By on March 27, 2015

hillmanhusky

I like the aesthetic properties of old British cars. The way they drive, leak fluids and operate on a sporadic basis is another matter.

So, what could be better than a British car with a modern, Japanese powertrain and modern brakes? As far as I’m concerned, not a whole lot. Ideally, I’d go one further, with a modern steering system and as much of the electrical system brought up to spec as possible (is that even possible?).

This Hillman Husky is pretty close to the ideal. With the drivetrain out of an early Miata, Willwood brakes with 4-piston calipers and a host of other modern upgrades, it remedies most of the faults (or charms) of Little British Cars. Unlike the coarse, utilitarian 1.8L BP-ZE motors, the early 1.6L engines were freer revving and had a modicum of character. Plus, it has the added benefit of not being an MGB or a Spitfire. You can keep your M Coupe. I’ll take something like this. And maybe convert it to carbs or ITBs, just to add a little bit of unpredictability to the mix.

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39 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: The Answer *IS* Miata...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    How charming! Bumpy ii and krhodes will call this a “sedan delivery.”

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      As a lifelong car freak, there are automotive terms that perplex: “sedan delivery” for a cargo vehicle, “shooting brake” for a stationwagon, etc.

      Getting back to topic, yes, it would definitely be cool to stuff reliable powertrains onto older attractive yet notably unreliable vehicles. A Rover SD1, for example, with a modern Dodge Charger’s powertrain would be a neat vehicle to have.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I will add to this list a Eunos Cosmo, maybe running the 6-cyl from the Mazda6. And a Rover 800 Vitesse Coupe, using a BMW flat 6.

        http://www.eunoscosmoclub.nl/mediapool/62/629264/resources/9665740.jpg

        The Eunos Cosmo is simply the epitome of the Japanese personal luxury coupe, from the height of modern Japanese design.

        • 0 avatar

          You want the 3-rotor. It’s a delight.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I always just hear bad things about fuel and oil consumption and longevity on any rotary. Plus the newest Cosmo is going on 20 now.

          • 0 avatar
            xpistns

            +1 on the rotary. The 3-rotor turbo is an autocrosser’s dream here. There are guys here that put that motor into Lotus Europas tuned out to 400+ hp.

            I’ve owned my RX8 for 4 years now (at 37k) and put 35k on it since. The only problem I’ve had was with the ignition coils needing replacement at 66k.
            I’d say the reports of unreliability are due to owners expecting Civic/Corolla levels of abusability. This car is not.

            I believe this is in part Mazda’s fault. Since the owner has to keep the oil levels in check (because this car burns oil by design by squirting oil into the combustion chamber to lubricate the seals), who’s making sure they do? Or even know about it? The design of the location of the dipstick doesn’t make it easy either. There is no upfront information on this, either in the manual or in the dash or engine compartment. How about a light that reads “Check oil level”?

            I believe many of the blown engines are from careless owners that let the oil run low, and the young would-be tuner who thinks he knows how better to get power out of the engine than the highly educated engineers at Mazda who are the only Japanese manufacturer to win the 24h of Lemans (with a rotary engine).

            Mazda warrantees my engine for up to 100k. I hope to enjoy this car for many more miles and years to come.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Rotaries are like 2-cycle engines that way- oil and fuel consumption are how they operate. You do have to rebuild them periodically, but the “rebuild” can be done in your garage over a lazy weekend. In return, you get a zingy, rev-drunk spool that loves to be whipped within an inch of redline (and the rebuild will last longer).

          • 0 avatar

            I had a week with the RX8 once. It was wonderful. If it weren’t for the fuel consumption (average ~20) I would have bought one.

            (For a copy of my article on the limitations of the rotary, email me at [email protected]

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thanks for the rotor detail. An engine style pretty much gone away.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        “As a lifelong car freak, there are automotive terms that perplex: “sedan delivery” for a cargo vehicle, “shooting brake” that perplex.”

        Like station wagon; these all came out of how they were used:

        * Station wagons were station hacks that carried riders and their baggage from the train station to the hotel/lodge. They replaced the buckboard wagons you see meeting the train in the western movies. They started out as a chassis with a wooden body; hence the term woody. (The movie “White Christmas” shows one of these in action.)

        * Picture a two door model T sedan. Then blank out the rear windows, and add a door to the very rear. That is a sedan delivery; and was used as a delivery van. Different origin than a station wagon; though in later years they became identical except for the rear windows.

