Motoring, My worst car: The devil of an Imp

Ian Darke's hillman imp
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The Independent Online
It was a truly horrible car. If ever there were a car from hell, this must have been it. A nasty little battleship-grey 1964 Hillman Imp, which cost me pounds 150. I bought it before I'd passed my test - which took five goes. However, two of those tests were cancelled because of the weather and a civil servants' strike. So that meant I did not get to drive the Imp for quite some time.

When I did get to use it every day I soon found out that the seller had been less than honest about its condition, and construction, for that matter: the bodywork was made of newspaper.

I kept finding rolled up bits of the local rag, stuffed under the wheel- arches and inside the doors to cover gaping holes. The previous owner had also disguised the rust by just covering it in black paint. Yet I'd believed everything he had said about it being in good condition and reliable. The truth was that on every single journey something would go wrong. I lost count of the times I had to finish a trip on foot, or walk to the nearest phone box to call for help. Not the best way to start a career in journalism - by missing out on appointments or never making it there at all.

The longer I owned it, the worse the Imp got, overheating mostly. I found the location of the engine, in the boot, very bizarre. It was difficult to get at and always going wrong. That layout didn't help the handling much, and always felt as though it were teetering on the edge of an accident.

In fact, my scariest moment was meeting a car coming the other way, on my side of the road, in pitch darkness. The driver must have been drunk; how we avoided each other I'll never know. But for me that sums the car up, because all the the Imp does is bring back really bad memories. What positive things can you say about a car that looked so awful, and was useless at getting you anywhere?

In the end, it was utterly unsaleable. I sent the Imp for scrap and replaced it with a pea-green Triumph Herald which felt like a Rolls-Royce in comparison. If I'd been a boxer instead of a commentator, I think I'd have gone back to the seller of that Imp and sorted him out.

Ian Darke will be ringside at Madison Square Garden, New York, on Friday 19 December to commentate for Sky TV on Prince Naseem Hamed's first American fight.

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