Our cover story this issue is on the remarkable Imp. The car first came out as a Hillman in the 1950s and, as with many cars of that era, it also morphed into other versions over the years. The Imp featured in this edition of NZ Classic Car is a Sunbeam and is a real stunner. Enjoy this article where you will learn the history of Imp and The Rootes Group and enjoy this pristine example we discovered in the Deep South.
“Our featured Sunbeam Imp is a survivor now in Gore in the care of Russell and Marlene Newland. A member of the Gore Vintage Car Club, Russell bought their car from fellow member Bill Sheddan in 2021. A keen collector of all things Sunbeam, Bill purchased the little gem from retired Christchurch aircraft engineer Robert Tudehope in 2009. Restored by Robert, the Sunbeam is a 1970 Mark II model now being brought back to top condition”
The rotary revolution returns
With Mazda relaunching its rotary technology, it seemed a perfect time to look back on this unique engine design and search out an early example to examine and enjoy. We got lucky. We came across a 1972 RX 2 that had just undergone a 10 year restoration by its owner. This car is a credit to the owner Kelly Walden who went to great lengths to make this restoration one which will take your breath away, it's a cracker.
“Kelly Walden bought this car as a project 10 years ago when it had already languished in a container for more than a decade. The car was from the South Island originally. The rotary motor had been replaced by a regular 4-pot 1600cc unit. Kelly acquired a rusting ruin and set about what has been a decade-long project for him. He has completed 90 percent of the work himself and this has included stripping the car back to bare metal before beginning a complete rebuild. Rusty panels were either repaired or ditched, mostly the later.”
Fate has a funny way of often taking you just the way you needed to go. NZCC writer Partick Harlow was on his way to Taupo for a holiday and took a pit stop in Taihape and well, well, opportunity knocks for a classic car magazine writer when an Alfa driver pulls up next to him in Taihape’s main drag.
‘I am always looking for the next magazine story but had not expected to find a scoop in Taihape. But ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ so I asked the owner of the Alfa Romeo, Jeff Wong – clearly some kind of car guy – if he had a hobby car besides his Alfa. It turned out that he owned a ’66 Shelby Mustang, a Ferrari 308 that he kept for racing, a Ferrari 430 that was his dream car, a W8 VW Passat, a beat-up Rover 75 and the Corvette featured here. It’s the car he has owned the longest. My opinion of Taihape changed instantly.”
Climb every mountain
Toyota vehicles are renowned in this part of the planet for their reliability and toughness and the Toyota Land Cruiser is no better exponent of that fact.
We uncover a solid 1990 example whose owner, Sandra Moore, has a real affection for these tough 4x4 cookies and has a treasured vehicle she shares with us.
“Sandra has a penchant for all things mechanical and her love affair with the Land Cruiser can be traced back to having a play with a friend’s BJ44.
“I found it rather teeth-rattling, but I was certainly impressed with its capabilities. It was just so cool – but I decided I wanted a Land Cruiser that was a bit more comfortable,” she says.
The 70 LX fitted the bill and in fact Sandra has owned two. “This one is actually my second one. I found my first one in a car yard and I bought it for $20k. It had a sunroof and manual window winders but I sold it when I moved to Christchurch city,” says Sandra. “
1970 Rolls Royce Hearse, a Phantom with royal heritage
More than 50 years ago, a Rolls-Royce Phantom VI limousine transported Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and Princess Anne around the country during their 1970 royal visit. Now, the transformed Phantom brings dignity to some of the new king’s subjects final rides
The Petersen Automotive Museum – automotive nirvana
The Petersen Automotive Museum anchors the eastern end of the famed ‘Miracle Mile’, that length of Wilshire Boulevard that boasts numerous world-class museums.
“Many people will tell you the heart of the American auto industry is in Detroit. For others the place that leads the USA and possibly the world in terms of personalising the horseless carriage and taking it closer to artistic endeavour is Southern California. The perfect weather, near boundless wealth, and the fact that the automobile is a necessity, at least in LA which has poor public transport alternatives, have created an environment that delights in all things automotive.”
Hunting history in the north – The lost world
Gerard Richards escapes the confines of city life and hits the backcountry roads on a mission to find wrecks, rest and spiritual restoration – in Dargaville
“You can feel it winding up, many weeks out. You’re running around like a headless chook, making the rounds in the urban jungle, just trying to keep it all on track. Ensnared in a demented frenzy, you’re cranked as tight as your mother-in-law’s frozen smile. It hits you like a thunderbolt; you need to get outta here, escape, run like dogs into the backcountry, get a taste of the open road, the wind in your face and some small town chilled time.”
Kits & pieces – restomoded Scimitar
Patrick Harlow turns his attention to a fibreglass resto-mod with a difference while visiting the Pointon Museum in the Wairarapa
“Over the years I have been fortunate to discover several private collections of motorcars. Most of these, although often impressive, are not open to the public and to see them you often have to know the right person. Fortunately, there are a few collections that advertise their availability on the internet. One particular favourite of mine is the Pointon Museum just east of Masterton in the Wairarapa.”
Motorman – a miles better mini
Gordon Miles defied the critics in his unassuming 1960 model Austin Seven Mini, often beating larger, more powerful saloons on local circuits and in hillclimbs. Donn Anderson sat down with him in 1962 to talk about the Miles magic
“Gordon Miles was quick to appreciate the great roadholding and handling potential of the torsionally strong original Mini with the sure-footedness of front wheel drive and sensation of a wheel at each extremity. Yet he also saw the limitations of an 848cc engine developing a modest 25 kW (34 bhp) in standard trim.”
Motorsport flashback By Michael Clark – Funny cars at the Brickyard
Sixty years ago, Colin Chapman’s ‘flimsy, fragile, rear-engined little Limey machines’ consigned the fire-breathing ‘Offy’-engined roadsters that had dominated the Indy 500 to history
“In May 1962, Colin Chapman was Dan Gurney’s guest at the Indianapolis 500. At the time, the tall Californian was contracted to Porsche in F1 but when the German team left motor racing’s ultimate echelon at the end of that year, he joined the new Brabham team where he stayed for the next three years. Gurney was acutely aware of the hardware that had come to dominate the Indycar grids and was no doubt expecting Chapman to be intrigued with what he would see.”
Marketplace Report By Ben Selby – Rootes Group’s Mini basher
Whether badged as a Hillman, Sunbeam or Commer, the Imp is one of the quirkiest and most charming of all contemporary British classics
“BMC had the Mini, Ford had the Anglia, and the Rootes Group gave us the Imp. They had given the go-ahead to designers Mike Parkes, later a Formula One driver, and Tim Fry. The Imp made waves for its unconventional styling and layout and, like its main rival, the Mini, its bare essentials approach to motoring. “I think cult classic-wise, they have a lot of character,” says Imp enthusiast Simon Dobier. “The design has character, for the day it was quite a cool design.”
PRICE ON … rubbish in and rubbish out
By Greg Price
You can’t believe everything you read (except my column)
“I had an interesting discussion the other day about Chatbot, and the ‘amazing disputable information’ it produces. The debate reminded me of our own vehicle database, usually accessible via the likes of Carjam.co.nz. Carjam is the main free site from which to gain basic information about a motor vehicle. In the good old days, one could write to the New Zealand Post Office, Motor Registration branch, with your query and, for the princely sum of 50 cents, you could obtain the name and address of the current owner of a motor vehicle.“
There is lots of news on recent classic car events such as;
Wheels at Wanaka, Begg Festival, American car day, Triumph Day and many more.