Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
The Rootes Group
launched its answer to the BMC Mini
, the rear engined Hillman Imp. The Imp was quickly "badge engineered" into Singer and Sunbeam
derivatives including some attractive "fastback" models. The standard car used a two door bodyshell with a novel opening rear window/hatch.
Stiletto is a rare car indeed, with only around 9000 being manufactured between 1967
. The first iterations were known as the 301 series, manufactured by the Rootes group. After Chrysler took control of Rootes, the car continued to be manufactured as the 302 series, with a number of minor modifications being introduced.
What made the Stiletto special were the performance modifications made to the 875cc Imp engine which had been developed from a Coventry-Climax unit. The modifications included fitting twin Stromberg 125CD carbs, a new cylinder head
with improved gasflow and larger inlet valves
, higher lift cam, stronger pistons, and an oil cooler. The already accomplished Imp gearbox was mated to a 6¼in. Laycock diaphragm self-adjusting clutch.
The improvements didn't stop there, and quoting the Stiletto sales literature "...The superb standard Imp gearbox, all synchromesh. 0-50 in 10.6 secs ('Motor' road test) Top speed 90mph.
Fully independent suspension
. Girling system servo assisted brakes, 8in. drums, 150sq.in. swept area. Full safety-standard dashboard with matt-bevelled instruments. Plus new 15in. padded leathercloth covered steering
Wind-up windows. Headlamp flasher. Carpet, wall-to-wall. Through-flow heating and ventilation. Plus: sublimely comfortable front reclining seats. A lockable glove box. Padded arm rests. Beautiful, breathable Amblair upholstery. Individual fold-down rear seats. Curved side windows. Outside: Great trim. Black vinyl covered roof on the raking fastback. And four headlights to bring a little light in your life..."
There was plenty of standard kit too, such as fully reclining front seats, self-parking screen wipers, two sun visors, a headlamp flasher switch, zone toughened windscreen, built-in heating and ventilation with blower, screen washers, four stowage pockets, lockable cubby box, swiveling front quarter-lights, twin ashtrays. The rear seating was divided, there was a door-operated interior light, twin-tone horns and attractive Sunbeam
stainless wheel trims.
On the outside the Imp featured attractive twin whie coachlines, except for Polar White which had twin red coachlines. Inside the dashboard was a cut above the standard fare at this price point. This large, black, moulded piece of engineering (peculiar only to this model) featured novel ideas such as warning lights which can be dipped for night time driving. There was a 100 mph speedometer
, rev. counter, fuel and water temperature gauges and warning lights for flashing indicators, oil pressure
, headlamp main beam and ignition.
The 998cc Rally Imp
While the Sunbeam
Stiletto was the most sporting variant, there was an earlier "homologation" special built by Rootes for the purpose of both club and international rallying. Introduced in 1964
, the Rally Imp featured many modifications over the standard model, the most important of which was an engine enlarged to 998 cc. Notable successes for this model include the 1965
Tulip Rally in which the works Imps of Rosemary Smith and "Tiny" Lewis finished first and second overall.
Imps were also successful racing cars. The privateer team of George Bevan dominated the British Saloon Car Championship (later known as the British Touring Car Championship) in the early 1970s. Driven by Bill McGovern, the Bevan Sunbeam
Imp won the championship in 1970
with limited factory support.