
[click to enlarge]

Imps to Pandas

by J. H. C. PREEN,
General Sales Manager Fleet Sales

RESIDENTS in a small town outside Newton Abbot, Devon were worried about a house-breaker. Several cases had been reported in the district and the police were looking for a lead.

The break they wanted came one Sunday afternoon when a 999 call alerted the Hillman Imp Panda cars in the area. Within minutes a car was on the scene and the police caught the house-breaker.

A few dozen miles away, on Dartmoor, a fanner was being troubled by youths sleeping in his barn. A telephone call to local Police Headquarters brought a Panda car into the area and instead of losing sight of the youths, as had always happened in the past the Panda quickly gave chase and caught them.

These are just two instances of how Hillman Imp Panda cars helped the Police in crime detection. Already over 300 are in use with police forces throughout the country.

The Panda story started in August, 1966, when, in an attempt to improve the use of man-power in Police Forces throughout the country, the Research and Planning Branch of the Home Office decided to carry out an experiment - an experiment which subsequently became known as the Unit Beat Policing Scheme. Its aims were, to improve police mobility, which in turn would help to overcome a shortage of man-power, to provide a better service to the public, to provide an incentive to the man on the beat and to increase the flow of information which is of invaluable assistance in crime detection.

The experiment involved the use of small cars, which would enable the constable to cover a wider area more effectively than was possible on foot or a bicycle.


Rootes, like other manufacturers of small cars, were asked to provide six Imps for use in this experiment to enable the Police to decide which cars would be most suitable for this new role.

Six standard Imps in Capri Blue were prepared and painted to the 'Panda' paint scheme by the Service Workshop at Stoke, Coventry. This involved the painting of a white band around the car, covering doors, door sills, and the part of the roof panel between the two doors. The cars were run-in and delivered to the Newton Abbot Division of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary - the area specially selected for the Imps to patrol.

The experiment began on March 1st, 1967, and the Imps were manned by as many as thirty different drivers. The cars, used twenty-four hours per day by three one-man crews, were never allowed to cool down, and, with stop-start motoring over the hilly terrain of the Newton Abbot dlstrict, including Dartmoor, were therefore subjected to very severe conditions.


On patrol, the cars carries equipment in the form of shovels, police signs, and fire extinguishers and the Police Constable driver was equipped with a personal radio set, which enabled him to keep in constant touch with Head-quarters. This improved mobility which facilitated greatly the operation of crime detection.

During the test, the Imps proved to be reliable and economical. Sergeant Morris at the Newton Abbot Headquarters personally kept a record of every item of maintenance and servicing that the car required. The durability of brakes, tyres and clutches was acceptable.

An overall fuel consumption of 33 m.p.g. was recorded. In view of the conditions of changing crews, the persistent stop-go requirement, and the ruggedness of terrain, this figure is good. It is interesting to note that this proved to be superior to our competitors, who were averaging an m.p.g. figure of 15 per cent lower.

At the end of August, 1967, the experimental mileage total was 120,000. A favourable report on the six Imps was submitted to the Research and Planning Branch of the Home Office by the Newton Abbot Division. As a result, the Hillman Imp has been recommended as a suitable vehicle as 'Panda' patrol work.

In fact, after the experiment, the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary decided to purchase these cars, with the object of their continued operation in the Newton Abbot district. This, in itself, is proof of the faith which the Police now have in the Imp. The constables who drive them are quite satisfied with their performance, and it is considered that the Imp stands up well to the rough use it receives in the arduous tasks they have to perform.

"All the Officers who have used Imps on the Panda experiment have been impressed by their handling and road holding capabilities particularly in the difficult moorland country and narrow lanes which are a feature of this part of Devon," said a senior police official.

'Panda' Imps are being supplied to police forces by Rootes Dealers throughout the country. They are being used in

  • Devon and Cornwall,
  • in Kent,
  • Surrey,
  • Northumberland,
  • Durham,
  • Somerset,
  • Norfolk,
  • York and
  • Scotland.

On patrol

In addition to Imps a variety of other Rootes cars are being used by Police Forces throughout Britain. Hundreds of Hillman Minx Saloons and Estates are used by forces up and down the country as officer transport vehicles. Sunbeam Tigers are used by Scotland Yard as fast patrol cars. Sunbeam Alpines are used by Coventry City Police force for similar patrol duties. Super Snipe Estate cars are used as accident patrol vehicles. Hampshire police are one of several forces using Hillman Hunter patrol cars.

Imps to pandas / J.H.C. Preen. - Arrow. - February 1968. - p.4
a newspaper for all members of the Rootes organisation

HM Coast Guard
Board of Trade

Knott-End Coastguard history
When Fleetwood CoastGuard was issued with a Landrover their Hillman Imp (WLD 469G) was given to Knott-End CoastGuard.

see: Vanguard diecast model

Learn to drive

The Imp makes an ideal car to learn to drive in:
small, nippy, nice clutch, light steering, good visibility, undeceptive lines, ...

Police panda Sunbeam Imp by Corgi and Vanguard
The Imp Site
© Franka
File version: 22 Sep. 2013