History of Hillman
Hillman was a famous British automobile marque, manufactured by the Rootes Group. It was based in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, near Coventry, England from 1907 to 1976. Before 1907 the company had built bicycles.
The original company named Hillman-Coatalen was founded by William Hillman with the Breton Louis Coatalen as designer and chief engineer. The first cars were large featuring a 9.76 litre 6 cylinder engine or a 6.4 litre four.
A smaller car, the 9 hp bult in the year 1913 with a 1357 cc side valve four cylinder, was the first to sell in significant numbers and was re-introduced after World War 1 as the 11 hp having grown to 1600 cc. The big seller was the 14 hp introduced in 1925, and the only model made until 1928. Following the fashion of the time a Straight Eight of 2.6 litres and Hillman’s first use of overhead valves came in 1928 but soon gained a reputation for big end problems.
In 1928 Hillman was taken over by Humber and both were taken over by Rootes in 1931. Hillman went on to become the dominant brand within the Rootes empire, alongside Humber, Sunbeam and Singer.
The 1930’s saw a return to side valves with first the 2.1 (later 2.6) litre 6 cylinder Wizard in 1931 and in 1932 the first car to carry the Minx name. This had a 1185 cc four cylinder and went through a series of updates in body style and construction until the end of World War 2. In 1934 the Wizard was replaced by the 20/70 which lasted until 1936 when the Hawk with a 2576 cc (later 3181 cc) side valve straight six. This car was later rebodied and sold as a Humber.
After the war the Minx was reintroduced with the same 1185 cc engine. It went through a series of models given Phase numbers and the Phase VIII of 1954 saw the arrival of an overhead valve engine. The de-luxe version of this model was called the “Gay” model which shows how words can change and led to the advertising slogan “Go gay, go Hillman”. A smaller car, the Husky with van like body and using the old side valve engine was also new for 1954. The floor pan of this model was later to form the basis for the Sunbeam Alpine, Sunbeam also being part of the Rootes empire. A complete departure in 1963 was the Hillman Imp using a Coventry Climax all alloy, 875 cc rear engine and built in a brand new factory in Linwood, Scotland. The location was chosen under government influence to bring employment to a depressed area. A fastback version, the Californian, and an estate re-using the Husky name were also made. A new car called the Hunter was introduced in 1966 with, in 1967, a smaller engined standard version using the old Minx name. These are frequently given their factory code of Arrow but this name was never officially used in marketing.
Chrysler had assumed complete control of Rootes by 1967, and the first new Hillman model whose development was financed by the American giant would be the Avenger of 1970.
1972 Hillman Avenger Saloon The Avenger and Hunter ranges were rebadged as Chryslers until 1979 when Chrysler sold its European division to Peugeot. At this point, Hunter production was shelved and the Avenger was rebadged as a Talbot until it was finally withdrawn from sale at the end of 1981.
Hillman’s Ryton factory exists to the present day, assembling various Peugeot models for the European market, but it was announced in April 2006 that Peugeot would end production there, the last car leaving the factory in December 2006. The plant formally closed in January 2007.
The French company still owns the rights to the Hillman name.
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