Tuesday, October 22, 2013

1973 Plymouth Cricket - A Rare Piece of British / American Automotive History

I love seeing cars like this... A Plymouth Cricket in very good condition. Awesome.

Developed and built in the UK by the Rootes Group, the Cricket was known as the Hillman Avenger throughout most of the world.

Chrysler saw the Cricket as a competitor to the Chevy Vega and Ford Pinto. Chrysler, besides changing the name, tweaked the Avenger for the US market. A 1.5 liter engine, front disc brakes and quad headlamps - options in other countries - were standard. Side marker lights and high back bucket seats were added to meet US safety regulations.

Sales of the Cricket never came close to those of the Pinto and Vega. In 1971, Ford sold over 350,000 Pintos. Chevy sold around 275,000 Vegas. Chrysler sold just 27,682 Crickets.

The Cricket had build quality issues, which were exacerbated by poor parts supplies and dealership mechanics having little or no knowledge about the car. In 1972, sales fell by half. By the middle of 1973 the Cricket was gone.

Worldwide, the Avenger was a success. Close to three quarters of a million cars were sold. Production in the UK ended in 1981. After Volkswagen bought Chrysler's factories in Argentina, they continued to build the Avenger and sold it as the Volkswagen Dodge 1500. Production ended in 1990. (See ad below)

Most Crickets are gone now. Rust and lack of interest killed them. That's what makes this car so remarkable.

It has been a long time since I have seen a Plymouth Cricket at all, let alone one in this kind of condition. It has a few minor flaws, all of which are detailed in the seller's very well done eBay ad.

Looking back, the Cricket wasn't a bad car. Its performance and style were better than or on par with many of the imported economy cars of the day. Poor build quality, lack of interest by its dealers, a sense of national pride about the Pinto and Vega (Yep, America was once proud of those cars), and the rise of the Japanese brands in the US doomed it.

Using performance parts available throughout the world, you could turn this Cricket into a genuine performance car. But , given it's condition and originality, I'd leave it alone. As it is, it's a really cool - extremely rare - piece of British / American automotive history.

Located in Mineola, NY, click here to see the eBay listing.


Matt Cotton said...

Chrysler blew a lot of opportunities in those days! They owned some of the world's most popular cars, from Simca and Rootes, and couldn't sell more than a handful in America and then wouldn't support them. The Simca 1500 and 1308, the Cricket and even its big brother, the Chrysler 2 Liter would have been real contenders here. And every time they dropped a model after trying to sell it for, what, a minute, their apathy tainted their next model before it even had a chance. Lucky Dodge Colt didn't have the same problem because the bad reputation was up till then associated with Chrysler/Plymouth dealers, and car shoppers were still very loyal to one or the other in those days and didn't see them as being basically the same thing! Love the Cricket, it's really our almost last British economy car here, next to the Marina.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for sharing this with your readers.
The seller (and fellow Cricket enthusiast)

Anonymous said...

Nice find!

Jack E said...

Drove one all through college. It never let me down. If I had the space I be bidding on this. Thanks fot the memories.

Max Power said...

I have seen this car (or HAD to have seen this car) about two years ago motoring around Roosevelt Field mall (located very near the seller) and my jaw dropped. I was shocked to see a Cricket in any condition let alone one this good, driving around.

Anonymous said...

Great, accurate write up. Are you ever going to update this blog?