60th Anniversary of Hillman Imp to be Celebrated at Rallyday 2023
Adding to the already-impressive list of cars, stars and attractions confirmed for Rallyday 2023 (Castle Combe Circuit, 1 July), organisers have now announced the event will also play host to special celebrations marking the 60th birthday of the mighty Hillman Imp – a model that’s enjoyed a hugely successful rallying career across the globe since its conception in 1963.
Long-running The Imp Club will form the backbone of this must-see feature, with a large club stand reserved for the main paddock area of the Wiltshire race track on the day boasting various examples of the rear-engine car. As well as road and rally models, you can also expect some particularly memorable machines to be present, such as Scottish rally driver Andrew Cowan’s genuine ex-works rally car.
The Imp Club members will also take to the 1.85-mile circuit for an unmissable parade display – please refer to the show programme (available on the day) for specific timings.
The Hillman Imp
Built from 1963 through to 1976 by the Rootes Group (and latterly Chrysler Europe), the compact Hillman Imp came to market as a direct rival to the BMC Mini, albeit with some crucial differences.
With its all-aluminium engine mounted behind the rear wheels, slanted to 45° to fit, Imp designers were keen to alleviate the inevitable oversteer characteristics common with rear-engine cars by fitting sophisticated semi-trailing arm independent rear suspension.
With this unique mechanical setup, it didn’t take long for the Hillman Imp to form an attractive ‘base’ car for circuit and rally motorsport teams. Such was the interest from the motorsport world, Rootes introduced a homologation special version of the Imp – the Rallye Imp – in 1964, which boasted an enlarged 998cc engine amongst a raft of other upgrades.
The Imp went on to claim victories in rallies across Europe and beyond. Of note was the 1965 Tulip Rally, where works Imps piloted by Rosemary Smith and Ian ‘Tiny’ Lewis finished first and second respectively. The model is still a common sight at historic and club-level rallying events around the world to this day.
The Imp Club
Founded in 1980 by Richard Knight, The Imp Club promotes the enjoyment and preservation of the Hillman Imp range of cars and its derivatives, with the core aim of ‘keeping the Imp alive’. The club’s president is none other than aforementioned rally champ, Rosemary Smith.
The Imp Club boasts over 1,110 members worldwide, with forums, events, online club spares stores and even an annual rally helping to keep the Imp name relevant for generations to come. To find out more, please head to www.theimpclub.co.uk.
Rallyday, held annually at Wiltshire’s Castle Combe Circuit, has established itself as one of Europe’s premier rally car shows for over two decades. Combining white-knuckle action out on the 1.85-mile circuit, a host of stars and cars in the paddock, rally rides for visitors and a varied selection of trade stands, it’s one event that rally fans don’t want to miss.
This year’s event (1 July) will see faces such as Stig Blomqvist, Jimmy McRae and Chris Ingram making an appearance, as well as countless historic and contemporary rally machines on display.
Advanced admission tickets are still available, as well as rally car & clubmen packages, public track time, rally driving experiences and much more. For full information, please head over to www.rallyday.com.