Blog : In defence of the Chrysler 180

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Tim Hanson

Chrysler 180
‘Sure, it does look a little ‘Avenger on steroids’ but the same could be said for a lot of other
more successful model ranges of the time…’

Here we go again – as usual, the vast majority of knockers are people who’ve never driven one, never mind actually owned a Chrysler 180. I had one in the mid-1970s and found none of the criticisms put forward (with the possible exception of one) to hold any water.

Underpowered? The 180 (1800cc) produced 1bhp more than the Mk3 Ford Cortina 2-litre. Both cars were only offered with four-speed gearboxes. Poor braking? The 180 had disc brakes all round whereas the Cortina was discs front and drums rear. Poor interior? Well, let’s face it, the Ford was no Vanden Plas either. But the velour of the 180 was less pretentious than the Cortina’s lame attempt to pass plastic off as leather. Actually, come the 1980s, and you had to spend a fair amount of money on a car if you didn’t want velour seats and trim.

Exterior styling? Sure, it does look a little ‘Avenger on steroids’ but the same could be said for a lot of other more successful model ranges of the time. Ford Cortina/Granada, BMW 5- and 7-Series. Nowadays, it’s become the accepted norm – the only difference is that we refer to it as ‘corporate styling’. The Chrysler 180 was a victim of the politics which were obviously going on behind the scenes in the US, GB and France at that time – no doubt the same problems ended up scuppering the company as well as the car in the end.

What, then, about the one criticism of the 180 that actually holds water? Well, I have to admit that they do oxidize rapidly. But rusting cars? In the 1970s? It’s hard to think of many that didn’t! Maybe this is why the Spanish loved the car as it isn’t such a big problem out there and, ultimately, the lack of sales here resulted in a very inexpensive car over there.

Anyway, while we are on the subject of rusty cars, I’ve just gone through a whole reel of welding wire fixing up a 1985 Audi GT coupe – if ever there was a rust bucket, these were it. That’s probably why you don’t see many around any more, but it’s funny how you never hear about that…

Audi Coupe - 'If ever there was a rust bucket these were it'
Audi Coupe – ‘If ever there was a rust bucket these were it.’

84 Comments

  1. There is NO defence for the 180.

    It was bland outside, even more bland inside, rusted even faster than a Cortina or Marina and the engines weren’t particularly good. It was bad even by the standards of the day.

    My dad ran a Minx MkVI for many years (Tahiti blue) with the excellent 1725 lump. That was finally retired due to rust in the front wings but other than that it was sound. The 1725 was a gem and the gearbox was easy to use.

    We nearly bought an Avenger but it was too small for our growing family. We had absolutely no thoughts of buying a 180 (dad was a mechanic and had some knowledge).

    PS, disc brakes does not mean that they are per se ‘good’ brakes. IIRC, the only good bit of the 180 was the comfy seats — assuming that they hadn’t fallen through the floorpan.

  2. OK, technically it was at least as good as the Cortina. But did it give customers what they wanted? There where only two models, the 180 or 2 litre – take it or leave it. Where was the miriad of L, GL, Ghia trim levels or the estate cars that this market demanded. The car was poorly marketed – like the Princess and the Victor/VX. Both cars that should have been more than capable of challenging the Cortina but didnt. Not until the arrival of the Mk1 Cavalier in 1975 did another manufacturer decode Ford’s secret formula.

  3. @ Tony. All due respect but again from your post I can only deduce that you didn’t own one. It’s all your opinion based upon the hearsay of others, who probably never owned one either.

    @ Paul. Distancing yourself from your customers by not offering a reasonable choice of options is the best way to lose customers. Can’t argue with that. Even the choice of the 180 or the 2 litre wasn’t really a choice because the 180 was manual gearbox and the 2 litre was auto. So as to which car you finally bought depended upon your choice of transmission.

    As far as I’m aware the only option Chrysler offered was the colour of the paint.

  4. Not sure the Cortina should be the benchmark. Compare it with the early Audi 100, Princess, Lancia Beta, Alfetta and so on. Yes, they probably all rusted.

    Mind you, I’ve never owned or driven any of these, so maybe I’m reading too much into reputations and contemporary roadtest reports.

  5. I sympathise with the viewpoint of the original article. I never owned one of these, but I did use them quite a lot in Europe, particularly Spain, and I thought they were a rather nice, if understated, car . It is easy now to say , without adducing any evidence in support of the proposition, that they were rubbish, but then, you show me a Ford – ANY Ford – which was not utter rubbish, and yet in the UK at any rate they continued to sell. The interesting thing is that for the last 25 years you have been able to go to Europe and drive all day and never see a Ford

  6. Interesting to see that the Chrysler family styling principles have been adopted by Audi in the 2000s.

    Take plans for an existing car. Put on photocopier and press the “enlarge 10%” button. Job done – new car ready.

  7. Tim I agree with you that people continue to view the 180 out of its market context of an early 70’s premium rep car.

    The car we received, as I have already described is very close to the originally planned Hillman branded models which would have used a “Brazilian” block Avenger engine and replaced the 1725 Hunter. The car was planned to the hit the market against the premium Ford 4 cylinder products, which the Cortina Mk3 sized up to. Its V6 versions branded as Sunbeam and Humber were to be pitched against the Triumph 2000, Rover P6.

    I was too young to drive one, but my Father had them on occasion from work and we had no problem blowing Cortina Mk3’s into the weeds, although not as well as a Holbay engine Hunter / Rapier. One comment he did make was that it was better braked than both a Hunter and an Alpine and all disc set up was well above its class.

    Interior was also perfectly in line with its Ford competitors in early 70’s and I recall it feeling no less special with its big comfy seats than a Humber Sceptre which was a cut above anything Ford were pushing into that market segment at the time.

    As for styling, it was planned along with the Avenger to have a short model life before Reskin, which is why you see pictures of work undertaken at Whitley that produced full sized clay’s before the decision to fix on the C1,C2 and C3 model strategy that bought us the Alpine, Horizon and Tagora. The problem was the Avenger, 180 and also the Marina had to live well beyond their planned shelf life and so were dated when the fashion changed in the mid 70’s.

