Needs Some TLC: 1960 Hillman Minx

This “recently discovered” 1960 Hillman Minx sits in Lindsay, Ontario Canada and must have been stored in a vacuum based on the lack of rust usually found in Canadian barn finds (I can say that, I’m Canadian). It is dusty and faded not like this Minx Wagon we featured almost exactly a year ago. The details in the listing are scarce at best, the owner claims that it “must have been oiled” and could use some TLC but not a full restoration. Available here on Kijiji asking for offers “over $4,000” Canadian.

The Minx was produced from the mid-50s to the mid 60s and sold quite well. It was available in the four-door saloon and estate wagon forms. It took many forms over the years it was produced but was never considered much of a performer. It did however boast some good fuel efficiency stats, even by today’s standards (approximately 26.5 mpg).

This car does look solid with little rust showing, and aside from the usual leaves, dirt and debris the interior looks to be in very presentable and restorable shape. The engine appears reasonably clean though I’m sure it will need attention to get it back in driving shape. Would you invest in this economical sedan and be the only one in town with a Hillman?

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Comments

  1. GearHead Engineering

    Great find. If this was a convertible, I would be spending my afternoon learning how to get it to the US.

    – John

    • KEN TILLY

      So would every Englishman living in Canada!

  2. Derek

    My parents’ first car was one of these. Manual rather than auto, though.

  3. nessy

    My Hillman Minx is a 59. Looks kind of different for being only one year apart from the feature car. Cute little cars from the “Roots” auto group.

    • Jonathan

      “Rootes”. Roots make blowers.

  4. Ken

    Gearhead, if you’re serious about being interested in this Hillman if it was a convertible, I can save you the trouble of trying to haul this back from way NE of Toronto and no border to cross – I’m near Detroit. I have virtually the same year Hillman Minx (the true model name of this car, and it runs and drives but I haven’t finished rebuilding the brakes but have all the parts for the job. And as I need to let this convertible go due to a possible move, my price is far better than that for this posting – otherwise I’d be interested in this sedan but for the price and lack of info like “does it run?”

    However, let me explain what the “automatic” transmission is – it’s not one you’ve probably ever heard of before – It’s a very interesting ELECTRIC automatic, called an “Easidrive automatic”, and is a fascinating attempt to create an autoshifting car in England which would get the gas mileage of a manual. The car has a column shifter like a PRNDL, but instead is a different pattern. Developed by the Smiths co. in UK, but using patents by the Eaton co. of Detroit, it has two co-axial magnetic POWDER clutches, each of which controls one of two co-axial shafts in a 3 speed manual box. The whole shebang is controlled by a special high output generator which provides power to the clutches and is combined with a special v. regulator along with an electric “brain” box holding 8 standard relays, a thermistor and i forget what else. The shifting is controlled by an rpm cable off the trans to a centrifugal governor with internal switches which tell the brain when and what to do with each clutch. First/reverse is controlled by a solenoid on the trans. 1st thru 3rd shifts are controlled by the governor and relay box.

    When i got my convertible, the trans didn’t work due to a burned points set in the brain. I polished the points and the system works but still needs some adjusting which is described in my full factory manual. My car would come with a complete extra brain box, wiring harnesses and other bits including a factory test setup. These Minxes have massively strong X-brace chassis which went into the Sunbeam Alpine/Tiger cars. My chassis is solid, but floors need replacing and LF fender has a long gash in it. Doors are solid and shut very well. Interior has been reupholstered but top is shot.
    If you want more details I’ll provide, just don’t know how to communicate directly with you thru BF. Anyone know what is allowed?

    • BillyT

      Ken, my sister had a ’68 Renault R-10 which our father bought new for her to go to college in. He wanted to buy her a VW Beetle; but since she just wasn’t coordinated enough to drive a manual transmission, he settled on the R-10 because it could be optioned with an electromagnetic semi-automatic gearbox for less than a VW. Developed and produced by Jaeger, it employed something called a “ferromagnetic coupler” in place of a clutch. This coupler used iron powder, which, when an electromagnet was energized, locked the driving and driven plates of the transmission together. The gearbox was a three-speed unit controlled by push-buttons on the dash. That automatic was a pretty slick little unit and worked well until the engine’s rear main seal began leaking oil. Apparently a common problem, it coated the driving and driven plates with oil to the point that they wouldn’t lock up. I can remember that little 1.1L engine screaming along and the car just creeping forward at walking speed. The temporary fix was to remove an inspection plate and spray an degreaser, that was safe for use in electric motors, into the electromagnetic clutch mechanism, which we did several times.

      My sister finally sold the Renault to a friend that had a wrecked R-10 with a manual transmission that he swapped in (easy conversion) and drove for several more years. By that time my sister had graduated and took a job with IBM and bought a 1972 Opel Sport Coupe with a GM Turbo Hydramatic 180 transmission which she drove for 15 years without any problems.

      • Ken

        BillyT, yes, Renault did put a similar electromagnetic clutch into production in the ’60s – a friend in Santa Cruz Ca. has a Dauphine which has the Ferlec or whatever it’s called – pushbutton automatic. It uses only one mag clutch, and has I think a simpler control system. I retuned the engine several yrs ago and got it running a little better, but we never went farther than that. The Smith’s Easidrive came out just before transistors were commercialized as in the Stage 1 first system. Then transistors were added in a 4 transistor control bridge that determines shift points, using a tiny AC speed signal generator in the transmission. This rework replaced the speedo-like cable driving the complex multi-switch governor box on the RH side of the engine compartment. This sedan is a Stage 1 as the governor is visible in the engine photo.
        Techies would see this Stage 1 as a sort of electromechanical, pre-computer control system, which is what fascinates me about the car. The system does give the fuel economy of a stick shift, but is a different approach from the Citroen DS19 ‘Citromatic’ hydraulically-controlled 4 speed shift system. The DS control system replaces the manual trans lid with one where tiny hydraulic cylinders push the selector forks around, but the gearbox is otherwise the same. Citromatic is much simpler as it’s just plumbing, combined with the first ever paddle shifter worked with fingertips on the steering wheel – WAY ahead of the times in 1955 and still ahead! It’s my favorite shifting system.

