Contrasting Fortunes (Part Two)

We conclude the story of the Avenger and 160/180/2-Litre and their very different fates. 

(c) autocar

The C-Car programme that would ultimately become the Chrysler 160/180/2-Litre* ran in parallel with the B-Car Avenger, under the supervision of Rootes Design Director Roy Axe. The initial plan was to offer the C-Car in three variants; a base 1.8 litre Hillman version to replace the top-line Hunter models, a 2.0 litre version carrying the Sunbeam marque and a 2.5 litre version to replace the Humber Hawk. A stretched D-Car variant was also envisaged to replace the Humber Super Snipe. The 2.0 litre and 2.5 litre C-Car models would be powered by a new range of V6 engines.

Like the B-Car Avenger, the design would be conventional, but competently executed. The styling proposal looked like an enlarged Avenger, but with more conservative detailing such as the straight waistline and upright rear lamps. The interior on the high-line versions would feature wood and leather, a well-regarded feature of traditional Humber models.

In isolation, this plan appeared perfectly logical, with the possible exception of resurrecting the Sunbeam marque for the mid-line model, which might have taken badge engineering a step too far. Unfortunately, trouble was brewing on the other side of the English Channel.

Chrysler had purchased a 64% majority stake in the French auto maker Simca in 1963 and completed its takeover in July 1970. Both Rootes and Simca had been allowed to operate autonomously by their US owners and the latter was working on Projet 929, its own plan for a large car.

In early 1969, Chrysler belatedly intervened to stop this duplication of effort and decided that the C-Car was the more attractive and highly developed proposal. However, in order to mollify its French outpost, Chrysler handed the project over for Simca to complete. Rootes was initially allowed to continue planning a more upmarket UK version of the C-Car, but even this consolation prize was rescinded before the car was launched.

Despite being almost production-ready, the proposed large capacity V6 engines, which would have been heavily taxed in France, were canned, writing off over £30m already invested. Likewise, the wood and leather interior, air-conditioning and other embellishments such as twin headlamps that would have distinguished the high-line models were dropped. The stretched D-Car proposal was abandoned completely.

(c) classicshonestjohn

The car was launched as the Chrysler 160 and 180 at the Paris Salon in 1970. The engines were Simca designed four-cylinder OHC units in 1639cc 80bhp and 1812cc 97bhp versions, specified to align with the French motor taxation class system. The larger engined version had a low-key introduction in the UK market in early 1971.

UK reaction varied from indifference to outright hostility. Instead of the new Humber that had been expected, here was a big Avenger made in France and carrying an American brand that enjoyed no equity. What was perceived as Chrysler’s betrayal of its UK subsidiary was widely known. It didn’t help that the car was no more than competent to drive, with a strong tendency to understeer. It was a pleasant enough cruiser, but no performance car, with a top speed of 101mph** and a 0-60mph time of 12.4 seconds. Fuel consumption was heavy, averaging 21.7mpg. Instead of real wood and leather, the interior was an ornate and heavily American-influenced confection of vinyl, plastic and chrome.

Even in France the 180 sold poorly, so much so that the Simca 1501 it was intended to replace remained in production, initially as a run-out model.  The 1501 was subsequently reintroduced in 1973 and remained in Simca’s line-up until the launch of the 1307/Alpine in 1975.

A 1981cc version of the new car, branded 2-Litre rather than the more logical 200, was introduced in early 1973. It was distinguished with driving lamps and a vinyl roof and came only with automatic transmission. It made little impact in the market on either side of the English Channel. So desperate was Chrysler to try and stimulate interest in this forgotten car that the company rebranded it Chrysler-Simca for continental European markets in 1977.

After Chrysler sold off its bankrupted European assets to Peugeot-Citroen in 1978 for a nominal $1, the 180 continued to limp on and briefly became a Talbot in 1980 before it finally expired. During the course of its ten-year lifespan, there were almost no meaningful updates made to the 180. Its meagre sales simply didn’t justify further investment.

