1952 Hillman Minx: Reader Resto

By: Scott Murray with Steve Guarino, Photography by: Steve Guarino

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Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx
As originally bought in London cab spec As originally bought in London cab spec As originally bought in London cab spec
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx
The original engine just didn't have the grunt for today's traffic The original engine just didn't have the grunt for today's traffic The original engine just didn't have the grunt for today's traffic
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx
There wasn't a lot of rust treatment required for this very solid car There wasn't a lot of rust treatment required for this very solid car There wasn't a lot of rust treatment required for this very solid car
Awaiting its first coat of leftover blue Awaiting its first coat of leftover blue Awaiting its first coat of leftover blue
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx

Steve Guarino didn't follow the herd with his choice of restoration project. His 1952 Hillman Minx is a true one-off

1952 Hillman Minx: Reader Resto
Steve Guarino's 1952 Hillman Minx

 

1952 Hillman Minx

Confession time. I wasn’t really looking for a Hillman Minx when I was looking for a new project about two and a half years ago. The car I had my heart set on was an EK Holden and had my eye on one but I had to sell a couple of old Geminis that I had knocking around before taking it on. The Geminis took so long to sell that by the time I got back to the Holden, it had sold. So when the Hillman popped up on my search engine, I knew I just had to go and have a look.

I’d heard of Hillman but hadn’t seen this model Minx and thought ‘what the hell is that?’ They’re actually quite a decent shape, and I found out that if they’re hot-rodded up a little bit it gives them a bit of extra edge.

The guy who was selling it was an old fella in East Fremantle and he was only the fifth owner of the car. I realised that the car was completely original. I took it for a drive and the drum brakes were a bit of an eye-opener, but I thought that I just had to have the car. It was just so different.

Bodywise it was brilliant. It only had the tiniest little pinpricks of rust, and underneath it was rock-solid. The little flathead side-valve motor was pretty slow though. You had your heart in your mouth when you were crossing busy intersections. I tried putting a bigger carby on it but ended up burning a valve, so I ended up faced with a decision. Should I rebuild this motor and keep it original or customise it with an engine transplant? I thought about that 0-100km/h time that you’d need a calendar to measure and decided on customising.

I didn’t want to go too far overboard with is, so I decided to transplant a 1.6 Isuzu motor and five-speed gearbox from a Gemini. There’s a historical link there already, because Mark VI and VII Minxes were built by Isuzu in Japan between ’53 and ’56. I thought that by choosing the Isuzu motor, I wouldn’t have to do too many safety upgrades. I was wrong.

The DOT came back with a monster of a list. I’d have to install a collapsible steering column, dual brake circuit and booster, two-speed wipers, demister, proper indicators, a reversing light, a windscreen washer and seat belts. Well, once I got started there was no turning back. The budget was low, so I had to adopt an old-school hot-rodding style and find out what worked on other cars.

With a fair bit of research and help from other enthusiasts online, I got the info I needed. I scavenged parts from all over the place. I got a Datsun 1200 steering column, a Gemini dual brake circuit, wiper motors from a Mini, a pull switch from a VW Kombi, later model Minx front suspension, and some Ford Pursuit deep dish rims that I disguised with Minx centre caps.

I was never that keen on the original paintwork because I felt that in black it looked a bit too much like a London cab, but I had some paint left over from a car I painted for my brother ten years previously. I poked it with a stick and it was still good. It was a really nice blue with a very subtle metallic edge, but it was low-key enough to still look old. I had about three litres of it in my garage and I just thought, ‘bugger that. I’m going to use that as my paint’.

The interior leather was left over from a renovation of the now Crown Casino in Perth from about 12 yrs ago, so I just used what I had to make it work. I worked on the door trims and Fineline Upholstery in the naval base just south of Freo did the seats and head liner.

I had no intention of the build being a show car and its far from it now. The effect I was after was to make people wonder if it was originally like that or if the changes I’d made were factory options. It’s quite different from stock, with a Mini bumper and overriders with a nice little patina of pitting on the original chrome, so it doesn’t look over-restored.

With the panel work, I only repaired anything major but left the minor stuff as it gives the car character. It hasn’t turned out too badly considering it was all done in my townhouse garage. I had to make sure my wife could get her car in there too and for a while, she hated the thing, but now that she’s become a bit more involved, she loves going out in it and taking it to events. My daughter is seven years old and loves to pretend to drive it. She’s laid claim on it for when she’s 17, so there’s no way I can sell it now.

I did most of the work on the car on my own, but had some big help from a good friend, Mark Cunnington. My major parts source was Paul Auguston and I couldn’t have done without the help and advice of Alan Charman, Bill Cane, Neil Clarke, Wayne McGuinness, Steve Scruff, Rory Smith, and John Clark, not to mention all the other people who helped me on Facebook and forums. There were a couple of jobs that I just couldn’t master. Getting the brake pedal to line up with the booster and master cylinder was beyond me so I’ve got to thank Rad Rides in Bibra Lake for their help there.

I’m so pleased with how the car has been received. It’s been featured on the front cover of the 2015 Rootes Group Calendar Hillman Edition which is worldwide it even has its own Facebook page called Spot Pops. It’s fair to say that it’s now firmly part of the family.

 

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