Motoring Monday: 1956 Hillman Californian

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Reader Jim A. writes: This is only the second one of these I’ve ever seen. The other was a hotrod version in California that was on eBay a few years ago. This one looks to have suffered from storage on the ground for many years but seems unusually decent from the sills up and is said to run. It’s in Canada just outside of Toronto. Thanks for sending in such a great find, Jim! It’s located in Brampton, Ontario, Canada and is listed here on eBay, where bidding is starting at $100 US with no reserve.

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I’m struck by the proportionally huge glass area of this little car, and the very unusually-shaped rear glass area. However, we can also see the rust, which is extensive over the lower portion of the car as Jim noted. The seller tells us that the car spent some time in a field before him purchasing the car, and that it has spent some time poorly covered since then. The seller always intended to restore the car, and a nice-looking early 60’s Hillman Minx wagon is visible in their garage in one of the pictures, so I suspect he knows what he is talking about. The car has run off of a bottle tank since he has owned it, and the seller thinks it could be made to run again without much difficulty, but there is all that rust to deal with.

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I love the dashboard on this Hillman, especially the four-on-the-tree shift pattern. With the speedometer over in front of the passenger, the car’s right-hand-drive origins are apparent. The seller says it’s showing less than 29k original miles, although looking at the pedal pads in one of the other pictures, I question that; they are quite worn.

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The 1390 cc OHV engine appears complete, with even the air cleaner housing being intact. I’m guessing changing that upside-down canister oil filter creates quite a mess!

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However, the original-appearing interior in reasonable condition supports the low mileage claim. Maybe someone just wore really abrasive shoes? Regardless, if this car stays close to its initial bid, it may be worth a shot, especially if you plan on performing your own metal repairs. To me, it all comes down to two things: the condition of the frame, and whether you find this somewhat quaint British car desirable or not.

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Comments

  1. Lee H.

    Sure glad it’s too far to go after! I love this car!

  2. Rick

    Bizarro! Looks like cross between a downsized ’48 Frazer and a 51 Chev hardtop. Never seen one before, but kinda cool. Won’t be passing yourself going the other direction on cruise night, that’s for sure. RE: Pedal wear vs. 29K orig miles. No way that thing went 129K, hardly no Hillman ever has. It’s just the low quality rubber Hillman used on footpad surfaces looks like it has a ton of miles.

  3. kenzo

    absolutely cool….if i could i would….

  4. Don

    I was the owner of that hot rod version on Ebay
    a few years ago. It was a beautiful car but with that very short wheelbase and 350 Chev v8 ,it was a scary ride!!
    These are very rare cars however it looks like a fair amount of body work is needed and unless the new owner car do most of the work, prepare to spent lots of $$

  5. Paul B

    Yes, Rootes was aping American styling for all it was worth after WW2. At first the British company used a mixture of Chrysler and GM motifs, as seen on this Californian. Then, with Loewy’s help, the Rootes cars looked like scaled down ’53 Studebakers. I remember these pre-Loewy Minxes from my early childhood. My dad almost bought one second hand but then decided on a ’50 Plymouth. Good thing about these is that however you react to their styling, they were stout and reliable cars. Put this one back together, get it going nicely, and enjoy.

  6. hillman

    Hi,
    there was a similar one for sale in france a few months ago.
    I do not know if it is still available. Was rusty too….

  7. Joe Hacker

    I had a 58 hilman minx back with starter wife in 85. It was owned by a former Alabama congress man. When starter wife and I split, she had it haul off and crushed before I could make arrangements.

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