In the car industry, many vehicles take inspiration from one another, and a popular influence are the muscle cars of America. British cars have borrowed elements from American models, and a good example is the Hillman Avenger. Developed by the Rootes division of Chrysler Europe, the Hillman has gone through a number of name changes, becoming the Chrysler Avenger, Talbot Avenger and Plymouth Cricket depending on where it was marketed. In Britain, the Hillman became very popular, so we’re looking into its history to see what made it interesting.
The Hillman Avenger is notable because it became the first and last car to be created by Rootes after Chrysler took over in 1967. At the time of development, Rootes were looking into replacing the Hillman Minx with the Arrow Project, which went on to become the Hunter. Rootes also wanted a secondary, smaller car to go head to head with the Ford Cortina. This ‘B Car’ might have been secondary, but it still received a lot of attention from engineers.
The Avenger took inspiration from the American ‘coke bottle’ waistline, becoming the first British car to be produced with a one piece plastic front grille. The interior was simple, which matched the design as well. It came with a 4-cylinder overhead valve engine and buyers could choose from 1250 or 1500 cc variations.
Introduced in 1970, the Avenger was praised for its competent handling and overall performance. In America, the Avenger was marketed as the Plymouth Cricket. The company were hoping to make the Avenger a ‘world car’ by crossing into as many markets as possible. However, smaller cars were generally unpopular in America. Rust and unreliability were common complaints, which led to the motor being discontinued after two years. In the UK, sales grew at a steady pace, with the car being rebadged as the Chrysler Avenger in 1976.
The next change occurred in 1978 when Chrysler was taken over by PSA Peugeot Citroen. The car became the Talbot Avenger to coincide with the revival of the Talbot brand. At this point, the Avenger was being used to meet the demand of traditional saloons and estates.
Production ran until 1981, when PSA decided to shut down the main factory in Linwood. The Avenger had no direct successor, though the Peugeot 305 was the closest to the Avenger’s size.
Today, Hillman Avengers are a rare classic car, but it remains a significant vehicle because of the amalgamation of American and British engineering.