Founded as the Auto Machinery company by William Hillman in Coventry for the manufacture of bicycles, he enlisted the help of John Kemp Starley (who would go on to found Rover) to help get the fledgling operation off the ground. Such was the demand for bicycles at that time that Starley would soon leave to set up his own business, while Hillman’s company would go from strength to strength, soon making him a millionaire. It was almost inevitable that Hillman would join so many other cycle manufacturers into the world of automobile manufacture.
The 1907 Hillman-Coatalen (named after the designer), featured a powerful for the time 24 horsepower engine. Confident that it would quickly garner race track success, the car was entered into that year’s Tourist Trophy. It would crash, but not before it had put in a stellar performance that had not gone unnoticed. Coatealen would leave Hillman and join Singer, his departure leaving a vacuum in the design area, and subsequent Hillman’s were much more staid than the original iteration. In 1913 came the 9 horsepower, which would survive the war and continue to be a top seller well into the 1920’s.
In 1926 Hillman released the 14 horsepower, then in 1928 Hillman unveiled the incredibly expensive 2.6 litre Straight Eight model; new from the ground up, it was unashamedly built to appeal to the well heeled. Production problems would delay the release by a year, and the timing couldn’t have been more wrong, the depression years being just around the corner. Rootes came to the rescue in 1928, and in the ensuing years their designs started to influence Hillman. The Wizard appeared in 1929 and was available with either a 2.1 or 2.8 litre engine, then 1932 saw the introduction of the Minx, the first in a long line of models that was to last until 1970.
1932 - 1970
The Raymond Loewy design organisation developed the Audax body style for the Rootes group, after their success with Studebaker coupes in 1953. The sedan version was launched in 1956, while the Estate followed the release of the popular Humber Hawk saloon mid 1957. More>>
1954 - 1970
Despite its looks, the Husky was not a hatchback. Instead, the designers incorporated a single side-hinged rear door. The Mark VIII Minx DeLuxe sedan, convertible and "Californian" hardtop used a then new OHV 1390cc engine, while the Husky continued to use the older 1265cc 35 bhp (26 kW) sidevalve engine with single Zenith carburettor which it shared with the Minx "Special" sedan and wagon. More>>
1956 - 1967
Rootes' development engineers were always working to improve the consumption of the 1,725 c.c. Minx engine fitted to the Series VI. Obviously wind has a greater effect on lighter and less powerful cars, and in the case of the Minx the acceleration figures of 50-70 m.p.h. in third gear would take the engine well over its power peak so that, especially into wind, the car would take an unrealistically long time to reach 70 m.p.h. More>>
1961 - 1967
Announced in October 1961, the Super Minx gave Rootes, and particularly its Hillman marque, an expanded presence in the upper reaches of the family car market. It has been suggested that the Super Minx design was originally intended to replace, and not merely to supplement, the standard Minx, but was found to be too big for that purpose. More>>
1966 - 1979
First introduced into Australia as the "Arrow", the Hunter was a conventional design, square four-door sedan (and later estate) with a live rear axle and ohv engine (initially 1725cc with a 1496cc in 1970). More>>
1967 - 1969
For those living in the UK and not satisfied with the performance on offer from the stock Hillman Hunter, from Davenport Vernon, then Rootes main dealers at London Road, came a rather more sporting iteration - the "Master Hunter". More>>