Back in the 1950s the penny finally dropped that small cars capable of doing more than 20mpg might be a good idea.

So Sir Alec Issigonis came up with the Mini and that started the ball rolling, with other manufacturers sensing that he might be on to something.

Of course, the VW Beetle was available, but many still felt that when we had sacrificed so much in the Second World War, why on earth would we want to drive a German car designed on the back of one of Hitler’s saner suggestions?

Over at Rootes Group, manufacturers of the Hillman Minx, they saw a gap in the market. The problem was no-one really knew how to go about taking advantage of it.

After much head-scratching they decided to go down the Beetle/Fiat 500 route and cheaply produce a car with an engine in the back.

The main reason for that was Rootes was having to build a brand new factory at Linwood on the outskirts of Glasgow which was costing squillions and the pressure was on, despite a massive Government grant.

Sadly, although the plant was state-of-the-art and computerised, the workforce made up of disgruntled ex-shipyard workers was not.

Asking them to put together a radically new concept in car design was not a marriage made in heaven.

Early cars in particular had quality problems not helped by the fact that engines had to do a 600-mile round trip between Linwood and Rootes’s other plant at Ryton, near Coventry, before they could be fitted into the car.

The result was what has been described as a British Skoda.

There were a few engineering breakthroughs for the car, such as an advanced alloy engine and an overhead camshaft. But the average British mechanic didn’t know how to maintain them, so that led to more problems.

The limitations of the engine in the back were obvious. Instead of a hatchback, the best that engineers could come up with was a hinged rear window to chuck your shopping through, which hardly went down a storm outside the new fangled supermarkets.

By 1976, when the last Imp staggered off the line, the Rootes Group was on its knees, overcome by poor sales and a concerted campaign by its Scottish workforce to sabotage the sassenachs.