Talbot Avenger Profile

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Talbot Avenger General Information

The Talbot Avenger is easily one of the most underrated cars there ever was. In fact a number of top line drivers realised this and choose it to get their careers started. The most notable one may be a 20 years old Henri Toivonen, who finished 5th OVERALL on the 1977 Rally of the 1000 Lakes with a STANDARD group1 version of the Avenger. Group2 cars were rare for reasons I am coming back to. The main subject on this car must be how good it was already in standard road trim. Not only Henri Toivonen had one in his early career, but i.e. Colin McRae had one as well and still in 1989/90 Harri Rovanperä had one as his first rally car - these are guys that were just about born when the first Avengers hit the road!

So, what exactly is an Avenger that some serious guys could start their careers with it? Being a car for first successes for future stars, it seems logical to compare it to the other 3 cars that mainly fit that frame at the time: Ford Escort MkI, Escort MkII and Opel Ascona A. But in that comparison the Avenger would be the less modern and bigger car with a 1.6 engine compared to a 2.0 and with a 4-door shell (for its top versions) rather than 2-door. On paper the Avenger really had nothing to offer compared to RWD Escort and co. Yet it was a car that could surprisingly well keep up with these opponents.

In time as well as size it would fit in between the Hillman Hunter and the Talbot Sunbeam. The Avenger was still created before the Peugeot takeover, so it started life as a Hillman. However the Hillman Avenger design team were exactly the same people that created the Simca 180/2L for the European market and although the Avenger was much smaller, the relation of these cars was very visible indeed. Hillman & Talbot didn't really have a program for the Avenger. There was a successful long distance program for the Hillman Hunter, winning the London-Sydney 1968, and the Sunbeam, already under Peugeot ownership, won the makes WRC 1981. The Avenger really came at a bad time, as Hillman was in a bad financial state in the early 1970s and Chrysler influence hindered it more than help it. Which is one of the reasons why the Avenger mainly made career as a group1 car in private hands.

Furthermore the naming could be confusing, using no less than 7 different brand names for the same car, which was against original intention. It started life as a Hillman Avenger. There were no Singer and Humber variations of it while the Sunbeam Avenger name was only used on some export markets, showing that the Rootes Group actually has learned a lesson and started to kill off some of their brand confusion. But in 1972 arrived a sporty version called the Hillman Avenger Tiger, interestingly with the Tiger suffix before more known from Sunbeam models, in particular for the V8 versions of the Sunbeam Alpine. On the Avenger the Tiger was a limited edition in Wardance Red or Sundance Yellow with mat black bonnet, black stripes and rear spoiler. These Tiger versions had twin headlights and for some reason were only made as 4-door versions and with the 1500cc engine (however on the Tiger with enlarged valves and big carburettors), rather than the 1600cc of the Hillman Avenger GT. Even though Chrysler influenced Rootes pretty much from the beginning of the Avenger's life, only with a 1976 facelift the car was re-named to Chrysler Avenger. This was not long before Peugeot took over and very soon the car was re-named yet again to Talbot Avenger. And maybe an interesting curiousity Peugeot decided to rename the car to Talbot before the new Talbot brand logo was designed, so for a period of some months you find the car called Talbot Avenger with Talbot written on the bonnet but still the Chrysler penta-star in the grill. However even Chrysler saw how good the car was and across South and North America the Avenger was sold in virtually unchanged form as Plymouth Cricket or Dodge Polara, and indeed a Plymouth Cricket became the overall winner of the 1971 Press on Regardless Rally. And still more brands found a liking to it, the Dodge Polara was eventually assembled in Chrysler's South American factory, which was sold to Volkswagen and strangely Volkswagen took over this model and sold it as the Volkswagen 1500, making the Avenger the only Volkswagen ever in the conventional front engine RWD layout.

Returning to the versions important for the rally history, I would say the Hillman Avenger Tiger was easily the most amazing of all Avengers. But since it only came in 1972 only one of the works cars was a Tiger 4-door twin-headlight variant, HDU 910L. Hence in this chapter the car is named Hillman Avenger GT.

