Hillman Super Minx
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
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.
An estate/wagon version joined the range in May 1962
, and a two-door convertible in June 1962
. The convertible never sold in significant numbers: the last one was made in June 1964
. The car was powered by the existing Rootes 1592cc unit which had first appeared late in 1953
with a 1390cc capacity. The original Super Minx had the cast-iron cylinder head
version of the engine, though on later cars the cylinder head
was replaced with an aluminium one.
Suspension was independent at the front using coil springs with anti roll bar and at the rear had leaf springs and a live axle. Un-assisted 9 in (229 mm) Lockheed drum brakes
were fitted. The steering used a recirculating ball system. Standard seating, trimmed in Vynide, used a bench type at the front with individual seats as an option. A heater was fitted but a radio remained optional. The car could be ordered in single colour or two tone paint.
The four-speed manual transmission featured synchromesh on the top three ratios and had a floor lever: "Smiths Easidrive" automatic transmission was option. A car was tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1962
and had a top speed of 80.0 mph (128.7 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 21.6 seconds. A "touring" fuel consumption of 27.9 miles per imperial gallon (10.1 L/100 km; 23.2 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £854 including taxes which was then slightly less than the recently upgraded Austin Cambridge A60.
Hillman Super Minx Mark II
The main modifications to the Hillman Super Minx Mark II was the introduction of separate front seats and a central gearlever in place of the bench seat/column shift combination. While this was the Mark II in Australia, the Mark II released in England in 1962 was the first Super Minx to come to Australia, and was thus our Mark I. Designed for a slightly higher level of the British volume 1.5 litre market than its brother Minx – by then into Series V - it sold steadily in Australia despite its closeness in price to the six-cylinder territory. In the Mark II the separate seats replaced the bench type in keeping with the Rootes philosophy of rationalisation of components among its range.
Sourcing parts from the same bin had almost become a Rootes hallmark. The then new Hillman Husky
two-door wagon even used some of the body pressings and hardware of the just-replaced Hillman Minx sedan. The seats and gearlever extension in the Mark II Super Minx were the same as those used in the Series V and the Vogue and Vogue Sports range, except that the type of padding and trim varied according to the price; the framework was identical.
The Super Minx never pretended to be anything more than an extremely robust, well-built, and particularly well-finished family car, and in this succeeded very well. Apart from the use of large disc brakes
at the front, it had no really advanced engineering features, and its suspension was a little limited in design. But Rootes stuck to the formula because it had developed a particularly good reputation for longevity. The Super Minx was a strongly-built car, simply-designed, with the familiar 1592cc oversquare engine that had the triple virtues of low mean piston speeds, massive journals and large bearing diameters in the bottom end, and quite high gearing of 20.2 mph at 1000 rpm in top gear. It was not over-geared despite a relatively short stroke and medium-high developed torque point of 2500 rpm. The gearing was commendably flexible from below 20 mph in top.
However, the Super Minx had poor fuel consumption for a 1.5 litre car, and many motoring journalists were disappointed that, despite their best efforts, they could never achieve the magical 30 mpg figure that would signal a car was indeed economical. Despite using too much fuel, the engine did accelerate as briskly as cars of similar capacity, and more importantly for Australians it could maintain high cruising speeds without trouble and did not have excessive oil consumption. The engine spun freely up to about 5000 rpm, but above that it could be heard by the passengers. It had the same characteristic that this engine has retained over the years: when accelerated hard, it reached a point that sounded very much like valve crash in the double valve springs but was some 1000 rpm below its actual limit.
Compression ratio of 8.3 to 1 was not too high, but it was high enough to develop some pinking under load in top and third gears. On the Mark II Rootes relocated the gearlever on an extension housing from the rear of the substantial transmission hump in the centre of the front compartment. It was slightly cranked, and the large black knob - etched with the gate diagram - was always in the correct place for the hand. While the movement was a little notchy, the synchromesh was excellent. It was possible to change right through the gearbox without using the clutch. The throws were average-short. There was however, some whine from the transmission, particularly on overrun. This fault was common to a number of other cars from the era, and was probably caused a resonation that came in at some speeds in top gear.
