The Italian styling concern Zagato is famous for classics such as the Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo Zagatos. There are Ferraris and Maseratis with a Zagato body, and there is the Zimp.
A Dorchester-based company was formed in early autumn 1964, headed by Peter Thomas and Anthony Charles: British Zagato Ltd. in Kingston-on-Thames. Zagato saw possibilities on the British market for a car with Hillman Imp mechanicals, and an aluminum bodyshell styled the Italian way. They intended to produce them, with the blessing of Rootes, in Britain (thus avoiding import duties).
Peter Thomas bought two Imps from a dealer in Oxfordshire. Peter and his wife drove these to the Zagato design studio in Milan. The studio was already working on another Hillman Imp Deluxe, which had been bought second-hand in the U.K. In just nine months, the cars were transformed into Zimps so that Zagato could exhibit its Zimp at the 1964 Earl's Court Motor Show.
Zagato was famous for making their versions of the body shells a lot lower and lighter. The Zimp weighs 630 kg. Its height is 128 cm. (The Imp has 138 cm.). This and the better streamlining means an increase in top speed to about 140 kph.
British Zagato Ltd. planned to tune the Imp engine from 39 hp. to 46 hp.
When Chrysler heard about the cooperation between Rootes and Zagato, they used their 50% holding in the company to block the project. So, to the advantage of the later upmarket Imps, only three prototypes were produced.
Images: www.auto-italia.co.uk; Zagato-cars.com