    So in conclusion Tim you are quite correct in saying that the 180 was perfectly adequate for its time and certainly a match for the premium 4 cylinder fleet cars of Ford and Vauxhall in every way up until the mid-70’s and in reality to drive as good as the woeful Cortina mk4 2 Litre. However the car was doomed to fail as both its parents (Roots / Simca) rejected it at birth, so it was never strongly promoted in the market and both manufacturers kept its predecessor in production (Hunter / 1501) and kept it priced above them. However when a market did take ownership of it, Chrysler Spain, they showed that with both promotion and a sensible price structure it would sell and sell well.

  8. My late Uncle bought a 180 in Green not long after launch. He didn’t keep it long as it was written off in a crash (no injuries). He replaced it with a Red 2 Litre. As a young lad back then, I remember both versions looking quite swish in those days… and more upmarket than the entry level Arrow models.

    He eventually replaced that with a Humber Sceptre, which was his last Rootes/Chrysler Group car. Happy days?

  9. My next door neighbour had a V reg 2 Litre in metallic green with a vinyl roof in the mid eighties. Looked OK, was very comfortable, the green velour was so seventies and was a fairly quiet cruiser and cost next to nothing to buy as hardly anyone wanted a big Chrysler in 1984. Only problem was the car started to rust quite badly at five years old, parts were hard to find for servicing and MOTs as these were quite rare and the resale was terrible as the market had dried up for 2 Litres.
    However, compared with a completely horrible base model 1.3 Escort with a hole for the radio and cheap plastic everywhere that replaced it, the Chrysler 2 Litre was like a Rolls Royce and a far nicer car to drive. Sad thing is he kept on buying newish base model Escorts until he saw the light in 1991 and splashed out on a new Citroen ZX Turbodiesel.

  10. @9

    I’ll continue to bang the drum that ZX diesels were fantastic 90s mid-size hatchbacks.

    Yes they didn’t look as good as their sister 306, the squashed AX-meets-BX styling isn’t to everyone’s tastes. However I don’t think they were anymore offensive than an Astra.

    Comfortable seats, comfortable suspension, passive rear steer giving surprising cornering, basic interior and engine but everything screwed together properly, the electrics on both my examples never failed – including sunroof, central locking, immobiliser.

    XUD engines economical and reliable – only big service item being the glowplugs. Basic, no FAPs, DMFs etc. to worry about.

    Bodywork did tend to pick up carpark dings, but you’ll never see a rusty ZX – unlike contemporary Fords and Vauxhalls!

  11. I’ve often heard the ZX is a bangernomics favourite, not just because of the XUD units but also the lack of overfancy features that makes them unpopular with the Citroen fans, but makes them easier to keep going.

  12. @11

    My Citroen XM collecting friend hated my ZXs – “not proper without hydraulic suspension” etc.

    That is, until he owned one, and saw that it had enough quirks (such as the adjustable rear seat) to be mildly interesting but was basic enough to keep going strong for years.

  13. A few Citroen ZXs survive to this day as cheap bangers and still look good now.
    Had the big Chryslers been better built, better promoted and, above all, made in Britain as well as France, and badged as Humbers, they could have taken off. Also offering a manual option on the 2 litre model and maybe adding some wood and chrome could have stolen some sales from the top of the range Cortinas. In a way I have a soft spot for these cars, as my neighbours was such a comfortable, spacious barge that made an interesting alternative to a Cortina.

  14. Seem to remember quite liking these big Chryslers as a young lad.

    Thought the Talbot Tagora was ok too.

    Was this the beginning of the end!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. My neighbour has had a couple of ZX diesel Estates and still has a ’96P Reg one now. Very rattley when fired up but seems reliable.

  16. I think the American front end styling of the Centura would have given the car more appeal over here, whereas the 180’s front end always looked a little Opel Rekord C inspired to me. Surely, it would have made more sense to offer the Centura version with the Hemi 6 pack available over here as the top of the range (Humber) version with upgraded interior, whilst allowing the rest of Europe the opportunity to focus on the 180 with it’s tax friendly 4 pot engine.

    Such a strategy would have saved the company a lot of money in development costs with regard to the ill fated V6 power unit, whilst also giving Chrysler dealers in Britain a car that could compete with rival executive models such as the Rover 3500 and the Granada 3.0 in a package that looked a cut above the standard 4 cylinder models.

  17. Howard @ 19, Cumbria Constabulary used two in the early eighties. These certainly weren’t your rattly pushrod Alpines and used the proven PRV V6. A few V6 Tagoras ended up as taxis as they had massive interiors, the boot was huge and the V6 was ideal for long journeys.
    I often wonder if Talbot improved the rustproofing and ditched their elderly SIMCA engines for newer Peugeot designs, their cars could have really taken off as they were good looking, well equipped cars for the money.

  18. Hi All,I Have A new Old Stock Grill For A 1970s 160,180 Or 2 Litre.
    Is There Some One Out There,How Would Like To Buy It.If Not I Will Put It On Ebay.

  19. I seem to recall that the camshaft was a weak point with the 180 & 2 litre engine, I worked on these in the early ’80’s when I was just starting in the motor trade.

  20. Good point about rust – mk3 Golfs, E36s (and even E46 arches!) and turn of Millenium Mercs could get very rusty, but you never hear about that, hush hush sure German cars are best….

    In 30 years time will we see the defence of the Chrysler 300? A car I’ve always admired…

  21. My folks had a red 2l, which I loved as a nipper. Sadly, after six years, it had become an oxidised lump, the inside a flooded mess (has condensation and leaking ever been so bad in a car?) and most of the mechanicals had given up. No point saving it. There was nothing to save! You could push a finger through the wing, which we little kids did. A lot.

    Come the day the lorry came to take it away, it wouldn’t budge! The hydraulic lifter had to work overtime and pushed a piston into the road to get extra lift. The ring of squashed Tarmac on the road outside the parentals’ house is still there. The roof buckled under the strain as it was placed atop some other dear car, probably a Datsun. My nine year old self was very sorry to see it go.

    And so onto a new car. Mum wanted a Tipo. Dad wanted a 2CV, until he tried to drive one! They settled on a Micra. Wish they’d bought the Tipo.

    I still check eBay to see if any 180s come up for sale. Mate of a mate in the body shop/restoration trade was taken to see one of the last remaining a few months to see what could be done to save it. He shook his head.

