Friday February 9, 2018
For many of us it is the smallest details of an old car that can evoke such powerful memories – the transmission whine on a Vauxhall Viva HB, the tip-up seats on a four-door Morris 1100 – and the oval shaped interior mirror on a 1965 Hillman Super Minx. The myth of the 1960s is that virtually everyone drove a Moke, a Cooper S or a Jaguar E-Type but the reality was often more one of hair-cream, fading sandwiches in a saloon bar display and a two-tone Hillman parked on a suburban driveway.
The Super Minx was originally intended as a replacement for the Minx “Audax” but it was eventually decided to build it as a supplementary model. From a marketing perspective this may have given the Rootes Group a new car but it also complicated their line-up of medium-sized cars. The first in the new line-up was the upmarket Singer Vogue, which debuted in July 1961, followed four months later by the Super Minx.
The latest Hillman cost £160 more than its Minx stablemate but it seemed more imposing, even if it is actually shorter than a modern Ford Focus. Its image was arguably more youthful than the Austin A60 Cambridge/Morris Oxford Series VI, more flamboyant than a Vauxhall Victor FB and while it did not look as dramatic as a Ford Consul Classic, the Super Minx certainly had a quasi-American air. Rootes reassured potential buyers that ‘the fins are clearly visible through the rear screen, as a guide for reversing’ – i.e. they had a practical as well as a stylistic purpose. There was also a fresh air vent in the driver’s foot well, a split bench front seat that was ‘figure contoured’ and ‘Power. Energy. Vitality’ from the 1.6 litre engine. Here, the sales campaigns strongly inferred, was a family car for the motorway age, and one with ‘zestful performance’ too.
By 1962 the Super Minx Mk. II gained front disc brakes and was available as a rather handsome estate with a horizontally divided tailgate and, for those with dreams of California but an East Cheam bank balance, a very appealing convertible. The last-named was dropped in 1964 shortly before the debut of the Mk. III, which in saloon guise featured a new semi-razor-edged roofline which mirrored the latest generation of big Humbers. There was now synchromesh on first gear, the facia was now decorated with timber and reclining front seats, a very unusual fitting in a British family car of that period, were standard. For £768 17s 1d (seat belts an extra £4 15s per set) the Super Minx Mk. III represented quite a bargain; ‘a family car, designed for long and faithful service, and as such should give much satisfaction’ to quote Autocar.
From autumn of 1965 the Super Minx was powered by a new 1,725cc engine before it was replaced in 1966 by the Hillman Hunter, the estate version lasting until 1967. The latest generation of Rootes’ “Arrows” embodied a decade of concrete multi-storey car parks and urban clearways while the older model seemed to hail from the last drainpiped leg of the Teddy Boy era. It may not have offered blistering performance but it is a vehicle of genuine and lasting charm, as demonstrated by this quite wonderfully naff footage of the 1962 London Motor Show. –