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The "Plymouth Cricket" (rebadged Hillman Avenger

Started by JoKer, March 28, 2017, 06:59:03 PM


below is a straight copy/paste of information apologies if the formatting needs a bit of a tidy-up - Jared

QuoteBarn Cricket: 1971 Plymouth Cricket

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This one may be a bit of a head-scratcher for a few of you, I know that it is for me. This is a 1971 Plymouth Cricket and it?s on Craigslist with an asking price of $1,000 or best offer. This sweet little kiss of a car is in Hershey, Pennsylvania and it looks like a very solid project that would draw onlookers at any car show. They were only imported to North America for 1971, 1972, and 1973 so you won?t see them too often, something that appeals to lovers of unusual cars, like me, and hopefully a few of you.

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I instantly think captive import, rebadged Japanese car when I think of a Plymouth Cricket, like there should be a Dodge version. Actually there was a Dodge Avenger for the South African market, but they weren?t available in the US or Canada. These were actually a rebadged Hillman Avenger, certainly one of the coolest car names of all time. Or, maybe that?s just because I like the old TV show The Avengers.

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Probably the most distinctive part of this conservatively-styled car would be the fantastic and fantastical tail lights. Other than those, and the semi-fastback styling, this wasn?t a high design effort by Chrysler-owned Rootes Group to try to take on Ford?s Pinto and Chevy?s Vega in North America. The Avenger program was started in the mid-1960s to compete with Britain?s Vauxhall Viva, Ford Cortina, BMC 1100/1300 family, and the fabulous Ford Cortina. Rebadging it as a Plymouth for the US and Canadian markets proved to be unsuccessful, sales-wise, although it was a sophisticated car with a four-link rear suspension in place of the usual leaf springs and anti-roll bars front and rear and it did very well in crash tests. Simply put, it was and is a great little car even today. It isn?t flashy, and the US and Canada only got the four-door and wagon body styles for some reason. A good-looking two-door was available in the Hillman version.

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This particular Cricket was found in a barn where it has been stored since 1978! You can see that the body of the car is in great condition, rust-wise. It has that crease in the right quarter panel and a lot of paint blisters, but reportedly there is not ?much rot on it just a little where the fender attaches to the car under the hood. Otherwise is nearly rust free.?  This car would sure draw a crowd at any car show. I have never seen one in person and that makes it my kind of car!

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There are no engine photos and only one interior photo, and you can tell that the interior will need work. Somehow, the dash, even though it was stored indoors since it was only 7 years old, is cracked and the seats have a few rips and I can?t even tell if the gauges are in there! The carpets look dirty and will most likely need to be replaced. It sounds like there shouldn?t be any rust on the floor pans but it?s always a crap shoot when peeling back the carpet for the first time. The steering wheel needs help, or at least a new cover, and this car is an automatic instead of a 4-speed manual. The engine should be a 1,498 CC inline-four with around 70 hp, and the seller says that it turns but they haven?t tried to start it. 70 hp isn?t much compared to the Pinto?s 100 hp or the Vega?s 85 hp. The sales numbers told the rest of the story, with just 27,682 Crickets sold compared to 352,402 Pintos and 274,699 Vegas being sold for the 1971 model year. Ouch. Have any of you seen a Plymouth Cricket?

[size=78%]Read more at[/size]


Plymouth Cricket - $3200
QuoteHen's teeth, rocking horse poop, Plymouth Crickets. Not necessarily in that order. The Cricket is the much-maligned small car entry from Chrysler Corporation, brought in from England to compete with the Ford Pinto, Chevy Vega and AMC Gremlin. Actually a way better, roomier car than any of them. Drives very nicely, even with the BW-35 automatic transmission. This was the last car engineered by Rootes, and it is a marvel. Weighs only 1900 lb., hence the sporty performance. Sold in the UK as the Hillman Avenger and extensively raced and rallied. Built for other markets for decades (ask a friend from Latin America or Brazil if they recognize it!) Styled by the boys in Detroit to fit in with the Chrysler lineup. Iconic styling note is the "hockey stick" taillights. Doomed to failure in the US due to inability to sort out quality issues back in England. Chrysler was selling the Mitsubishi-built Dodge Colt at the same time and it was easy to cut their losses by discontinuing the Cricket. Over 40,000 Crickets sold in the US, virtually none are left. Hagerty had the Cricket down as extinct until I reminded them that they were insuring mine.