    • GearHead Engineering

      Ken,

      Interesting car. I am intrigued. Not too keen on the rust (floor replacement, fender). Been there too many times with other projects. But still intrigued.

      Unfortunately I have no idea how to get in touch. I don’t want to run afoul of the site rules.

      Interesting details on the transmission. In my head I’ve already designed a microprocessor controlled replacement for the “brain box” you mention. Just because…

      – John

      • Ken

        John, I’m at citbuff@gmail.com – hope this gets thru to you. Rust is mainly the floor – sills, fenders pretty thick metal, & fender damage is physical gouge/cut that can be dollied out and welded. I have a ton of spares, including wheels, side glass, heater cores….

  5. RayT Member

    My ’59 Minx was a tired version of Nessy’s, but in a faded two-tone Mouse Tan/Darker Mouse Tan color scheme. I bought it in 1966 for $50 and spent a few bucks getting it running.

    Not a bad ride for a high-school kid. Except for a wheel cylinder, nothing ever went wrong with it. I didn’t like the column shift, so bolted in the floor shifter from a wrecked Husky.

    Not sure I’d take another on today. You’d probably have to join the Hillman Minx Driver’s Club and buy replacement parts through their Spares Scheme. Not like the old days when I could get the few items I needed from the local import parts store.

    Besides, $4K (CDN) for a car that would likely need a pretty thorough going-through before you could drive it is a little rich for my taste.

    • Jerry Brentnell

      if you live in the states thats a 75 cent dollar to you so you are a head of the game compaired to us who pay $1.25 pplus gst at the boarder eh!

  6. Kevin Lee

    It looks exactly like my Nanny’s car. Same color too! When she got too old to drive my aunt parked it in her backyard in Ontario, California. I always thought it was kind of cute.

  7. pat gill

    My first car in 1971 was an early 60’s 1500cc Minx 4 on the floor manual with a bench seat, pea green, bought with a years MOT test for £25.00, fitted 13″ Ford wheels and a rev counter, second car was an MGA 1600 mk1 soft top bought in 1973 for £100.00, best thing is that I still have the MGA………………. Pat

  8. geezerglide85

    MY father’s 1st new car was a ’59 Minx, black like nessy’s. He said that it wouldn’t start if there was even a cloud in the sky. Dealer couldn’t find anything wrong so he traded it in on a new ’61 Rambler American. A week or two later it showed up in the parking lot where he worked, when he found the new owner he told him what a lemon it was. The guy said he had some problems with it at first, but his buddy, a mechanic found it had a cracked distributor. Replaced that and had many years of trouble free driving. I’d heard later that this was a factory defect that many had.
    Also for a small car it was very well built and solid as a rock.

  9. MGSteve

    My dad had a 58 Minx, when I was coming of the age to drive. Many an hour was spent behind the wheel (car parked safely inside the garage), making “vroom, vroom” sounds. When I finally got to drive it, due to its incredibly low first gear, I could blow a Vette off the line . . . for about 17 1/8 of an inch. Ahhh, what fun. I thought it was a really cool car . . . still do think they are welly British, and their desgin has held up well. I begged my dad to let me buy the car, when he bought his next car. Perhaps sensing a problem, he refused. Instead, he bought the Uglist Car in the World, a 59 pink and gray Rambler with a black/red interior. I will say this: By the time you finally angled a date with a girl in THAT thing, at least you knew she was going out with you, and NOT because you had a cool car. On my Bucket List: a Hillman Husky

  10. Brian M

    The reference by Ken of “ferlec” in a dauphine brings back memories. Dad had a regular three speed dauphine, in which I first learned to drive a manual transmission automobile. My best friend’s sister had a dauphine with the ferlec clutch, which was also a three speed, floor mounted manual transmission. It had a curious lump around the base which was a collection of micro switches. When you pushed or pulled on the shift lever, the switch made contact and disengaged the clutch as you moved the lever to whatever gear you were selecting. This worked fine as long as you let go of the lever once you were in your chosen gear. Holding on to the lever and applying any pressure in any direction disengaged the clutch. Speed shifting (not a great idea in a dauphine anyway) really was not an option. God bless the Froggies for their engineering! Back to Hillmans, our HS senior class president had a Husky estate as his daily driver back in1961. Cute little thing and peppy, unless all four passenger positions were occupied.

  11. Tort Member

    Learned to drive with a 50’s, think 56, Hillman convertible back in the early 60’s. As I remember it had a four speed on the column.

  12. Ken

    Just found I have a thick workshop manual on the Hillman Minx series I to V, the Husky series I thru III, and the Cob series I thru III, issued 1965. And another thick manual on the Minx series I thru III, IIIA and IIIB, plus the Husky and Commer Cob series I & II, issued 1960. Not to mention a great illustrated parts book on the Minx and others – and last but not least, Smiths manuals on the Easidrive automatic Stage I and Stage II (with first transistors) – citbuff@gmail.com.

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