The Hillman Avenger is a rear-wheel drive small family car originally manufactured by the former Rootes division of Chrysler Europe from 1970–1978, badged from 1976 onward as the Chrysler Avenger.

Between 1979 and 1981 it was manufactured by PSA Peugeot Citroën and badged as the Talbot Avenger. The Avenger was marketed in North America as the Plymouth Cricket and was the first Plymouth to have a four-cylinder engine since the 1932 Plymouth Model PB was discontinued.

The Avenger was initially produced at Rootes' plant in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, England, and later at the company's Linwood facility near Glasgow, Scotland.

Introduced in February 1970, the Avenger was significant as it was the first and last car to be developed by Rootes after the Chrysler takeover in 1967. Stylistically, the Avenger was undoubtedly very much in tune with its time; the American-influenced "Coke Bottle" waistline and semi-fastback rear-end being a contemporary styling cue, indeed the Avenger would be the first British car to be manufactured with a one piece plastic front grille. It was similar in appearance to the larger Ford Cortina#TC Mark III (1970–1976), which was launched later in 1970.

However, from an engineering perspective it was rather conventional, using a 4-cylinder all-iron overhead valve engine in 1250 or 1500 capacities driving a coil spring suspended live axle at the rear wheels. Unlike any previous Rootes design, there were no "badge-engineered" Humber or Singer versions in the UK market. The Avenger was immediately highly praised by the press for its good handling characteristics and generally good overall competence on the road and it was considered a significantly better car to drive than contemporaries like the Morris Marina.

Initially, the Avenger was available as a four-door saloon in DL, Super and GL trim levels. The DL and Super could be had with either the 1250 or 1500 cc engines, but the GL was only available with the 1500 cc engine. Since the DL was the basic model in the range, it featured little more than rubber mats and a very simple dashboard with a strip-style speedometer. The Super was a bit better equipped, featuring carpets, armrests, twin horns and reversing lights, though the dashboard was carried over from the DL. The top-spec GL model featured four round headlights (which was a big improvement over the rectangular ones from the Hillman Hunter that were used on the DL and Super), internal bonnet release, two-speed wipers, brushed nylon seat trim (previously never used on British cars), reclining front seats, and a round-dial dashboard with extra instrumentation.

Not only was the Avenger's styling totally new, but so were the engine and transmission units, which were not at all like those used in the larger "Arrow" series Hunter. Another novelty for the Avenger was the use of a plastic radiator grille, a first in Britain and at 4 ft 6 in (137 cm) wide claimed as the largest mass-produced plastics component used at this time by the European motor industry.

The Avenger was a steady seller in the 1970s, in competition with the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Viva. Chrysler was attempting to make the Avenger to be a "world car", and took the ambitious step of marketing the Avenger as the Plymouth Cricket in the U.S. Complaints of rust, unreliability, plus the general unpopularity of smaller cars on the American market, saw it withdrawn from that market after only two years.

Introduction of body and trim variations

1972 Hillman Avenger Saloon with "Hockey Stick" rear light clusters
In October 1970, the Avenger GT was added to the range. It had a twin-carburettor 1500 cc engine, four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission (also optional on the 1500 DL, Super and GL). The GT featured twin round headlights, go-faster stripes along the sides of the doors and "dustbin lid" wheel covers, which were similar to those found on the various Datsuns and Toyotas of the 1970s.

The basic fleet Avenger was added to the range in February 1972. It was offered with either 1250 or 1500 cc engines (the latter available with the automatic transmission option). The fleet Avenger was very basic: it did not have a sun visor for the front passenger, and the heater blower had just a single speed. In October 1972, the Avenger GT was replaced by the Avenger GLS, which came with a vinyl roof and Rostyle sports wheels.

In March 1972, the five-door estate versions were introduced, in DL and Super forms (both available with either 1250 or 1500 cc engines) and basically the same specifications as the saloon versions. However, 'heavy-duty springing' was fitted and the estate had a maximum load capacity of 1,040 lb (470 kg), compared to 840 lb (380 kg) for the saloon.

Hillman Avenger Saloon: a two-door version was offered from 1973. The absence of wrap-around turn indicators on the front corners identifies this as a pre-facelift Avenger.
The two-door saloon models were added in March 1973, with all engine and trim options of the existing four-door range.[5] Styling of the two-door was similar to the four-door, but the side profile was less curvaceous.

The car was extensively marketed in continental Europe, first as a Sunbeam. It was without the Avenger name in France, where it was known as the Sunbeam 1250 and 1500; later the 1300 and 1600. Some northern European markets received the car as the Sunbeam Avenger.

Both engine sizes were upgraded in October 1973. The 1250 became the 1300, while the 1500 became the 1600 with nearly all the same previous trim levels except for the basic fleet Avenger, which was discontinued at this point. The GL and GT trim levels were now also offered with the 1300 engine and two-door saloon body.


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