My First Car: Racy little Hillman Imp was great sport

Allen Symonds racing the Hillman Imp at a dry and dusty Autocross near Weymouth. Picture: Allen Symonds

Allen Symonds racing the Hillman Imp at a dry and dusty Autocross near Weymouth. Picture: Allen Symonds

Allen Symonds

Allen Symonds’s route into motorsport was a 1960s Hillman Imp which sometimes saw him racing again the father of a future Formula One world champion.

My early competition car was a 1960s Hillman Imp bought for about £150.

My friend, Dave, was a mechanic who was keen on motorsport. Between us, it was stripped of everything inside to lighten it – glass windows were replaced with Perspex, the roof cut off and engine cover and bonnet replaced with glass fibre. We then fitted a lightweight bucket seat, roll cage and small leather steering wheel. The engine and suspension were also upgraded.

It took several months of work and we kept costs to a minimum by buying second hand where possible.

During the 1970s I entered events including Weston Speed Trials, an annual event on a closed road alongside the beach. It was a national sprint of 500 metres from a standing start and had entries of about 150 cars of all types from road going to Formula One and about 12 to 15 motorbikes.

Another annual event I enjoyed was Weston Sandocross, three laps of a large circuit marked out on the beach with flags.

My Imp was in the class for rear-engine and rear-wheel drive cars and I was sometimes competing against John Button, the late father of Formula One world champion Jenson Button. He had a very fast Volkswagen Beetle and usually beat me!

I raced in various events for about seven or eight years until it became too expensive to compete against people who were either sponsored or employed by a team with money to keep upgrading the cars.

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