By Maz Woolley
Surprise from British car makers at the success of Japanese exports in the 1960s was strange given that Japanese car makers had had relationships with British producers since the 1920s when a Wolseley A9 was one of the first cars made in Japan by the shipbuilding firm which was to create Isuzu later. By the 1930s Nissan were making the Austin 7 under licence.
In 1952 Austin entered into another agreement with Nissan and they exported 2,000 Austins as partially assembled sets and these were sold in Japan under the Austin trademark. The agreement called for Nissan to make all Austin parts locally within three years, a goal Nissan met. Nissan produced and marketed Austins for seven years. By 1955, the Austin A50 – completely built by Nissan and featuring a slightly larger body with 1489 cc engine – was on the market in Japan. Nissan produced 20,855 Austins between 1953 and 1959.
Rootes made great efforts in the post war period to export cars to Japan and create their own sales chain. However their sales model was not allowed by the protectionist practices of the period that discouraged imports and foreign owned sales organisations and only allowed foreign firms to carry out local production if partnered by a Japanese firm and with an aim of at least 90% local content in the vehicle. Rootes eventually struck a deal which met the Governments tight controls with Isuzu which was part of Tokyo Ishikawajima Shipbuilding & Engineering Co., Ltd. Isuzu was granted sole rights to import Rootes vehicles particularly Hillman Minx Cars and Commer vans and to develop domestic production of these vehicles. There was an up front payment which Rootes reinvested in the sales and service network in Japan. Each car carried a £25 royalty payment to Rootes which was about the only money Rootes seems to have been able to re-patriate.
The first Isuzu built Hillman Minx rolled off the assembly line late in 1953. The PH10 was basically a Mk VI Hillman Minx with its 1265 cc side-valve motor, and column shift manual gearbox. These were assembled from Knock-down kits. The Isuzu Hillman Minx was sold through the Japanese Yamato Motor Company. Isuzu followed the annual updates Rootes introduced on the Phase Minx and in the early years their brochures seem based on the contemporary Rootes advertising.
By 1957 Isuzu has reached 100% local content of all the vehicles they built.
The Audax Series Minx arrived in 1956 and was released as the PH100 by Isuzu. In 1958 Isuzu introduced a new model, the “Super Deluxe” which was sold alongside a cheaper but more basic “Standard” model . Later in 1958 the range was face-lifted to resemble the Series II Hillman Minx and rated to carry six passengers rather than five.
In October 1959 the Isuzu Minx was face-lifted to resemble the UK Series III Hillman Minx and fitted with the new 1494cc engine. model designation PH300). They were face-lifted again in October 1960 (model PH 400) to resemble the Minx Series IIIa – except that the Japanese models retained the smaller windscreen from the earlier Minx. There were further minor revisions in October 1961 and October 1962 and Isuzu phased out the Hillman Minx in June 1964, at which time 57,729 Isuzu Hillmans had been made, replacing it with the Isuzu Bellet.
The Tomica model featured in this posting is based upon the final Super Deluxe model. These were better equipped than their UK Minx counterparts featuring items only seen on the Minx derivatives like the Gazelle and Rapier in the UK. This included extra instruments such as an ammeter, oil pressure gauge, clock and a radio as standard. A lockable glovebox was added and features like handbrake warning light and reversing lights which would not be seen on the UK Hillman Minx even as options.
LV-25 Tomica Limited Vintage Isuzu Hillman Minx
This model has been released in four editions so far.
- LV-25a – Red upper and white lower with red and white upholstery (Shown)
- LV25b – White upper and blue lower with blue and white upholstery (Shown)
- LV25c – White upper and green lower with blue and white upholstery (Not Shown)
- LV25d – Black with blue and white interior (Shown)
This model is made to 1:64 scale and is beautifully detailed and constructed. The detail and quality is better than many 1:43 models and it is better than the Corgi 1:43 model of the Series III Minx in some respects despite its diminutive size.
The grille and wheels are lovely items and all the badging is printed very well even though it needs a magnifying glass to properly appreciate it. The rear lights and chrome are all printed but are very neatly done.
Inside not only are their duotone seats but the instruments are picked out on the dashboard and a white steering wheel is included.
Sadly none of the Austins made by Nissan have yet featured in the Limited Vintage range as they would make nice models too.
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