Projects and prototypes : Rootes B Car (1966-1970)

The new Rootes B Car programme would prove to be a departure from the model that preceded it, the Hillman Hunter.

The main difference between the Hillman Avenger and Hunter was the emergence of a Detroit style and a more youthful direction.


Hillman Avenger: A brave new style

The proportions are a little more daring than the final model, but the character of the Avenger shines clearly through.

Rootes B Car drawings

Much time and effort went into ensuring that the car was exactly what the company’s customers wanted from it. More importantly, it was designed with an eye on taking sales from Ford and Vauxhall in the UK. Here are some images taken during the development of this vitally important new car.

Early styling sketches of the Rootes B Car showed very clear Detroit influences, but also an identifiable semi-fastback style that would soon become an Avenger trademark. This was a trend in the industry that led to a number of droop-booted saloons, including the Ford Cortina Mk3, Morris Marina, Peugeot 504 and Renault 12 amongst others.

Rootes B Car: Again, pure Detroit, and none the worse for it - this picture could have been produced by any of the US producers as a styling sketch for the mid-1960s.
Again, pure Detroit, and none the worse for it – this picture could have been produced by any of the US producers as a styling sketch for the mid-1960s
Rootes B Car: Another Avenger trademark, the L-Shaped rear lamps were clearly designed in from an early stage in the project.
Another Avenger trademark, the J-shaped rear lamps were clearly designed in from an early stage in the project

Clay scale model

Rootes B Car: The first quarter scale clay model is worked upon by (right to left) lead modeller, Ray Key, exteriors modelling supervisor, Matt Muncaster, exterior chief stylist Reg Myatt and Roy Axe.
The first quarter-scale clay model is worked upon by (right to left) Lead Modeller, Ray Key, Exteriors Modelling Supervisor, Matt Muncaster, Exterior Chief Stylist Reg Myatt and Roy Axe

Rootes B Car full-size clay models

Rootes B Car: One of the proposals that went to full-size clay for submission to management. This version was passed over in favour of the shapelier version pictured below.
One of the proposals that went to full-size clay for submission to management. This version was passed over in favour of the shapelier version pictured below

Rootes B Car

Rootes B Car

The model that was signed off by the management. Some fine tuning was still required at the front of the car, but the shape was now settled. The di-noc'ed version of this car was given the green light on the 16th November 1965.
The model that was signed off by the management. Some fine tuning was still required at the front of the car, but the shape was now settled. The Dinoc’d version of this car was given the green light on 16th November 1965

Rootes B Car interior schemes

Rootes B Car: Two styling themes for the interior, as produced under the guidance of Executive Styling director, Bob Saward.
Two styling themes for the interior, as produced under the guidance of Executive Styling Director, Bob Saward

The finished article – Hillman Avenger

Rootes B Car: Two-door saloon
Hillman Avenger two-door saloon
Rootes B Car: Four-door saloon
Hillman Avenger four-door saloon
Rootes B Car: Five-door estate
Plymouth Cricket five-door estate

All development pictures from STYLE AUTO magazine.

Keith Adams
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9 Comments

  1. Oh, how I miss my dad’s Avenger GT1600. Quad headlamps and a rev counter!! Excellent stuff and I always loved those tail-lights…

  2. Happy memories of childhood journeys in my parents Avenger 1500 Estate 🙂 I recall the first Avenger saloon that I saw – owned by school friend’s father – and being impressed by the L shaped lights.

  3. There was also a 5-door fastback hatchback prototype derived from the 4-door Avenger saloon from Roy Axe’s book, though wonder whether a 3-door fastback hatchback derived from the 2-door Avenger saloon was looked into beyond an Avenger-based SWB Sunbeam precursor to replace the Imp.

    It is interesting how Chrysler Europe looked at creating different models off the Avenger platform from a SWB model to a LWB hatchback proposal during the Chrysler Alpine project reputedly with FWD (that seems different from the 5-door fastback hatchback prototype mentioned in Roy Axe’s book).

  4. IIRC a coupé based on the Avenger to compete with the Capri was proposed at one point.

  5. I did all my driving lessons in an Avenger in 1975. I had no previous experience of any other cars so for a while it was the standard against which I judged everything else.

    Looking back, for the mid -70s it was a pretty good car; I certainly came across much worse in later years.

  6. I failed my first driving test in an Avenger, but a year later (after passing in a Viva!) I regularly drove my employers Avenger 1500 DL Estate. It did have quite good acceleration but was very “boomy” at high speed. Vinyl trim was the norm back then and no radio.

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