And why was the group2 car not so good? It was good, but apart from the Hillman Hunter London-Sydney success, Hillman was heavily into touring cars when the Avenger was launched. While Bernard Unett won the BTCC twice in the Avenger, it is interesting to note that all Hillman Avenger group2 touring cars were road registered. Why? Team director Des O'Dell was a big rally fan, and on the odd occasion you find a group2 Avenger on a BRC round or an RAC Rally, it is amazing to compare to touring car photos, because on the reg plates you find proof what you saw on RAC Rallies were cars taken straight from and returned to the race track! Financial trouble and Chrysler influence did the rest to the Avenger group2 car being a rare sight on rally stages. There simple was no money, nor interest by the big bosses to allow Des O'Dell to build extra group2 rally cars.

Thanks God than the Avenger was such an amazing base car. So group1 it is than. At the beginning of this chapter is the example of a 20 years old Henri Toivonen coming 5th overall in the 1000 Lakes Rally 1977 – (except long distance Citroën) this is the best result a group1 car ever managed at WRC level! Because of this Henri's phone number was entered into Peugeot Talbot Sport UK boss Des O'Dell's little black book and Henri soon found himself in the Talbot Sunbeam works car and with that became the youngest winner of a WRC event ever on the 1980 RAC.

But if you read the Avenger group2 story, you find Henri is not the only example of an Avenger in road trim being absolutely stunning. The Avenger has another interesting record as it was also built in New Zealand's only car factory ever. To keep the factory busy an Avis rent car company deal seemed a good idea. It is nice to see in some countries rallying is a big deal and although it was only a WRC event from 1977, the Rally NZ was huge with start in Auckland, north of the North Island and finish in Christchurch, middle of the South Island. Avis NZ promised to order a few hundred Avengers if Hillman could proof to them that the Avenger was a capable road car. And to proof this, Avis would confirm their order if a standard group1 Avenger would finish in the top10 overall of the 1976 Rally NZ. Des O'Dell sent RHP 552M (sister to famous touring car RHP 551M) and works driver Andrew Cowan to this event and guess what, the group1 Avenger won the rally outright!

OK, I keep saying how amazing this car is. Maybe I am also a little biased as a mate of mine had an Avenger Tiger and let me drive it a few times, which just was such an experience. Though 1000 Lakes 77 and NZ 76 do speak volumes. And maybe another proof is that when Talbot desperately needed a small budget car immediately after Peugeot take over, the famous Talbot Sunbeam was actually created on a shortened Avenger platform and running gear. Only the Avenger was a bit older in suspension and rear axle, so the Avenger was even wilder! Maybe remember the Fréquelin (not Toivonen) video over the bridge in Portugal with the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus rear out wide and dancing around while accelerating on the following straight? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CA3LV_W3m1g The Avenger was even more of that! And I seem to always have had a strange type of humour. For some time I was running a pub some 15km south of Abingdon. It was a Morland's owned pub with the Morland brewery being based in the former MG factory and competitions department in Abingdon. Of course I like and respect MG and BMC history a lot, but going to occasionally collect some beers and whiskeys at the BMC competitions department with a Hillman Avenger Tiger was just one of those things that had to be done :-)

But never mind where I went, what a pleasure it was to drive it whenever my mate allowed me. This sporty version of the Avenger called the Tiger only had a 1.5 engine, although with 105BHP and a surprising rumble and bark to it as if the pistons would shoot out the bonnet any moment. It is impossible to describe my surprise, although it felt a little big, it was really nippy, strong, responsive and it was dead easy to throw it around in the wildest fashion. I will never forget how after 3 laps round the Wallingford roundabout (don't tell anybody!) I couldn't see any more where I was going for all that tyre smoke! - With a 105BHP standard road car! This is about the craziest car I drove in my entire life: As honest as I am sitting here and writing this, control oversteer was piss easy even for me, but driving this car round an obstruction in a straight line, without the tail stepping out, now here you have a big challenge! Really unbelievable, I mean you do not always have to get noticed and have fingers pointed at you, or least with a boot full of booze I did not want to drift everywhere, so steering wheel between two fingers like a raw egg, push the throttle ever so slightly, OK a little bit more, oh no, this is again the rear coming out! Even for a non rally champion I would suggest just floor it and keep the front wheels pointing into the direction you want to travel, it is much easier than trying to drive this car like normal people would expect you to. This Avenger Tiger oversteered like a kart with two flat rear tyres, yet its traction was somehow good enough to start believing the factory claimed 0-60mph (0-100km/h) in 8.2s was not just dreamed up. It was surprisingly fast & fun and since that ride I am convinced there are even today a number of hot hatches the old Avenger could seriously bully. It really is hard to believe, but in all honesty, two cars I had the chance to drive (in the named model years) and I loved very much: put a 1980 Escort RS2000 alongside this 4-door 1975 Avenger Tiger 1.5 and I would seriously choose the Avenger!

