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Hillstrom machinery inc


The history behind Hillstrom has its origins in 1882, when Joseph Hillstrom started making farming equipment in Stillwater, Minnesota. Not without success, so gradually the company was expanding towards making all various kinds of machinery. In 1939 they did their first attempt at entering the passenger vehicle market with their Hillstrom type A. What Hillstrom saw was an empty space in the market for people wanting something more refined than for example the little crude Willys Americar, yet wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the “standard” sized cars like Fords and Chevrolets growing for every year.

The 40s meant of course the war, that interrupted civilian production between 1942 and 1946. But after the end of the war, Hillstroms might not have been great sellers, but they had their place in the market in the late 40s and early 50s. However, Hillstrom was becoming more and more something of a player in the margins in the late 50s, when there was a horsepower war, cars were growing all the time and sparkling of chrome and pastel colours.

The 60s meant something of a revival for Hillstrom. The Volkswagen had shown that being a bit quirky wasn’t necessarily bad, there was a growing market for compacts, and people were starting to appreciate a more sporty, european-influed style, which Hillstrom somewhat tried to incorporate in their designs. So it was with great hope Hillstrom entered the 70s, however it was full of backlashes, as it was for the whole car industry in America. In the 80s it became more and more clear that Hillstrom didn’t have much of a future in the passenger car market. There was tons of new regulations on the horizon, there was the success of the asian manufacturers, and there was the aging Hillstrom lineup that had been facelifted a couple too many times. Hillstrom was searching for a partner in the automotive market, without further success. Having problems to adapt their ageing designs to the new passive restraint regulations in 1990, meant that Hillstrom decided to axe their whole passenger car lineup. The “1990” models actually were all produced under 1989, and was internally called “1989½” models.

However, Hillstrom decided to soldier on in the market for commercial vehicles, where they still remain a slow but steady seller, managing to satisfy the customers looking for a real workhorse rather than something that’s looking cool or has a plush interior.

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The first Hillstrom was the 1939 Hillstrom Type A. Not exactly a car full of groundbreaking technology, it at least had an overhead valve six, while many competitors still were running flatheads. What was already becoming ancient, though, was the leaf sprung solid front axle, with more and more competitors switching over to IFS. The Type A was only sold in one version, a 4 door sedan with a quite high level of standard equipment for a car of its size and age, like corduroy upholstery, clock, heater, cigar lighter, dual wipers and woodgrain on the steering wheel and dashboard. A radio and outside mirrors, however, was still options you had to pay extra for.

Production was halted in 1942 because of the war. 1946 the Type A came back with a facelift. The whole front end was changed, as well as the door sheetmetal. The wipers was moved down below the windshield instead of being mounted above it, and the grille, headlights and parking lamps now had a more modern arrangement. The wheels now featured new, larger hubcaps, the fender extensions on the doors were made longer, there now was a fresh air inlet for the heater instead of only recirculating the air, and the chrome trim was rearranged. In the back, though, not much happened except for new taillights, mounted more flush to the body instead of being in separate housings. Technically, however, not much happened at all.

The facelifted Type A was only produced for two years, before being replaced by the all new Type D in 1948.

Wheelbase: 262 cm
Length: 443 cm
Width: 177 cm
Weight: 1208 kg

Engine block type: 6 cyl inline cast iron
Head: 2 valve cast iron OHV
Displacement: 3325 cc
Bore: 84 mm
Stroke: 100 mm
Compression ratio: 6.4:1
Power output: 67kW@3600 RPM
Maximum torque: 214 Nm@2400 RPM
Fuel delivery: Single 1 barrel
Fuel type: 92 leaded

Tyre type: Cross ply
Tyre compound: Hard
Tyre dimension: 145/95-15
Rim type: Steel

Cornering: 0.58 G
Top speed: 160 km/h
0-100: 14.6 s
Quartermile: 20.1 s
Gas mileage: 17.5 l/100 km

Brakes F/R: Drum/drum
Braking 100-0: 73.8 m

Price (recalculated to todays values): $10200


For a car with pre-war roots, this one is surprisingly well-equipped, and it laid the groundwork for the all-new Type D that would take Hillstrom into the Fifties.


Honestly speaking, I doubt that USA or even any other place outside the UK was ready for a premium compact back then, but it wouldn’t be the strangest thing that has happened in Automationverse… I try to keep this company kind of innovative on small resources without losing the american flair. Think AMC without being anything like AMC, if that makes sense. With a dash of International Harvester and some Willys thrown in… But yet without ripping off an actual manufacturer.



Not much is known about the 1942 Hillstrom Type B anymore. Originally intended as a military vehicle, it was said to be inferior to the Willys Jeep in about everything. US armed forces was not interested and rejected the proposal. All three prototypes built was scrapped. The flat 4 under the hood was originally one of Hillstroms stationary engines, here specially tuned for low octane fuel and good for about 30 kW or almost 41 hp.