John Webber
John Webber
9/22/20 9:28 a.m.

If an Imp could speak, it would echo Marlon Brando’s anguished lines in the 1954 movie “On the Waterfront”: “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody.”

Despite its innovative features and stellar reputation as a driver’s car, the Imp was never a contend…

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TurnerX19 SuperDork
9/22/20 10:10 a.m.

I owned four Imps here in the USA between 1971 and 1980. Three were Mk1s, and I never saw a pneumatic throttle. I suspect they were gone from production by the time left hand drive cars were produced. Earliest VIN# I had was  B411038955. Pictured below with fresh paint

wspohn Dork
9/22/20 11:08 a.m.

Lightweight car hampered by indifferent handlng due to front suspension choices (swing arm), but cute and the engines were great, if underpowered - I bought one new and then resold it a couple of weeks later as I live in a hilly area and there was literally no way to get it to start on a steep hill without burning the clucth out trying.

With a larger displacement (even the 998 rally Imp engines were a help, but patterning on a larger Climax precursor like the 1200 cc would have been even better)  they could have been a great little car. In fact the engines went on to power many, many small bore sports racers. The 998 cc engines put out 65 bhp, comparable with the similar sized BMC A series.  They managed to get them up over 100 bhp for racing, which beat anything short of the BMC 1275s back in the day.

They even created a race class for space frame Imps - basically a sports racing chassis with a (very) lightweight body that had to look more or less like an Imp.  

Here is one with a special DOHC head that put out 110 bhp at 10,000 rpm.....


David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
9/24/20 8:26 p.m.

In reply to wspohn :

So was the Mini just the better mousetrap? (And, for that matter, the Beetle?)

wspohn Dork
9/26/20 10:20 a.m.
1/31/22 12:32 p.m.

I had a Sunbeam Imp I bought new in 1966 - a 1967 model IIRC. I drove it until 1969 when I could afford an MGB. The only real problem I had was that the ignition system was sensitive to dampness - it seemed as if the car wouldn't start if somebody spat on the sidewalk within 20 feet. The solution was carbon tetrachloride which I carried in a 16 oz bottle purchased at the pharmacy (I believe it's no longer sold to consumers). I hadn't heard of WD-40 in those days, and when I first encountered it, people thought of it as a lubricant, not realizing that WD stands for Water Displacement. My advise to Imp drivers is: Always carry WD-40 in your tool kit.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
2/3/22 9:12 a.m.

I still want an Imp. Maybe someday.

2/25/22 5:37 a.m.

In reply to keithjackson :

I when to a rooted come Chrysler garage at 17  they used to take 6 to 7 hours to change the clutch after a while I realised you could leave the box and rear cross member in place  took me 35 minutes  another thing we did when repairing the gearbox was to clean the  mating surfaces with carbon tetrachloride   Love working on these loverly cars  remember one of the guys doing a p d I and customer wanted sill kick strips por man drilled through heater hoses we were called apprentice but the real name was slaves  paid a pittance later I when they to work for a Ford dealership during the time the cortina axels fell apart made so much money on bonce gave my wage package to my mum she thought I'd been paid two weeks holiday pay as well. Happy days met some great people not all but some great skills 

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