    Looking back, I really like that era of cars and the family look the range had. Same too of the coke bottle era of Fords. Thought the 180 was quite a pretty and balanced looking car. I hope one day to see one at the NEC.

  22. Ik lees allerlei negatieve dingetjes over chrysler.Ik heb zelf een 160 gereden,en heb hier nog goede herinneringen aan.O, wat heb ik hier fijn mee gereden.nooit iets aan gehad.Ook met 180 en 2ltr gereden.Ik vond de 160 de fijnste.Goed rijden,fijn zitten,en van binnen en van buiten mooi.

  23. @ C Timmermans, don’t speak Nederlandse, but I think you’re saying you like the big Chrysler. I don’t think they were as terrible as people say, from the back the styling looked very American, and they were a comfortable, spacious car inside and the 2 Litre was a refined motorway cruiser. However, rust and poor build quality proved to be its downfall, particularly as it was seen to be the top car in Chrysler’s European line up.

  24. I owned a Chrysler 180 and found a very reliable and comfortable car.I never had any problems with bodywork, gearbox or engine. It was a nice car to drive roomy and lots of power.

  25. My father bought an L registration(73) Chrysler 180 in 1980.
    If I remember corectly it was a dark metallic bronze kind of colour with plastic and cloth seats. It was comfortable and quite roomy but that is about the only memorable attributes I can give it.
    On the kind occasions that he let me use the car, I can still remember how wallowy it was in cornering and the very springy feel that the gear change had. Power wise it was ok for the era but I seem to recall that the all round disc brakes were not as good as you might expect of this kind of set-up. The lights were abysmall and were literally like candles in the wind.
    He had this car for a couple of years or so, managing to get it through MOT’s, but as already mentioned in the comments, rust was pretty rampant and eventually it had to be scrapped.
    Looking back at when he first brought the 180 home, I remember thinking it was quite a smart looking car. With more development the design surely could have been improved on but as we know this wasn’t the case.

  26. Speaking of Chrysler, how about an article on Chrysler’s near collapse in America in the late seventies. It’s not very well known over here, but America’s third biggest car manufacturer nearly went out of business in 1979 due to a British Leyland style of problems such as warranty claims on their biggest selling model, an overdependence on V8 engined cars during the energy crisis, industrial relations problmes and weak management. Its comeback in the early eighties under Lee Iacocca, an American Michael Edwardes, is similar to that of British Leyland, Iacocca introduced the K car, an economical model to replace the gas guzzling and useless Dodge Aspen, which became a sales success, and saved the company from collapse.

  27. An in-depth article on Chrysler’s problems up to its near collapse in America is something worth seeing as well, especially considering its impact on both the former Rootes Group and Simca.

    It is difficult find out the specific causes of Chrysler’s later problems apart from some suggesting it stems as far back as the mid-1950s to mid-1960s, such as build quality problems from 1957 models onwards together with Chrysler’s somewhat prescient yet hasty and aesthetically disastrous downsizing of its 1962 full-size cars (all because Chrysler’s then president mistakenly thought rivals Chevrolet were going to downsize its full-size models), followed by one Lynn Townsend, whose actions ultimately left Chrysler ill-prepared to compete in a changing marketplace.

  28. @ Nate, Chrysler did have a good sixties after 1962, though, the Valiant was a massive selling and genuinely good car and there was a healthy demand for its muscle cars. Also they expanded into Europe and bought Simca and Rootes.
    However, the problems started to mount up in the mid seventies. Chrysler UK became a big loss maker, the replacement for the Valiant, the Aspen, was riddled with faults and rust issues, and market share started to fall. As well, they withdrew from Europe and Australia, becoming a far smaller player in global terms, and became an inward looking corporation dying on its feet by 1980. Only Iacocca and government loans saved Chrysler from collapse.

  29. Not many people might know this… Neil Armstrong (first man on the moon) later (1970’s) became a Marketing Ambassador personality for Chrysler in the US. They promoted a 50K mile / 5 year warranty in adverts featuring Neil.

  30. IIRC the Chrysler K series also formed the bases of the first minivans on the American market, just when MPVs were taking off.

    The Valiant was Chrysler’s contribution to the compact market that took off in the 1960s, along with the Chevy Nova & Ford Falcon.

  31. To me the Chrysler 180 is their version of the Princess, not in terms of its styling or mechanical layout, but because they both managed to fall into a hole in the marketplace.

    Too “big” to be a direct Cortina rival, but not upmarket enough to be a premium product either.

  32. I have to say that the Chrysler 180 would not be on my list for buying a classic car. They sold badly when new and have now disappeared as nature intended.

  33. Nice to see the 180 / 2 litre getting some coverage again, I car I have a soft spot for, I think because my father (like most Chrysler UK employees) deeply despised it.

    Having spoken to members of the design and engineering team who worked at Whitley and Stoke during the late 60s through to the closing of Whitley by PSA in the early 80s, I have a couple of points to make on some of the comments.

    1: The car was part of a plan to return Roots to a two car core product range with two clean sheet designs, after the cash crisis caused by the Imp launch and failure to gain traction in the market forced them to rationalise into a single reskin car the Arrow. The intention was that the Avenger would replace (as it did) the 1500cc Arrow and the car we know as the 180 but with the “Brazilian Block” 1800cc version of the Avenger engine would replace the cooking versions of the 1725cc Arrow range. Sunbeam / Humber 2000cc V6 would replace the premium end of the Arrow Range (The Holbay engine 1725cc Hunter GT and the high spec Humber Sceptre) which made sense as these cars were in touching the price point of the Triumph & Rover 2000 and 2400cc Sunbeam / Humber V6 would go head to head with the Triumph / Rover cars in the market.

    2: The car was only expected to have a short shelf life before being reskinned ( as with the Avenger) and whilst its American styling seems somewhat unfashionable now compared with some of the European Styling of the time, you have to remember that in 1971, American was cool and seen as technically advanced as Britain struggled with its post war decline whilst watching the Americans putting men on the moon.

    3: The car did not sell well, but then nobody tried, it was too big and too poorly packaged for the French private motorist, for the UK fleet focussed market the UK business was under immense pressure to turn a profit after the massive cost overruns to bring the Avenger to production and move the Arrow to Linwood had rendered the Avenger unviable and so bought about the massive cut back in investment in the UK which included cancelling the UK variants of the 180 / 2 Litre. Because of this they focussed on pushing the locally built Arrow range instead and so the car was actually priced up above the Humber Sceptre and later the Alpine GLS so was priced out of premium Cortina (formerly Consul) segment of the market it had been intended for.