I am selling this car because I have nowhere to keep it out of the weather. It is virtually rust free and almost complete. Needs restoration. It has a few issues, the most immediate being that I tore off the exhaust when I took it out of the barn. Will run, though hasn't been started in quite some time. It was driving until about three years ago. Call to discuss.


71 plymouth cricket
71 plymouth cricket
71 plymouth cricket
72 plymouth cricket
81 ford courier
82 jeep wagoneer
85 volvo 245
67 chevrolet c10
58 desoto firesweep
61 dodge d300


Updated images in the OP & here's a Brochure to look at

source via the Wiki Page for the Hillman Avenger : which led to this



Interesting (or not) I thought I;d chuck Plymouth Cricket into tradeMe (NZ's Ebay) and see what happened


No shortage of Starters or Alternators!

USA Based Seller so they would take a few days to get here LOL


Even a Reduction Starter, wonder how that would work on an Avenger? and Plymouth Memorabilia hah


Yep all 'early style' pre engaged starter (MUST have the right Ring gear)

and interesting 'cross' compatability on Starters (same spacing / location?)



MG MGA 1.5L 1956-1959
MG MGA 1.6L 1960-1962
MG MIDGET 1.1L 1961-1966
MG MIDGET 1.3L 1967-1974
MG MIDGET 1.5L 1975-1979

This item is sold by Rare Electrical, a business located in the USA and duty/gst may apply. Please see more at

Seller :


The starter motors and alternators are all made by Lucas and they share the same bolt pattern, that is why you will see that one alternator replaces so many different Lucas models

For example one of those starters


LUCAS: 25075B 25075D 25079 25079D 25079E 25079F 25079H 25079J 25079X 25079Y 25083B 25083E 25083F 25083H 25083J 25085 25085A 25085B 25088 25088A 25088B 25088C 25088D 25088E 25088F 25088G 25088H 25088I 25088J 25088X 25088Y 25105A 25105B 25112B 25118A 25122 25138 25142 25142A 25142B 25142C 25142D 25142E 25142F

They did this for ease and cost of manufacture, so instead of Lucas having to make hundreds of different alternators and starter motors, all of the British car manufacturers would design there engines around an existing Lucas product.

You don't need to by them from overseas. Pretty sure the Repco Lucas style alternators bolt straight up.

Even modern alternators a lot of the time use the same bolt pattern. The alternator I use in my 75 Avenger Panther is from a Nissan Pajero Diesel and it just bolts up.

1975 Hillman Avenger 1300 Super, 1972 Chrysler Valiant Charger 770, 1980 Chrysler Avenger 1.3GL
RPM Photography


Hah yeah knew wasnt exactly unobtainium yet the thought of a new Starter excited me

also the prospect that Repco accepts Hiilman Avenger as a Make & Model!

then :


on most parts they 'offer'

No Starters or Alternators come up after you define the search to a Alpine 4cyl 8Valve


They might not have one that is 100% official but they usually have ones that are compatible. I know I have brought a lucas style alternator from them an it fit fine, just take your old one in and see if they are compatible.

I have found all sorts that can fit an Avenger, I found a top radiator hose off some random mitsi that fits an Avenger

1975 Hillman Avenger 1300 Super, 1972 Chrysler Valiant Charger 770, 1980 Chrysler Avenger 1.3GL
RPM Photography



That Cricket ad is really interesting. They say that the boot of the wagon is fully carpeted, even on the sides, unlike the NZ versions which have vinyl on the sides. I would love to see a photo of the boot.

They also mention the sleeping mode so you can use the wagon as an overnight sleeper.

I see that you can also get it with air conditioning. I am surprised the Avenger engine even had enough power to run the AC :)

I did some searching on the Plymouth Cricket wagon. And here are some sweet wagon pics

This is the fully carpeted boot, quite different to NZ ones

They were pushing bed mode pretty hard! Check out this pick of story time!

