Barn Cricket: 1971 Plymouth Cricket

This one may be a bit of a head-scratcher for a few of you, I know that it is for me. This is a 1971 Plymouth Cricket and it’s on Craigslist with an asking price of $1,000 or best offer. This sweet little kiss of a car is in Hershey, Pennsylvania and it looks like a very solid project that would draw onlookers at any car show. They were only imported to North America for 1971, 1972, and 1973 so you won’t see them too often, something that appeals to lovers of unusual cars, like me, and hopefully a few of you.

I instantly think captive import, rebadged Japanese car when I think of a Plymouth Cricket, like there should be a Dodge version. Actually there was a Dodge Avenger for the South African market, but they weren’t available in the US or Canada. These were actually a rebadged Hillman Avenger, certainly one of the coolest car names of all time. Or, maybe that’s just because I like the old TV show The Avengers.

Probably the most distinctive part of this conservatively-styled car would be the fantastic and fantastical tail lights. Other than those, and the semi-fastback styling, this wasn’t a high design effort by Chrysler-owned Rootes Group to try to take on Ford’s Pinto and Chevy’s Vega in North America. The Avenger program was started in the mid-1960s to compete with Britain’s Vauxhall Viva, Ford Cortina, BMC 1100/1300 family, and the fabulous Ford Cortina. Rebadging it as a Plymouth for the US and Canadian markets proved to be unsuccessful, sales-wise, although it was a sophisticated car with a four-link rear suspension in place of the usual leaf springs and anti-roll bars front and rear and it did very well in crash tests. Simply put, it was and is a great little car even today. It isn’t flashy, and the US and Canada only got the four-door and wagon body styles for some reason. A good-looking two-door was available in the Hillman version.

This particular Cricket was found in a barn where it has been stored since 1978! You can see that the body of the car is in great condition, rust-wise. It has that crease in the right quarter panel and a lot of paint blisters, but reportedly there is not “much rot on it just a little where the fender attaches to the car under the hood. Otherwise is nearly rust free.”  This car would sure draw a crowd at any car show. I have never seen one in person and that makes it my kind of car!

There are no engine photos and only one interior photo, and you can tell that the interior will need work. Somehow, the dash, even though it was stored indoors since it was only 7 years old, is cracked and the seats have a few rips and I can’t even tell if the gauges are in there! The carpets look dirty and will most likely need to be replaced. It sounds like there shouldn’t be any rust on the floor pans but it’s always a crap shoot when peeling back the carpet for the first time. The steering wheel needs help, or at least a new cover, and this car is an automatic instead of a 4-speed manual. The engine should be a 1,498 CC inline-four with around 70 hp, and the seller says that it turns but they haven’t tried to start it. 70 hp isn’t much compared to the Pinto’s 100 hp or the Vega’s 85 hp. The sales numbers told the rest of the story, with just 27,682 Crickets sold compared to 352,402 Pintos and 274,699 Vegas being sold for the 1971 model year. Ouch. Have any of you seen a Plymouth Cricket?

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Comments

  1. Andy

    Well, it does look cute–it could easily pass for a generic Japanese compact of its time. But a British vehicle of the ’70s sounds pretty risky to me. I had a ’77 Triumph Bonneville and a ’71 BSA B50, and they were tolerable, but parts for these bikes have to be much easier to find than for a Hillman!

    • Brian Sorby

      I bought one brand new in 71 when i got out of the service. Never had any issues with it until some goof ball with no drivers license or insurance slammed on his brakes in front of me to talk to a buddy in the other lane and i rear ended him. Parts where hard and long in coming and car never ran the same again and i eventually sold it- otherwise it was fine- good mileage and easy to get around.

      Like 2
      • ron

        Looking to buy one or more for parts, had a new ’73 and loved it.
        Missed the brown one at hershey last year, still looking
        Ron
        dorz4u@gmail.com

      • Joe mcfly

        Sounds like you weren’t paying attention

      • wsw

        had 1 loved it= drove PA to CA -cruised at 75

  2. Mykster

    Older brother of a childhood friend had one of these. He cut a hole in the roof and installed a giant air scoop. Wish I had a photo of it.

  3. Rich Tague

    last time I saw one of these was about …….20 odd years ago …..mostly falling apart!!! like the CRAZY taillites

  4. Bingo

    It’s sweet and in Hershey, good one Scotty.

    It’s worthy of $1,000 easy.

  5. SortedCorty.com

    Ah yes, Chrysler’s storied foray into the British and Italian markets. Amazing how Ford was so successful yet Chrysler so not – but they did have radically different approaches. I didn’t think they sold even that many here stateside. Thanks for the post!

  6. Blyndgesser

    It was a flop compared to Mitsubishi’s Dodge Colt line.

    • John

      Yes indeed! I have a 71 Dodge Colt 2 door, the sister of this car, there are very few of these left in America that are still running. Very easy car to work on and I found all the parts I needed for mine on line. Well worth 1K, I was offered 5k for mine and turned it down, (deluxe model, auto. with A/C 70k original miles, no rust, from Cali). I don’t live far from this one and will be watching.

      • Brakeservo

        But as I said earlier, your Colt was built in Japan by Mitsubishi, this Cricket was slapped together in England by autoworkers out to destroy the British auto industry!

