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What the Hill Is a Hillman (Minx) Convertible- a Teen's First Car (a True Story)

Updated on May 25, 2020

My first Automobile

Several weeks ago, on the trip home from one of our ventures, we were passing a used car lot, and out front was a small, mint green convertible. I knew what kind it was from the moment I saw it. It was exactly like my first automobile, as a matter of fact it could have been my first car, except, it was so long ago and far away (probably not).

Drawing of a 1957 Hillman Minx by Shyron Shenko
Drawing of a 1957 Hillman Minx by Shyron Shenko | Source

I had a vision of the first Hillman Minx I had ever seen, which became my first car.

It was a beautiful, sunny, unusually warm, spring day in the Chicago suburb of Berwyn, Illinois. Dad, my two brothers and I had gone to the grocery store, and as we were leaving, something caught my eye in the used car lot, across the street.

The little car that got me so excited.

This cute little, mint green convertible seemed to be calling, "come look at me". I asked dad if we could please; just go look at the cute little car. Dad never could say no to any reasonable request from any one of us three.

Dad, my two brothers and I crossed the street to look at the little car that got me so excited. I had never been to a car dealership before. The used car salesman saw us coming, although I did not think so at the time. None of us were used to dealing with unethical car dealers, so we were at his mercy, and he showed none.

The used car dealer said he wanted $600 for the Hillman. I asked if we could drive it. He said: "NO". (I had never driven a car before and did not have a license). But the fact that the car salesman did not want us to test drive the vehicle should have been a red flag, right? And besides I would not have been able to see the red flag through the stars in my eyes.

I found it, I found it today. My picture of my first car.
I found it, I found it today. My picture of my first car. | Source

There, right over the driver's seat was a slash in the rag-top

I had saved up about $500 dollars from working at Cock Robin, the local ice cream parlor. (currently out of business).

I really wanted this little car, I offered the salesman $300. The salesman said he would take $500. And we struck a deal. But, before dad signed for me, I asked the salesman to put the rag-top up, and he reluctantly raise the top, And then I realized why, he was reluctant. There, right over the driver's seat was a gaping slit in the rag-top. The salesman said the top had been slashed by vandals.

With the papers signed, the little Minx was mine.

The papers had not been signed, and dad said "no". We will not buy the car. The salesman really wanting to get rid of the cute little car, not just sell it but get rid of it, made a new offer, we could buy the car for $400 and he would pay for a new top.

By this time dad did not trust the dealer but, agreed to the deal, if the salesman would schedule the replacement of the rag-top while we were there in his office. The used car dealer, made arrangements with the upholstery shop to pick-up the car the following day and replace the convertible top.

With the papers signed, the Minx was mine. Dad had to go on home with the groceries and leave my brothers and me to follow in my new ride. My oldest brother, being the one with a license was only too happy to drive, and delighted to be my chauffeur, until I could get my license. We drove away in my cute little, mint green, Hillman Minx convertible. (Funny, he, my brother, never tried to teach me to drive a car with a manual transmission, only dads automatic.)

Now I know what people mean when they call some cars clunkers.

We had only gone maybe two blocks away from the used car lot, when my brother was shifting gears, there was a loud clunk and the sound of something falling in the street, and the Minx came to a stop.

Now I know what people mean when they call some cars clunkers.

My brother said it was the clutch plate had fallen from underneath. My two brothers and I collected the nuts, bolts and clutch plate, put them in the car, and then pushed the cute little Hillman Minx the two or so blocks home. My brother went to work right away to repair the clutch.

From the age of 13--after he was taken into custody by the Berwyn Police Department, because he repaired a go-kart in a neighbor's garage that he thought belonged to that neighbor. The neighbor found the go-kart in the alley behind his house and thinking it abandoned, put it in his garage, and when he found out that it would not run, asked my brother fix it.

The owner of the go-kart paid for the repairs.

The owner who had left the go-kart in the alley, because it would not run, he planned to go and get a trailer to tow it home, but came back and found it gone. When the go-kart owner learned that my brother had nothing to do with stealing it, but had repaired it, he actually paid him for the repair. Dad who was not mechanically inclined, from that day forward, relied on my brother to maintain and make minor repairs on his car.

Why don't you put a raincoat on it?

The following day the storm clouds were gathering and it did not look like the rain would wait for the driver from the upholstery shop to pick-up the Minx. My brother put the top up on the convertible, and when mom saw the gaping hole in the top she jokingly said: "Why don't you put a raincoat on it"? (True words were often spoken in jest.)

When it rains, pours!

I took my bright yellow raincoat from the closet and my brothers and I put it over the gaping hole in the rag-top of my Minx convertible, just as it started to rain. By the time the man arrived from the upholstery shop, the rain had turned into a steady downpour, as he slid into the driver seat, with my oldest brother in the front passenger's seat, my younger brother and I in the back, on our way to get a new rag-top.

