Hillman Avenger

Like many cars of its time, the Hillman Avenger looked better than it really was and promised more than it could ever deliver. Curves and fancy lights only get you so far and as always, the roads of rural Ireland in the 1970s proved tough terrain for this stylish if unsuspecting model.

For a while in the late 60s, it looked like things might once again be alright for Hillman and its parent company, the Rootes Group.

The Coventry conglomerate, which made cars and vans under names like Hillman, Humber, Singer, Sunbeam and Commer, had been bought in 1967 by the American giant, Chrysler. They had hoped to make some in-roads into Europe, an avenue where it never had much success, unlike its American big brothers, Ford and GM.

The Hillman Avenger was a rear-wheel drive small family car, originally manufactured from 1970 to 1978 and branded from 1976 onward as the Chrysler Avenger. Eventually, between 1979 and 1981 it was manufactured by Peugeot Citroën and renamed as the Talbot Avenger.

The car was very much a car of its time; a conventional machine in every way. Its styling was understated yet attractive, featuring the so-called “Coke-bottle” curves also seen during this period on the Ford Cortina MK III.

Rural patrol car

The Garda authorities, and indeed police authorities throughout the UK, used Avengers extensively during the 1970s. Although Garda vehicles were traditionally dark blue or black, the Avenger was ordered in white because, in addition to its normal duties, it was one of the first cars to be employed by the emerging Traffic Corp.

They used white vehicles as they were more visible. Rural patrol cars at this time often racked up very high mileage, typically around 30,000 miles per year.

The sale of these ex-Garda cars, through periodic grand auctions, piqued the interest of many a young lad who wanted a cheap car with the prospect of adventure and notoriety. Surely these cars had to have something extra in the tank if the Guards used them? Not the case; at that time, most Garda cars were unmodified and as prone to ordinariness as the next.

Still, they likely had the Garda radio holder screwed to the dash, compensating for the rough repair job on the roof, sealing the hole where the oversized blue beacon lights once whirled.

There’s pigs on the Sligo Road out of Tubbercurry, good buddy, so haul ass for Ballina! That’s a big Ten 4 from Lough Talt Tony.

In the hands of capable (incapable) young men, speeding through the badlands of rural Ireland, the former Garda Avenger offered excitement, even devilment. No cop from any American detective, Ironside or Cannon, stood a chance of catching one of these well-sprung, sleek machines flying along dusty bog roads.

The owner of its cigarette-smoke-filled interior was confident of escape because the fashionable Citizen Band Radio craze of the time made sure of it. “There’s pigs on the Sligo Road out of Tubbercurry, good buddy, so haul ass for Ballina! That’s a big Ten 4 from Lough Talt Tony”.

Matchbox and Corgi’s famous model cars once captured the imagination of millions of boys in the 60s and 70s. Commonly known as “dinkies”, what were once simple toys have become highly sought-after collectables. Some models, in mint condition and complete with box, that sold originally for a few shillings, now fetch hundreds of euros.

Today, these toys are being produced as one-off limited-edition pieces and are snapped up on release. Among the most sought-after models, wait for it, is… the Hillman Avenger police car! It is even available in Garda livery. The “Hillman Avenger Garda Mallow District Police Patrol Car” is a 1:43 ratio scale model and comes complete with box and limited-edition certificate.

The Hillman Avenger, stylish and unsuspecting to the very end!

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