        * Shooting brake is the same thing as a station wagon; but the term came out of Europe as opposed to America. It reflected the fact that station wagons were used in Europe to carry hunters, their dogs, and their guns on their hunting trips; why the term “brake” was used I do not know.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Per Wikipedia: “Shooting-brake originated as an early 19th century British term for a vehicle used to carry shooting parties with their equipment and game. The term brake was initially a chassis used to break in horses — and was subsequently used to describe a motorized vehicle.”

        Most archaic car terms that make little or no modern sense just harken back to the days of horse-drawn conveyance.

        (“Sedan” referred, originally, for reasons slightly unclear, to any fully enclosed vehicle.

        Rig it up for cargo services, and you get “sedan delivery”; an enclosed delivery vehicle, as opposed to one with an open cab.)

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        No the Hillman well my Fathers first car. They were called Panel Vans, in Australia and got pretty hot in the summer, little ventilation

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          You can say panel van in the US as well. That’s a widely accepted term, and much more modern than “sedan delivery.”

          My dad is 52, and I’m not sure he would know what a sedan delivery was.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      I believe a sedan delivery would have no rear windows on each side; just in the driver’s door.

  • avatar

    Where did you find this? What wonderful character!

  • avatar

    for lovers of old british cars

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/ask-amy-why-the-morris-minor/

  • avatar
    willbodine

    Break is the French word for station wagon. Or in English, brake.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    There is no reason for a properly sorted out old British car to be unreliable. The faults and fixes are well known at this point. My Spitfire starts first time everytime and I would drive it anywhere within the limits of being able to walk when I get there. It does leak, that’s the nature of the beast. A Miata is more civilised, but an old one is no more reliable and definitely more expensive to run. Much more complex, and a lot more things to wear out. Not
    much in it for a sunny day toy.

    My Tesla owner buddy has had an early Miata almost as long as I have had my Triumph, so we have a long running comparison test going.

    I’d call that Hillman a 2dr wagon. Its not posh enough to be a shooting brake.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      Couldn’t agree more, this is an estate.

      A shooting brake is a much higher class of car, like Jaguar and other high-end wagon conversions – you needed to be wealthy to own a shooting brake, well off enough to own a pair of Purdeys, and generally act like the dolts on Downton Abbey shooting pheasant. Or as time went by and standards lowered, even Volvo 1800ESs were called shooting brakes.

      Most of these Huskies were delivery vans with no glass to escape purchase tax, upscale compared to a Prefect or Anglia van, and were branded Commer, Rootes truck division.

      Tough as old boots, lasted for years, so not a bad foundation as a resto-rod. They were on the streets of England when my family emigrated to Canada in 1959. When I went back in 1969 for grad study, a lot were still trudging around.

  • avatar

    50 shades of cool. I like it!

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    I am generally not a big fan of the “resto-mod” (esp the chip foose kind) but this one is very cool indeed!

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Who needs a MGB anyway? I’d rather mod the sh*t out of a Rover SD1 or put an EcoBoost motor in a TR7 or something. Wedges forever!

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    Holy crap!

    It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve seen one of these. This was my mother’s first “car”, purchased 90% used up by my parents for 100 pounds in the early 70’s.

    My mum was in her early 30’s when she learned to drive in it. Instead of (not) learning how to perform a hill start with the aid of today’s BS gadgetry (lookin’ at you Quasqhai and A3), the friend who taught her used the time tested method of placing her wrist watch behind a wheel before her hill start. The watch survived.

    With the ride quality of an apple cart, refinement of a lawnmower and luxury features becoming of a park bench, I recall the Hillman Husky as being not much more than a delivery van with rear windows and a rear bench seat added.

    My best memory with it is of taking it to Germany in 1973, up a rough rutted mountain trail, to stay with friends who required a Land Rover (and Later Range Rovers in preference to the MB G Wagen) to access 10 months of the year, and cross country skis the other two months.

    By the time the Husky stopped, dead, never to run again it was a beloved member of the family. We mourned its passing as well as the absence of anything comparable on the market.

