Early Imp Vans were called "Commer Vans", and first appeared in November '65
(introduced in September). Production continued to July 1970. In four years and
eight months a total of 18,194 was build.
Manufacturers: Commer Cars Ltd., Luton, Beds.
The Commer Van version of the Imp was put on the market as early as possible, costing £408 including taxes.
The Commer Imp Van in Mark I form has no fancy grille. It had a nice dashboard. It was Spartan and sturdy like a working car might be: only one swivelling quarter light, only one sun visor, no carpet, no temp gauge, no cardboard in the front compartment, thick wheels, stronger bumpers, etc.
The Van isn't just a windowless estate, it was redesigned - one of the
criteria being that it had to be tall enough to transport milkchurns. The body
is extended over the engine bay which results in a high floor, which in turn
necessitated a high roofline. (How tall does a milkchurn stand ?) The total
loading capacity was 70 cu. ft. (2m³). The floor was flat and the rear loading
door was top-hinged.
The commercial Imp was fitted with a low compression engine, but power only fell to 36bhp. It could run on the cheapest grade of fuel. The driveshafts were uprated and it got the new 6¼" clutch (which was developed with a van in mind).
To cope with the extra weight over the tail, the van used both heavy-duty crossply tyres and stronger wheels (12" x 4"J). As it was build to take a 5cwt load, it had to be able to deal with 45psi at the rear when fully-laden (and be able to climb kerbs). It's turning circle is 29', whereas an Imp saloon takes 30'6".
It has an exhaust with the tail-pipe angled down. This keeps the fumes from getting sucked into the car, or blow on the legs of someone loading at the rear.
The Imp van proved to be very popular in its class of lightweight vans.
British Royal Mail had them tested and they were found to be ideally suitable for the task. The Van's fuel consumption met the GPO required standard easily. The high floor made it easy to load heavy items. This would have been a nice chance for the Rootes Group on a long term delivery contract. Alas, the deal was called off as even the smallest 36bhp Van engine enticed post officers into joy-riding Royal Mail property. The little vans were much too fast. Considerable restriction was needed in the manifold to bring the performance down to an acceptable level. But GPO kept their doubts and Rootes failed to win the contract.
While total Imp sales varied, due to strikes and (at first) reliability
problems, sales numbers for the Van and the Husky stayed much the same. For
those who wanted a small commercial, these Imps were a very good buy.
The well-publicised problems of the early saloons may have frightened off the commercial customers to whom reliability is paramount.
Furthermore The Imp Van was presented as the replacement for the uninspired but faithful old Minx-based Commer. For this it just wasn't conventional enough.
March 1968: Commer Imp Van at £441 plus tax.
Optional extras (ex-works only): £12 for painting in standard colours; £8 for a passenger seat; and £1.50 (£1.25) for windscreen washers.
In October 1968 when the Van continued its existence as Hillman Imp
van, rather than Commer Imp van, the Mk II designation was
discontinued. It got a new dashboard layout with full width facia and round
dials; new seat upholstery and different external trim.
A few of the vans enjoyed a red interior trim.
After a production run of only five years it was killed off...