Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Funkengroovin Wednesday - Hillman Minx

Last week VB focused on Road 9 and all the VW's she spotted in just one afternoon. For awhile last year, a rare car was parked on Road 9 for months, probably waiting for hard to find parts. It was a Hillman Minx. As quoted again below, "In the early '50s, the Minx was the number one imported car in the US and Canada. But it was deposed by a strange, rear-engined, beetle-like machine from West Germany, called a Volkswagen."

(Looking at the layout here, you can tell VB wrote most of this last year.)

VW and Rootes

"In truth, history is seldom that clear cut but the circumstances of the Rootes/ Volkswagen connection is an interesting one and we'll worth recounting with hindsight '

Rootes first significant involvement with the Beetle came when its Humber company produced a report on the military version (the Kubelwagen) which was captured in North Africa, probably after it ran out of petrol in the wake of Montgomery's victorious campaign. This 1941 example (number 1339) was taken to the Rootes factory at Ryton on Dunsmore, Coventry in January 1943. It was completely dismantled and appraised to form the subject of a document Report on Examination of German Light Aid Detachment Vehicle Type V. W. 82 "Volkswagen", published later that year."

"With the benefit of hindsight, Rootes was probably the least qualified British car company to undertake such an investigation. Its contemporary cart-sprung Hillman Minx with front-mounted, side valve engine was about as traditional as the Volkswagen was unconventional, with its all-independent torsion bar suspension and rear-mounted air cooled flat-four, ohv engine. But Rootes involvement with the Beetle was destined, by chance, not to end there.

When the Volkswagen factory was operating under direct British control in 1945-1947 one of the officers who played a role in getting the car back into production was Wing Commander Richard Berryman....

Berryman told Rootes of the production problems that were being experienced at Wolfsburg but, despite this, having driven many miles in the Beetle, he was convinced that the car was a tough, durable product and virtually unbreakable. He was certain that Volkswagenwerke was a viable proposition and suggested that Rootes buy the plant.

But, it seems, Rootes was not interested. He told Berryman that his company had a Beetle to evaluation and his engineers did not believe that the noisy, rear-engined German car had much of a future. At the time Rootes had more orders, both on the home front and from overseas, than they could cope with... S Berryman departed after providing Rootes' Advertising Manager with the VW specifications he had brought with him from Germany."

The History of VW and the Wartime K├╝belwagen

"Car production aside, the long running debate over who should actually own the factory and the facilities it offered continued throughout 1945. Technically, the Wolfsburg facility was on offer to the Allies as part of the war reparations, yet on repeated occasions no other country took up the offer. This was partly because a half-demolished factory and a few battle-scarred machines was hardly the most desirable of prizes, but also because the British motor Industry refused to see the value of Porsche's basic design, Because the military had found the little car so very effect during the war, one of the very first post war Beetles was sent to England for appraisal. The bastions of the British car industry did not share the Army's enthusiasm, finding the car too ugly, noisy and generally too odd, Compared with what was on offer in Britain In the immediate post war period, the Beetle was completely incongruous, so their reaction is understandable. Later that year, a delegation from the British Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) visited the factory and wrote a report, 'Investigation of the Developments in the German Automobile during the Post War Period'. This was followed by a further report, published In 1946. Entitled, 'Investigation into the Design and Performance of the Volkswagen or German People's Car', it contained a comparative road test between a Hillman Minx and the Volkswagen that had been sent to England some months No doubt on the say-so of the few engineers at the Humber car company evaluated the Volkswagen, the British eventually turned both car and factory down. And although this was proved very bad judgment, they can take comfort In the fact the they were by no means the only ones."

Wiki Overview

Isuzu Hillman Minx

From Hillman Minx-A Spotter's Guide

"In the early '50s, the Minx was the number one imported car in the US and Canada. But it was deposed by a strange, rear-engined, beetle-like machine from West Germany, called a Volkswagen. Technically backward compared to the Hillman, the Beetle scored with the novelty of day-in, day-out, rain or shine reliability. Being British, the Minx was about as reliable as the summer sun in Brighton. Which is why the Minx is forgotten, and the Beetle went on to become the most popular car the world has ever seen."

Battle for the Beetle

"Ludvigsen traces the Beetle's impact on the world of autos, from the Chevrolet Corvair and Hino Contessa to rear-engined Fiats, Skodas and Hillmans. We learn why the most startling decision made by VW chief Heinz Nordhoff was not to change his car's design. And we are brought right up to the 1998 launch of VW's New Beetle. For those who wish to comprehend its amazing impact on the auto market, Battle for the Beetle is the essential source." (First Chapter: Birth of a Menace accessible from main page.)

Mostly general - no VW news this week (see below)

The following article makes VB wonder if traffic in Cairo is safer than in the USA. She knows for sure, that to get practically anywhere from her house, she has to go through numerous roundabouts. And street signs? Not so many.
How’s My Driving? A Q&A With the Author of Traffic

"Q: What’s a surprising thing that can make roads more dangerous?

A: Sometimes, it’s the appearance of safety that makes roads dangerous.

Take four-way signalized intersections versus roundabouts, for example. Most people in the U.S. prefer the former, which give clear, simple, precise instructions on how to proceed; whereas we still tend to view roundabouts as these weird, confusing European imports.

