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The Carchive: The Chrysler Hunter

On Monday we allowed Petula Clark to “Put a little Sunbeam in our” lives, and I’m sure we all feel an awful lot richer for the experience. The Sunbeam had been created at a time when Chrysler Europe were at a bit of a low ebb, in need of something to capture the public’s imagination and keep the wolves from the Linwood factory doors for a little while longer.

The Chrysler UK coffers, in the late 70’s, contained nothing much but cobwebs and boxes of old stationary with defunct logos printed on it, which may explain why this brochure runs to just four pages on a double-sided A3 sheet, as information crammed as it is. Ladies and Gentlemen, please try and get enthusiastic for the “New” (1978) Chrysler Hunter.

“You’ll welcome the improvements to the new 1978 Chrysler Hunter. They make it a car with an unmatchable combination of motoring credits”

The Hunter, as built by the Hawker Siddeley Aircraft company, was one of Britains most celebrated home-spun jet fighter aircraft. It was fast, robust, elegant enough to see service in an aerobatic capacity, and long lived enough to see service with forces around the globe for the best part of half a century. The name, Hunter, was very appropriate for what was conceived as an interceptor.

The Hunter, as built by the Hillman Motor Car Company, was nowhere near as exciting. We the most exciting thing about it was that the side window glass was curved in one plane, at a time where flat glass was in far more widespread use. Of a more compelling purchase argument I have rarely heard.

“Behind the Chrysler Pentastar on its smart new radiator grille”

The Pentastar could have been rolled out earlier; Hillman and the rest of the Rootes Group having been sucked into the American giant’s European division in 1967 and becoming Chrysler UK. However, with various levels of trim and styling, the Hunter was marketed under the Hillman, Singer, Humber and Sunbeam brands ( Dodge in South Africa) until 1976, after which it became simply a Chrysler. That smart new radiator grille wasn’t exactly radical, either, being very similar to the one worn by the previous Hillman Hunter GLS. But, hey, Chrysler only had pocket change to invest, so you couldn’t expect too much breakthrough stuff to go down.

There were improvements, though, for the Hunter under Chrysler. The top-o’-the-range Super model was imbued with a centre console which had a volt-meter in it. It considers to baffle me that a volt-meter; all the better to tell you when your electrical system goes into meltdown, should be considered a “luxury” item and thus only fitted to upscale trim levels. But there was simulated wood treatment scattered around the cabin, and a vinyl roof treatment, too, so the sense of luxury couldn’t possibly be overlooked.

The deeply inset round dials had been present for a good few years, lending the dashboard a vaguely Italian-American air to it, and the interior was a good deal more stylish than the outside, although that vinyl roof was bang on-trend. I want those to come back, by the way. Opera windows too.

What we appear to have here is a photograph of Prince Phillip looking longingly at sheep. Quite what on earth this has to do with the Hunter, or just what kind of impression it is supposed to convey to the all important export markets, I have no idea. I mean, the whole brochure only ran to four pages. I’d love to have sat in on the meeting where they all agreed that a good percentage of the brochure should be filled with pictures of Royal Husbands looking at sheep. I should mention that the man in the photo might not actually be Prince Phillip, and hope that this disclaimer keeps me away from imprisonment in The Tower. But for the sake of simplicity, lets just say that it is him.

“The 1725cc engine produces power to spare, with a top speed of up to 89mph for the DL, 93mph for the Super, when laws allow”

That engine had been around since the late Cretaceous period, and in a huge number of different power outputs. If there’s one thing that Chrysler UK had in common with Chrysler the other side of the Atlantic, it was a keenness for extracting extra power out of engines; although you’d be pushing things to describe any of the Rootes engines as muscular. However; the Super…:

“….also has a high-performance aluminium cylinder head”.

It did indeed, as did it have a high lift cam and a twin outlet exhaust manifold, boosting power from 61bhp to 74, and torque from 85lb-ft to 95. That still wasn’t a huge amount, though, and the extra 4mph at the top end hardly seems worth the bother when you look at it now.