One country where it did sell was Spain, after production was transferred to Chrysler’s Barreiros subsidiary from Poissy in 1976. As a locally built model, it enjoyed purchase tax exemptions in the protected (effectively, closed) Spanish market and was favoured by taxi drivers. Verified sales data are hard to come by, but it seems that the 180 never sold more than about 2,000 units a year in the UK. In total, 288,294*** units were sold throughout Europe over its ten-year lifespan.

(c) avengers-in-time

Why did the 180 fail so miserably? First, Chrysler’s attempt to find a compromise in 1969 regarding its design and build alienated management in both Ryton and Poissy, each regarding the car as not made here. Second, the decision, again in a misguided attempt at compromise, to launch it as a Chrysler more than five years before a second European model (the Alpine) would carry that marque name, handicapped the 180 from the outset. Third, its lack of a unique model name in place of the cumbersome 160/180/2-Litre nomenclature probably confused the (non-) buying public still further, as did its bland and nondescript big Avenger appearance.

The 180 was never a great car, but neither was the Avenger. Had it instead been launched as a Humber Hawk and Super Snipe (with a better interior) in the UK, and a Simca in France, it might have done better. A tantalising glimpse of how a new Super Snipe might have looked was seen in the Chrysler Centura, an Australian built derivative of the 180, with an elongated nose and twin-headlamp front end behind which sat a 3.5L or 4.0L straight-six engine. In any event, this is only speculation, and we’ll probably never really know why the 180 failed so comprehensively.

* Hereafter referred to as the 180 for convenience

** Performance and fuel consumption data from a ‘Motor’ magazine road test, April 1971

*** simcatalbotclub.org

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

36 thoughts on “Contrasting Fortunes (Part Two)”

  1. For Continental buyers who had no fond memories of Humbers this car was simply one more example of overblown American styling which at that time definitely went ouf of favour on their side of the Channel.
    Compared to this car the Simca 1501 looked a lot more attractive with a more attractive interior.

    1. Two questions regarding the Fiat origins of the Simca 1301/1501 engine.

      1) – Were the Simca engines distantly related to those used on the Fiat 1100 Type 103 via the Aronde?

      2) – If there is indeed a link between the Simca and Fiat engines, were the latter also enlarged for use in the Fiat 1300/1500, Fiat Pininfarina Cabriolet (including the 1568cc unit in the Fiat-derived OSCA 1600S) and even the Fiat 1800/2100/2300 in 6-cylinder forum?

  2. Apparently there was an additional proposal to extend the range further by stretching the C Car floor pan to form a D larger Car as a replacement for the Super Snipe before the project was canned in 1970.

    Perhaps the larger D Car had it reached production would have possessed the required rigidity to cope with the Chrysler LA V8, which was not the case with the C Car derived Chrysler Centura when they experimented with fitting a 5.2-litre LA V8 into the Centura.

    More perplexed by the fact that unlike the B Car, the C Car never reached North America (let alone South America). Both Cars along with a production D Car would have helped solve Chrysler’s problems with downsizing its cars in the US that threatened to bankrupt the company.

    On the subject of the B Car Avenger despite legislation threating the sportscar segment around that period, would have served as a potentially suitable basis for a roadster to properly replace the Sunbeam Alpine.

    1. The US Chrysler “small” big cars began for the 1962 model year and were the market failures. Full size and then some was back by 1965, with the smaller ones kept to do battle with the new GM Malibu and existing Ford Fairlane, so I don’t see the connection with these later Simca/Rootes cars at all. What downsizing was required by Chrysler in 1970? That requirement was years in the future, in the late 1970s when Chrysler was going bust at home and had to sell out Chryler Europe to Peugeot.

      I think Allpar.com covers Chrysler’s adventures in Europe quite well. I read the stories years ago, and they answer some of the questions this article has brought up.

