1967 SUNBEAM IMP SPORT

Brian has celebrated half a century of fun with the pint-sized daily driver he bought new in England.

What drove you to buy this particular car? 
I saw the show model of the Imp Sport in this particular colour at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1966. I had already driven a tuned Imp and knew they were nippy cars. I stayed in the UK long enough to own and use a couple of new cars that could be exported to NZ without paying either UK VAT or NZ Import Duty. The Imp Sport was top of my list. 

Where did you buy your car? 
Rootes Motors Ltd, London. 

Has it met your expectations? 
Despite its twin Stromberg carbs and low weight, I was initially disappointed by the Imp’s performance. But that changed after an open day at the Brands Hatch circuit. A Lotus Cortina driver suggested I drive him around in the Imp and he quickly found I was using too high a gear. The engine needed to rev more quickly than I was allowing. He told me to fit a tacho and not take it over 7000rpm, although the engines are usually safe to 8000rpm. I’ve never had any problems since. 

What do you like most about the design? 
It’s a remarkably simple but effective design. The all-aluminium engine and gearbox weigh just 100kg – less than half the weight of the original Mini’s engine and ’box. And clever packaging means there’s more than adequate carrying capacity for two if the rear seatback is lowered and accessed through the rear hatch. 

Is there anything unusual about this car’s history? 
Well, it’s about to celebrate 50 years with its original owner. During that time the car has been repainted twice and most of the upholstery has been replaced. 

How often do you use it? 
The Imp has been a daily driver all its life but has averaged only about 5000km a year. 

What’s the biggest road trip you’ve made in this car? 
It has been to the South Island twice for club rallies and both trips were over 3000km in a matter of a fortnight. 

Have you made any improvements to it? 
The alloy wheels are non-standard, as is the small-diameter steering wheel, and Koni shock absorbers have been fitted all round to improve roadholding. The lighting has also been modified to utilise the rear amber lights for reversing and as hazard lamps. 

Does this model have an Achilles heel? 
Early cars suffered from water pump failure but that has been overcome and later pumps are quite reliable. A high-efficiency radiator is required to handle the unleaded fuel in NZ and an extra heater matrix fitted in the front boot provides useful additional cooling.

How does your example compare with others you’ve seen? 
This is certainly one of the better versions. Some do not get much use and therefore retain the patina of a new car but it’s advisable to run the car to keep everything working. Lack of use leads to seized brakes and clutches, as well as harsh running. 

What other special-interest vehicles do you own? 
This car shares garage space with a 1970 Sunbeam Rapier that I brought in from the UK in 2010. There are four other Rapiers in NZ but only 11 roadworthy examples in Britain.

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1967 SUNBEAM IMP SPORT

YEARS PRODUCED 1966-68

ENGINE 998cc sohc four-cyl

POWER 45kW (60bhp)

TORQUE 84Nm@3200rpm

TRANSMISSION 4-spd manual, RWD

WEIGHT 742kg

LENGTH 3.53m

WHEELS Ward 12-inch alloy

COLOUR Metallic green

UPHOLSTERY Black vinyl

MILEAGE 182,000 miles

OWNER Brian Baylis

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