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  • Writer's pictureFrank

Rare Find in Australia | A Sunbeam or Hillman Californian?

Variants of the Hillman Imp Saloon are rare in Australia In my search for Imps I was always on the lookout for a Coupe.

Sunbeam Stiletto, Singer Chamois and Californian coupes would have to be imported as I am sure no coupes were assembled or sold new in Australia. Whilst making enquiries I was told there was a Coupe at a disused chicken farm located just outside of Sydney NSW. Having obtained a contact number for the owner the conversations began.

I reside on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and Sydney is a 10 hour drive each way so it is a couple of days travel to arrange a trip but the excitement to find a coupe made planning this something I had to do.

The owner was not phone or computer savvy so no photos in the beginning. There was just a promise that there was a coupe and it was definitely a "Sunbeam" Imp Coupe. So not having any pictures of what I was purchasing but a verbal description and a price the owner wanted; I agreed.

My son and I headed off very early in the morning with the trailer attached. We slept in the car in the car park at a McDonald's 24 hour restaurant and travelled to the address early the following morning.

Upon arrival at the securely locked address we had to wait over an hour before the owner arrived after his breakfast and morning routines. The seller was very interesting to chat to and the connection between us was great due to our passion for Rootes Cars. What ensured was one of the most memorable discoveries in my 15 plus years looking for Imps and old cars.

The owner collected Sunbeam cars and there were many of them and shelves of spare parts. The owner knew where everything was as he has been gifted an impressive photographic memory. The Sunbeam Imp Coupe I had planned to purchase had already been moved outside and I was very very pleased with it. The more we chatted, the more we got along and as his trust grew in me he said he had another one in the barn! I was then allowed entry to one of the barns to check out this vehicle. Another deal was done and I purchased both!

The second coupe was solid but not the best condition but it was a Singer Chamois Coupe. As I already had a Singer Chamois sedan it was an easy choice and I decided that this was the coupe I was going to keep. Now I had one trailer and did not want to do another long road trip and knowing a friend, Paul who lived in Canberra was desperate for a coupe, I contacted him. Canberra was another 3 hours drive away but a deal was quickly done. The change of plans meant I had to promptly deliver the Californian. A late afternoon road trip begun. The Californian car is still in Canberra with Paul.

As an added bonus when chatting to a friend he said he had photos of the Californian taken in the 1980's on the street in Brisbane City. The photos in black and white are correct period photos taken at that time. Now the car in question has what appears to be a non-original Sunbeam Badge on the bonnet and an original Sunbeam Badge on the rear engine support panel. There is no doubt it is a Californian Imp, but is it a Sunbeam or a Hillman Californian?

It is original Right Hand Drive but export Californians were badged as Sunbeams so I have attached the ID plate for people to decipher. I kept the Singer Chamois coupe for many years but when circumstances meant I could not keep the car I had to sell it.

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