Going back to my "Rootes"


I have been a classic car enthusiast, well, more like an obsession since I was a kid. I had a 1965 Mustang Fastback in high school and my graduation gift was a 1965 Shelby GT350. I went through a 1955 Chevy truck, '67 El Camino, '46 Ford pickup, '39 Chevy Coupe, a myriad of 15 classic Minis, Fiats, an Alfa GTJr1300 and a slew of odd ball British cars. Now I have gone back to my Rootes, Rootes Group cars that is.

It started when I went to look at an MG Megnette in a town next to mine. The guy has a collection of Daimlers and other cars. Looked at the MG and since I was into classic Minis at the time I just found it too big. The guy mentioned he had a different British car that was smaller, a Sunbeam Imp! I read about them and wanted one for a long time, but had no idea they were in the US. I figured I’d have to ship one over from the UK. So I really liked the car and bought it. Weirdly enough I had an email come in before I got the new acquisition home. A guy emailed me saying he had spares and knowledge about the cars. I hadn’t told anyone I was looking at an Imp let alone buying one, however, I found out that the email guy had sent someone to look at the car for him before I bought it. The email guy is now my best friend and we share our Imp obsession and the Imp community has grown in the LA area from us two to now three and there are a few more joining the Imp fun.
So the first Imp was going to be restored by me, but with me being Mini obsessed at the time, I sold it to my friend who made it a stunning restored car. I had a year to get the Imp bug again and my friend found me an Imp that was in Connecticut. I bought that car which had been sold new in Van Nuys , CA in 1966 then was taken to San Fransisco then to New York where the family left it in their garage from 1974 until the second owner bought it around 2013 and dragged it out of that New York garage to take it to Connecticut. It sat in the second owner’s garage for 2 years and I bought and shipped it to California. In 2017 I had worked on it to replace all suspension pieces, brake hard and soft lines, fuel lines and replaced the motor with a rebuilt one. The car now has a very good newer interior, nice 13 inch wheels and disc brakes.

My second Rootes Group car is a Sunbeam Imp from 1965. It was bought back in 1973 by a collector in Kansas who stuck it in his collection where it stayed until another Imp friend bought it. I then bought it from him. If you watch Chasing Classic Cars, one episode where Wayne goes to look at a very different one off car, you can see my Imp next to an Austin A35 in that Kansas collection.
The '65 Imp is a basic so has no provision for trim on the outside and no passenger sun visor. It still has the rubber floor mats and no opening quarter vent windows. It is rust free and the paint has a nice patina without looking like a derelict. Interior will be blue leather and I will add a rebuilt motor and disc brakes. Rest of the car is good as it is.

My third Rotes Group car is a 1960 Singer Gazelle. The Gazelle is the posh version of the Hillman Minx. This car is a 1958 or 1959 manufactured car, but since it was sold new in California on 14 November 1960 , the year is marked as a 1960. I am the third owner of the Gazelle. It was sold new at Southgate Motors in Palo Alto, CA on 14 November 1960 to Elsie Estevez who lived in Lakeport, CA at Clear Lake. She owned the car until about 2001 when the second owner bought it. They lived across the lake at Lucern, CA then I bought it from them last year. The car is now named Elsie in respect for the first owner. It came with a stack of paperwork and a Popular Mechanics from 1959 chronicling which European car to buy. She traded in a 1959 Hillman Minx for the Gazelle.
The Gazelle has no rust and is complete except for a few trim pieces and badges. It will be a long term restoration and will only be modified where reliability and use are concerned. Interior will be upgraded to leather for sure.

My soon to be shipped Rootes Group car will be my much anticipated 1967 Sunbeam Stiletto which is the fastback version of the Sunbeam Imp. It is a race replica and rare for the world and only a few in the US.