If you’re looking for yet another example of a good car design ruined by Government meddling and incompetence, then look no further than the 1963 Hillman Imp. Originally designed to compete with the Mini from BMW, the Imp was, for the time, quite a technological curiosity, with an excellent engine, and good handling that was somewhat mitigated by the fact that the engine was put in the rear of the car, like a VW Beetle, rather than in the front, which made it tail-heavy. It also means a lot of interior room in such a small car, and despite everything, the Imp had ample success on the track and is fondly remembered.
Its problem was, as is often the case, reliability. Instead of building a factory in Coventry, as they had wanted (and where a large pool of skilled labor existed), the British government agreed to lend Hillman money only if they built their factory in an economically depressed area, in this case Linwood, near Glascow. This almost the exact same story of Alfa Romeo and the Alfasud, built in … Naples, of all places, sans the rusty second-hand Soviet steel.
The Hillman Imp was powered by a 875cc four-cylinder engine, mounted at the rear of the car. It developed 38 horsepower, which was remarkable for an engine that size back in 1963. Some versions of the car, developed by Rootes (the parent company) developed over 50 horsepower and were popular on the racetrack; they were marketed with slightly different body shapes, too.
The 1963 Hillman Imp remained in production, with minor changes, until 1976. Unfortunately, and in a superb example of the consequences of inane meddling by hapless bureaucrats and vote-buying do-gooder politicians, it never made any money, and its creditors – notably the British taxpayers, got soaked.