The Hillman Minx was introduced in 1932 as the first small Hillman since the early 1920s. The car was announced on 1 October 1931 and was of conventional design, with a pressed-steel body on a separate chassis and powered by a 30bhp 1185cc side-valve 4-cylinder engine boasting cushioned power (in which instead of being bolted firmly to the chassis the engine was mounted so that it could rock from side to side, restricted by a leaf spring.) The Minx was upgraded in 1934 with a four-speed transmission and the pioneer fitment, as standard, of a radio. In 1935 it became the first mass-produced car with an all-synchromesh gearbox. It lost its synchronised first gear in 1939 as a cost-cutting measure and did not regain it until 1965.
The Minx soon became one of the most popular small cars in Britain. It was initially available as a 4-door saloon and a 2-door cabriolet as well as a 4-door tourer and 2-door roadster, but these latter two were dropped by 1939.
Alongside the standard Minx, the sporting Aero Minx was introduced in 1933 and built in much smaller numbers. Differences from the standard car were few: an underslung frame at the rear, different styling, a slightly raised compression ratio, a downdraught carburettor, stronger valve springs and a higher back-axle ratio. An aluminium cylinder head was available, and all Aero models had a remote-controlled gearbox with a short, stubby gear lever rather than the rather whippy long affair of the standard Minx.
Initially the Aero Minx was only available with one body style, a low two-three-seater fastback saloon with two-colour coachwork, at a cost of £245. However, the Aero Minx was from the start also available in chassis-only form. One particularly attractive special body was offered by Kevill-Davies and March Ltd., of Bruton Street in London. These March bodies differed from the later production sports tourers standardised in the Aero range in 1934 and 1935, and can be distinguished by front-hinged rather than rear-hinged doors. The car in our Snapshot must therefore carry a standard body (in fact a drophead coupé), not one from March.
Modern-day observers have been rather unkind to the reputation of the Aero Minx, criticising steering, roadholding and braking, but interviews with those who drove them in period established that they won Gold awards at several classic trials, and that the performance was considered to be the equal of the contemporary MG and to be better than a Singer. The steering was said to be light and accurate.
The Aero did not last long, and ceased production in 1935 – but it was clearly a delightful and competitive sporting car.
Image courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive: www.richardrobertsarchive.org.uk