Talbot Avenger Related Content

Talbot Avenger Evolutions

Model & Evo. (Activity)
Talbot Avenger GT (73-78) 105/5400 132/4400 4166.1615.1408 913 (8.7) RWD (2489)

Random Talbot Avenger Photos

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Talbot Avenger Results

This is an unofficial Car Results list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego hh:mm:ss
13th. 1979 WRC Rally of Finland P. Geitel R. Mesterton #26 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
14th. 1978 WRC Rally of Finland P. Geitel R. Mesterton #36 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
17th. 1978 WRC Rally of Finland J. Markkula . UNKNOWN #38 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
22nd. 1977 WRC Rally of Finland V. Silander K. Aho #45 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
5th. 1977 WRC Rally of Finland H. Toivonen A. Lindqvist #25 [UNKNOWN] 4:52:25
19th. 1976 WRC Rally of Finland P. Geitel R. Mesterton #22 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
14th. 1976 WRC Rally of Finland E. Pitkänen S. Harjanne #37 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
11th. 1976 WRC Rally of Finland T. Mäkelä J. Korhonen #21 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
13th. 1976 WRC Rally of Finland P. Toivonen M. Tiukkanen #24 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
17th. 1976 WRC Rally of Finland H. Väänänen T. Tuominen #31 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
13th. 1976 WRC Rally of Great Britain R. Eyre-Maunsell N. Wilson #40 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
28th. 1975 WRC Rally of Finland T. Jouhki J. Piironen #46 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
9th. 1975 WRC Rally of Finland K. Hämäläinen U. Vihervaara #16 [UNKNOWN] 3:02:51
20th. 1975 WRC Rally of Finland P. Geitel R. Mesterton #34 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
14th. 1975 WRC Rally of Finland H. Valkonen E. Poutiainen #26 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
15th. 1975 WRC Rally of Finland P. Kärhä S. Siitonen #27 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
36th. 1975 WRC Rally of Finland M. Oksala . UNKNOWN #64 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
16th. 1975 WRC Rally of Finland H. Väänänen T. Tuominen #30 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
18th. 1975 WRC Rally of Great Britain R. Eyre-Maunsell N. Wilson #46 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
32nd. 1975 WRC Rally of Great Britain H. Valkonen H. Wallinheimo #64 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
36th. 1975 WRC Rally of Great Britain K. Hämäläinen U. Vihervaara #30 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
18th. 1974 WRC Rallye de Portugal W. Sparrow . UNKNOWN #82 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
20th. 1974 WRC Rally of Finland P. Kärhä S. Siitonen #32 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
63rd. 1974 WRC Rally of Great Britain R. Eyre-Maunsell N. Wilson #43 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
16th. 1973 WRC Rallye de Portugal C. Malkin . UNKNOWN #54 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
24th. 1973 WRC Rally of Great Britain A. Dawson . UNKNOWN #60 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00

Talbot Avenger Retirements

This is an unofficial Car Model Retirements list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego Reason
Ret. 1981 WRC Acropolis Rally C. Cyprianou . UNKNOWN #23 [UNKNOWN] SS33 ?
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Finland H. Toivonen A. Juselius #74 [UNKNOWN] SS6 crash
Ret. 1979 WRC Rally of Finland M. Sundström . UNKNOWN #27 [UNKNOWN] SS4 ?
Ret. 1976 WRC Rally of Finland J. Pöysti . UNKNOWN #69 [UNKNOWN] SS39 crash
Ret. 1974 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Jarvis J. Bowie #144 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?
Ret. 1973 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Jarvis J. Bowie #140 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?