Rare 1955 Hillman Minx Californian

Hillman has a long and storied history-making “midsize” economical cars for the Australian, North American, and European markets. I put “midsize” in quotation marks because by modern standards these would be decidedly compact. The Minx Californian is a coupe version of their popular Minx model, and you can find this one, originally sold in New Zealand, here on eBay.

The seller mentions it’s extremely rare, but a solid hour on Google, and I couldn’t find any production numbers for the Californian or even another for sale. Which, I guess, is a testament to how rare it is, even though we can’t put hard numbers to the claim of rarity. I did manage to find a couple of Hillman owners clubs and one site which gave bizarrely detailed information on this niche automobile. Under the hood, according to this site, you can find a 1390cc inline four-cylinder making 47 horsepower, and driving the rear wheels through a column-shifted four-speed manual transmission. All of that looks accurate, based on pictures provided by the seller.

There are no images provided of the undercarriage, but they do mention the brakes need some work and require pumping to stop. If you were to buy this, definitely bring a trailer to pick it up and drop it off right at your mechanic to get the brakes sorted. That seems to be the only thing it needs to be made road-worthy, though being able to stop is an incredibly important ability. Going off of images under the hood and trunk, the overhead valve four-cylinder is in good shape, and the engine bay and trunk lining themselves show no signs of grease, oil splatter, dirt, rust, or any other bad little gremlins.

Inside, there are two bench seats trimmed in red vinyl with white trim. The silver dashboard comes equipped with a generous complement of gauges, a radio, and even a shift pattern so you never forget where the gears are. It’s got a very 1950s color palette, inside and out, and everything looks good. Not perfect, mind you. There are some stretch marks on the upholstery and imperfections in the paint, but from a dozen feet away it would definitely turn heads at whatever car shows you decide to run it too.


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  1. Solosolo Member

    I had the straight Hillman Minx sister to this car and the four on the column gear change was a bit of a hassle. To select reverse gear from neutral the knob on the end of the gear lever had to be pulled out, then the lever had to be pushed downward towards the clutch pedal before pulling it towards your feet. Took a bit of getting used to but worked o.k.

    Like 2
  2. James Simpson

    I owned a Hillman Husky wagon in the 90’s. I put in the engine and rebuilt the tranny of the 17??cc Alpine, and a progressive 32/36 DGV dual downdraft Weber carb. I made it a classic Burgundy and Beige two tone paint job.
    It was a solid, and unique car. Last I saw it was in San Francisco- experiencing the true “Hill-Man” drive around. I wish I had it back! It was a unique and fun car. Hillman was one of the first “Monocouqe” vehicles.

    Like 1
    • Bill Potts

      My sister’s husband ,soon to be ex ,had a used car lot. We /she NEVER knew what she would drive home next. This was in the 50’s. One day or week it was a 55VW,the next a ’58 Thunderbird. After that it was a Hillman,not one like this,but a two door. She had to rock the car sometimes to get it running

  3. luke arnott Member

    Bet there’s not many left – they used to rust if the sun went behind a cloud.The 4-on-the-tree was OK once you got used to it.Ford used it on the Mk 3 Zephyrs & Zodiacs.

    Like 2
    • Solosolo Member

      Had a new Mk 3 (POS) and two Mk 4’s, (great cars). The Mk 3 had four on the tree but the Mk 4’s had four on the floor. My 1957 Austin Westminster 105 also had four on the tree.

      Like 1
  4. t-bone BOB

    Item location:
    Orlando, Florida

    Like 1
  5. Gerard Frederick

    They were part of the Roots Group whose only claim to fame was a great compressor.They also built a mediocre 1.6 liter 4 known for its thermal inefficiency requiring several oil coolers to keep it running at proper temperture. They used that awful engine in a variety of cars, some real heavy weights such as the luxurious Humber Snipe, it should have been called the Humber Snail. They bit the corporate dust and deservedly so.

    • luke arnott Member

      No,the Snipes & Super Snipes used a 4 litre 6,initially SV then OHV.The Rootes group was bought by Chrysler,the Ryton factory is now a logistics park.

      Like 2
      • Gerard Frederick

        Thanks Luke – I stand corrected. As far as Chrysler buying them, that´s correct, but they bit the dust anyway. Chrysler was involved with a number of European makes, such as french Simca or Maserati — all corporate disasters. When Mercedes sold them at a gigantic loss, Stuttgart thought they had hit the lottery.

        Like 1
    • Martin Horrockd

      Sorry Gérard. Roots supercharger and Rootes group have no connections at all. Is that useless 4 cylinder which went into a few millon cars, some of which won major rallies in the 50s and 60s, not to mention London to Sydney Marathon and was still winning saloon car championships in UK in the early 70s? And Maserati was bought by Citroën, then Alejandro de Tomáso before Fiat merged it into Ferrari.

      Like 4
  6. Arby

    Talk about a strange duck. I’ve never seen or heard of a Minx hardtop.

    • Martin Horrocks

      This was a nice product, chasing export dollars in the style of Austín Atlántic/Nash. It was based on Minx convertible, sold in UK as well but expensive so small numbers. Probably initiated by Ian Gérrard, Rootes family inside based in California. Hence the name. Gérrard also instigated the Sunbeam Tiger.

  7. Jwaltb

    Rare for a reason. Or lots of reasons.

  8. Reg Bruce

    A couple of years ago I was at the Hacienda Del Sol in Tucson, Arizona. This is an upscale (read; expensive) resort/restaurant complex and, luckily, I was on somebody else’s “dime.”
    In the hallway leading to the men’s rest room there’s a framed black and white photo of (quote) “The press release of the new Hillman Minx.” The photo was taken at the resort and it appeared to be of around this vintage — certainly early to mid ’50s. I remember thinking how strange it was to see it there. I wonder if the photo still is there or if any Rootes fans have further information?
    Reg B.

    Like 1
  9. Carey Hill

    There are still a few Californians trundling around New Zealand… they were a nice distraction from the humdrum Hillman and Humber four door sedans whose designers seemed hellbent on making the passenger windows as small as possible and finish their cars in the most drab colors they could find. the Californian had uncharacteristically for England lots of glass- a bit extra chrome and heaven forbid a two door hardtop configuration that tried hard to evoke some excitement into the world. Bit like the Nash Metropolitan it dared to be different and suggest to the world that using a car for recreational things such as going to get an icecream might be ok

    Like 1
  10. chrlsful

    lots of Hillmans around NEngland (more in 60s than 50s). Never would have called them ‘mid sz’ in the day, only ‘economy’. Never saw the lill van or Husky van (station wagon/panel) but wish there were.

  11. SMS

    This looks to me like a Hudson Hollywood that got washed in hot water. I like it and have wanted a Hollywood for a number of years. Brings a smile to my face.

    Like 1
  12. Ron

    I’m familiar with Hillman. I tried on a Hillman Minx when I was a teen and had to put that car on like a pair of pants. The car pictured looks like its about the same size.

  13. Solosolo Member

    Had a new Mk 3 (POS) and two Mk 4’s, (great cars). The Mk 3 had four on the tree but the Mk 4’s had four on the floor. My 1957 Austin Westminster 105 also had four on the tree.

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