It seems that priorities had changed a bit from what went before. Previously, with the Hunter GLS, Holbay Engineering had been brought in to swiften things up a bit, and they delivered a twin-Weber fuelled unit with 110hp on tap. The same engine had been used in the excitingly named Sunbeam Rapier HS120. The Rapier and its lower powered Alpine sister, were coupes (styled in the image of a much miniaturized Baraccuda) spun from the same platform as the Hunter, referred to by the Rootes Group as the Arrow platform.

“Yet it also returns up to 36mpg”

Yes, the 1725cc engine could be made to travel thirty-six miles on a single gallon, a great big UK gallon, 4.54 litres worth (The miles were internationally recognised ones, 1760 yards long). Reproducing these figures may not be especially easy, though; they were arrived at based on eighty miles of driving at an average of 36mph. Today I would expect at least 150hp for 36mpg. Mind you, a modern, full-fat, bloated, swollen, hideous mid-size car today probably struggles to best 93mph on 150hp anyway.

“Even more to it than meets the eye”

One thing the Super did boast, to its eternal credit and great majesty, was Ro-Style wheels. Named for their original manufacturer, Rubery Owen, these were essentially an imitation of the Magnum wheels made popular ‘Stateside by Motor Wheel Corp. The same basic style of four pressed-steel spokes, four black-painted quadrants and four half-radius smaller spokes would be employed by Rootes, BMC and Ford during the ’70s. They offered absolutely no advantage over regular pressed steel wheels other than styling; their popularity owed more to the fickle irrationality of fashion.

I can’t see Prince Phillip, or any other Royal in this photo, but there are plenty of sheep so that’s ok. Maybe one of the important features of the Hunter was its impressive wool content, but I can’t find anything to back this up. Of course, lets not forget that drugs were extremely popular in the ’70s, and I imagine that the people who put this brochure together were very familar with hollucinagenics of all possible forms. Maybe all the money that should have been spent putting this brochure together ended up being spent on weed, and they all sat around listening to Dark Side, being trippy and far out, and collectively came up with the sheep thing? I have no idea.

Oh! Maybe it was a subliminal message that the Hunter Super was mutton dressed as lamb?!

That’s actually quite a clever thought considering it’s now midnight and I should have stopped typing ages ago.

There’s a bottle of Sloe Gin over there that looks mighty appealling right now.

“By even the most hard-headed commercial standards, the Hunter has been tried and tested and proven”

That was true. The various progeny of the Arrow bloodline had been around since 1966 and had been named not just Hunter but Vogue, Minx, Sceptre, Gazelle and in overseas-marketed longroof flavour, as a Break de Chasse. And even after the plug was pulled in the UK in ’79, that was only the beginning of the story.

Iran National had been building the Hunter under licence from almost the very beginning. They were initially built from kits of bits sent out from Britain, but by the mid ’80s had evolved to a fully locally-built machine, of which there were taxi and pick-up spin-offs. Of course, over time the mechanical elements were updated and the 1725cc engine was finally put to pasture, finding a new lease of life powering rotavators or pepper mills or something. There were rumours that, on production finally ending in Iran in 2006, the production line would be restarted in Sudan, but I can’t find much on the internet any newer than 2009 and now wonder if it ever happened.

I wonder how alone I am in appreciating the following delicious irony. The headquarters of the Rootes Group were located in Coventry, Warwickshire, where I went to University. Coventry has a very excellent Transport museum, rich with myriad examples of the vehicles that the City had produced over the years, and of course one of the cars on display; in a small section representing the everyday cars of the 1970’s, is a Hillman Hunter. Except it isn’t.

It’s an Iran Khodro Peykan. The Iranian badges can be seen as can script etched on the window glass. The car from Coventry is represented by its Iranian descendent, in it’s own museum. Of course, Peykan is Persian for “Arrow”.

(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by the author. Copyright remains property of Peugeot, I assume, although it may belong to just about anybody. If it’s yours, please let us know)

  • Number_Six

    "Hunter — For men who'd like blow-jobs from beautiful sheep they hardly know."

  • Van_Sarockin

    The sheep are clearly the right choice here.