      First, here’s the page on the 160/180, which explains the (lack of) V6. The bringing back of the old Simca because of low sales. And rags on the poor quality of the Avenger.

      https://www.allpar.com/cars/chrysler/180.html

      Here’s a page nominally on the Horizon, which gives an interesting perspective. There’s links to other pertinent stuff at the botom from it:

      https://www.allpar.com/omni/horizon-c2.html

      “The relative heaviness and cost of the torsion bar setup was to penalize the European C2 throughout its life. I always felt that this was a bad decision.” There are many more gems there, and the reasoning behind them.

      Daniel’s remark “the interior was an ornate and heavily American-influenced confection of vinyl, plastic and chrome.” made me laugh. What, just like Ford and Vauxhall then? Remember the Cortina Mk 111? British car design beyond the XJ6 and a few others was hardly wonderful at the time. The BMC FWD stuff was okay but so badly production-engineered and made, it was a joke. rather like the Avenger. The finish was generally awful. Look at the pictures of misalignment in this article.

    2. Was referring to the possibility of a production D Car being produced in the US from the early/mid-1970s replacing either the later Chrysler A platform / Valiant or more likely in place of the F / Aspen platform as an expedient solution.

      The position of the US version of the C Car would be interesting since it features 4-doors unlike the smaller Pinto or Vega, yet is smaller compared to the Maverick and Nova nor able to use the LA V8 though Ford did apparently consider importing the more similarly sized European Granada at one point.

    3. Hi Bill. I’m late catching up with your comment but, regarding my description of the 180’s interior, the comparison I was making was not with contemporary Ford and Vauxhall interiors, but with the Humber Hawk and Super Snipe, which the 180 was originally designed to replace:

      I thought that was clear from the context. In any event, I’m glad I made you laugh!

  3. Here’s the aforementioned Chrysler Centura:

    Certainly, it has a more characterful (if Americanised) front end than the bland 180. Superficially, it looks perfect for the US market at the time, so strange it wasn’t transplanted, or at least imported.

    However, if we take a look around the back:

    They’ve done it again! Another bodged rear wing end cap, just like the facelifted Avenger.

    1. The first CKD kits that were sent to Adelaide for the Centura arrived at roughly the same time as the French nuclear testing in the Pacific, so the wharfie’s union refused to touch them – they sat on the docks long enough that the panels were rusting by the time they were assembled. It wasn’t a strong start.

  4. It’s the canning of the V6 engine and apparent shrugging off the loss of the thirty million that does for me. Does the motor trade ever learn?

    1. Agreed. Especially since Chrysler Europe would belatedly realize their need for a 6-cylinder engine in the Talbot Tagora as well as in the Matra Bagheera and Murena.

  5. Thank you Daniel, for both fascinating parts of this article. You have filled in some gaps in my understanding of the cars of my youth and set me off on a voyage around the internet to learn more. DTW at it’s finest.

    1. You’re very welcome, Adrian. I’m strangely drawn to these automotive melodramas. The relentless precision of, for example, Toyota or VW Group product planning and execution holds no more fascination for me than their tediously predictable products, but throw in a bit of corporate incompetence, interference, indecision and infighting and it makes for a much better story.

      Speaking of which, the story of the 180’s successor, the Talbot Tagora, will be coming to DTW next week. Stay tuned for more drama!

    2. Ooh, Tagora. You spoil me. I’ll get the beers in. I completely agree with your outlook.

  6. There’s a Chrysler Centura in the Coventry Motor Museum – or was when I last looked, which was in the middle of the last decade.

    According to Liepedia, 19,770 Centuras left the Adelaide factory between 1975 and 78.

    The 70-82 European 180 family outlived the Ryton / Linwood Avenger by a year, but in reality was saved from shame by the Villaverde-built cars which had a closed market to themselves.

    288,294 180s doesn’t look too shabby against around 750,000 British made, very mass-market Avengers.

    The best part of the car was that over-engineered BMW-influenced four cylinder engine. In its PSA life Citroën and Peugeot (and Matra with one degree of separation) put it to inspired use, but it deserved to be more widely enjoyed.

