Series Minx & Husky

Part One: Minx, Series I & II / Husky, Series I

Minx, Series I
Minx, Series II
Husky, Series I

[Image: Series I Hillman Minx]

Minx, Series I

In the mid-1950's Rootes decided to release a new version of the Minx to follow the popular and succesful 'Mark' Minx. It was to have the same 1390cc engine as the current Mark VIII, with minor improvements, but updated steering and suspension, and a completely restyled body, the object being to create more space for the passengers inside.

During development this new body style was known as 'Audax' - latin for 'bold' - and the new design, a radical departure from the Mark VIII, was certainly striking. The designer, Raymond Loewy, had previously worked not only for Rootes, but also for Studebaker, amongst others, having been responsible for the 1949 Starlight Coupe.

D.V.Williams, a Rootes staff member, remembers the first appearance of the new model like this:

'The Minx always had to have stylish, eye-catching features. This time it was the wrap-around glass of the backlight and the matching reverse slope of the rear side glass. Length was emphasised by hooded bezels on headlights and bumpers which kicked out at the body corners, in contrast to the rounded shapes of the previous Minx. The side body panels had a crease line with a distinctive curve at the front, and on the Saloon Deluxe (there was also a cheaper Special saloon) dual colour schemes were popular, the upper being usually pearl grey.'

Two-tone paint schemes, often associated with the Minx, were not new to Rootes. The Californian and the 'Gay-look' Mark VIII had them, although other manufacturers offered them only on top-of-the-range models, such as the Ford Zodiac and the Vauxhall Cresta.

In fact, the Minx was not the first of the Rootes cars to use the Audax design. That honour went to the more upmarket Sunbeam Rapier, first unveiled at the 1955 Motor Show.

[Image: Series I Rapier]

The Series I Minx, as it was designated, was launched in May 1956, a little before the similarly-styled Singer Gazelle, announced in September '56.

[Image: Series I Gazelle]

The Series I Minx proved immediately popular with the motoring press and public alike. The Motor, in its issue of May 23rd 1956, describes it thus:

'British cars in the family saloon class have been criticised in some overseas markets for looking too sober and unexciting by comparison with their continental rivals. No such criticism can be levelled against the new Hillman Minx, for its low build and attractive lines make it one of the most alluring medium-sized saloons ever built in this country.'

As well as the De Luxe and Special saloons referred to above, a Convertible was produced, followed, in June 1957 by an Estate. Prices were as follows:

The 'De Luxe' was the 'standard' version of the car, while the 'Special' was a low-cost version with simpler body and interior trim. The low price was set to attract the attention of fleet buyers.

For a more sporty version of the convertible, a twin-carburetter conversion by Alexander Engineering of Haddenham, Bucks was available. It used the same 1390cc engine, but, in addition to the two SU semi-downdraught carburetters, performance was enhanced by raising the compression ratio to 8.6:1 (compared to 8:1 on the standard production model), by polishing the combustion spaces, and by enlarging and polishing the inlet ports. A Laycock-de Normanville electrically-operated overdrive was fitted to top and third gears.

Otherwise, the Alexander conversion was similar to the standard convertible. The battery had to be moved to the boot to make way for the carburetters, but this was felt to aid weight distribution. Externally, the very smart paintwork included a wide side-flash, not dissimilar to the Singer Gazelle or Sunbeam Rapier, and a small badge appeared on the wings immediately in front of the doors.

The review in Autocar (July 1957) was favourable:

"The results of the conversion on the car as a whole are impressive, and there are no really undersirable side-effects to mar the added performance.

The acceleration data are quite remarkable. Here are a few examples, with the times of the standard saloon given in parentheses: 0 - 60mph, 18.9sec (27.7); 0 - 70mph, 28.1sec (46.1); standing quarter mile, 21.6sec (23.5). All these figures were obtained without using the overdrive, as the extra ratios come into their own primarily when cruising on the open road."

The cost of the conversion was 172 13s, making the overall price 1071.

