Hillman Motor Car Company history
|Headquarters||Ryton-on-Dunsmore, England, United Kingdom|
|Parent||1929 - 1931 Humber|
Hillman is a British automobile marque created by the Hillman Motor Car Company, founded in 1907. The company was based in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, near Coventry, England. Before 1907 the company had built bicycles. Although the Hillman company was acquired by Humber in 1929, Hillman was used as the primary marque of the Rootes Group from 1931, following its acquisition of Humber, until 1967, when Chrysler in turn took over Rootes. The marque continued to be used under Chrysler until 1976.
During the 1860’s Josiah Turner and James Starley formed the Coventry Sewing Machine Company and recruited skilled engineers from the London area to join them, one of these engineers was a man named William Hillman. In 1869 the company changed its name to Coventry Machinists Company Ltd and like many other manufacturers in the area embarked on producing velocipedes. In 1870 William Hillman and James Starley patented a new bicycle called the “Ariel” and by 1885 William Hillman was a partner of the bicycle manufacturer Hillman Herbert and Cooper producing a bicycle called the Kangaroo. Hillman's new company soon established itself, and before the turn of the twentieth century, Hillman was a millionaire. With wealth came the means to fulfil Hillman's next ambition to become a car producer. Hillman had moved into Abingdon House in Stoke Aldermoor near Coventry and decided that a sensible plan would be to set-up a car factory in its grounds. in 1907 Hillman-Coatalen, was founded by William Hillman with the Breton Louis Coatalen as designer and chief engineer. They launching the 24HP Hillman-Coatalen (named after its designer), which was entered into that year's Tourist Trophy. The car was put out the race by a crash, but it had made a splash. Coatalen left in 1909 to join Sunbeam and the company was re-registered as the Hillman Motor Car Company in 1910.
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 of 1913 with a 1357 cc side-valve four-cylinder, was the first to sell in significant numbers and was re-introduced after the First World War 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 1930s saw a return to side valves with a 6-cylinder Wizard first produced in April 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 the Second World War. 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 was introduced. 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 1955 saw the arrival of an overhead-valve engine 1390cc, the Mk 8. The later 1956 Two Tone version of this model was called the "Gay Look" or Mk 8A model, showing how the meaning of words can change, and led to the advertising slogan "As Gay as a Mardi Gras". 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 was the Avenger of 1970.
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 closed in January 2007 assembling various Peugeot models for the European market.
The French company still owns the rights to the Hillman name.
- Hillman 40 hp 1907–11
- Hillman 25 hp 1909–13
- Hillman 12/15 1908–13
- Hillman 9 hp 1913–15
- Hillman 10 hp 1910
- Hillman 13/25 1914
- Hillman 11 1915–26
- Hillman 10 hp Super Sports 1920–22
- Hillman 14 1925–30
- Hillman 20 1928–31
- Hillman Vortic 1931–32
- Hillman Wizard 65/75 1931–33
- Hillman Minx 1932–66
- Hillman 20/70 1934–35
- Hillman Super Minx 1961–65
- Hillman 16/20 1934–36
- Hillman Hawk 1936–37
- Hillman 80 1936–38
- Hillman 14 1938–40
- Hillman Husky 1954–63
- Hillman Imp 1963–76
- Hillman Gazelle 1966–67 (Australia)
- Hillman Hunter 1966–79
- Hillman Arrow 1967–68 (Australia)
- Hillman Avenger 1970–81
- Hillman Hustler 1971–72 (Australia)