They also showed off the boot size a lot and pushed it as a family wagon

Also found there was another "Plymouth Cricket" In Canada they sold the mitsi colt galants as a cricket

Not sure why they show it with the front seat folded down!

1975 Hillman Avenger 1300 Super, 1972 Chrysler Valiant Charger 770, 1980 Chrysler Avenger 1.3GL
RPM Photography


Hah yeah I saw the 75 'Cricket' (Mitsi Colt) on the weekend


a little point that came up in discussion this week :

Me : are all Crickets Quad Lights? and it appears yes, can you confirm?

Robin Replies : Yes, the alternative were not federal approved.

so that answers that

AND he went on to mention the Quarter Window option too. NZ never had those either

Photo cropped from

Part 1 Copy + Paste (to preserve the info should the website ever disappear : not copyright infringement intended)

QuotePlymouth Cricket and Hillman-Chrysler Avenger (and the Dodge Polara, 1500, and 1800 and VW 1500)
by David Zatz, thanks to Andy Thompson, WIlf, Colin McCormick, Shannon Stevenson, Graeme Roberts, and Jan Eyerman
Sold under six different names in North America, South America, and Europe, the Hillman Avenger may have seemed like one of the finest cars ever made, based on its spread through brands and nations. The Avenger may not have been the best car, but it was certainly a good cat at heart, with some unfortunate shortcomings. It became the Sunbeam, Plymouth Cricket, Dodge Avenger, Polara, 1500, and 1800, Talbot Avenger, and even carried the Volkswagen 1500.

QuoteWhy create the Hillman Avenger at all?
Rootes Group, which had acquired numerous English automakers, decided to create a car between their tiny Imp and their best-selling Minx in the mid-1960s. The Avenger would be a B car in European terms, or a subcompact in the United States, between the Simca 1100 and the Plymouth Valiant. The car would be more mainstream than their upscale Arrow, and sold by their mass-market Hillman brand. As such, it would have few frills, a low price, and conventional but up to date technology.

QuoteRoy Axe, the talented styling director, started working on the Avenger early in 1963, taking inspiration from Detroit. The tail was like that of the 1964 Plymouth Barracuda, and the front shares with future GM and Chrysler cars. Ahead of its time, perhaps, were the rectangular headlights on the low-trim version; the higher trim level had four round headlights. Late in the styling process, they gained vestigial fins on the front fenders, a common styling feature into the late 1970s, and a ridge in the middle of the hood.

The American inspiration did not extend to the front and rear overhangs, which were much shorter than any American car, to maximize interior space and handling; but they tried to get the cabin to look smaller than it was, with a longer-looking hood. Axe?s team eschewed standard waistlines, trying to integrate all portions of the car, resulting in something like Chrysler?s later ?fuselage? design.

By late 1965, they had made a few quarter-scale clay models and viewed them in their portable viewing tunnel, which made them seem real-sized. They decided to use a semi-fastback roofline, adding a small waistline crease midway along the rear doors.

The interior was also mocked-up and tested, with particular attention paid to ergonomics. One result of that was placing all the controls right around the steering column; the car had a ribbon speedometer and horizontal HVAC control, except for the top trim level, which had a round speedometer?a differentiation which must have added a great deal to the cost.

Late in 1966, having seen the full size clays, executives gave the green light. Given the hookup with Chrysler Corporation, which was buying heavily into Rootes?a decision that it might have regretted later?the Avenger became one of the earliest examples of a car with a computer-aided body shell design. That no doubt helped it stay competitive until the very end, when its handling was still rated above better-funded and newer competitors. Less intelligent was the decision to save money on rustproofing, replacing an underseal with electrolysed paint, resulting in early rust in many cars.

The car was unusually easy to service, and its long time in production without major changes helped with parts availability. The oil can even be changed from the side of the car; the oil drain plug can be reached from above the motor. This was deliberate as it was meant as a ?world car?  to be sold in areas without strong repair facilities.

One clever aspect of the design was using the same sheet metal fascia with different plastic pieces to set up three trim levels. This was part of an overall effort to keep costs as low as possible for the struggling company, while still having a base, midstream, and high-end model (which turned out, in the UK, to be DL, Super, and GL). The standard seat trim on the GL was brushed nylon, which was coming into European vogue. The L-shaped tail lights were unusual; putting the fuel filler behind a panel between the tail-lights was essentially ?a Hillman thing.?  The license plate had to move to a spot under the bumper.

