OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA INC
Story and pictures by Brian Vogt
OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA INC
My first contact with Hillmans was early in 1966 when my parents bought a red Minx Series IIIA or IIIB De Luxe Estate Car (station wagon). Late that year, Dad taught me to drive it in a quiet place, away from other people. It was a nice vehicle; only the lack of synchromesh on first gear was a problem to the 12 year old me.
Early in 1972, I started studying at university. Dad bought me a Minx Series IIIA (which I bought from him the following year). I wasn't interested in automotive mechanics, but Dad told me that I could either maintain the car myself or pay someone else to do it. He definitely wasn't going to do it all for me. The outcome was simple: I had no money, so I learnt to do grease-ups and oil changes. Several months later, water/oil emulsion was noticed on the dipstick – fortunately, the problem was only a rusted head gasket. Dad didn't mind helping with the difficult stuff (like this one).
There was an "Automatic" badge on the boot, although it had a manual transmission (with a very long gearstick) that frequently jumped out of 3rd gear. 30 years later I discovered why. The original transmission was a Smiths Easidrive – these were prone to serious failure, so many owners did this gearbox substitution.
Pictured below in 1973 : me (on the right, in the blue shirt), my brother (who would not now be seen dead wearing a tie) and the Minx Series IIIA De Luxe. The hair style (or lack of style) was fairly typical in that era.
Pictured below, probably 1973 or early 1974. We had 3 Minxes in the family :
Left – my parents' hack car (Series III) – severely worn in all respects, it struggled to build up oil pressure.
Centre – my Series IIIA.
Right – my parents' Series V – very mild-mannered and plain-looking, but neat, well-kept and reliable.
In May 1974 I pulled apart a rolled Minx Series II, to the last nut and bolt. It had a
heater (with airflow and temperature controls on the dash panel) and a blower – optional Smiths
accessories in the late 1950s. These items were fitted to my Series IIIA, as was a towbar found
in a car wrecking yard 15 miles away.
Dad fitted the dismantled car's engine into the hack car shown at left, above. Even after that, "it couldn't pull the skin off a custard" (as people used to say).
By the end of 1974, my brother had rolled the Minx Series V. Sometime during 1975, my parents bought a Hillman Gazelle (special Australian model, based on the Singer Gazelle Series 6 but with the alloy head engine) to replace the crashed Series V. I very quickly discovered that the Gazelle had a lot more horsepower, and the 13 inch wheels mount wider tyres, so the car isn't so inclined to follow the road depressions made by heavy trucks. (Radial tyres also help a lot).
Early in 1976, my Series IIIA's engine/gearbox assembly was replaced by that from the wrecked Minx Series V. This was a fairly simple swap, except that the body's gearbox hump wasn't tall enough to allow for the Remote Control feature on top of the Series V gearbox. The solution: cut the gearbox hump out of the Series V body, and bolt it in to the older car. The Series V clutch hydraulics were kept intact, because the earlier model master cylinder takes a smaller diameter pipe and thread. The rear axle and differential set also became Series V several months later, when the old one began making annoying groans. Another simple bolt-on job. That increased the overall gearing by about 10%. The 10 gallon petrol tank from the Series V was also fitted. No physical problems, but the older car's fuel gauge showed more than full scale deflection when the tank was empty, so the Series V fuel gauge (matched to the sender unit in the tank) came into the action.
During 1985 I became tired of wrestling the old Minx with its narrow crossply tyres and high steering
gear ratio, so I ceased using it. Early in 1986, I bought a Hillman Gazelle which had been left
out in the weather for many years before I bought it; the paintwork and interior had suffered a lot of
damage from sun and rain (leaking past the windscreen rubber). Instead of the proper alloy head
engine, it had a Minx donk – probably something like Series III. Before the middle of the year, it
had so little oil pressure that it was barely useable. The Series V engine was removed from my
parked Series IIIA car, renovated slightly but not rebored (at 95,000 miles), and inserted into the Gazelle.
A few months later, the Borg Warner 35 automatic transmision was totally worn out, so it was fully
rebuilt at great expense ($631). I prefer a manual transmission, and had 3 good ones in the back
shed. However, the car body has transmission mounting points in the position for the longer
automatic unit. It seemed like a tricky welding operation to move them.
This car was still my regular work-horse until October 2000.
Early in 1988, Mum and Dad finally became tired of looking after old Hillmans, and committed
themselves fully to BMWs, so my brother and I were given a Hillman Gazelle each.
I also got all of their spare parts (from 2 dead cars of the same model).
Later in 1988, a man approached me in the street, and offered me a partially restored Gazelle – he
couldn't give it away. I took it, but still haven't done anything with it.
I had heard of the newly formed Hillman Car Club of South Australia (HCCSA), but due to many other commitments, was unable to get involved.
In July 1998, I obtained a work transfer to Germany. Free of my previous distractions, I
joined the HCCSA before leaving. This enabled me to get the Gazelle onto Historic Registration
so I could keep possession of the original rego number (8804).
Since my return to Australia in May 2000, I have been heavily involved in the HCCSA – Treasurer for 2 years, then Social Events Officer for 2 years. Webmaster since October 2001. The unsightly Gazelle has been a frequent participant in club runs – but not anymore – at least not until a full restoration, which might take several years. My acquisition of the following classic (see next page) gives me some breathing space :