For a brief history on the "Audax" series cars, see the Hillman Series Cars (Audax bodystyle) History Page
Hillman was one of many cars made in the 1950's that were innovative and practical, and ahead of their time. At a time of cheap gas and economic prosperity in the U.S., these cars did not have a real warm reception as hoped by their makers. However, the current crop of Escorts, Honda Civics, and other similar vehicles on par in size with the Hillman Series cars size are reminders that the idea behind the Hillman Minx of the 50's and 60's was valid. The "Audax" model Hillmans were successful in the U.K. and other countries, leaving a 10 year history to prove it.
AUDAX DEFINED: The Series Minxes were designed by Raymond Loewy, who also crafted the shape of Studebaker models, so his influence is visible in the "Audax" bodystyle. "Audax" is the Latin word for "bold", and was attached to the Series cars since they represented a "bold new approach" in styling when compared to the earlier "Mark" series cars.
LACK OF SALES SUCCESS IN THE U.S.A.: Hillmans
found popularity elusive due to poor service and parts distribution in the U.S., and were
often used to lure customers into dealerships in a kind of "Bait and Switch"
routine which left them driving home in something else. In 1959, a Hillman
Minx Deluxe cost roughly the equivalent of a Chevrolet - and guess what most Americans
bought? Also, the Hillman was perceived as underpowered for American roads, too
"austere" in appointments and comfort, and generally suffered poor marketing
strategies. The strongest sales for Hillmans were made in 1959, and then
incrementaly dropped each year thereafter until the end.
Why are there still devotees to Hillman cars? It's a disease. For the same reason there are people loyal to any old car, willing to go the "extra mile" to keep the (place make and model here) "alive". For many, all it takes is the experience of owning a certain car, for whatever reason, and a mystical relationship that cannot be explained results. Maybe it was their first car, or the car was part of their lives at a time of significance - the list goes on and on. Rationale is left in the cupboard when it comes to cars. Fantasy becomes more real than the reality - and it's just plain fun. Cars represent FREEDOM, and become a home on wheels, a status symbol, and a place of escape. In the case of Hillmans, the challenge is not only keeping one on the road - it's finding one in the first place. When the challenge gets to this level, the challenge itself adds to the excitement. These cars are truly pedestrian in engineering, but are - especially now - unique and rare. Those wanting to have something "different" should definitely become a Hillmanholic!
The Hillman Minx Series cars have a basic, uncluttered and uncomplicated design. Engine in front, rear wheel drive, box-in-box chassis/body, Overhead valve, water cooled, generator-based charging system, Plugs/points/rotor/coil style ignition and engine driven pump-fed fuel system. They are easy to work on - a DYI dream. The brightest part of the unibody shell design first used in these cars is that it was over-engineered - heavy metal stock with an abundance of reinforcements, metal overlapped seams, multiple welds (even the front fenders are welded on), and wide gaps between all openings (about 1/4" at least). The not so bright aspect is that these cars were rust-prone. If owners did not keep the mud-traps cleaned out, and religiously coated problem areas like the inner sills with rust proofing treatments (like Waxoyl) then rust would soon take hold. But because of the over-design, these cars could stand to loose a substantial amount of metal to rust infiltration and still remain structurally solid. For example - the front sub-frame extends as far back as to reach under the drivers seat. You could also wear a hat! To emphasize these points, here is an interesting comparison of how far we have come (?) in 39 years:
|1959 Hillman Minx||96.0"||162.0"||61.0"||59.5"||2171 lbs||13.5 cu. ft.||53||24|
|1998 Toyota Tercel||93.7"||161.8"||64.8"||53.2"||1950 lbs||10.7 cu. ft.||82||32/37|
Obviously, I am infected. These pages tell you that. I am a Hillmanholic. Although my car and I parted ways over 29 years ago, the infection has only been dormant. I even have two Lesney #43A Hillman matchbox toys. Why? Evidence of the disease still lingering. There is no cure, save to find another Hillman for a "fix".
BRITISHSPEAK ("Proper" English)
To own a British car, you have to translate a little, so here are some transliterations:
|In the U.K. , you say....||In the U.S., it means|
|Bloody||@&*^%#& (Get the drift?)|
|Bit (also Bits)||Part(s)|
|Smeg (Variation = "Smegin")||*$*&% (Another of "those" words)|
|Sparking plugs||Spark plugs|
|Vat (V.A.T. or Value Added Tax)||Sales tax|