QuoteKnowing the importance of this car?Chrysler wanted to expand through Europe and export small cars back to the United States and Canada?they tested numerous suspension, transmission, and engine setups. That included three types of four-cylinder engine (boxer, V-four, inline four), aluminum heads and blocks; and air and rubber suspensions. Not surprisingly, the Avenger ended up being fairly conventional, partly because it was intended as a world car?to be built and sold on at least three continents. This was easiest with a conventional design using parts available anywhere.

Thus, it ended up with a four-link coil rear suspension, a front in-line four-cylinder driving the rear wheels, and a drum brakes in back (depending on the year and location, the front brakes were discs). The car was engineered to be cheaper to make than the Hillman Hunter (Arrow / Paykan), with fewer body panels; some claim that it would have been cheaper with leaf-springs in back, but that they showed too clearly and looked cheap (this is likely untrue). Ride and handling were likely priorities, given the standard anti-roll bars as well.

1.8 liter (1800cc) Hillman engine

The same basic engine was made in no less than five displacements from 1.25 to 1.8 liters, a decision which may have helped to explain why Rootes failed: 1.25, 1.3, 1.5, 1.6, and 1.8 liters (in cc: 1248, 1295, 1498, 1599, and 1800). The most common engine, the 1.5 liter, had an 86.1mm bore and 64.3mm stroke; the 1.8 liter engine was only sold in South America. It was a pushrod overhead valve engine whose main difference from other OHV engines was shorter than usual pushrods. Ironically, they did not use Hillman?s existing 1725cc engine?which American executives were weighing for their own subcompact (which was never made).

The Cricket was announced in a June 1970 press release, setting the unveiling for November. The first 280 Crickets arrived on time, on November 20, 1970, with a manually choked one-barrel carburetor. From August 23, 1971 on, buyers could get the twin carburetors with an automatic choke and optional air conditioning and automatic transmissions.

The MacPherson strut front suspension, rack and pinion steering, coil-spring rear suspension, front disc brakes, and four-speed manual transmissions were the shape of things to come, and the Cricket sold fairly well for its class in 1971, with 27,682 buyers. For 1972-73, though, sales dropped down to 13,882?combined?partly, one guesses, due to a price hike to $2,017 in 1972, breaking the two-thousand-dollar barrier (the wagon, launched in 1972, listed for $2,399); and partly due to the build quality.

A 98 cubic inch engine was optional for 1972, and was needed for the automatic transmission. The wagon, which showed up in Spring 1972, had the 1.5 liter twin-carb engine; an automatic was optional.

(Where 1300cc = 91 ci and 1500cc = 98 ci)

The Cricket had just a 98 inch wheelbase, and was only 167 inches long; it was 62.5 inches high. It ran on regular gas, with an 8.5:1 compression ratio (another source claims 9.2:1). The car used 13-inch wheels; a typical Valiant or Duster had 14-inch wheels.


Part 2 (as the Post Character limit exceeded)

QuoteThe Plymouth Cricket stops chirping
The last date any Cricket was brought to the United States was January 1, 1973, ironically the same year as the first major American fuel crisis.

The Cricket?s failure were partly timing, but mainly quality. The car was brought to the United States before the bugs had been found in the UK, and it was not tested on harsh American roads in the harsh American weather. The price was close to the Dart/Valiant, a much bigger car with far more torque; and in 1970, no-one even imagined anything about a fuel crisis, so why bother with a small car the price of a larger one?

It was a shame that the Cricket arrived too early; it had good handling, good room for a car smaller than the Pinto or Vega, and a pleasing design. Still, they sold around 41,000 Crickets over roughly two years?three model years. If it had been a higher quality car, and kept on into late 1973, it would likely have been a big success; and it would have met emissions standards, other than the hot-cam version, into the late 1970s. (That said, one reason for not important cars in 1973?for selling cars imported in 1972 as 1973 models?was to avoid conforming to new regulations. They were titled as 1973 cars but the VIN indicates 1972 as the model year.)