    1. Given that BMW managed to spin off the M30 inline-6 as well as the unbuilt V8 and V12 prototype engines from the M10 4-cylinder, it is unfortunate French tax laws prevented Simca from developing a 6-cylinder version of the Type 180 engine.

      Meanwhile the Avenger engine – including 1.8-2.0-litre Brazilian block and unbuilt V6 as well as an unbuilt 1.1-litre variant (for a SWB Avenger project), apparently drew inspiration from the Fiat Twin-Cam during its development before the cost-cutters forced them to adopt an OHV layout (presumably making it more akin to the Fiat 124 Series unit).

      Both definitely deserved to be more widely used and further developed.

    2. The only Citroen with this engine was the BX4TC and I wouldn’t call this inspired…

  7. Dave – Looking back, “inspired” wasn’t the best description, but there is something compelling about the moments of madness in mid-’80s car engineering, not all of them prompted by the ordinances of Group B rallying.

    There was clearly something which the 180 engine could do which was beyond the capabilities of other 2 litre-or-so engines in PSA’s armoury at the time. Otherwise why would Peugeot have adopted it for the 505 Turbo?

    1. Peugeot’s own alloy block, wet liner, open deck engines suffered from a disproportionate appetite for head gaskets, something that isn’t helped by putting a turbo on. The Chrysler/Simca engine was bomb proof with an iron block that could take the turbo stress without blowing the head gasket – for much the same reasons that later made Peugeot choose the XU diesel block as a base for their 205T16 engine.

    2. Is it known why Simca made the Type 180 engine robust? Does it suggest Simca pre-PSA already planned to either turbocharge or convert the Type 180 engine, with the latter conceived to replace the Barreiros diesel?

  8. I wonder how the proposed 2.5L D car would have worked as a Super Snipe replacement, especially when Chrysler was importing the Australian Valiant Regal in its place already, albeit with success commensurate to the effort put in.

    1. Hi John. Probably no worse than the Valiant Regal is the right answer! I’ve never seen or heard of the latter in the UK. Was it really imported to replace the Super Snipe?

    2. Yes, sort of – in that they were available but were not part of the mainstream lineup. Have a read of this ARonline article – https://www.aronline.co.uk/around-the-world/australia/around-the-world-australian-chryslers/

      It’s funny that other than the torsion bars, the rest of this part of the conclusion could also well describe the Super Snipe. I do understand that starting with what was originally a cheap ‘compact’ in the US wasn’t going to produce a convincing luxury car.
      “They had a fairly crude suspension system, with torsion bars up front but leaf springs and a live axle at the back. Steering was by recirculating ball which combined with the relatively soft spring rates made the cars a bit of hand full to drive quickly on Britain’s small and twisty roads.”

      Apparently just 350 were sold between 1966 and 1975.

  9. 350 Valiants in nine years? I’m thinking Chrysler UK management cars.

    After the demise of the big Humbers, they wouldn’t wish to be seen running around the West Midlands in Rovers or Jaguars.

  10. For what it’s worth, in April 1969 the Valiant Sedan was priced at £2438.

    For that, the UK buyer got a 273ci (4473cc) V8 giving 185bhp and take it or leave it Torqueflite.

    I suspect the bhp figure is gross or SAE given its top speed of 106mph and 0-60 figure of 11.2 seconds. By the standards of the time, its typical 18mpg is surprisingly good.

    A 4.2 litre XJ6 automatic cost £2451. You could either wait years or pay more than list for a secondhand example.

    The less patient could consider a Rover 3.5 litre for £2,222 or a Ford Executive (even thirstier than the Valiant) for £1,714.

    1. Robertas, I dare say the commission-sharing arrangement with the import-distributor would have been both a disincentive to dealers on top of being outside the normal system plus increased the price. In Australia the Valiant Regal would cost about the same as a Zephyr, 3/4 the price of a Super Snipe. Jaguars were much more expensive (more than double a Valiant) due to import tariff.