On the Road
Apart from this the car was well-insulated from road and mechanical noise in normal cruising. The suspension could be heard working over bad surfaces, and would bottom in very sharp holes, but otherwise was very quiet. The car was free from serious wind noise at high speed, and the ride on all but rough surfaces was always good, with the high spring rates limiting bounce and pitch and a stiff front anti-roll bar
limiting roll movement. The handling was almost identical to the rest of the Hillman and small Humber group - final understeer. While not as marked as in the Series V, the understeer in the Super Minx was always present. While the effect of this was to make the car a little heavy to haul around short, tight corners, it made it very safe and stable at all speeds except suicidal, and gave it tremendously-good handling on wet or greasy roads.
The steering was improved slightly, and while it had no lost motion from dead ahead and was quite light and accurate, it did get a little spongy towards each extremity of lock. However, it did not return any road vibration, and had good "feel". Despite the use of a live rear axle and conventional springing, it was very difficult to induce axle tramp. The Mark II had slightly improved disc brakes, and stopped well for a family car, with average pedal pressures and no sign of fade under normal use. The handbrake, located at the right of the driver's seat, was typically Rootes quality – and by that we mean good (the UK quality self implosion was still years away). Any handbrake that could lock the rear wheels at 40 mph was an outstanding object lesson to all other manufacturers.
Behind the Wheel
The driving position was very good, with a good range of seat adjustment into almost straight-arm distance. The almost-vertical wheel, well-placed, was offset a little from the big pedal pads, but you soon became accustomed to this. The very high transmission tunnel, while preventing a third front-seat passenger, would work as a good place to rest your left leg, and there was room for the left foot to rest normally, covering the dipswitch. Interior finish and equipment was excellent. There was haircord carpet throughout, with a rubber square filleted into the driver's floor. The seat facings were in a heavy pvc, and the patterned pvc used on the door trims, parcel shelf roll and seat sides was also of good quality. The headlining was the same washable grey material used in the previous four Hillman models, and it was excellent. However, the interior light, in the centre of the headlining, was not dust-proofed, and owners would get used to the sight of streaks of dust that would mark the lining.
The seats gave excellent support around the tops of the shoulders and under the thighs. The rear seat cushion was a little short under the thighs, but there was ample leg-room throughout and the car was a true five-seater. There were arm-rests on the rear doors, but only chromed metal door-pulls on the front, which seems to us to be a strange omission. We have no idea what Rootes were thinking, particularly as they had been careful to fit a large ashtray in each rear door. Vision was excellent all-round, particularly through the big rear window, and all extremities could be seen in parking. The rear parcels shelf was recessed below the squab level to retain small parcels.
The cockpit of the car was one of the better examples of British design. The facia was in pressed metal, with full-width ribbing. The lockable glove-box, lined with sprayed felt, was slanted to stop objects rolling out. The lid formed a flat tray. Under the facia was a full-width parcel shelf lined in pvc over a thin sponge overlay of varying depth. In front of the driver was a fair array of Smiths instruments, legibly marked in white on black with red needles. There was of course the speedo, marked to 100 mph and 160 kph, with odometer and trip odometer all incorporated. A similar-sized dial next to it carried a fuel gauge (marked in gallons and litres) and two blanks for temperature and oil gauges.
The warning lights were sensibly mounted high between these two dials, only a few inches fall below the driver's natural line of vision. They comprise indicators (green), high beam (blue), oil (amber) and ignition (red) warning lights in the form of large gems. There was a full horn ring, working a loud horn, and the indicator stalk doubled as a headlight flasher. The sun visors were well-padded, and while the rear vision mirror, braced to the glass by a rubber foot, did not vibrate at all it was too small. The wipers cleared a good area of glass, neglected only the outside curves. The quarter-vents locked into a curved channel. The Super Minx was an easy car to live with. The big doors made getting in and out a breeze, it had lots of leg-room, and big boot with the spare located in a separate cradle underneath. It may not have accelerated very hard, and was not as frugal as you would expect from a small engine, but it was quiet and comfortable up to 65 mph.
, with the launch of the Super Minx Mark III the Super Minx was facelifted, and the wrap-around rear window gave way to a new "six-light" design with extra side windows aft of the rear side doors. Then in 1965
came the Mark IV. Engine capacity was increased to 1725cc - this larger engine outliving the Super Minx, to be used in later models.