Chrysler did a lot of that at that time; 1969 Valiants came with 170 cubic inch slant sixes from September 1968 until December 31, 1968 and then were equipped the 198 engine from January 1, 1969 until the end of 1969 production.

The Dodge Colt, a rebadged Mitsubishi, replaced the Cricket starting in 1973. Its quality was well above most American cars.

QuoteCanada and Puerto Rico?s Mitsubishi Crickets
Chrysler Canada kept the Cricket name when they moved from the Avenger to the Colt. The Plymouth equivalent to the Colt GT was the Plymouth Cricket Formula S, using a name from past Barracudas. These Crickets actually had different grilles and taillights from the Colts; and they were technically dubbed the Cricket OHC as a way to differentiate it from the British versions. The Cricket name was replaced in 1976 by the Plymouth Colt. The Canadian naming was also used in Puerto Rico, except that in PR, the Cricket name went into 1976 as well.

QuoteBrazil: Volkswagen 1500 and Dodge Polara
Chrysler do (of) Brasil made Hillman Avengers from 1971 to 1980 as the Dodge 1500, 1800, and Polara; Chrysler Argentina also made these cars, except the Polara. Chrysler do Brasil used the Polara name because the original Portugese translation of Dodge (?Dodginho?) did not sell well; moving it to to Polara, which had already been used on Valiant-based cars, fixed that. They only sold the two-door, which had different rear side windows from the UK version.

In 1975, the Avenger was the first car to be converted to alcohol as part of Brazil?s program to use excess sugar cane as fuel. 4 Rodas described the changes as including higher compression, a larger coil, a smoother spark advance, revised carburetor (the stochastic ratio was 1:11 rather than 1:15), and an intake with a hot water jacket to preheat the fuel. A small gasoline reservoir was helped owners actually start their cars. The results were around 6% lower fuel economy, 6% more peak horsepower, and, oddly, the loss of nearly one second in 0-60 mph runs.

Brazil added GLS and GL models in 1980, making it the first Brazilian production vehicle to have a standard automatic transmission; sales went up to around 13,000 per year as a result. Chrysler left Brazil in 1981, and local production of the Dodge 1500/1800 ended.

The 1980-81 versions, sold by Volkswagen after they had purchased Chrysler Argentina in 1980, were dubbed ?Dodge 1500 made by Volkswagen Argentina? (the "Made by Volkswagen Argentina" portion was added in a sticker on the rear window or a metal plate in the front). A 1982 restyling gave it more of a Volkswagen Rabbit/Golf look, and a ?new? name?Volkswagen 1500.

QuoteAlcohol, fuel quality, and carburetors
by Rogerio Ferraresi
In Brazil, despite the larger displacement (1,800 cc), the Polara only ever used a single-barrel carburetor. It may seem strange to have a larger engine with more skimpy carburetion, but the larger displacement was needed because of the low octane of Brazilian gasoline at the time.

The exception was the 1980 Polara GLS, which left the factory with the two-barrel carburetor and Weber flow from Wercabr?s (Weber + Brazil), a company that succeeded DFV Vasconcelos, from the DFV carburetors, in the market. This Weber carburetor had a second mechanical drive stage, and only used gasoline for fuel.

The Polara 1800 engine was converted to alcohol by factory engineers while it was still owned by Chrysler, but Volkswagen did not invest in making that engine, as it had already decided to stop making the car (unlike what happened in Argentina). Only the 318 V8 engine from the Dart line and Dodge trucks were made for alcohol; this required modifications to the carburetor, such as using chrome plating to resist corrosion. Volkswagen invested in this process because the first VW trucks in Brazil used Dodge V8 engines. These were the ?canavieiros? engines.

QuoteDodge 1500 and 1800 in Argentina
Rootes meant for the Avenger to be big in Argentina even during development. Chrysler-Fevre Argentina S.A. started producing Dodge 1500s not long after US sales began: August 1971. They even got a higher-displacement version of the same four-cylinder, a 1.8 liter which would have helped the American Cricket. The company cleverly kept the name and looks of the car secret in its early advertising, to build up suspense.