      The late 60s saw leather trim dropped for vinyl unfortunately – it would return for some later as they crept upmarket, eg to replace the North American imports (Impala/Galaxie etc).

  11. I’m guessing that the Australian Valiant as a Humber replacement idea was foisted on Rootes by their new Detroit masters, and implemented under sufferance.

    “Albeit with success commensurate to the effort put in” sums it up perfectly. Even at half the price, an unaltered, and by then quite dated Universal Australian Sedan was not going to slay the UK’s big saloon market.

    There was a missed opportunity for the US big three to integrate European and Australian product development. GM had the early 60’s Vauxhall-Opel-Holden (VOH) interchangeability programme which went nowhere. Ford might have done better to link the Zephyr / Zodiac Mk.4 with the Australian Falcon, but instead the two satellites kept to their own orbits.

    The story of Australian domestic premium cars in the ’60s is intriguing and rarely discussed. I noted with interest that Harold Holt drove to his last swim in a Dandenong-assembled Pontiac Parisienne, built from Canadian CKD kits.

    1. Definitely agree on there being a missed opportunity for the US big three to integrate European and Australian product development as well as even the US to some extent.

      GM could have benefited with an earlier expanded TASC version of the Vauxhall-Opel-Holden (VOH) interchangeability programme where the various GM divisions largely share the same platforms yet are still able to differentiate their exterior styling and retain their own engines for a bit longer. At least until brand loyalty diminishes significantly by the mid/late-1980s or so to the point where GM can contemplate rationalizing down their marque portfolio down to about 3 or so brands (e.g. Chevrolet, Cadillac and Hummer).

      Have to wonder whether Ford UK or Ford Europe ever contemplated producing a V8-powered challenger to the Opel Diplomat, which could have been developed in place of the mk4 Ford Zephyr / Zodiac as well as the 2nd generation Ford Falcon and 1st generation Australian Ford Fairlane. Both the Opel Diplomat and merged Ford analogue could have also lead to the establishment of European-focused branches of Cadillac and Lincoln respectively with both models forming the basis of a European Cadillac Seville and Lincoln Continental.

      Chrysler certainly did much to handicap themselves when they too had the opportunity to embrace some version of GM’s TASC / VOH programme that would have allowed them to easily downsize and probably needed it more then either GM or Ford due its financial problems.

      Since the unbuilt D-Car project was derived from the C-Car it would have not only helped atomized costs, but also allowed them to use the D-Car to replace the US / Australian Chrysler A platform as well as butterfly away the F/M platforms.

      For both the D-Car and C-Car they would have also benefited from using the planned Avenger-based 60-degree V6, de Dion rear suspension and 5-speed gearbox as well as different exterior styling for the European versions from either the Bertone proposal or the later Fissore styled Dodge Aspen-based Monteverdi Sierra.

      Chrysler US and possibly even Chrysler Australian meanwhile would have benefited from earlier LA V6s (to take on the Buick V6 and GM 90-degree V6), throttle body fuel-injection for both the LA V6/V8s as well as if necessary rotomaster turbochargers for the LA V6/V8s (as used on Bristols and reputedly originate from experimental work Chrysler did on turbocharged LA V8s), with turbocharged LA V6s giving Chrysler its own equivalent of the turbocharged Buick V6.

    2. Robertas, no doubt – even had they seriously uprated the insulation & installed leather and wood they might have been taken seriously. There were cases of top of the line cars getting unusual stuff done, eg how Chrysler started building their long-wheelbase cars, so there could be scope to colour outside the lines so to speak. The lack of IRS would still be an issue of course, but surely not the end of the world.

      The trouble with integration is there is a fundamental conflict in market positioning between the UK & US for any size car, with Australia somewhere in between; probably closer to the US. For example the Lincoln LS/Jaguar S-Type platform was proposed as a base for other cars but was too expensive. Bob, in the 1980s Ford Australia showed the EA26-based Fairlane to Dearborn as it was under consideration to be the basis of the 1990’s Crown Victoria. Not Invented Here was a powerful force.

