Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
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 Glasgow, Soctland.
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 conventional.
The 4 cylinder overhead valve 1.3 litre and 1.5 litre 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 It would be quietly withdrawn from US dealerships after only 2 years.
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.
In 1976 Chrysler decided to market the Avenger under it’s 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 stick” style tail lights were dropped in favour of more conventional units.
The top of the former “hockey sticks” had body coloured 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.