    As anecdote I remember my father getting a 180 as a replacement for his Alpine GLS in the late 70’s after it was being used at Whitley to evaluate the issues of seized front brake callipers they were conducting across the management car fleet (whatever they found out they didn’t do much as I had this issue on both a 79 Horizon and a 85 Horizon (last batch before the 309)). Although it was freshly registered, it had sat in a field for so long (I think we estimated 3 years) its gutters were already potted with rust scabs and the blue enamel 180 badge had faded to the point of being unreadable.

    • On the basis of the Avenger engine (including large Brazilian) originally being envisioned as a OHC or even a Twin-Cam design (drawing inspiration from the Fiat Twin-Cam engine), is it known whether there were similar plans for the Rootes V6 or was the latter always intended to be an OHV engine (like the Essex V6 it drew inspiration from)?

      An OHC V6 would go some way to explaining the relatively small and potentially overlapping displacements of 2-litre and 2.4-litre/2.5-litre displacements for the Rootes V6 (particularly in the case of the 2-litre Avenger Brazilian block unit).

      Whereas the 2-litre Cologne V6 OHV put out a pitiful 85-90 hp and a hypothetical 2-litre Essex V6 (that the Rootes V6 drew inspiration from) would have potentially put out around 96 hp via a 120 hp 2.5-litre Essex V6, both would have still been overshadowed by the 1.8 Brazilian block OHV Avenger engine that was putting out up to 105 hp.

      Would hazard a guess and say if it was indeed an OHC design, the Rootes V6’s 2-litre & 2.4/2.5-litre benchmark in terms of power would need to have been roughly similar to later 60-degree V6s like the Mitsubishi 6G7 and Alfa Romeo V6.

  34. That was the 180/2L problem, poor spec when the 1308GT had front e/w (and C/L), they were manual on the model above… When I was a lad(around 1975-76 if I remember) one of my schoolmate’s dad had one, it was a piece of Americana on European scale and impressed lots of us, wow, a Chrysler….
    I prefer the Tagora, but it’s another story, ending as badly but at least Tagora didn’t linger long in Talbot’s catalogue, unlike the 180..
    It’s weird for me that the 2L never was offered in manual, performance would have been boasted, the auto was hardly any faster than the 180 manual, if not slower…

  35. Was there any plans for a North American version of the 2 Litre, maybe using the 6 cylinder engines the Australian ones had?

    Then again after the Plymouth Cricket not doing well & not wanting to tread on the Valiant’s toes it’s not too surprising they didn’t.

  36. The Plymouth Cricket sold well enough, the biggest problem was that Ryton could not build enough and was working 24/7 – 3 shift (something it was not to do again until the height of the 206 sales in the early “00”) to meet UK demand with the Barber Boom and poor UK productivity levels, they simply could not put the car into the dealers, but those that did arrive, did sell.

    However the US market expected “fresh meat” hence why US and Japanese manufacturers heavily revised and even reskinned their core products on an annual basis to keep them fresh, the economics of building cars in the UK in the early 70s made this impossible, so the Cricket shelf life was soon passed.

    The other issue was that whilst the Avenger was robust enough for UK roads, however I understand because of what I recall my father describing a s a typical bit of “American cost cutting” (ok he used different words) where US Execs eager to show that they had “delivered” would look for opportunities for some quick and dirty cost cutting in the cars to boost the margins, the detailed specification revisions for the US market were mostly cancelled. One result of this I understand is that the car earned itself a reputation in the US for a suspect front suspension and steering because of the higher US curb stones and the tendency for American drivers to use the curbs as a parking aid.

    I never heard of any plans to push the 180 / 2 litre in the US, I doubt there were any, as they did this size of car themselves in the US and attempts by the UK manufactures to sell a “premium” compact saloon on the back of sport car sales had all failed, they just did not look like good value compared with the local products and it took BMW in the 80’s with the 3 and 5 series to finally make it work.

  37. Thanks for filling me in, I had assumed the Cricket sales had been affected by reliability problems caused by American driving conditions, which was something a lot of other European imports had trouble with.

  38. @ Richard 16378, most European cars couldn’t cope with the severe winters in the North, which saw road salt savage the bodies of European cars, and also many were too basic for American tastes when most Americans demanded air conditioning, power everything and a stereo when they ordered a car.

  39. Maybe it was all in the name – “I’ve got a 180, you have a Granada” As a car-nut kid, I vividly remember these models when they were launched. Maybe the 180 should have been called a Humber Hawk. The 2 Litre could have been the Humber Super Snipe or Inmperial. At the end of the day, Humber was a live brand until 1975 on the Sceptre (Hillman Hunter).

  40. Tim

    I understood from and Ex Whitley manager that there was a debate in Roots between those who wanted to adopt Roots groups names such as Hillman Hunter, Sunbeam Rapier, Humber Sceptre for the 1800 and 2000 versions and these replaced the premium end of the Arrow range with 2400 becoming Super Rapier and Super Sceptre. Others however argued that this was too old fashioned and not classy enough, with an eye on the Rover and Triumph 2000 etc, they advocated the Hillman 1800, Sunbeam 2000/2400 and Humber 2000/2400 it however was an issue that did not need resolving when in 1970 Chrysler not only killed the UK version of the car but suspended all investment in the UK following the massive cost overruns in getting the Avenger into production and moving the Arrow to Linwood which with falling productivity made the business in the UK unviable.

    Clearly Chrysler were determined to take stricter control of the UK operation and that included pushing its brand, but also that Chrysler as a brand was in 1971 not so shabby, this was the age of Apollo moon landings at a time when Britain seemed in a permanent state of post war decline, the US and its mighty corporations appeared a veritable techno heaven.

    But the car could never have succeeded whatever it was called.

    1: With the Hunter remaining in production, it had to be priced above the Humber Sceptre, Sunbeam Rapier which put into Rover / Triumph 2000 territory.

    2: Because both the French and UK management both saw it as an unsatisfactory car that was forced onto them, nobody owned and so it never received any push in the market, until its production was moved to Spain, and they did push it and so achieve some success with it in the domestic market.