On launch, the car was reviewed favorably for its agility. The car was more agile than its American competitors, with an independent suspension and anti-roll bars, and it was easier to fit into parking spaces and small roads.

As in New Zealand, Argentina only made sedans, and, later, wagons (estates); they didn?t make or import two-doors. The rear lights were changed to plain horizontal ones, which would come to the UK; but they were stamped that way from the start in Argentina, while the change in the UK was done with poorly-fitted inserts.

As in the UK, buyers had three models, all four-door sedans. The base had the 72 horsepower 1.5 liter engine; the SPL had higher trim and starting in 1974, the option of an automatic and 92-horsepower, 1.8 liter version of the same engine. Finally, at the top of the line, was the Dodge GT-90 with the twin carburetors.

Like the Avengers in the UK, the 1977 Dodge 1500 series were restyled, getting a new grille and larger headlamps; a more powerful model, the GT-100, was added to the top of the line, using the 1.8 liter engine topped by twin Stromberg carburetors. With 105 bhp, a substantial increase, the company put in a big 215 mm (8.5 inch) clutch; it was only sold in dark blue and black, with stripes. Wagons showed up in 1978, dubbed Rural. These changes and options must have helped; they sold 26,148 cars in 1979 and 27,627 in 1980, after years of running under 15,000.

With Hillman already owned by Peugeot, cash-strapped Chrysler sold off their Argentinian operations to Volkswagen in 1980. Volkswagen added stickers for a while until they tooled up badges, to declare these Dodges to be built by VW. Finally in 1982, they added a VW-like grille, with new front and rear lights and a new interior, including the dashboard; and it became the Volkswagen 1500. Models were base, Full, 1.8, 1.8 Full, and Rural Full; the latter was the wagon, with the 1.8 liter engine and air conditioning. A new stripped down model was launched in 1987?the basic design was now 16 years old. For 1988, buyers could get a five-speed manual transmission, and more buyers could get air conditioning.

Argentina produced 262,668 Dodge 1500s and Volkswagen 1500s. The car was finally dropped after 19 years, nearly unchanged, in 1990, with a solid reputation for durability.

"We" / NZ get a mention again hah

QuoteNew Zealand Hillman, Chrysler, and Talbot Avengers
based on a story for Allpar by Shannon Stevenson

Todd Motors had distributed all Chrysler and Rootes products in New Zealand since 1924, and, starting in late 1970, started making the Avenger as well, in four-door sedan form and with the 1.5 liter engine?the largest available other than the South American exclusive 1.8 liter. At about this time, Todd also talked with Mitsubishi about making Galants locally, which started in 1972?for coupes only, to separate it from the Avenger (which is why they made no Avenger coupes). This was oddly prescient of Chrysler in the United States, which made four-door Dodge Avengers while rebadging Mitsubishi coupes as Dodge Avengers around the turn of the century.

The Avenger was made by Todd Motors using knockdown kits from the UK, using some local content to meet national rules, and whatever changes were needed and practical. Still, Todd apparently built the Avenger to a higher standard than Hillman itself did.

One year after the Avenger itself was launched, Todd launched the TC; it had four doors but was sportier, with sports seats, black side stripes, vinyl trim, bright colors, and dual carburetors (TC stood for Twin Carburetor). This was replaced at the end of 1972 by the Avenger Alpine, a sport/luxury package with better seat padding, four round headlights, a vinyl roof, and the twin carburetors; it was designed to be a miniature Valiant Regal, in essence. (The Alpine badge was removed when the Chrysler Alpine reached New Zealand.) 1973 also saw metric speedometers on the Avengers, a minor difference from the still-Imperial UK versions.

New Zealand car sales had reached 100,000 units per year in 1973, and the government allowed more imports given the inability of local plants to keep up. That seemed like a good time to launch the (imported) Avenger Alpine GLS, which added heated rear windows and other features. Imported Avengers could have interior colors such as blue and purple, while the domestic cars used only beige or brown vinyl, with white headliners; but some English dashboard colors faded quickly while the New Zealand?s black dashboards braved the sun well.

