Hillman Imp collector on the time he bought classic car for a pack of 20 Marlboro
A long time admirer of the Hillman Imp, David has owned 40 of the cars at one time or another – matching the number of years that have now passed since the closure of the plant.
But, unusually for a platinum tier supporter of Scotland’s most successful commercial vehicle, David Lane hails from Yeovil, a town situated at least two tanks of petrol away from the birthplace of his all-time favourite motorcar.
His love affair with the Imp began, coincidentally, in 1981, the year the plant ceased operation. However, David admits he was completely unaware of Linwood at that time.
“I acquired a Sunbeam Stiletto aged 17, the year Linwood shut,” says David, 56.
"But at the time I wouldn’t have known anything about that. I didn’t even know there was an Imp owners’ club until the late ‘80s.
"I didn’t even know where it was built, I just liked the car.
"I liked it because it was different. Most of my friends had Escorts, Cortinas, and Minis, but I basically just fell in love with the Stiletto.
“It was unreliable and horrible and I loved it. Every time I went out in it, it brought a smile on my face, and also a lot of tears when it conked out.”
Linwood’s cars were notorious for breaking down. One running joke from the 1970s claimed that if you filled a Hillman Imp with petrol, you doubled its value.
However, for David, the questionable build quality of the Imp brought out the mechanic in him. He has been tinkering with the models ever since, cannibalising parts from wrecked models destined for the crusher.
"The Stiletto went wrong almost every week,” reveals David, “So I had to learn quick how to fix it.
“At the time there were loads of Linwood models in scrap yards, so I practised on those.
“They’re really simple to work on. You can take the engine out in an hour. It’s so easy to do almost anything with them.”
With the value of Linwood’s vilified vehicles at rock bottom, the 1980s was a bountiful era for confessed Impologists like David.
He once bought a Hillman Imp in exchange for a packet of cigarettes.
"This bloke was out of fags and gave me an Imp in return for 20 Marlboro,” laughs David. “In the eighties they were worth nothing; you couldn’t give them away.”
While he has owned dozens of Imps over the years, currently, David keeps just two former Linwood vehicles in his garage: a 1960s Commer van, purchased for just £50 in 1991, and a Singer Chamois, “the posh model”, picked up around the same time.
With Covid-19 keeping him away from the classic car shows, David Lane’s lifelong appreciation of the iconic Scottish-built cars shows no signs of diminishing any time soon.
He adds: "I’ve had them since 1981 and never ever got bored of driving it. I’ve owned all sorts of cars, but will never tire of the Imp."It was so far ahead of its time. The handling is superb, the design is great, and it’s just a wonderful car to drive.”
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