Feb 2 2010 Ian Johnson
Birth of the magnificent Minx
THE 1930s may be remembered as an era of glamorous sports cars but it was a period that formed the DNA of British family cars for the decades that followed.
One such pioneer and pride of the UK's semi-detached driveways was the Hillman Minx which emerged in 1932 and proved conclusively that a car does not have to be fast and expensive to achieve greatness. The Minx was without doubt a car for its day.
Until 1928 Hillman had been independent but following its purchase by Rootes Ltd, founded by Billy Rootes of Maidstone, this traditional, manufacturer was turned into a mass-production brand and its sales really began to take off.
The all-new Minx was previewed in 1931 and went on sale the following year with the model that really attracted the customers, the second-generation Minx Magnificent following on.
The Minx, which developed through many versions to become a household name in the 1960s and the 1970s started life as a very conventional design with a separate chassis, beam axle front and rear suspension and a rather pedestrian side-valve engine.
It had a lot of expertise in its design because there was plenty of talent at the Rootes company at that time including Bill Heynes who was later to become famous at Jaguar and Alec Issigonis who designed the legendary Mini.
Most popular version of the early Minx was a pleasantly rounded four-door body which was made by Pressed Steel.
This solid rather utilitarian car filled the the everyday motoring needs of thousands of British drivers. It was not at all fast, with a top speed of 60mph but it was cheap, costing in 1935 a mere £159.
It was this combination of high-value, good looks and solid build that pulled the punters in their droves. The first 10,000 cars were built in a matter of months and a healthy total of 92,095 cars were built in only four years. Even the old side-valve engine design staggered on until 1957.
The Minx was upgraded with a four speed transmission in 1934 and for 1935 a synchromesh gearbox was added.
The 1936 Minx Magnificent restyle gave much more rounded body, stiffened chassis and more passenger room.
During the Second World War the Minx soldiered on as a light utility pick-up, but some saloons were sill produced for essential usage.
After the war, the design was refined but much more modern looking cars followed leading to the golden age of the Minx in the 1960s.