1972 Hillman Avenger Tiger

Guide Price: £23,000 - £26,000

The Background

The 1970s were a hotbed for performance models of ‘ordinary’ cars. Prior to this, cars were just cars. But in the 1970s, they were given the chance to evolve into something more. No longer were we presented with one option of any given model of car when we walked into a dealership. No, we were presented with different versions of those models. Many would argue that it was Ford that created this niche in the market by making the humble Mk1 Escort into a bona fide performance model. You may have other brands in mind as a perceived catalyst. 
Everyone was at it in the 1970s, and as such, manufacturers had to work hard to stand out. Bight paint, racing stripes, alloy wheels, loud exhausts - they were all the order of the day. And from all corners of the market, including Hillman. But the Hillman offering wasn’t just trying to go with the crowd. No, it was a serious contender. Faster than the Escort Mexico of the time, the hot Hillman was a bright and shining star of the performance car landscape. Literally, as the Mk1, which is what we have here, was only available in Sundance Yellow. 
This car, the Hillman Avenger Tiger, was a glowing example of what could be done. It made the leap from Escort 1100L to Escort Mexico look tiny. The Tiger was leaps ahead of the standard Avenger. Bucket seats, that yellow paint, magnesium wheels, spotlights, a power bulge on the bonnet, twin Weber carbs and nearly 100bhp. It was a staggering, fun, fast, exciting little car.

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The History

The story behind this car is, for lack of a more fitting adjective, incredible. No hyperbole, this is possibly the most significant Avenger Tiger out there today. Those of you in the know will have figured out why. For the rest of you, what you’re looking at here is the original press car. Not only that, it was one of the first Tigers to ever be built. Launched in March of 1972, this car has paperwork to confirm it was built in February. Only 200 were built, and this is certainly one of the earliest. 
Once built the car was paraded in the motoring press, it was used for road tests, motor shows, magazine articles and more. And even after the car left the custodianship of Hillman, it found a life as a regular star in the motoring press. Look at the gallery below and you will find no shortage of the examples of automotive literature we’re talking about. This is the kind of provenance you simply can’t fake. 
Of course, the story isn’t all rosy. This Tiger has had some ‘down’ years, too. The current owners have had the car for some thirteen years, being acquired as needing full restoration from the previous owner, who himself owned the car for thirteen years and is the countries foremost expert on the Avenger Tiger. The car came with a lot of new-old stock and now un-obtainable items, to help complete the restoration.
Well aware of the car’s significance, the current owners have carried out a complete nut and bolt restoration on the car. Passionate and highly knowledgeable about the Hillman range, they were the right people for the job. The car was repaired and built back up to as-new condition, which is how it is presented today. It’s an exquisite example of how a restoration should be done. Though as you’ll find as you read on, the means by which the current owners were able to facilitate the restoration are like nothing else. 

The Paperwork

There is, as mentioned above, a great deal of literature pertaining to the past life of the car as a press vehicle. Pictures of it, in period, being thrashed around by the motoring press of the time all serve as tangible proof of the car’s legacy. There is also some documentation that states the Tiger was, at a cost of over £5,000, restored to original specification in 1989. 
Later print articles from 1991, 1992 and 1995, again with ample photography, show that the car was in great shape for many, many years. It was after this time, that the car once again needed restoration. This brings the car to the current owners, who have owned the car since 2007. And this is where it gets interesting.
The Tiger has once again been restored to an exacting standard. The owner has amassed a large amount of stock parts over the years, which have served this car well!
This is why there is no invoicing or receipts for parts. They literally had everything. Even down to an original, unused dash-top and also the fibre rear light protectors in the boot. They have workshops on site (this is a big, big hobby, not a full-on business) where the car was restored, and whenever a part was needed, they simply looked through their stores and grabbed it. 
The paperwork with this car serves to validate its press car past. The condition of the car, and the facilities afforded it during its restoration, speak far greater in volume than a stack of receipts ever would.

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The Interior

As you’d expect from a restoration completed by people with the new-old stock parts needed and a genuine passion for the model, the interior is excellent. The headlining is mint and free of damage, the door cards are immaculate, the carpets fresh, the seats new.

The speedo is a substitute speedo, currently reading 66,591 miles, but the sellers are keen to note that the MoT history shows a true mileage 120,000.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, the bucket seat holds you in place as you look out on the simple but informative dashboard. The horizontal speedometer is delightfully ‘70s, and functions perfectly. As does the fuel gauge and the temperature gauge. The steering wheel is in excellent order, as are the twist-operated switches on the on column. There is some light evidence of age to the plastics, but nothing in the way of damage at all. 
The keen-eyed amongst you may be wondering where the dash-mounted rev-counter is, and the radio. They’re with the car, both new and never fitted to a car (the tach is even in the original box!). However, the dash is new and free of damage, and as such, the current owners didn’t want to drill into it or cut holes. As such, the parts will be supplied with the car and their fitment left to the discretion of the new owner. 
All the doors rest on new hinges, and shut against the new strikers and rubbers with a pleasing accuracy. In fact, we remarked to the owner that they probably function better now than they did when new! As we mentioned, the door cards are all immaculate and free of damage, though there is some every so slight separation on a couple of corners, but nothing that couldn’t be sorted in a matter of moments. 
This Tiger has the original, re-furbished desirable bucket seats fitted up front, with the original (as new) vinyl bench in the back. The front seats are exceptionally comfortable, though care needs to be taken getting in, as the metal frame within the seat’s ‘winged’ bases can be a little unforgiving! 
Open the boot and it is, again, as new. The matting looks like it’s carried nothing heavier than air. The inner structure is mint and free of scratches and damage, and the rear lights are protected by the internal fibre coverings - another part that is generally unobtainium! 
The glass is all fresh and clean, and free from any damage. The slight pattern you might see on some pictures is a product of our polarised lens - the windscreen is mint. The rubbers, too, are all new and seal the car perfectly. Sitting in this car is a treat. There is nothing of substance on which it can be faulted. If we had to be really picky, there is one slight nick in the dash to the right of the Avenger emblem on the passenger side, but that’s about it.