  41. Graham,

    You raised some interesting points, thank you very much. I remember visiting Rootes/Chrysler showrooms in the 1970’s. The 180/2 Litre and Simca models seem to all be pushed to one side as the “poor relatives”. By contract, the 180/2 Litre seemed to be popular in Spain in the 1970’s. I can remember seeing them converted in to estate car/ambulances when I was out there.

  42. Graham : your contention that BMW were the first to succeed with a compact car ignores the fact that the Mark 2 Jaguars and before them the 3.4 ( now referred to as mark 1) had been consistently good sellers in N.America from 1956 to about 1968

  43. Christopher

    Its a fair point but I would argue the following.

    1: There sales could not have been that high as total Mk2 total production is less than 84K units over a production run from 59 to 67.

    2: The MK2 was sold into exclusive “European Exotic” sector of the market, just as the E Type did compared with the humbler aspirations of the Triumph TRs and Austin Healeys.

    We should note that the replacement for the Mk2 in the market was the XJ6.

    Point is that BMWs success with the 3 and 5 series in the US was that took customers away from the prememium end of the US brands, something both Triumph and Rover etc attempted to do and failed.

  44. Looking at the Chrysler 180 photo, this is actually quite a good looking car, which would probably have been even nicer with four headlights. It actually had quite a lot to commend it, the engines weren’t the typical rattling Simca units familiar to owners of Chrysler Alpines, in 2 Litre form it went well and was a smooth drive, and both models were well equipped for the time. However, a propensity to rust and indifferent quality harmed sales and using an American badge that was little known and being made in France, when most British car buyers still bought British, harmed the 180’S sales.

  45. @ Glenn, yes the 180 & 2 litre were quite modern looking, compared to competitors at that time. My Uncle owned two (a green 180 then a red 2 Litre, after the 180 was in a crash. I think the 2 Lite was auto gearbox.

    I agree these Chrysler’s would have suited twin headlamp treatment. My Uncle later replaced the Chrysler with a Humber Sceptre.

  46. As a car mad child of the seventies, I remember the first time I saw one of these close up. Our local butcher(Jim George of Thornton Cleveleys) purchased a metallic red one. I always liked it but the interior was proper cheesy 1970s American, especially features like the vertically ribbed door card padding.

    My grandad purchased its little brother, the Avenger around the same time as his retirement car. It must have been a high spec model as it was metallic green with black vinyl roof and quad headlamps. I thought it looked good but apparently my Granddad thought it was the worst car he’d ever owned. Never found out why but could be because he’d previously owned more substantial vehicles such as a mk 2 Consul and a Triumph 2000. He traded it for a DAF Variomatic which ended up being his final car.

    Unfortunately, Rootes as was, had lost their way by the early 1970s. What had been a producer of cars that were renound for being quality and significantly better built than equivalent Fords, Vauxhalls and BMC offerings, were reduced to yet more tat being thrown together by disengaged car workers. I haven’t seen a 180 or 2 litre in the metal for decades. In fact it was probably 1989. I’ve still got the badge I removed from the rear pillar of a 2 litre in a Newcastle breakers yard when I was at University. Happy days….

  47. Nige

    WE have to remember that after 1970 Roots was dead and it was Chrysler UK and they did the same to Roots quality as they did to Mercedes a few decades later.

    For Roots the reason was that the Senior Management arrived on their career paths in the UK for usually 2 years and never more than 4 years.

    But in that time they needed to show progress back to the US that they had delivered and the number 1 issue was profitability at that time or the complete lack of it.

    This meant that the things that the UK management (and the Freench on their side) were trying to do, like position the brands Sunbeam and Simca cut above the volume of the time (think Triumph or Lancia ). For example I understand the original plans for the Alpine was using an uprated Avenger Estate platform, with a productionised version of the BRM twin cam engine and 5 speed development of the Avenger alloy gear box, so very inline with the SD2 being developed at the same time just a few junctions up the A45 at Canley

    But such investment was too long term, so althoiugh the UK management tried again, making it FWD with a dead beam axle a 5 speed gearbox using Avenger gearbox tooling (making just like the Lancia Beta) to fit in with Simca requirement that FWD was only acceptable, were also all rejected

    Meanwhile the French also wanted to do better things to replace the Simca 1500 (again), such as using the 160/180/2Litre engines, 5 speed gearbox and power steering were all rejected and the lowest cost option on the table (using warmed over Simca 1100 underpinnings) was selected.

    As well as the lack of investment and long term thinking they also pushed for cost savings on existing models, so quality declined as they slowly chipped away at the cost.

  48. Graham

    Curious to know more about Chrysler UK’s mid-1970s shelved proposal to develop 130 hp NA and 155 hp turbocharged versions of the 1.6 Avenger engine aside from David Vizard’s version of events, where an Avenger 1.6 Turbo prototype allegedly beat a Triumph Dolomite Sprint prototype in a drag race.

  49. @Nate

    I am not sure what engines these were, but I guess if they were looking at a production 130bhp 1600 in the mid 70’s this was the production version of the BRM twin cam head on a 1600 block. I don’t think it ever got beyond a paper project and certainly a competition dept BRM Avenger was a match for the Dolly Sprint rally car although both lacked the power and reliability of the Escort rally car.

    What I do know there was a lot of interest in Twin Cam engines at Whitely, I understand that engineering had pushed hard that the Avenger should have an ohc engine with an alloy head, given the higher compression ratio they could achieve, but in what was a strictly costed car that needed to sell into the fleet market they compromised with the all iron engine but putting the cam as high as practically possible.

    I surmise that a Twin Cam was seen as a way to put themselves above Ford and GM in the market, accepting the failure of the plans to take Ford and GM head on in the UK as well as using their products as Chryslers global compact range (a job that Mitsubishi were to take on to some extent). After all they must have been aware of what Canley were doing with the Sprint just a couple of miles away in Canley, I also know that Whitley made a few choice comments to their opposite numbers in Simca when Fiat launched the Fiat Mirafiori after French insisting that only FWD would be acceptable in the wider European market.

    Certainly a 1600 Twin Cam would have suited the European market well with many countries having tax breaks for small engines (France & Italy being two and key markets for Simca) and in the early 70s the UK manufacturers were developing products they could sell in Europe once we joined the Common Market (Allegro, SD1, SD2 and Alpine).

