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Historic Hillman Imp could fetch £50,000

One of the most famous Hillman Imp cars ever to race, which took part in the Monte Carlo Rally 50 years ago, is to go under the hammer.

The car could fetch up to £50,000 when it is sold at auction in Wiltshire next month.

The Imp, with registration plate JDU48E, was built in 1966 by the Rootes Group, which had bought the Hillman name.

It has an impressive racing pedigree after competing in the 3,400-mile 1967 Monte Carlo Rally, coming second in its class and 46th overall.

Later in 1967, it raced in the Tulip Rally in the Netherlands in which it achieved its best international result, coming second in its class and 10th overall.

The Imp also took part in the 1967 Coupe des Alpines but had to retire because of a broken gasket.

Perhaps most significantly, the car competed in the UK's first-ever televised rallycross event in 1967.

The Imp was launched by Rootes Group as a competitor to the highly popular Mini and began manufacture in 1963 at Linwood, Scotland.

Just under 500,000 were sold before the final Imp rolled off the production line in 1976.

Considered advanced for its time, it was the first mass-produced car with the engine block and cylinder head cast in aluminium and situated at the rear of the vehicle.

After Rosemary Smith won the 1965 Tulip Rally driving an Imp, Rootes Group created special rally editions with modified engines and other parts. JDU46E is one of these "works Imps".

The Imp is being sold by private collector Mark Tudge who has kept it garaged at his home near Malmesbury.

Mr Tudge, who has owned the car since 2013, is selling it for personal reasons.

"This car has an amazing history. It's one of only eight works Imps built between 1963 and 1969," he said.

"Importantly, the engine has been verified as being the one prepared for Rosemary Smith when she drove in that first televised rallycross back in 1967.

"I was incredibly lucky to buy the car. I was on holiday in North Wales in 2013 when I saw a classified advert in a local paper selling the car.

"As it was in Cheshire not too far away, I went to see it and met the then owner, a retired banker and rally fan.

"He wouldn't sell the car to me for about a month - not until he was sure I was going to look after it.

"The car hasn't been seen much in public for many years. I've only driven it two or three times a year to keep it roadworthy."

Mr Tudge has resisted the idea of refurbishing the car and its paintwork is marked with scratches sustained during competition.

The Imp will be sold by Richard Edmonds Auctions in Chippenham on March 4.

"We're thrilled to be able to offer this historic and much-loved vehicle," said auctioneer Richard Edmonds.

"We're expecting buyers and collectors to come from right across the county, so the price could be as high as £50,000."

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