  • skitter

    If you'd suggested this poster first, you might have gotten away with the Pontiac. Or been stuck with this one, if the bucolic agricultural scenes struck a vibe.

  • david42

    The pic of the steering wheel is truly horrifying. Wires dangling everywhere, steering column mismatched with the wheel center, and an ignition lock that would look wimpy even on a high school gym locker. Oh, and the interior door handle seems to be some kind of dentist's tool.

    • Van_Sarockin

      You just don't see deep dish steering wheels like that anymore.

      • david42

        Oh, but I didn't mean that the steering wheel was too deep-dished (which is kind of a cool look), I just meant that the steering column housing is wider than the wheel hub.

        • Van_Sarockin

          I would start from the point of view that everything in the interior is just unspeakably wrong. Then I would battle long and hard before grudgingly giving up any point as possibly acceptable. I had an adverse physical reaction from that interior photo. They say I'll recover eventually.

  • I_Borgward

    I envision a herd of fuselage New Yorkers thundering across the Serengeti.

    Also: I find the contours of the Hunter's instrument pods to be… disturbing.

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    This Hunter is sadly diminished from the glory of the Hillman Hunter rally car I had a Corgi model of.

    • Rover1

      A model of this…
      <img src=";
      which won the London to Sydney Marathon Rally against quite good opposition.

  • iamthesun

    Great sheep!<img src="; height="1" width="1" /><img src="; height="1" width="1" />

    • Devin

      Well I wouldn't say they're great but they're not baaaaaaaad.

  • spotty

    a friend of mine had an aussie delivery hillman hunter with floral vinyl seat inserts and matching vinyl roof……..cool or what?

    i too had a hunter over here that had reached the end of a sadly abused life (and me getting hold of it just hastened that demise), it had retreaded turkish tyres,crap brakes, which also leaked from several points and a stuck hood release ( so it eventually ran out of brake fluid and there was no way to top it up again), poor old car, it gave its life that others may drive

  • Rover1

    'Like a mini Barracuda' with the design constraint that they had to use the wagon version's tail lights. So quite a good job by one Roy Axe who in the tenuous connections department, ended up via Chrysler, and design work on minivans, back in the UK working for Rover on the XX project which became quite a Legend as the Rover 800. A car the carchive is familiar with!.
    Sunbeam Rapier
    <img src=";
    Hunter Estate
    <img src=";
    Rover 800 Vitesse
    <img src=";
    Rover 800 Sedan
    <img src=";
    Roy Axe
    <img src=";

    • FЯeeMan

      Is he the one for whom a foul smelling aerosol cologne pre-pubescent boys are fond of befouling school bus air with is named?

      • Rover1

        Perhaps a distant relation. 🙂

  • sporty88au

    "What we appear to have here is a photograph of Prince Phillip looking longingly at sheep. Quite what on earth this has to do with the Hunter, or just what kind of impression it is supposed to convey to the all important export markets, I have no idea."

    I'm pretty sure that it is supposed to emphasize that it is British – one of the men in the background of that photo is wearing a flat cap, and one of the men in the other sheep photo has a bowler hat – at least that is what I hope it means. In spite of that, I'm slightly worried about the impression that it could convey about Prince Phillip.

  • Macko

    Do any of these rot boxes even exist anymore? Has anyone seen one in years? I lived in England 15 years ago and never saw one of these that I know of.

  • hubba

    According to this web site, there's one Chrysler Hunter left, but not road registered. There are other Hunter models, though.

  • hubba

  • sunbeammadd

    Here's my Chrysler Hunter back in the early 1990s complete with one smashed foglight. Australian Hunters became Chryslers around 1970, getting in before the mother country. It didn't have much power but I still had lots of rear wheel drive fun.

    <img src="; width=500>

  • Rover1

    And look, every Hunter sedan has Aston Martin rear lights.William Towns didn't want to design another set.when he designed the DBS.
    he designed them first for the Hunter.
    <img src=";

  • Vairship

    See? The UK *can* successfully export motor vehicles to other countries…after the manufacturer has gone belly-up.

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