    I also know that again the Lancia Beta (before the Rust issue revealed itself) was seen very much by Whitley how the all UK engineered Alpine would have looked in its final form, using a stretched and widened Avenger Estate chassis which benefitted from having a more space efficient panard rod rear suspension compared with Saloon 4 link system, adapted to transverse FWD with the rear axle becoming a dead beam still controlled by panard rod with Twin Cam variants of the 1600 and 1800 (Brazilian block) engine and 5 speed end on gear box. We should also note that Lancia had quite a sales success in the UK with the Beta which is why the rust issue had such an impact on the brand.

    However all this was not lost, as many of the Engineers behind these ideas found their way up the road to BL, as Edwards got the development program back on track whilst Chrysler ran down and Peugeot ended UK engine development and so probably made input to the work to put a twin cam head on top of the O series.

  50. Graham

    A shame in a way that BRM’s side projects such as the BRM Avenger Twin-Cam and Reliant BRM OHC engines never managed to get off the ground let alone reached production like Lotus’s side projects did.

    Regarding the all-UK engineered Alpine – Seem to recall reading of a rebodied Avenger with a Chrysler Alpine like body though distinctly remember it being RWD for some reason unless that was later a revised cash-strapped version of the all-UK engineered Alpine project or an entirely separate project alongside what became the Chrysler Sunbeam.

    Managed to find David Vizard’s account of working with Chrysler UK on the 130 hp 1.6 NA and 155 hp 1.6 Turbo Avenger engines, though unsure how much of it can be corroborated and to what degree his work is also connected with BRM.

    “Way back I was doing a vehicle development program as an outside contractor for Chrysler UK (does not exist as such any more but not from anything I may have done). They asked me to develop a turbocharged version of the 1600 cc twin Weber carbed Avenger Tiger. At the time I was also developing the normally aspirated (N/A) Tiger engine with a view to entering the British Touring Car Championship the following year. I was asked to produce a tailpipe clean 150 hp so the Tiger could once and for all blast a Ford Lotus Cortina off the face of the planet. I delivered a car with 155 hp and Chrysler’s then managing director (forgotten his name for the moment) and the competition manager Des O’Dell took the car out for a test drive. In an almost unbelievable quirk of fate they pulled up at a set of traffic lights along side Birmingham airport beside a BL development Triumph Dolomite (a high perf 2 liter four valve version of the regular Dolly). This car was occupied by non-the-less boss of BL and his #1 side kick. They saw and recognized who was in the Tiger and a drag race was on. They of course had had no idea what was about to hit them because the Tiger looked and sounded for all the world just like a stocker yet left them for dead in the water.

    So I get this tale related to me back in the board room after the test drive is over. ‘So fella’s you like the car’? Answer ‘Yes but we can’t use it. Too much motor for the brakes. We want you to back the power down about 25 horses’. Sure I could do this but I had a much better and cheaper non-turboed version that made exactly 130 hp with an unbelievably wide power band and literally awesome drivability (road tester’s words not mine) so I said ‘sure can do – we don’t need a turbo for this so it will be showroom cheaper and I will bring the car up next week’. At this point the marketing director leaps out of his chair with a near panic expression on his face. ‘You can’t do that. We want to call this new model a ‘Turbo Tiger’ and that cannot be done without it having a turbo’. So simplicity, reduced cost and mileage were to be victimized by name tag. I question the overall logic here when a name tag takes preference over engineering finesse.”

  51. Nate

    Thanks for that.

    The Tiger was only 100 hp with a ported big valved pushrod head (the same head for Sunbeam TI were actually machined by Engine Developments of Judd fame),

    However his reference to a higher performance version for Touring Car championship does suggest this was the BRM twin cam head that Des O Dell commissioned.

    The BRM engined were never a production offering, I think you had to bring buy GT/GLS and mate it with a kit from the competition department, although that did not stop Des O Dell getting it signed off as a production car homologation purposes.

  52. Nate

    You are quite right, the Alpine started out as an attempt to replace the Arrow (Hunter)and move the brand into a more profitable part of the market with a stylish hatchback body on the Avenger Estate platform with a twin cam engine. This was in 70/71 when the dust was settling after the cut backs which had seen the V6 and UK end of the 180 cancelled.

    However the strategy was then one common European range, so they had to get Simca to buy into it, so I understand it went something like this.

    They showed their plans to Simca, the French liked it what they saw other than they thought the European market was moving to FWD.

    UK took it back and made the Avenger FWD sketching out a FWD Avenger Estate with a new end on 5 speed gearbox developed from the RWD 5 speed gearbox development of the Avenger box, at the same time the French proposed a development of the 1100 platform again with 5 speed gearbox 160/180/2 litre power unit mated to their own 5 speed development.

    US said both were far too expensive to develop and asked them both to propose something cheaper.

    UK returned with a 1600 / 1800 and 2 Litre using the Avenger underpinnings and a Brazilian block engine, French returned with the Simca 1100 underpinnings, both UK and France pointed out that the alternatives were unsuitable for their domestic markets, but as they were cheap the US signed both off.

    However as the UK continued to struggle for profitability the RWD version was cut and plans were put in place to bolt the Avenger engine to the Simca engine block, then the whole car got dropped from UK production so out went the Avenger engine.

    However when Chrysler went for some money from the UK Government, one of the demands was for a new car for Ryton, but with the French underpinnings it did not have a high enough UK content, so plans were looked at again for using the Avenger engines as well as a proposal to use the BL E Series which because of the failure of the Maxi and Allegro had spare capacity. However both were rejected as they would delay the introduction of the car and other ways were found to increase UK content.

  53. Graham

    Thanks for the info, it is good to have an idea of what was going on behind the scenes at Chrysler UK / Europe along with the various shelved projects that were far more advanced then what ended up reaching production.

    Perhaps Chrysler would have been better off not refusing Lotus Engineering’s offer in 1971 to develop the high-performance versions of the 1600 Avenger / 1800-2000 Brazilian block engines instead of BRM (even if it would eventually lead to the Lotus Sunbeam), then they would not have had to later visit rivals Cosworth for advice to make the BRM Avenger engine work only for a laughing Keith Duckworth to suggest the engine be junked.

  54. Nate

    I think that would have been a better path.