That is when the bubble burst!

The down pour turned torrential, as we were nearing the driveway of the upholstery shop. I glanced at my brother beside me and he was staring at the bubble forming above the driver's head, from the water collecting through the hole in the rag-top. Just as we pulled into the upholstery shop, that is when the bubble burst, drenching the driver. I was so glad the Minx had leather seats.

The convertible's rag-top was replaced by a new vinyl one.

Thinking my convertible's rag-top was going to be replaced with another rag-top, and was surprised when, instead my brothers and I left the shop with a new vinyl one. Don't know how that happened and did not question it.

For a few weeks my brother would chauffeur me back and forth to the ice cream parlor, and after work my brothers, me and some of our friends would pile into the Minx and cruse around the neighborhood or to the lake or park. We would get a lot of stares, not only because it was cute, but, it sounded like a motorcycle.

One day my brother showed up at the usual quitting time, to pick me up. . . . He was in dad's car? Where is my car? I asked him. He told me something happened to the clutch again and this time he was unable to fix it.

What the Hill is a Hellman?

Kitty cornered from the ice cream parlor was a small garage, where the owner was also a mechanic and he had one other mechanic, and both frequent customers of the ice cream store.

I and my brother walked across the street to the garage and I asked the owner if he could see what was wrong and if he could repair it. Then he asked what kind of car is it? When, I said, a Hillman Minx. He replied what the hill is a Hellman? The owner agreed to take a look at my Minx.

The next day dad pushed the Minx to the garage with his car. Dad, my brothers and I waited for the bad news. And it was all bad.

The mechanic told us that the bell housing was cracked, the rear housing was cracked, the clutch was shot, and the transmission was shot. He told us he would try to get a re-built transmission and used parts for the other repairs. And we left the cute little clunker with the mechanic. The drive shaft was being removed as we were leaving the garage.

The bell housing was cracked, the rear housing was cracked, the clutch was shot, and the transmission was shot and someone stole the drive shaft.

As I walked to work the next day, I stopped at the garage, because I saw the Minx parked beside the garage and the drive shaft lay next to it, on the ground. I asked why? The mechanic told me that because the garage only had two bays and they needed to be able to use both, and they could not get the parts for my car for a few more days, so, they put it outside.

A few days later, the owner came into the ice cream parlor to give me the bad news. . . . Between the time the Minx had been parked outside, and the time the transmission was acquired, the drive shaft had disappeared. I guess mine was not the only Minx in town; the difference was mine had a good drive shaft.

The mechanic was not only a master mechanic, but had the talent of a master carpenter, and feeling guilty for leaving the drive shaft in plain sight. The mechanic made a drive shaft out of a piece of two by four, and parts of a drive shaft from another car, repaired/replaced the other parts and my brother and I drove away in the cute little Hillman Minx.

My Chevy Convertable

Today when I found the picture of the Hillman Minx, I also found this picture of the Chevy.
Today when I found the picture of the Hillman Minx, I also found this picture of the Chevy. | Source

I saw the most beautiful, cherry red, convertible, a 1954 Chevy Bel Air.

The honeymoon was over, the glow was gone, and I was no longer in love. My cute Minx had cost me too much, in time and money. Although we still went for our cruse around the neighborhoods, until one day as we were passing a used car lot. I saw the most beautiful, cherry red, convertible, a 1954 Chevy Bel Air. I yelled to my brother, "pull over!"

Yes, we did! I don't remember all the details, but my brother and I traded the Minx for the Chevy and we drove away in the "cherry", cherry red Chevy convertible.

I finally learned how to drive a 'four on the floor' (manual transmission) that belonged to my new husband. That is when I also learned that, my new husband could not drink, even one alcoholic drink would knock him out.

My beautiful Chevy got smashed!

Not long after I acquired the Chevy, I was working late one night, when a customer came into the ice cream parlor and told us there was an accident on our corner. Without hearing or seeing the crash, I knew my brother was involved. I ran and opened the door and a cherry red fender lay not ten feet away. My brother was taken to the hospital, the Chevy towed to the body shop down the street and the drunk, who ran the red light, and hit my car, was arrested. I don't know what happened to the drunk's two grandchildren, who were in the car with him.

My brother was checked out and released from the hospital that night. Surprisingly only the Chevy body was damaged, so it was repaired quickly.

My Beautiful Chevy was smashed

Along with the picture of the Hillman Minx and the other picture of the Chevy I found the picture of the smashed Chevy today.
Along with the picture of the Hillman Minx and the other picture of the Chevy I found the picture of the smashed Chevy today. | Source

I gave the Chevy to my brother.

Approximately a year or so later, my brother was married, and he was still driving my Chevy....Approximately a year after that, I was married, and despite the objections of my new husband and the fact that I had never driven either of my two cars....I gave the Chevy to my brother.

© 2012 Shyron E Shenko


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