As 1974 dawned, both the UK and New Zealand upgraded the top engine to a 1.6 liter version. In addition, the rectangular Hillman grille badge was switched to a round badge; and a Borg-Warner four-speed automatic became optional. The Alpine would later lose its dual carburetor setup; and the 1.3 liter engine was added, as a price-reduction option, to respond to the 1973 fuel crisis.

Given the high sales, Todd Motors built an environmentally friendly plant in Wellington, dubbed Todd Park. Opening in 1974, it would be able to make 30,000 cars per year, and be more flexible to accommodate many different models. The company provided the factory photos you see here; they also made Mitsubishis and Nissans in the same plant?three different makers, all competing with each other (though Chrysler was supposed to be buying Mitsubishi).

The new plant allowed for the ?five door? wagon (Estate), which boasted both engine sizes. Possibly the smallest five-door wagon sold in New Zealand, it was applauded for its space usage and convenience; handling benefited from the coil spring rear suspension (most wagons still had leaf springs).

There were even direct competitors to the Avenger on the line, Mitsubishi?s Lancer, and later, Mirage and Celeste Coupe. There was much in-house fighting between the Avenger and some of Todd?s own other products!

The increased range of Avenger models assumed sales would stay strong, but they did not, and after a poor 1975 they ended up with a great deal of unsold Avengers in early 1976. Todd Motors decided to try to bolster sales by racing the car in the Rally of New Zealand; they had done this in 1975 with the Mitsubishi Lancer, with poor results. Avis agreed to buy Avengers in bulk if the car reached the top ten in the rally, also advertising the production car and sponsoring the rally car.

Driven by Scottish rally champion Andrew Cowan, a special UK-built two-door 1973 Avenger was fitted with numerous upgrades (including the Brazilian 1.8 liter engine), but still met the rules. Cowan drove the Avenger to a very definite victory in the Heatway race, and sales picked up rather dramatically; alloy wheels became a popular dealer-installed option. There was some thought of using the 1.8 liter engine in the Avenger, but the executives decided it would hurt sales of the Hillman Hunter.

In addition to Avis and Todd, Shell Oil and the Automobile Association used the rally Avenger in their advertisements, helping sales. The Avengers purchased by Avis were largely 1.3 liter versions.

Finally, the Avenger gained a facelift in 1977, as it did in the UK, mirroring the Chrysler Alpine?and taking on the Chrysler name instead of Hillman?s. The new grilles were either grey or black. The range was rationalized a bit, with the 1.3 GL, 1.6 LS wagon, and 1.6 GLS, the latter having an automatic. The factory still would not add alloy wheels, sunroofs, driving lights, or fog lights, which became popular aftermarket items. All the cars had P155/70R13 tires.

The change in name may have helped sales, because Chrysler did have many followers from imported Australian cars. In 1978 and 1979, the Avenger was in the top ten of local car sales. The old design was considered by many to be a plus, since it was easy to fix.

A commercial version of the wagon was announced in early 1978; it had just the four-speed manual transmission, two doors, and 1.6 liter engine, a wooden floor, fixed rear windows, and no back seats. It was easier to get loans for commercial vehicles, so many bought Avenger commercial vans, got the floor carpeted, and added rear seats. Electronic ignition quickly followed, ?a Chrysler thing.?

Instead of selling the new Chrysler Sunbeam?a hatchback version of the Avenger?Todd decided to make the Mitsubishi Mirage / Colt, with the snazzy twin-gear eight-speed manual shifter; they, or someone, did import a few Sunbeams. That was true even though the Avenger, in 1979, was still among the top ten sellers. What?s more, NZ Consumer rated it as a top pick, among the Escort, Chevette, Allegro, and Corolla (though the Corolla was their top choice). This was, incidentally, the final year of the Australian Valiant.

A year after Peugeot purchased Chrysler Europe and changed the names of the Rootes-Chrysler cars to Talbot, New Zealand followed suit and the car went from Hillman to Chrysler to, now, Talbot Avenger. This may have simply been a matter of using up old grilles and nameplates; in any case, it was the last year for the Avenger, which ended in late 1980. They had made 26,500 Avengers, not bad for a relatively small population. The Escort, Austin Allegro, and Chevette were also all dropped, replaced by Japanese cars. The Talbot Alpine outlasted the Avenger by four years, lasting until 1984.