    But in the end in 1971 the business had bigger issues than a competitive rally / touring car.

    The the real crime, was the decision by the Unions to fleece Chrysler over the introduction of the Avenger to Ryton and the Arrow to Linwood.

    As a result they made the business unviable and killed all investment, which would have seen them filling the show rooms with fresh products at a time when Vauxhall products were stale and British Leyland was shooting itself in both feet with the Marina, Allegro, Princess and SD1.

  55. @ Graham
    Sad thing is the Alpine could have been a truly great car and a worthy replacement for the Hunter if it hadn’t been saddled with a Simca engine and used the 1600 from the Avenger and the 1800 from the 180. This would have placed the car clearly into Cortina territory and its advantages of fwd, a hatchback and excellent styling would have made the Alpine really take off. Also an 1800 cc performance Avenger could have been an interesting concept.
    Yet it wasn’t to be, although the Avenger soldiered on reasonably well until the end and the Sunbeam was a better car than the market realised at the time.

  56. Glenn Aylett

    You are quite right in Series 2 form with power steering, PSA 5 speed box and tinted glass and a 89 bhp engine it was better value and much quicker than the 1600 Sierra.

    Whitley had a 180 engined Alpine that once they had finished evaluating was used as a pool car for the development department, apparently it was rather quick.

    But it was unsuitable for production as the Simca gearbox could not handle it.

  57. Graham

    Was the 180 engined Alpine using the 1.8 or 2.0 and 2.2 engines?

    Quite a pity that aside from the turbocharged versions on the Peugeot 505 Turbo and Citroen BX 4TC, the 180 engine never reached its potential to evolve into a 16v DOHC fuel-injected unit as was shown in the Matra Murena 4S prototype as well as an abandoned project by Ricardo for Jensen-Healey to use a 16v DOHC head on an 180 engine block (unless there is some previously unknown connection between the two projects).

    Were there any plans to update the 1.1-1.6 Simca or Avenger engines to feature fuel-injection?

  58. Nate

    It was a 180 or may be at most 2 Litre, it was running around Coventry 75-77 (so well before the 2.2 Tagora engine), being a pre UK Alpine as I recall it having the clear front indicator lamps the original Simca version had.

    I think Simca must have put the engine in and given it to Whitley for evaluation, in response to complaints about the 1442cc engine being too small for the UK market.

    Might have also been some production capacity limits or it simply did not work very well, as they later expanded the 1442 to 1600 with the launch of the Solara, even though they had the engine from the 160, and the 5 speed CX gearbox used on the Series 1 Solara 5 speed could have handled the 2 Litre power output.

    Of course the 180 Engine could have been developed, but once PSA came along they had their own engine program and direction and I guess it was just a matter of running out the Simca engines and tooling along with keeping the Unions happy that kept Simca engines around in the 505, 309 etc.

  59. It was perhaps unfortunate for the 180 engine that the Douvrin 2 litre came out in the late 70s, as with this newer engine that PSA and Renault had co developed, they had no need for the 180 engine as well

  60. Nate

    You asked

    Were there any plans to update the 1.1-1.6 Simca or Avenger engines to feature fuel-injection?

    I am sure the engineers would have been interested, but they had no money under Chrysler and no need under PSA to do it.

  61. Graham

    Understand

    It is curious to note how in terms of figures the 1.6 180 OHC did not appear to offer that much of an improvement over the 1.5/1.6 Simca OHV engine, though am sure in better circumstances the engineers could have further developed the 1.6 180 OHC as well as even convert the 1.6 Simca OHV to feature fuel-injection or OHCs.

    Speaking of the Simca OHV aside from reading it was a Fiat sourced unit and possibly derived from the Dante Giacosa designed Fiat 100 Series engine, have read that Simca originally planned a much lighter (by 30kg) all-alloy water-cooled 950cc Flat-4, one version with sidevalves the other version with OHC.

  62. Nate, The Simca Poissy Engine (ohv 1000 – 1592) was a very efficient engine for its day, hence why a 1.5 Alpine with its 85 bhp could demolish a Cortina 2.0L.

    I wasn’t aware it had a Fiat heritage, I have read that it was the same designer as behind the Matra V12 F1 / Le mans engine.

    I am sure it had plenty of potential for development as well as the 180 engine, but Chrysler (as I explained above) management structure just did not encourage long term investment. As PSA showed, with just a little investment they eliminated most of the tappet rattle for when the engine went into the 309. (the 309 1.3 was I found a really nice drive, being a good bit lighter than a Horizon it was more than up to the job).

    One point of note is that the Fuel Injection systems of the time offered very little over a good carb set up, because they lacked any feedback information adapt their mapping.

  63. Graham

    Have read about the Fiat origins of the Simca Poissy engine from Dante Giacosa’s book and elsewhere, where the Simca 1000 was originally a parallel project alongside what eventually became the Fiat 850.

    Though it is more likely the Simca Poissy engine was derived from the Fiat 600 engine (that finished production in 899cc form in the Seicento and appeared in 1050cc form in the A112 Abarth), others say the Simca Poissy unit was actually based on the Fiat 1100 engine.

  64. This thread gets more & more interesting, I knew Fiat & Simca had connections early on, but seemed to go their own ways be the early 1960s.

  65. Nate

    What you say make sense as Fiat were major shareholders when the Fiat 1000 was launched, I think the companies seperated in 63.

    I suspect the Matra link came in to the mix in a similar way Ricardo etc supported the UK manufacturers, may be input funded with the Chrysler money that was used to fund the revamp of the Simca range with the FWD 1100

    Certainly some good know how went into the design of the gas flows and combustion chamber as they were despite their simple architecture ahead of curve compared with UK engines of the 70s.

  66. Graham

    It is probably the case that Georges Martin did design the Poissy engine though the unit itself was derived from the Fiat unit.

    Regarding Simca would Chrysler Europe have survived to present minus the former Rootes Group?

    Obviously Chrysler in the US had its own problems during the 1970s though perhaps instead of Chrysler Europe being sold-off, its fate would have been limited to a cooperation with PSA allowing Chrysler Europe to ride on the coattails of PSA’s success in Europe during the early-80s to mid/late-90s (in terms of platforms / componentry and diesel engines), somewhat akin to how Chrysler US were selling certain Mitsubishi-based cars and engines in North America.