    In a testament to how much my mum loved it, today she drives a Renault Kangoo which is about as close to a Husky as has ever been made. To prove the point, the same aspect blocks my ability to drive both – size. I was obviously way too small for the Husky and I’m a good 5″ too tall to drive the Kangoo – it’s seat positioning is a horror show for me, far too close to the pedals.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    I know these from old… Hillman first sold these in Hillman 10 style, the earlier version (hillman !0,humber 80) which waas more rounded etc and came with a sidevavle 4 . These huskys were the following model and came with blank sides or glass sides. Depending on the customers choice. Both came with folding rear seats so you carry fair load. The same floor pan and suspension was used for the Sunbeam Alpine and tiger . The biggest hassle with them as they got older had nothing to do with the electrics or engine but the column shift gear change. it was a real monkey motion arrangement which would stop working at the weirdest times.
    The engines were a tough little unit which morphed into the Holbay designed alloy head 1750 unit. These wwere good for a 100 MPH in the Hunter.That doesn’t sound like much but a stock 4 banger that was quicker than GMH’s Holden Kingswood was something in 1970.
    The fourspeed box was also a tough unit which I have seen adapted to fit behind a Ford Y block V8 and it survived quite happily.
    I can see the sellers reasoning in fitting a low mileage late model engine etc although a Ford ZETEC would have offered more power and tuneability. The suspension would have been fine with a slight lowering (around 25mm all round) and adjustable shocks to cope with 2015 tire grip.
    I have both watched and driven hiollmans of this era on the race track around 40 years ago and can vouch for their great handling at the limit of 1970’s tires.

  • avatar
    Nick

    I’d love to do this with a Riley 1.5

  • avatar
    mx5ta

    It’s hard for me to question this fine writer, whose stories I read daily, for free, by some internet miracle, and the reader posts are just as entertaining, but, as a ’96 1.8L Miata owner who has never driven a 1.6L, I have to ask if there’s really some observed disappointment when driving the 1.8. I find so much power, especially in the gears that count, 3rd and 4th, at higher rpms, that I’m easily going too fast for my driving skills. I question whether anyone would really prefer the 1.6 over the 1.8 (and would add that mine has never failed to start or has stalled).

  • avatar
    mx5ta

    I was doing some walking in my upstate NY village and noticed a tiny car sitting next to a shed outside one of the houses. Took a snapshot and shared it with a car-savvy friend, who correctly identified it as a Crosley. In my old radio collection is a Crosley radio, and olde-tyme baseball fans will recall Crosley Field in Cincinnati. As in this article, I daydreamed of buying this old lightweight and putting in a Miata motor. Wish I had the practical skills for such a far-out project.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    you can still buy Crosley radios .Google them,it’s a fascinating web site.
    As for fitting a Riley engine,I am sure it wont fit as the Riley was a tall engine from memory and the Hillman front crossmemeber was a biggish thing ,resembling a Mercedes ponton unit and would be in the way of the Riley sump.. A riley 1.5 would look great in a T bucket style rod with their almost 1920’s appearance.

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      Ron I think Nick was meaning putting an MX5 engine in the Riley.

      Mx5ta I can’t remember who wrote about the British motor writer ‘thing’ where the smaller engine variant is the ‘pure’ or better one. Actually a shorter stroke will rev more freely.

      This Husky looks like a lot of fun but as has been mentioned it is possible to build the same thing using original parts, a Sunbeam Alpine engine can be taken out to over 2 litres, an overdrive gearbox etc. Anything that works on an Alpine will work here, in a much more practical body style.

      • 0 avatar
        Ron B.

        Oh, OK. ha ha . The riley 1.5 is a heavy old dear though with all that wood and stuff in the roof ( like a fabric covered boat upside down ) . I would actually be thinking of a Mercedes 606 diesel .Smooth,Powerful (uop to 330Nm ) and really economical .But a better diff ratio would help. i think they had something like 4.10 -1 diffs. Lots of people i knew in my teens had hot hillmans and sunbeams, and yes they can be bored stroked and run reliably but that costrs mopney. A guy in the UK has a silver Alpine runing a Zetec and the whole deal runs really nicely. herwes a link to putting a Zetec in a sunbeam ….and a hillman husky too ,including a little info on adapating the EW to NS orientation.
        http://sunbeamalpine.org/forum/showthread.php?t=21160

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Ahem. They don’t leak fluids, they mark their territory!

  • avatar
    -Nate

    That looks very nice .

    I had a $75 red & white 1959 Hillman Husky in 1972 , it was a wretched piece of crap , cruder than the aforementioned park bench but , in spite of several teeth being mangled on the ring gear so the starter jammed as often as it worked it was a dead reliable thing , heavy to push start though .

    I do love me some LBC’s (one is parked in a small puddle of oil outside right now) Hillman’s don’t excite me much .

    -Nate

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