A-Z of marques: No.21 Hillman

The marque: Venerable, middle-class British brand eventually swallowed then spat out by Chrysler in a microcosm of UK motor industry self-destruction.

The history: William Hillman, millionaire bicycle manufacturer, built a car factory in the grounds of his Coventry house. The first car emerged in 1907, and the company launched a grand straight-eight car in 1928. But Hillman was failing to reach a market demanding cheaper cars for the growing middle class.

That year, the Rootes brothers, car-dealers from Maidstone, formed the Rootes Group by taking over Hillman and fellow Coventry carmaker Humber. Sunbeam and Singer joind later. By 1931, the compact but conventional Minx was in production, and the name lived on for 40 more years.

After the 1956 Suez crisis, Rootes made an economy car. Two engineers, Tim Fry and racing driver Mike Parkes designed the rear-engined Hillman Imp, with an engine from a Coventry Climax racing unit. In 1961, the Government insisted the new car be built near Glasgow in an industrial regeneration plan.

The Imp, beset by reliability and quality issues, made no money, but the motorsport fraternity loved its revvy little engine and agility. Chrysler took Rootes over by 1967. The Avenger and Hunter became the bedrock, the last Minxes were cheap Hunters, and became the Hunter DL in 1971.

Hillman died in 1977, so the last Hunters and Avengers were badged Chrysler then Talbot after Chrysler gave its UK arm to Peugëot in 1978.

Defining model: The Minx was the obvious Hillman in every guise from 1931 to 1970.

They said: We are the Myth Exploders (1970s ad campaign)

We say: After the explosion, even the fallout disappeared.

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