    Richard16378

    Also in Dante Giacosa’s book it is mentioned that he had a tough time persuading the higher ups at Fiat during the 60s to go down the transverse-engined fwd route and originally wanted what later became the Autobianchi A111 (formerly the Fiat 123 E4 prototype) to become a Fiat in place of what became the Fiat 124.

    Additionally, the Soviets were very interested in the Autobianchi Priumla only to be forced by Fiat to adopt the Fiat 124 for what later became the Lada.

  67. Nate

    I very much doubt Simca would not have been swallowed up by PSA or Renault by the end of the 70s.

    The fundamental problem Simca had standing alone, was that it simply did not make and or sell enough cars to generate the increasing amount of money needed to fund car and engine development.

    The Simca 1100 superb as it was at launch and a relative sales success, however looking at Simca profitability it was I suspect just like the ADO16 in being at best only marginally profitable. You can see why, because with its (then) expensive CV joints, fwd engine mounts, alloy transmission cases and head, complicated double wishbone / torsion bar long travel front suspension it probably cost more to make than the higher priced but conventional Simca 1500.

    As with Roots I am sure Chryslers had high hopes for Simca in the early 60s and whilst it did not implode like Roots in 1969/70, the 1100 and the planned 1500 replacement (turned over for the 160/180/2L) would never have generated the funds for their replacement let alone a small car to replace the 1000 to compete with the Renault 5 / 104.

  68. Another dimension to the Fiat / Simca links in the early 1960s was Abarth, (still independent in those pre-Fiat days) who produced some amazing little Abarth Simcas (up to 2 litres, I think) alongside all the work they did with Fiat.

  69. PSA buys Chrysler Europe Cars, Vans become part of Renault, leading to badged Dodge-Renault vans.

    PSA vans tie up with Fiat to produce the Ducato / Peugeot J5 / Citroen C25 vans. This also led to the last ever Talbot – a UK spec badged version of this basic van, popular with camper van conversion companies such that even today you are likely to see a Talbot Express based camper built up until 1994.
    They also tied up for small vans – Citroen Jumpy / Peugeot Partner / Fiat Scudo.

    Another PSA-Fiat tie up was with the MPVs – Fiat Ulyssee, Peugeot 806, Citroen Evasion/Synergie and Lancia Zeta.

    Fiat later tied up with Renault vans again, for the Trafic based Talento.

  70. Will M

    Also do not forget that the same realtionship that gave us the Partner van etc also gives us Peug, Citroen, Fiat and Lancia MPVs.

    I often use a Taxi company in Bergamo that has a driver with a facelifted first generation Fiat variant, and it actually works quite well other that the rear seats appear to be made for the 7 dwarfs, as myself a mere 5 9 finds them uncomfortably low.

  71. Has anyone ever seen pictures or details of the V6 that was due to be fitted to the British C-Car before it was cancelled for the Simca engined European 180.

  72. Wingroad

    I know and have known several people involved both at Roots and companies in Coventry who were manufacturing and installing the tooling and transfer line for it at Stoke.

    But i have never seen one and or pictures of the V6.

    Chryslers appear to have had a policy of destroying the Prototypes, I note that those that ended up in Museum in Coventry appear to be the ones that were at Whitley when PSA closed it and that the pictures we have from the Chrysler era came out of Roy Axe’s personal archive.

  73. Thanks Graham,
    I wonder if Graham Robsons’ book on the Cars of Rootes has any info or pictures of the V6. I have seen a picture of a 180 in Hillman guise before the project was transferred to Simca.Not sure whether it is genuine or a photoshop.

  74. I repeat my comment that there is NO defence for the Chrysler 180. The interior was truly vile and about 10 years behind the Cortina 4, and whilst the Cortina was no great shakes to drive it looked and felt modern inside and out. In contrast the brown velour and fake wood of the Chrysler looks dated as do the instruments and dashboard.

    Whilst the 2.0 engine was ok, the bodywork turned into rust flakes far quicker than any Cortina. The ones that I came across and worked on were invariably suffering from the terminal stages of tinworm infestation, especially in the sills, wheel arches and chassis cross members.

    When the Cavalier Mk 1 appeared, it just blew the 180 into the weeds. Given the choice of repmobile alternatives, it was Cavalier first followed by Cortina for most people. As a private buy I remember my father looking at a 5 year old 180 and shaking his head at the amount of rust. We ended up with a Marina, but that is another story.

    The 180 was unloved and unwanted — and you could tell. Perhaps with some TLC, some rust protection and a [1980s] modern makeover it might have made some sense. As it was, the 180 was the ugly duckling that never turned into a swan.

  75. @Tony

    The 180 was launched in 1971 the year of the Cortina Mk3, and its styling was on par and interior was then a cut above the Cortina Mk3, the car reviews of the time showed it as a competitive offer lower end of the exec market.

    The 180 was never sold into the fleet market, the cars which were placed in that market were the Hunter, Alpine and Solara.

    I would suggest you read the Motor Magazine Group test between the Alpine S (1442), Cav and Cortina 1.6 GL, the Alpine was the clear winner. The Solara 1.6 GL also won its group test when launched against them in 79.

  76. I think the second generation Alpine and the Solara were better cars than people realised. A lot of the rust issues had been solved on the Talbot cars, a fifth speed( when the Cortina was four speed only) made cruising quieter and more economical, and you got a lot of car for the money. My family owned a 1982 Solara GL with a five speed gearbox and this was a lot quieter than the four speed Alpine that preceded it and we had no reliability or rust issues with it. Only problem was the Talbot badge had been axed when we came to sell it and values were on the floor.

  77. I was a secondhand car salesman during the late 70s and apart from the fact no-one bought them, all I can remember about them was the ignition key, which was a rubber `tyre` whigh you turned in the lock after pulling out the metal blade!

  78. The Chrysler 180/2 Litre was a very good looking car for the time and looked excellent from the back and with a vinyl roof. I did see more in France than in Britain in 1980, probably due to the car being made there until the late seventies, and possibly because rust wasn’t such a big issue. Not a perfect car, Chryler left it to wither on the vine after 1973 and it wasn’t particularly well made or rustproofed, but the big Chrysler was a comfortable car with a decent turn of speed, plenty of space and was well equipped for the time.

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