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The Exterior

Just look at it for yourself. This car is in exceptional condition. The paint has been expertly applied, as have the Avenger Tiger decals. There are no ripples in the paint, there are no questionable panel gaps, there is no sign of past work - such was the standard it was completed to. It’s 99% flawless. The 1% is a small bit of bubbling on the rain gutter on the offside rear, about two inches long. That’s it. 
The bonnet has the correct fibreglass power bulge, painted in matte black. The chrome is in as new condition, as are all the lights, door handles and other trim. At the front, the correct Lucas lamp set is fitted, including Lucas covers that look like they came out of the box last week. This is an astonishing car, truly. 
At each corner, you will find another treat. Those wheels aren’t generic alloys. No, they’re the original specification magnesium wheels that this car should have. And if you’re a Tiger fan, you’ll know that these wheels, which all wear new rubber, are akin to unicorns in terms of availability. 
Pleasingly, the current owner has a ramp at his home, so we were also able to get underneath this Tiger. As you can see from the pictures, the underside is just as impressive as the topside. You can’t see any trace of past repair. There is no corrosion, not even surface, and all the fixings are new. The suspension has all been painted, the lines are all new, the exhaust too. The fuel tank even has a deep shine care of being painted gloss black. 
Of course, this is a car that has been used, albeit sparingly. As such, rubbers have stretched into their resting position, and there is a bit of road dirt, but that’s about all we can say. You could have this car to concours standard without much fuss. It’s honestly that good.   

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The Mechanics

Given the condition of the rest of the car, it will come as no surprise that this Tiger’s mechanical elements are in exceptional order. However, there is one caveat in that the engine fitted isn’t the one the car left the factory with. However, it is the right engine from a GT model in the correct 1,498cc capacity and with the correct Weber twin carbs. Furthermore, the original engine - should you really want this car to be ‘numbers matching’ - is included in the sale, however it does need a complete rebuild. The Tiger has its current engine because it’s the correct one, and the owner had it waiting in the wings to be used. 
Open the bonnet, and it’s like you’re stood in a dealership in 1972. Everything is period correct from the battery to the washer fluid bag. The inner wings are immaculate, as is the engine itself. To the right of the engine bay sits an original brake servo, which is a rare find for this car. Leads, plugs, loom, fuses, it’s all perfect. 

Not being happy with how the gear-box kept jumping out of first gear, the owners recently fitted a genuine Unipart silver seal reconditioned gearbox from their parts stocks.
The suspension is obviously all new, as are all the bushes (though the bushes do show signs of being driven, as you would expect). The brakes and brake lines are new, the callipers up front still silver and clean. The steering is all new, as is the clutch. It’s got 66k on the clock, but really it’s closer to 600 miles in this current condition.
Keen to give us the full experience, the owners were more than happy to take us out in the Tiger. And what an experience it is. It’s a loud, chatty car that barks into life keenly. For something with only 92bhp, it pulls well and has a surprising amount of hustle. 
There are no bumps, no untoward rattles of creaks (no more than you’d expect from a British ‘70s car, anyway). It’s just brilliant. A fun, exciting little car that bags for you to press on and work it though the rev range.

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The Appeal

It may be blunt to say so, but the appeal here is simple - find another. This is the press car from back in the day. It’s possibly the oldest surviving example of the Avenger Tiger, and it is in exceptional condition. This is a car that has been rebuilt lovingly and in great detail by people who literally have stacks upon stacks of original, factory parts. Other cars have to make do with used bits, or pattern parts. But not this one. It is as close to original as you can possibly get without actually travelling back in time. It is an astonishing little car. 
Is it perfect? Pretty much. There is that slight bubbling on one rain cutter, and some of the interior plastics show the odd sign of being in long, long-term storage, but that’s about it. But then, it is a forty-eight year-old car. It would be silly to expect any car of that vintage to be truly ‘as new’. However, it’s not silly to recognise this as being 99% of the way to being as new, which it is. 
There are classics that have been restored, cars that are in exceptional condition that turn your head as they drive by. And then there are cars like this Tiger, which have been restored under most exceptional circumstances such as being subject to all the old factory stock. And then there is the press car provenance. This Tiger isn’t rare, it’s more than that, its history makes it unique. And this is your chance to own it... 
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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1972
  • Make Hillman
  • Model Avenger Tiger
  • Colour Yellow
  • Odometer 66,591 Miles
  • Engine size 1498
Auction Details
  • Seller Type Private
  • Location Staffordshire
  • Country United Kingdom
Bidding history
35 bids
  • PP•••• £29,250 31/08/20
  • Ti•••• £29,000 31/08/20
  • PP•••• £28,750 31/08/20
  • Ti•••• £28,500 31/08/20
  • PP•••• £28,250 31/08/20
  • Ti•••• £28,000 31/08/20
  • PP•••• £27,750 31/08/20
  • Ti•••• £27,500 31/08/20
  • PP•••• £27,250 31/08/20
  • Ti•••• £27,000 31/08/20
Message C&C Auction Team

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