Here at the Jalopnik Daily Motor-Gazette, we're not big fans of the idea of calling a car a "chick car," for a variety of reasons. But that doesn't mean that companies haven't deliberately tried to make cars tailored to a given gender before. Or, in the case of these 1965 Hillman Imp concepts, each gender.
Yes, for the 1965 San Francisco International Car Show, Hillman exhibited a pair of Imps, their novel little rear-engined Mini-fighter, each tailored to some nice absurd character of both popular genders.
Even better, they named these cars Lady Imp and Lord Imp. Classy!
Sure, Lord and Lady Imp to modern ears sounds like something you'd read in the credits of Game of Thrones, but back in 1965 I think the Hillman PR folks must have thought it gave a certain gravity to their cars, and the way they chose to gender their cars is pretty hilarious by modern standards, especially for the male one, Lord Imp.
Lord Imp was a nautical-themed Imp. And not just a hint of salt air nautical, we're talking this-car-is-a-vessel-of-the-Navy nautical. It had an actual ship-to-shore radio, sempahore-themed upholstery (the pattern is the flag for "U," which is also used to mean "You are running into danger."), naval-rope-and-knot inspired floor mats, headliner and door cards done up in ship blueprints, and a big US Navy eagle crest right there in the center of the steering wheel.
Oh, and there's more:
Among its innovation are ship-to-shore phone, electric shaver, bar, pilot's helm for steering, compass, port and starboard running lights and power horns. The 'Skipper' of the Lord Imp will have a car upholstered in custom signal flag pattern material with rope pattern chrome handles, metal rope trim, brass or chrome metal color, hide-away duffel carrier, anchor hub caps, rope floor mats and other sea-going motifs to complete the masculine theme.
That's just the inside. Outside, there's door handles made to look like chrome sheepshanks and what looks to be actual wooden motorboat-style slats cladding the sides. This is masculinity in the sense of those old Thurston Howell-kind of guys who walk around wearing Blazers with huge crests on them and one of those yacht-captain hats. To modern eyes, it's weirdly specific — were all dudes married to the sea back then?
Here's what the Rootes Group themselves had to say about Lord Imp:
FOR MEN ONLY: Designed specifically for men, the new Lord Imp has features such as ship-to-shore radio, a marine compass, ship's bell, air horns and portable bar. It has nautical theme upholstery and the trim inside and out carries forth the boating motif. A prototype of the Lord Imp, which is based on the popular Sunbeam Imp sports sedan, was exhibited by Rootes Motors of England at the New York International Auto Show. It was featured along with a companion "Hers" car, the Lady Imp complete with hair dryer, Princess phone and cosmetic console. Price of either car is placed at about $3,700.
For the ladies, we have, of course, Lady Imp. This little British lass is strangely forward-thinking in that it includes a built-in car phone. A princess phone, sure, but it's still something that wouldn't be common until at least 20 years later, and is probably a crapload more useful than Lord Imp's ship-to-shore radio.
The Lady Imp also includes a pair of integrated perfume bottles ("Evening Jasmine" and "Wild Willow") and some really bonkers floral pattern fabric on the seats, door cards, headliner, and even the matching luggage. To the point that I think most women would find this too matchy-matchy, but I guess if you're going to do it, fucking do it.
The door handles are these ornate little bits of jewelry that look like a rich old lady's brooch, and the dash knobs are porcelin. It goes on:
A built-in vanity and large [storage unit] will carry all of Milady's beauty and hair dressing preparations and paraphernalia. Throw pillows and head rests add comfort. A hide-away grocery and parcel carrier is a 'special' for the feminine shopper.
The steering wheel has a floral pattern and a center frame to hold a photograph or errand list. The door panels have carry-all rack space and are color keyed in the interior decor of the Lady Imp.
Accessories also include a hair dryer, custom matching luggage and many other singularly feminine 'handies'.
And, just in case any of you dudes were getting any ideas about the usefulness of a phone or steering-wheel frame, the Rootes folks remind us the Lady Imp is
A new car a man wouldn't want to drive
So get back to your wheeled yacht, buddy.
It seems that these were just concepts, and never actually made it into production. That's probably for the best, since I always find this hyper-intense car-gendering to be weird, but it would have been cool if some of these options were available for Imps anyway. 1965-era car phone, port and starboard lights, and a dash-mounted electric shaver? Hell yeah.
(Thanks, Nemojp Dante!)