    3. Integration would not be without its challenges, however do not believe they would be completely insurmountable if the process was done tactfully and gradually over time while allowing freedom in terms of exterior styling, engines and other elements.

  12. For an engine which came so close to production, there’s very little information on the Rootes/Chrysler V6. Every account states capacities of 2.0 and 2.5 litres and a 60 degree V-angle. Some say it is related to the Avenger engine, which suggests pushrods rather than overhead camshafts.

    If the engine maintained Avenger block dimensions, 2.5 litres was probably the upper limit of capacity. The British Ford Essex V6 really only made its case in the 3.0 litre size.

    Such a small engine would have been of no interest to Chrysler in the USA or Australia.

    Unless the V6 had some remarkable feature or ability we were never to discover, ditching it in favour of the French OHC four looks like a sound move.

    I’m suspicious about that £30 million development cost. Seeking a comparison, the nearest I found was the Leyland O series developed and tooled from 1972-78 at a cost of £35 million. The Chrysler / Rootes engine probably started 6-7 years before, and the ’70s was a period of raging inflation. The Leyland engine used some carry-over B series tooling, but had highly automated production on lines designed to produce 1000+ engines per day.

    I’m thinking that a lot of the Chrysler £3o million was a hidden subsidy disguised as an R&D tax write-off.

    1. You are forgetting the Brazilian block Avenger engines that stretched the units from 1.6-litres to 1.8-litres and even 2-litres via the 16-valve Twin-Cam Hillman Avenger BRM. Both of which would have allowed the V6 to be stretched to 2.7-3-litres.

      Chrysler UK aka the former Rootes group wanted to use both the enlarged Brazilian block Avenger engines in the Chrysler Alpine and 180 with the V6 used in the 180, only to be undermined by the French and the US cost-cutters which meant the Brazilian block Avenger was only used in ~105 hp or so 1.8-litre for some South American markets.

      From the AROnline article for the Chrysler Alpine.
      “There was still competition between the divisions, as the UK proposed one solution, and the French another. The British said that the Avenger estate platform could be made front-wheel drive, with McPherson strut front and a dead beam rear axle suspension setup. The Simca gearboxes could be mated to all engine options in order to ensure local market buy-in.

      On the other hand, the French proposed that the C6 should be underpinned by their platform and powered by a mix of engines. Simca engineers were reluctant to re-engineer the engine mountings to accept both British and French engines, claiming that to do so would put the launch date back by a further six months. In the end, Chrysler said that the French arrangement was the better (cheaper) solution, so it was this scheme that was adopted for the C6.
      Chrysler Alpine: not really a brand-new approach

      Further Chrysler cost-cutting resulted in the UK engines being dropped from the programme, along with the new five-speed gearbox. That meant that the new car lost the capability of being able to run the larger Simca (e.g. Type 180) engines.”

      Speaking of the Avenger BRM engine, here are a few lines on the subject from Graham Robson’s book Cosworth – the search for power. Found in a post from the following thread. – https://forums.autosport.com/topic/158373-hillman-avenger-brm/

      “Then there was the time in the early 70s that Chrysler-UK’s motorsport department couldn’t make the 16-valve Avenger BRM engine work, and took a head along to Cosworth to ask for advice. Keith helpfully looked at the head, squinting at the chamber and ports from every angle, grinned, then roared with laughter, and suggested that the engine should be junked. Chrysler UK didn’t like what they were told, but the fact is that the engine never worked properly, and it was eventually junked.”

      Apparently Chrysler UK had plans to make the Avenger engine feature OHC or even Twin-Cams by drawing inspiration from the Fiat Twin-Cam only for cost-cutting to force the engine to make do with an OHV layout. Another variation of the Avenger engine planned was reputedly a 1.1-litre version to be used in an unbuilt SWB Avenger project envisioned to expediently replace the Imp before being discarded then revived as the Talbot Sunbeam.