Chassis numbers on this model run from A1600001 (May 1956) to A1697769 (September 1957)

[Go to Minx, Series I / Minx, Series II / Husky, Series I / Minx, Series III / Minx, Series IIIA / Minx, Series IIIB / Minx, Series IIIC / Husky, Series II / Minx, Series V / Minx, Series VI / Husky, Series III / The Rootes Group Companies] / The Hillman Page]

[Image: Series II Hillman Minx]

Minx, Series II

Hillman had been in existence for about 50 years at this time, and the first Hillman Minx had appeared 25 years before, in the 1931/32 season, so when Rootes introduced changes to the Series I in August 1957, cars in the new range were named the 'Jubilee' models.

Outwardly, the Series II could be distinguished by a new style of radiator grille, raised bonnet badge, and chrome surrounds on the front and rear windscreens. The bumpers were set a little further out from the body. Changes elsewhere were restricted to minor modifications to the engine and steering gear. Prices for the De Luxe and Convertible rose slightly (21 and 50, respectively, including tax), but the Estate and the Special remained the same.

The reasons for persisting with the 'stripped-down' version of the Minx, the Special are adequately summed up by a review in The Motor, 30th October, 1957:

'In an era of inflation, the Hillman Minx Special has one very important feature - a price tag indicating that you cannot in Britain purchase any other car of equivalent engine size or power for less money. As a comfortable four-seater, capable of nearly 80 m.p.h. yet able to show 30 m.p.g. fuel economy even when driven quite briskly, its great appeal at a basic price of 498 is as exceptional value for money.'

An interesting new feature of the Series II Minx was the 'Manumatic' system semi-automatic transmission option. This was not the fully automatic system used on later Series Minxes, as the standard 4-speed gearbox was used, and the clutch operated by pressing on the end of the gear stick. The system was not exclusive to Rootes, and other manufacturers such as BMC also used it.

A variation on the Series II was made by the Japanese, under the Isuzu name.

Chassis numbers on this model run from A1800001 (September 1957)

[Go to Minx, Series I / Minx, Series II / Husky, Series I / Minx, Series III / Minx, Series IIIA / Minx, Series IIIB / Minx, Series IIIC / Husky, Series II / Minx, Series V / Minx, Series VI / Husky, Series III / The Rootes Group Companies] / The Hillman Page]

Husky, Series I

Shortly afterwards came the unique and lovely Series I Husky - half-saloon, half-estate car, resembling the Series II Minx from the front, but with a glazed, van-like rear. The bumpers were different and the trim simpler, in the manner of the Minx special.

The Husky was able to carry four people, when required, but the rear seats folded forward and, with a side-hinged rear door, a large storage space was accessed - the forerunner of the ubiquitous modern hatchback, in fact!

The Mark version of the Husky, which had continued in production, had been popular, and the new Husky, too, received good reviews. The Motor of 26th February 1958 explained:

'Versatility is the especial merit of an estate car, and this latest Husky shows it in large measure. Either a comfortable four-seater or, when the occasion requires, a van to carry bulky loads, it will do local errands or make long journeys untiringly at quite rapid average speeds, and it has enough rear wheel adhesion to negotiate steep and slippery country tracks which would defeat a large proprtion of modern saloons. So soon as its fuel consumption can be brought properly into line with that of the heavier Minx (which should involve only minor changes) we will expect this latest Husky to become even more popular than was the preceeding model.'
Country Life, 3rd April 1958 said:
'The Hillman Husky has all the versatility one would expect from an estate car and its compact dimensions give it advantages over other examples of this type. Unlike some estate cars, the Husky was completely draught-free. A stranger to the car is unlikely to guess that it is the cheapest car in the Rootes Group range as the standard of finish is high.'

In fact, the price of the Husky at this time was only 698.17s - including tax - making it 50 cheaper than the Special and 240 cheaper then the larger Estate!

Chassis numbers on this model run from A2800001

At the same time the Husky's cousin, the Commer Cob van, changed to the new style.

[Go to Minx, Series II / Husky, Series I / Minx, Series III / Minx, Series IIIA / Minx, Series IIIB / Minx, Series IIIC / Husky, Series II / Minx, Series V / Minx, Series VI / Husky, Series III / The Rootes Group Companies] / The Hillman Page]