The Chrysler Avenger started out in 1970 as a Hillman,
being initially manufactured at the Rootes Group’s
plant in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, England, although production
would switch to the companies Linwood facility near
It was the first car to be developed
by Rootes following the Chrysler takeover of 1967,
however there were some obvious styling concessions
made to Americanize the car for the new company owner.
The “Coke” bottle waistline and semi-fastback
styling gave the car a very modern appearance for
the time, although under the skin the car was entirely
The 4 cylinder overhead valve 1.3 liter
and 1.5 liter engines, while entirely new, drove
through a coil sprung suspended live rear axle. Although
it was obviously “old school” the motoring
press were unable to fault the car’s supple
ride and reasonably well sorted chassis.
In any comparison
with its competitors, the Avenger would nearly always
prove to be the best of the pack. The car would sell
well against such rivals as the Ford Escort and Vauxhall
Viva. In fact the car was doing so well in the UK
that Chrysler took the ambitious step of trying to
sell it in the US market.
Americans had, however,
been used to something a little larger, a little
more reliable and a little better built, and the
car flopped. It would be quietly withdrawn from US
dealerships after only 2 years.
In 1972 Chrysler introduced
a “fleet” version,
a most basic and utilitarian version designed to
appeal to the budget conscious fleet purchaser. Like
jettisoning sand bags from a rapidly descending hot
air balloon, the “fleet” would have just
about every creature comfort removed in an effort
to keep costs as low as possible. Even the sun visor
for the front passenger was removed.
Thankfully there were some rather better equipped versions also released
that year, including five door estate version of
the existing 1250 Deluxe, 1250 Super, 1500 Deluxe
and 1500 Super. A two-door version was also introduced,
its trim following that of the four door.
The Avenger was extensively marketed in Europe, first as a Sunbeam
(but without the Avenger name), the Sunbeam 1250
and Sunbeam 1500 sold reasonably well. In Northern
Europe the car was sold as the Sunbeam Avenger, and
the car was even manufactured in Brazil where is
was sold as the Dodge 1800/Polara (where the car
was fitted with a larger 1800cc engine), and in Argentina
as the Dodge 1500. In South Africa the car was fitted
with Peugeot engines and badged as a Dodge, at some
iterations were even sold as far a field as New Zealand.
1976 Chrysler decided to market the Avenger under
own name, and at the same time gave the car a comprehensive
makeover. The new frontal treatment featured squared
off headlights, while at the rear the distinctive “hockey
tail lights were dropped in favour of more conventional
The top of the former “hockey sticks” had
body colored metal in their place. But the time
was running out for the Avenger, it now being thoroughly
outclassed by the likes of the VW Golf and Renault
14. In 1978 Chrysler Europe would go bankrupt, and
following the takeover by Peugeot the Chrysler models
were re-braded as Talbot’s.