      Also Chrysler UK in retrospect screwed up being having BRM develop the troublesome Avenger Twin-Cam engine instead of Cosworth, the latter also working on the Chevrolet Vega Cosworth and Opel Ascona / Manta 400 as well as Mercedes-Benz and Audi, etc.

      Even without Cosworth, Chrysler UK could have had Matra or even Ricardo work on a special version of the Avenger engine via the 16-valve head done for Type 180 engine in the 180 hp Matra Murena 4S or in the case Ricardo (IIRC) a Type 180 engine with a 16-valve Twin-Cam head planned to replace the unreliable Lotus Slant-4 in the Jensen-Healey.

      Then there is the following article on David Vizard’s work with a turbocharged 1.6-litre version of the Avenger engine reputedly capable of putting out up to 155 hp. – https://ecomodder.com/forum/showthread.php/good-take-things-long-4532.html

    2. Interesting stuff, thank you Bob and Robertas. Am I correct in recalling that the rattly, tappety engines were very much the Achilles Heel of the otherwise competent Alpine/1307?

  13. The Poissy engine certainly had a characteristic tappety rattle, but so did the early VW EA111.

    The Alpine / 1307’s biggest engine problem in its early days was that Poissy couldn’t make enough, according to this interesting, but ultimately inconsequential Autocar news item:

    Using the Avenger engine makes a lot of sense. I can only imagine it was too big. Two litres were achievable, whereas the Poissy engine was only stretched to 1600cc by using every trick in the book.

  14. On that Rootes / Chrysler V6 perhaps it’s time to get Occam ’s razor out of the bathroom cabinet.

    The hypothesis is that it was closely related to the Avenger engine. However with new block and transfer lines, the designers were set free of constraints such as deck heights and bore centres.

    The Brazilian engine block had an increased deck height – and possibly more space in the crankcase – to accommodate a 77.2mm stroke crankshaft. The longest stroke dimension of a Coventry engine was 66.7mm. The “Dodginho” engine had the Avenger 1500’s 86.1mm bore. The late ’73 British 1600 achieved the extra capacity by an increase in bore to 87.3mm and a 2.4mm longer stroke.

    The competition Brazilian block 2 litres had 90mm pistons, giving around 1964cc. I’d guess that took some trickery which could not be applied to series production. A pity, as such an engine could have been a useful thing.

    Returning to the V6, the biggest constraint on capacity was likely to have been bearing size than block capacity. If the Avenger bore spacings were maintained it would have been ok up to 2.5 litres, but could have been problematic beyond that. A 90 degree V angle would have eased geometric constraints, but the main issue is these bearings – only four mains, and the big ends have to be wide enough to accommodate two conrods.

    I have a vision of a very compact pushrod V6 capable of fitting the engine bays of the Avenger and the unrealised R429 Capri rival. That said. I’ve seen a Rover V8 in an Avenger, and it looks as if it could have been made for the car.

    On the BRM head matter, I found this on the Autosport forum, from 4 December 2011 posted by no less a person than Graham Robson:

    “Almost the last time I had a real job, it was with the Rootes Group (a.k.a. Chrysler UK from 1970) in Coventry.

    I can confirm that a real on-going project at the end of the 1960s (i.e. post Cosworth FVA, and almost at the same time as the Cosworth BDA), was that the company commissioned a BDA-type project with BRM, for them to produce a 16-valve twin-cam version of the new Avenger engine, which was (I remind you) not announced until February 1970.

    At that time, Avenger engines were either 1.2-litre or 1.5 litres, the enlarged 1.3/1.6-litre types not being launched until 1973/1974.

    Two points – it was Product Planning/Engineering, NOT the ‘works’ Competitions Department, which commissioned the engine, and I am 99% sure that the first engines were all built around the 1.6-litre block. No larger versions ever existed in production in the UK – for as most of you will know, the ‘Brazilian’ block referred to engines built by a Chrysler subsidiary in South America.

