Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Hillman Avenger Vs Vauxhall Viva HC

Forgotten Favourites Published: 27th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Hillman Avenger Vs Vauxhall Viva HC

What The Experts Say...

Andrew McAdam, owner of classic car parts supplier Macs Factors and a major player in the Hillman Owners Club reckons the Avenger was “not a bad effort” and until lately, vastly underrated – but that’s all changing now. Apart from the front wings, most major body parts remain in reasonable supply. There are probably around 1000 Avengers left and many owners have more than one according to Andrew, who also thinks that the Avenger’s 40th birthday this year will be a special occasion.

Hillman Avenger Vs Vauxhall Viva HC
Hillman Avenger Vs Vauxhall Viva HC
Hillman Avenger Vs Vauxhall Viva HC
Hillman Avenger Vs Vauxhall Viva HC
Hillman Avenger Vs Vauxhall Viva HC
Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

It’s easy to dismiss what we used to know as bread-and-butter cars and instead go for tastier collectibles. In reality, the majority of us grew up on more common fodder, so it’s great to see an increasing number of enthusiasts doing their best to save less glamorous classics like the Hillman Avenger and Vauxhall’s Viva. As the 1970s got under way, this pair was competing for the same customer – one who wanted something different to a Ford Escort. The Avenger and Viva HC have much more in common, though. Apart from being similar in style, size, price and performance, both models also signifi ed the last hurrah for their respective makers by the time they bowed out a decade later. Vauxhall shifted to Opelbased models by 1975 with the Chevette and Cavalier, while Hillman was rebaged Chrysler and then Talbot before it was consumed by Peugeot.

Which one to buy?

More a case of what you can fi nd Rarity dictates what to buy these days. At the time, both provided conventional, affordable and sensible if somewhat staid transport for the masses. With a choice of two and four-door saloons and estate derivatives (a handier and extremely roomy fi ve-door in the case of the Hillman) in a myriad of trims ranging from bog standard to plush SL/GL packs, there was literally something for everybody. It was the same with the engines, too. The Viva kicked off with the trusty 1159cc unit (in standard or higher powered 90 form) plus a 1600cc ohc option sourced from the larger Victor. This soon grew to 1256cc and 1759cc respectively by 1972 to counter claims of poor performance. The Avenger used completely new power trains (even though they were still old school overhead valve units) of 1250 and 1500cc, but they were boosted to 1300 and 1600cc in 1973. It was also available in hot-shot GT form in all bar 1250cc capacity, plus Hillman produced the rare and hugely collectible Tiger for competition purposes, which used an engine tune not unlike the Sunbeam Rapier’s H120 and Hunter GLS. Vauxhall produced a 2300 SL using the twin carb VX4/90 2.3-litre engine in saloon and estate guise. And in 1974 the ohc-engined Vivas morphed into the plush Magnum, although an 1800 Viva was still produced for a couple of years in tandem. Apart from a 1300GLS trim (and a short-lived Coupe called Viva E to mop up stocks of the Firenza bodies in 1975) the Vauxhall remained mainly unchanged. It’s a pity that Chrysler didn’t follow suit with the Avenger because a totally superfl uous make over for 1977 ruined the Hillman’s tasteful styling. If we were hunting down an Avenger we’d go for the earlier models every time.

What’s the best to drive?

There’s not much in it Before you pick your favourite, it’s worth remembering that for their era this pair were considerably better than big rivals like the Marina and the Escort. Sophisticated suspension systems, good handling and a decent ride gave them the edge. There’s little split between the Avenger and the Viva – the former is arguably better thanks to smoother engines and a slicker gear change. Victor-powered Vivas could be rough, especially in terms of refinement whereas the Avenger, particularly the GL and GLS versions, were far more refi ned than rivals. In terms of performance, only the bigger-engined models really cut it on today’s roads. The Vauxhall engines are lustier, especially the 1800/2300 units, although in its day an Avenger GT or GLS would give a Ford Mexico a run for its money.

Owning and running

Avenger offers scope for modern use This duo isn’t diffi cult to keep mobile as long as you can get the parts – but that’s the problem. Routine service items are easily obtainable – more so the Hillman, as the Avenger platform was used as a base for the Sunbeam supermini that survived until 1985. The panels and trim required for a restoration are the stumbling blocks – and the reason why you see so few around. If you want to buy one for modifying and upgrading the traditional way then the Vauxhall has the edge, not least because there’s still tons of Blydenstein tuning gear around. Because the Avenger was popular in South America for decades, it became a hybrid between Chrysler, VW and Ford, which means that various hardware can be fi tted such as Ford engines and transmissions. Bear in mind that the Lotus Sunbeam used a cut down Avenger platform but with a Lotus engine that was based on the Vauxhall Victor block – so this unit can also be fi tted! Or you can source Hillman ‘Brazilian blocks’ from South America, which give up to 2-litres. Ford’s Pinto or Zetec units are also popular. In terms of economy, then the Avenger fared better according to road tests of the time. Expect around 30mpg from most models, even the GT if the carbs are properly set up. Victor engines were thirsty beasts and 25mpg was considered good going.

And The Winner Is...

It’s worth mentioning that there are plenty of rival family classics with more fi zz and character – the Citroen GS, Fiat 128, Renault 12, Peugeot 204, VW Golf MkI and Alfa’s Sud spring to mind. Still, we’d go for the Hillman Avenger – it was a highly commendable effort from cash-strapped Chrysler back in 1970. It’s also better to drive than the larger, old-fashioned Arrow range. Find a good one and you won’t be disappointed.

Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%

Britians top classic cars bookazine