Thursday October 24, 2019
We sometimes forget how slow-paced life in the recent past could be; telephone calls that took aeons for the local exchange to connect, television sets that took minutes to warm up and cars that appeared to take centuries to reach 60 mph. The Hillman Husky never had any pretensions to speed, but it provided reliable and honest transport for many years after the end of production.
The Rootes Group introduced the Husky in 1954, and it was essentially a short wheelbase four-seater utility that served as a more compact and cheaper alternative to the Minx estate. Power was from the old 1,265cc side-valve engine and, unlike the saloon, the gear-lever was floor-mounted. It was a Hillman that appealed to grocers and other owners of small retail businesses who wanted a smart-looking delivery vehicle that could double as an estate-car at weekends.
By 1956 the Minx range was updated as the “Audax” series, but the Husky retained the older bodyshell. It was also joined by the Comer Cob van; some motorists wishing to save on Purchase Tax would buy the latter and fit an after-market seat in the load bay. The copywriter for a late-model brochure had his or her work cut out describing the luxury fittings as there essentially weren’t any.
Instead, the text extolled the ‘stylish 2-spoke steering wheel’, foot-operated dipswitch’ and the ‘latest chromium press button operated door locks’. However, when ordered in duotone Fiesta Blue and Pearl Grey, the Hillman actually looked quite jaunty, and it would be utterly dependable; you would arrive at your destination slowly but surely. This Australian film from 1956 showcases its features https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCX24E4b2eA
The new Husky “Series I” of 1958 not only boasted fresh styling but also a 1.4-litre OHV engine. Just to make your neighbours emerald with envy when you took delivery of your new Pippin Red and Foam White Hillman, the list of standard fittings embraced ‘a smart washable headlining’, ‘a capacious parcels tray’ and ‘a driver’s sun visor’. More importantly, as The Motor observed:
Versatility is the especial merit of an estate car, and this latest Husky shows it in large measure. Either a comfortable four-seater or, when the occasion requires, a van to carry bulky loads, it will do local errands or make long journeys untiringly at quite rapid average speeds, and it has enough rear wheel adhesion to negotiate steep and slippery country tracks which would defeat a large proportion of modern saloons
The Series II of 1960 gained a modified roofline, and an Autocar test concluded that ‘Affection for the Husky is formed within a very short mileage’. The last of the traditional Huskys came with the Series III of 1963, with the grille from the Minx Series V.
By that time, the price was £586 12s 1d - or not much more than a Mini. However, you would need to invest another £13 15s in a heater. Front seat belts were another £9 10s and if you were feeling especially flash, a fog lamp was another £2 18s 6d. The latest Husky was still devoid of a main beam warning lamp; after all, there was no point in cosseting the owner.
Production ended in 1965, but there was a final burst of publicity when a police Series III appeared with the ever-suspicion-looking Glyn Houston in the minor science-fiction classic Invasion. This use of the Hillman reflected the fact that many rural forces did employ the Husky as a general patrol car. The name was revived in 1967 for the Imp estate, but the older model was seen on the roads well into the 1970s – as the advertisements put it, still ‘serving your business and pleasing your family’.
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