Tag Archives: Avenger

Championship Clincher – Talbot Sunbeam Lotus (Type 81)

In 1977 the European division of Chrysler launched the Chrysler Sunbeam hatchback which was financed with Government aid that was part of a strategic plan to keep jobs at Chryslers Linwood factory in Scotland where the Hillman Imp production had come to a halt in 1976.

The new hatchback used the floor plan of the Hillman Avenger, another model manufactured at Linwood, of which sales were falling and which was to be discontinued in 1981.

Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, Race Retro, Stoneleigh

In 1978 Chrysler commissioned Lotus to develop a competition version of the Sunbeam hatchback, which appears to have shared the same type number ’81’ as the Lotus Ford ’81’ Formula One car.

Incidentally this appears to be the third of two completely unrelated projects have shared a Lotus Type number, I have read suggestions this occurred because some one lost the book in which the Lotus projects were recorded, I have also seen suggestions that what ever Lotus type numbers vehicles have now, they were not necessarily the same as those that appeared on the original Lotus drawings.

The Sunbeam Lotus was produced with a 150 hp for road trim and 250 hp for competition rally trim both versions using variants of the Lotus Type 907 motor first seen in the Lotus 62 sports racing car and later in the Lotus Elite, Type 75, road car.

Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, Race Retro, Stoneleigh

The Sunbeam Lotus was first seen in early 1979 but by the end of the year Chrysler had sold it’s European operations to Peugeot for US$1 (One US Dollar) which came packaged with all of Chrysler Europe’s debt. For 1980 all of Chrysler Europe’s models including the Chrysler Sunbeam Lotus were rebranded as Talbots and all of the road going Sunbeam Lotus models appear with Talbot badges.

In 1979 a works Chrysler Sunbeam Lotus team entered selected World Championship Rally events in anticipation for a full scale onslaught in 1981. The following year the now Talbot entered team scored three wins two for Henri Toivonen one on snow and the other on gravel, while Frenchman Guy Fréquelin partnered by Jean Todt, since of Peugeot and Ferrari management and now president of the FIA.

In 1981 going into the final rally of the season the RAC Rally Guy and Jean led the World Rally Drivers Chanpionship and Talbot the manufacturers championship despite only managing to score one overall victory. For some reason Guy never got to grips with his second RAC Rally start and he retired while Ari Vatenen his only challenger finished second in a Ford Escort behind Hannu Mikkola in his Audi. After Henri Toivonen also retired the manufacturers championship was clinched for Talbot by Swedes Stig Blomqvist and Bjorn Cederberg in the #14 Swedish Dealer Team entered Talbot which carried the registration/license plated LAC999V.

However I can’t be sure that the car shown in the two photos above is the same car because all thought the car above carries the LAC999V plates it is painted in the factory Talbot Sunbeam Lotus colours which were not the same as the colours carried on Stig’s car in the 1981 RAC Rally.

Thanks for joining me on this “Championship Clincher” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a Rolls Royce. Don’t forget to come back now !


Rootes ‘n’ Chrysler – Hillman Avenger Tiger Replica

The Hillman Avenger was conceived as early as 1963 to replace the Hillman Minx, however another project that became the Hillman Hunter eventually replaced the Minx and the Avenger was re conceived in 1965 as a midrange vehicle between the Hillman Imp and the Hunter going head to head in the market against the dominant Ford Cortina and much maligned Morris Marina.

Hillman Tiger Replica, Castle Combe, C&SCAD

Doing away with the traditional waist line and adopting a ‘flow back’ the Avenger avoided looking in anyway stunted alongside it’s larger Hunter stablemate, the Avenger body shell was one of the earliest to benefit from the use computers in the design process.

Hillman Tiger Replica, Castle Combe, C&SCAD

In 1970 the Avenger was launched with a conventional, for the period, front engine rear wheel drive layout which dispensed with the conventional rear leaf springs in favour of a four link rear suspension to give the vehicle superior handling characteristics.

Hillman Tiger Replica, Castle Combe, C&SCAD

Two sporting versions of the Avenger were built both with 107 hp uprated engines with big valves and two Webber Carbs , the Tiger 1, launched in March ’72, is externally distinguishable by square headlights, a power bulge in the bonnet, four fog lights and a set of Minilite wheels. Intended to be an edition limited to 100 the Tiger 1 ended up being limited to 200 examples, all bar 3 of the Tiger 1 models were Sundance Yellow with black stripes the exceptions all being white with Rootes Group (Chrysler) blue stripes.

Hillman Tiger Replica, Castle Combe, C&SCAD

The Tiger 2 featuring a matt black bonnet, four round headlights and a cheaper set of alloy wheels but retaining the rear spoiler was launched in October ’72 with a production run of 400. Tiger 2’s were available in Sundance Yellow or Red with the familiar black detailing.

Hillman Tiger Replica, Castle Combe, C&SCAD

Despite the badging on this vehicle an HPI check of the registration leads me to confidently believe that this particular vehicle is not one of only 20 original Tigers thought to exist today. Bernard Unett won the British Saloon Car Championship in 1974 and 1976 driving Mopar sponsored Avengers. In all over 600,000 Avengers were built over 11 years to 1981.

US readers might know this model better as the Plymouth Cricket, it was also sold as the Dodge Avenger – South Africa, Dodge 1800 & Polara – Brazil, Dodge 1500 in Uruguay and Argentina where it was also known as the Volkswagen 1500 !

With thanks to David Rootes who facilitated my visit to the Classic and Saloon Car Action day at Castle Combe recently.

Thanks for popping by the Tiger edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil’ psycho on tyres’, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !