Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The Original Husky
The original Mark 1 Hillman Husky was introduced in 1954
. The diminutive wagon was based on the contemporary "Mark VIII" Hillman Minx. The two-door Husky entered the range alongside an existing Minx station-wagon, which had a 9-inch (230 mm) longer wheelbase.
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.
Unlike the Minx, which used a column change, the gear lever
for the Husky was floor mounted. There were individual seats in front and a bench seat in the rear which could be folded flat to increase the load area. The trim material was leathercloth. Both the heater and radio were optional extras. The car was available in blue, grey, green or sand paint (1954
The Commer Cob
The Husky was badge engineered and slightly modified to form the Commer Cob - basically the same vehicle but with the rear side windows removed to create a panel van.
42,000 of this Husky were sold until the model was replaced in 1958 (a year after the "parent" Minx was itself replaced).
magazine tested a Husky in 1954
and found managed a top speed of 65 mph (105 km/h) and acceleration from 0-50 mph (80 km/h) in 24.3 seconds. A fuel consumption of 33.4 miles per imperial gallon (8.46 L/100 km; 27.8 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost UK£564 including taxes.
The Series I Audax Husky
the new "Series I" Husky appeared. It followed the same formula as its predecessor, but was based on the new "Audax" Series Hillman Minx. The engine was the new 1390cc overhead-valve unit but de-rated to an output of 51 bhp (38 kW). As before, there was also a four-door "Minx Station-Wagon", and the Husky had two doors (plus the side-hinged rear door) and a shorter wheelbase (by 8 inches (200 mm)). It was, however 2 inches (51 mm) longer than its predecessor. Again, Commer sold a panel van version of the same vehicle as the Commer Cob.
The Audax version was a bit of a revelation here in Australia. Most remembered the Husky as a dumpy little station wagon with two side doors and a single one at the back. Utalitarian in nature - at a time when the Station Wagon was still seen as a commercial work horse, rather than family sedan alternative - the original Husky offered four seats and a big luggage platform - but it also retained the old side-whacker Hillman engine when all its brothers had o.h.v.
The Audax Husky was basically the same in concept, but was the cheapest of all Rootes' products at the time, making it the wallet friendly way of getting the spanking new bodywork
and a 1390cc engine exactly the same as the A£1,099 De Luxe's. The Series I Audax Husky came in two forms: Estate Van for A£890 (1959
pricing) and the fully equipped Husky at A£978, From the front the Husky looked just like any other Hillman wagon. It took a side view to show up the short wheelbase and the altered tail treatment, the single long side window with its sliding pane, the single door.
In the transition from full-length four-door cargo carrier to shortened shopping hack, the Hillman lost very little apart from an inch or two of load-supporting floor space. It still had seating four people (not five, because of the separate front seats) and the back seat still folded to provide a big payload area. The interior trim was less luxurious than that found on the original, but was more practical. Plastic matting, cunningly moulded to simulate woven material, covered the floor. The seats were vinyl-upholstered in a single colour.
The gearshift was in the middle of the floor instead of on the steering
column - at the time considered a lesser alternative to the 3-on-the-tree. The central instrument panel had only the one instrument - the speedometer
, with a fuel gauge built in. A useful parcels shelf still filled the space below the dash. The doors had no fancy trim - just plain plastic with two handles. The roof was lined and so were the body sides aft of the front doors.
The spare wheel lived under the floor. To reach it you had to ope the single rear door (push the button) at the back. The same door gave easy access to the cargo space. Entry and egress were excellent. The two doors were wide enough to give clear access to the back seat which folded in two easy movements - the driver could manage it easily from their place at the wheel.
The best news regarding the Audax version was, however, that the new short wheel base had little effect on roadability apart from causing a little longitudinal pitching on wavy surfaces. The gearshift, which was the same as the S£999 Special saloon's, was nice to handle. It had short, precise movement and a conventional gate. Other points that owners liked were the neat, stove-enamelled outside rear view mirror, the natty pushbutton door handles, the recessed tail lamps (able to protect the rear tail-lights when loading) and the clear plastic-covered fuel filler cap with a nylon retainer spring. Minor niggles included an ugly ashtray that stuck out in front of the passenger. The interior detail finish was also low rent.
Series II Audax Husky
A "Series II" Husky followed in 1960 with a four-speed gearbox, slightly lowered roof, a deeper windscreen, and altered seats. The engine compression ratio was raised to 8:1 and the carburettor changed to a Zenith 30 VIG type. Testing the Husky in 1960 The Motor
magazine recorded a top speed of 73.4 mph (118.1 km/h), acceleration from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) of 26.9 seconds and a fuel consumption of 30.8 miles per imperial gallon (9.17 L/100 km; 25.6 mpg-US). The test car cost UK£674 including taxes.
Series III Audax Husky
The final iteration of the "Audax" Hillman Husky, the "Series III", made its debut in 1963
, along with a face-lift for the whole Minx range (and its badge-engineered derivatives). The face-lift bodywork
changes were applied to the Husky, but the reduction in wheel size from 15-inch (380 mm) to 13-inch (330 mm), which was applied to the saloons, was not applied to the Husky in order to maintain its ground clearance. In addition, whilst the contemporary Series V Minx got front disc brakes, the Husky continued with four-wheel drum brakes.
While the 1390cc engine continued to be used in most markets, for the USA the Husky adopted the 1592cc engine used in the contemporary Minx Series V. From 1964 the Husky gained an all-synchromesh gearbox and changes to the clutch and suspension. Production of the Series III ended in 1965.