Frank Schoenberger’s Sunbeam Farm Imp


Frank, from Queensland, Australia, has recently imported this rare Sunbeam Farm Imp from New Zealand. Farm Imps were built by Todd Motors, who assembled CKD Imps for the New Zealand market. They were cut down using Imp saloons as a base. The car pictured here began life as a 1969 CKD Sunbeam Imp. Frank’s car was supplied by J. Pengelly Ltd of North Canterbury. Frank has commenced restoration of his example.

The New Zealand-built Sunbeam Imps are a bit of a story in their own right. Where Imps are concerned, the Sunbeam marque is normally associated with performance models such as the Imp Sport and the Stiletto. In many export markets, however, cooking Hillman Imps were rebadged as Sunbeams to cash in on the reputation behind that name.

The first New Zealand-assembled Imps were Hillmans, but when the Mark 3 Imp came along they switched to the Sunbeam identity. Just to confuse matters more, behind the badge the New Zealand Sunbeam Imp is really a Singer Chamois.

As for the Farm Imp, I’ll let J. Pengelly Ltd take up the story. Following are some excerpts from their brochures:


P.O. Box 20,

Cust North Canterbury

Richard Pengelly, Proprietor

Tele. (0502) 25-859


Thank you for your inquiry regarding the Farm Imps.

This vehicle came into being as a new-use farm utility, where the farm bikes left off and the larger vehicles took over – not to do all that a farm bike can do, but nearly as much and with much more comfort. It is light for a four-cylinder vehicle (just 680 kilograms or 1500 lbs), but with Sherpa grip tyres will handle soft going easily. Its length and wheelbase ensure very good stability; while recognising that roll-overs are a common form of accident on farms, we have built in a strong roll bar immediately behind the seats in the cab. This framing is an integral part of the conversion of the vehicle and when we submitted the design to the Ministry of Transport, they gave it their approval.

The rugged little Imp has been around for quite a few years, but in spite of those years we have been impressed by the good condition of many of the bodies that we have examined for conversion. In the normal course of business, we see eight- and ten-year-old vehicles completely rusted out, but sometimes we only have to do minor repairs to an Imp twice their age.

The motor of the Imp is also unusually good. It is a derivation of the Coventry Climax engine of the ’60s, and when you compare the Imp motor with the engine of a modern Honda Civic, you realise that the Japanese know a good power plant when they see it, and have turned it into one of the most successful car engines ever made. Our one observation about their success is that a tired Honda Civic is harder to fix than an Imp!

A description of the work we perform on the vehicle is as follows:

We strip the car down to a shell, waterblast the underside and running gear, spray with a rust repellant paint, and then cut the body down to the model we require, framing all new sections with 2″ x 1″ box section steel. The decks of the wellside model are fitted from waterproof ply, while the flat deck models are cut from checker plate steel. All bodywork repairs are carried out at the same time, while the engine, gearbox and power transfer are stripped and checked to see that they are in good running order.

The motors are rebuilt to ensure a good working life, and we also look at all electrical components, replacing everything that looks like a future source of trouble.

The rear shock absorbers are replaced with sprung shocks which, combined with heavier tyres than the Imp originally used, puts up the load-carrying capacity to half a tonne.

At the completion of the conversion the whole vehicle is painted; in the case of a firm order with deposit, we will be happy to paint in the colour of choice. New tyres are fitted to the road wheels with a good spare, while the battery is tested out or replaced if necessary. All running gear, brakes, etc. are brought up to W.O.F. standard and a current warrant is put on every vehicle.

Finally, we road-test the vehicle for at least an hour’s trip and then bring it back to the workshop for a final tune and adjust.

On the road, our little Farm Imps are just as impressive. Recently, our first flat deck, virtually a working prototype, was driven from Cust to Invercargill with half-a-tonne on the back and on the return journey it carried about the same load. It achieved the remarkable mileage of 38 m.p.g. – without a load 50 m.p.g. is usual.

We have probably the most comprehensive amount of spare parts for Imps in the South Island. Any part required can be obtained in a matter of days, no matter the distance, and in the near future we plan to have an engine exchange package as well as gearbox and power transfer.

Our basic price for the wellside, as illustrated in the advertisement, is $3,500 plus G.S.T. and registration. The flatdeck is $3,750 plus G.S.T. and registration.

The following extras can be fitted at reasonable cost:

  • Radio
  • Towbar
  • Roo Bars (fore and aft)
  • Roof Rack.

All prices quoted are ex our Workshop at Cust.


Yours faithfully,

J.E. Pengelly



The Farm Imp is not designed to take the place of a farm bike, but is an alternative means of farm transport. Cool in summer, warm in winter, along with a warm lamb box for those orphaned lambs on a cold day.

The flat deck model has a deck designed to take a base load of five bales of hay.

Both the wellside and flatdeck models have added carrying space under the bonnet and behind the back seat.

A two seater built to strict engineering specs with an integral roll cage, it is a very safe vehicle for both on the road and off.

This rugged little vehicle will take the knocks and bumps of everyday farm life. It is ideal for mum to take shopping and a lot safer than a bike.







39 @ 5000 RPM




52 lbs ft at 2800 RPM











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