    Now (thank you for waiting ….) BRM eventually produced a handful of 1.6-litre engines which, frankly, were a disappointment, but somehow the ever-resourceful Competition Manager, Des O’Dell, got the engine homologated in the Avenger. How ? I wish we knew, for according to the rules, at least 400 engines/cars needed to have been made.

    But – how many Avenger-BRMs were ever built? Not on production lines at Coventry or (later) Linwood, for sure – and when have you ever seen a ‘standard’ road car?

    So that’s the point of this rambling post – how many of those BRM engines were built, who built them, and how many Avenger-BRM cars (apart from the odd ‘works’ rally car were ever produced ?

    Answers, please, on a postcard…”

    So the BRM engine was a bit bobbins, and never had any official status, even as a short run homologation special.

    Since Graham’s mentioned Linwood, I’m intrigued by that 1.1 litre Avenger engine. Perfectly feasible, and would have made sense in some particularly restrictive fiscal legislatures. In the flat-tax rate UK he Avenger’s shtick at launch in February 1970 was a four door, nearly 1300cc saloon fore £766, the same price as an entry-level two door Escort 1100.

    A smaller Avenger engine would have made more sense with the pseudo-supermini Sunbeam. Instead it got a 930cc version of the OHC all-alloy Imp engine, the biggest capacity which could be achieved with dry liners. I suspect political manipulation – keeping the Scottish die-casting facility going until the bitter end. As an aside, for the entire life of the engine the Imp blocks and heads were die-cast at Linwood, then sent to Ryton to be machined and assembled, before being returned to Linwood for installation.

    The 930cc Sunbeam was never much more than ‘showroom bait’, but at least provided Imp people with a good source of replacement engines, many of which had never been fitted to a car,

    1. On the subject of the Poissy engine it is unfortunate they were not able to tolerance the engine well before it was apparently resolved under Peugeot, nor were they in a position to convert the engine to OHC as Matra wanted to do.

      What is unbelievable is not so much the potential challenges a 1.8-2.0-litre Avenger engine or related 60-degree V6 would have faced in being produced (that could have easily been resolved), rather it is how both the French and US divisions of Chrysler almost destroyed and unnecessarily handicapped themselves, from the lack of a 5-speed and larger engines in the Alpine up the lack of a V6 in the 180 and later the Tagora.

      Both the 2-litre Avenger engine and 2-3-litre V6 even in OHV form could have been widely used throughout Chrysler as well as helped Chrysler in the US downsize like the Buick V6 and others did for GM (and helped aid Chrysler in Australia). Chrysler in the US did themselves no favors by not developing earlier 90-degree LA V6 from the LA V8 (like GM did in creating a V6 from the Buick V8) nor earlier 2.2/2.5 4-cylinder and 3.3/3.8 60-degree V6 engines (that were said to have been derived from the Slant-Six).

      Apparently a V6 Avenger was extremely rapid yet prone to under-steer, whether the under-steer could have been resolved in a V6 Avenger is another matter yet it gives Matra an option for the Bagheera and Murena.

      Still via the 100 hp Sunbeam 1.6 Ti engine as a rough guide, a production 3-litre V6 should theoretically be capable of up to almost 185 hp. Which compares well with the Essex and Cologne V6s along with the PRV, etc.

      Apparently it was later revealed there was an extra 20cc available in the existing Imp engine meaning the latter was capable of being enlarged to 950, admittingly not quite reaching the limited-run 998cc or the unbuilt 998-1150+ tall-block Imp engines yet better then nothing. The Imp itself is another story though imagine the engine acquiring itself well in a UK Simca 936 or C2-Short instead of the Avenger-based Sunbeam.

      One unexplored aspect would have to be the Avenger platform’s capacity of being converted to FWD, which would have been rather useful had the money been available for Sunbeam to Alpine sized cars even if it would have likely butterflied away the Lotus Sunbeam.

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