But four-way signalized intersections physically have many more potential points of “conflict” than roundabouts; also, roughly 1,000 people per year die in intersections because of red-light running. People tend to reduce their caution going through signalized intersections because they think they “have the light.” At a roundabout, you’re less sure of your right of way, and in any case, everyone has to slow to enter a roundabout, so by its very nature it prevents the dangerous t-bone collisions of a four-way signalized intersection."

"Q: How effective are road signs really?

A: Last week I just spoke to someone at the Chicago D.O.T. At a particularly curvy part of Lake Shore Drive, they’ve had trouble with crashes. They tried putting up signs, then tried larger signs, then tried larger flashing signs. Still people behave foolishly. Finally they tried putting markings on the pavement that trick drivers into thinking they’re going faster than they are (an example of the “choice architecture” discussed in Thaler and Sunstein’s Nudge). When we actually see signs to begin with, as we often don’t seem to when doing something like talking on a cell phone and driving, it is a further mystery how and if we decide to act on that information.

“Children at play” signs and the like are absolutely ineffective in changing a driver’s behavior, and studies of drivers through school zones show they were driving much faster than they remember. It’s been argued that signs allow us to basically stop thinking, and in certain places experiments have been done in which they’ve been removed, with no negative safety effects."

New York Times Book Reviews has a list of books for summer reading. Road Maps to Automotive Adventures
"Recent books about automobiles offer everything from an armchair tour of dream garages to a history of Henry Ford’s Model T." One of the books reviewed is "Peking To Paris," which is a companion to the TV series. It just finished it's run here in Cairo on the Star or Showtime (not sure which actually) Travel Channel. One of the cars on the trip was a Bathtub Nash, which the New York Times showcased in The Sportsman’s Life in a ‘Bathtub Nash’. "The Nash Airflyte, known as the "Bathtub Nash," was once the vacation vehicle of choice for outdoorsmen, with seats that turned into a bed."

Your Scene: Weird Wheels
"Here are some of the weirdest cars readers have found on the roads."

'Aware Car' Knows When You're Too Old to Drive -- and Tells You
"The car of tomorrow will make senior citizens better, safer drivers and let them know when they ought to hang up the keys for good. It also could tell the DMV.

Researchers at MIT's AgeLab are building the "Aware Car," a Volvo XC90 packed with cameras, monitors and sensors that keep tabs on drivers and their behavior to improve safety.

AgeLab studies the quality-of-life issues of an aging population, and the idea behind the Aware Car isn't getting older drivers off the road but allowing them to drive safely as long as possible. The $1.5-million vehicle also could help automakers design safer cars, and it's one of several ongoing efforts to build the ultimate "nanny car"....

Because Big Brother is providing a lot of the money Reimer and his colleagues are spending, the technology also could give the government the means to evaluate drivers' competency behind the wheel and determine whether it's time to yank their licenses."

June 6, 1933: A Car, a Movie, Some Popcorn and Thou "1933: The world's first drive-in movie theater opens in Camden, New Jersey.

Their popularity soared after World War II, when Americans started having kids in droves. (Can you say "Boom"?) The drive-in offered cheap family entertainment, a place where parents could take the kids without having to shell out for a baby sitter, or worry about them bothering other patrons.

Since drive-ins offered a certain amount of privacy, making out in the back seat of the car was a rite of passage for Teenus americanus, circa 1963. You could get it on in the front seat, too, if you had a column shift, or even a bench seat with four on the floor. But bucket seats? Forget it."

How to Change Your Own Oil in a Jiffy
"You don't need the Apple genius bar to swap out your RAM, so why waste $50 at Greasy Lube when you can swap out your own sludge?"

Motorcycles and emissions: The surprising facts
"Long story short: Motorcycles, even small ones, are more polluting than Hummers, but it's the best that can be done for now. If you want to make a difference, consider an electric two-wheeler for your next bike or a gas-powered model with fuel injection and a 3-way catalytic converter."

No Mortgage Needed for These Beauties , (Slide Show of "Low-Cost Collectible Cars, and more info, at the link.)
"Bargain collector cars start well below the price of a Ferrari tune-up, and the variety is wide-ranging.

FIRST, the good news. Unlike some investments, collector cars rarely become completely worthless, in the way that shares in a dot-com have been known to do. Barring floods and fires (at least you can insure against those losses), collector cars will rise and fall in value, but they will rarely hit zero."

VB just arrived back home, in Connecticut, late yesterday afternoon, and apologizes for the late post.

Di-Gue-Ding-Ding by Michel Legrand


  1. I had my first ever driving lesson in a Hillman... my best friend in High School was given it for her birthday (cool oldies) Boy! we has some fun in that car... zooming off to the beach in the middle of the night.. I have such a soft spot whenever I see one.

  2. lynda: If you really want to see it, up close and personal, it is usually parked near Fino Bakery, in Maadi Digla. That's where I first saw it, but due to the enormous security in the area, it was difficult to photograph. It is a cute little car though.

  3. Hillman.
    Lol Reminds me of another era and the Paykans.

  4. kaya: I had to look Paykans up. That's one thing about doing this blog - I always learn something new. So, thanks for turning me on to that. It's interesting, as well - all these car company relationships. If I ever get to Iran, one of these days, which I would love to do, I will hunt one down and blog it!