Hillman Production line, Linwood

84 – First Hillman Imp rolls off Linwood production line

May 2, 1963
IN 1963 engineering firm the Rootes Group, attracted by the earlier opening of nearby Ravenscraig steelworks, established a car plant in Linwood, near Paisley.

The factory was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh.

It was a new computerised assembly plant where the firm pioneered the use of aluminium engines in a mass-produced car.

A Government grant supported the plant, which created 6,000 jobs in an unemployment blackspot that had suffered huge redundancies in the declining Clyde shipbuilding industry.

However, the workers, mainly recruited from the shipyards, were inexperienced in motor vehicle assembly, which resulted in problems with quality and reliability.

The Imp was seen as a Scottish car and was popular. At one point the basic model was the cheapest new car on the British market, which pushed up sales figures.

Hillman Imp
Hillman Imp (Andrew Milligan / PA)

The Imp also enjoyed modest success in rallying and Rootes produced a special build, the

Rally Imp, in 1964, featuring several modifications from the standard car, the most important of which was an engine enlarged to 998 cc.

In 1967 the Rootes Group was taken over by Chrysler (UK), which was reluctant to invest in the Linwood plant. The British Government attempted to intervene, putting in £45 million
by 1975.

However, after heavy redundancies the plant closed in 1981.

A deluxe model of this once iconic car can still be seen at the National Museum of Scotland.