      • John H

        I never would have expected to hear that there is still a running, driving Dodge Colt! They seemed like a disposable car when they came off the truck.

      • Ed P

        Brakeservo, The folks on the assembly line should not get all the blame. Management was lax also. Poor assembly methods and a lack of quality control is managements responsibility.

  7. Jeff Day

    Seen one!? One of my old high school buddies had one through high school and college. We used to call driver instead of shotgun in that car and hammered that poor car into the ground for many years. I grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania not far from Hershey so this could very well be his old car! It was white and an automatic and beat up. Lots of good memories associated with that car.

  8. Cubs win

    I use a Cricket everyday, oh wait that’s my phone, and I think it’s worth more than that POS and works better.

  9. Brakeservo

    You don’t see these as they’re typical British cars of the period – this means abysmal build quality, boring style and crappy performance. I DON’T know why any still exist, just awful cars. . . But otherwise OK.

    • Dylan Morgan

      That’s a bit of a sweeping generalisation.

  10. Will

    I drove a Hillman Avenger, 2 door, 4 speed in England for 3 years in the mid eighties. It was a bulletproof, fun and reliable car.

  11. grant

    Never even heard of one much less seen one. I almost thought it looked like a rebadged Mazda at first glance. Cool.

  12. bill

    someone call the restoration police! that car has incorrect hubcaps! those are from a Pinto :)

  13. Derek

    One of my schoolmates used to race an Avenger Tiger in road saloons at Ingliston and Knockhill. Holbay motor; was quite a thing.

  14. sir mike

    Might have only been on the road 6-7yrs but it was in the rust belt.If driven in our winters then you better check for rust issues.

  15. Wayne

    I bought one for $600 in 1974. It had a bad rear diff. I put in a used one for $75.00 and drove it like I stole it for 3 years. It had a couple of redeeming characteristics. It had 13X6 wheels. ( which at that time were quite wide) which made for a very good base for decent performance tires. (Again for the time). And it’s major “shinning” attribute was the brakes. At the time it was the second best stopping car ever tested by Road&Track mag. It would stop in excess of 1.0 G. Handling was decent for the day. I used to just fly on the back roads. And there was another Cricket that I used to see always going in the opposit direction. ( so no street racing was possible). One day I hauling about 90mph over my favorite set of railroad tracks. (read jumping the poor little dear) When the other Cricket was coming towards me at about the same speed. We both flew over the tracks at exactly the same time. Both flashing our headlamps madly. Just like a Joey Chitwood stunt.
    One last note about one of these cars. If you own a Triumph Spifire or some Lotus vehicles. They have the same 4 on 3.75 bolt pattern wheels. (cheap 6″ steel wheels in a hard to find bolt pattern,) Poor little car ended up as the jelly in the sandwich on the Edens Expressway leaving the Chicago Auto Show. I stopped but the AMC Hornet behind me pushed me into a Buick Estate Wagon. The floor pan was then corregated. Ant the transmission split open.

    Like 1
    • Fast Fred Member

      Wayne that was a great story.

  16. Jan

    There was a Dodge version. It was called the Colt. I dated a guy in 1972 who’s father managed a Dodge dealership and he got to use one of the demos. And yes, I am older than dirt, lol!

    • Blyndgesser

      Colt and Cricket were completely unrelated cars. No clue why Chrysler opted to import both at the same time.

      • Gagagarage

        The Cricket was exclusive to Plymouth dealers and the Colt to Dodge dealers. Chrysler hoped to make some money on the Rootes Group, but ended up selling it in ’73. Colt was a Mitsubishi and Chrysler knew they needed to not spend their own money to develop a small car. That’s why there were opposite approaches.

    • tom

      The colt was japanese .two seperate cars- this is british.mom had one and it was a typical 70s British car wich is to say unreliable and flaky.Build quality was crap.every time it rained the passenger foot well on a hard left turn would fill with cold water.Ours had an automatic.I grew up with Brit cars.Dad had 5 Minis and i learned to drive on a 60 Morris Minor. All those Lucas electrical jokes? Believe EVERY one of them.This car would shed stuff. Dad and I would play a game called “Lets Identify the Mystery part” On a regular basis something would be deposited over night on the drive way.The dealer network didnt want to have ANYTHING to do with it.She traded it in on a 1974 powder blue gold Duster with a slant 6/auto at the same place she bought the Cricket at-Kalamazoo Chrysler Plymouth.The Duster was AWSOME.It was like a member of the family. Out of all the cars we have had both dad and I have agreed this was one of the few cars we want back.That and his 73 burnt orange shorty slant 6 powered Dodge window van .

  17. Brakeservo

    The 1972 Dodge Colt was made in Japan by Mitsubishi. As a result, it was well made and fairly reliable.

  18. milotus

    I saw one back when they were fairly new,
    but in Blue,which looks much nicer.
    The color,Pinto hubcaps,& the automatic
    double what it’d be worth without them.
    Of course,those original Pinto hubcaps might
    just be worth more than this car.

  19. John D

    Oh this car brings back not good memories. One of the first cars I sold was a used Cricket to a friend. The car needed work to pass inspection and I misspoke about that and left my friend with the impression that the business was going to do the work. Scratch one friendship. After that, I was hesitant to sell cars to friends. My mother had one for a demo and it seemed nice, but that was new. Somewhere I have stashed a few of the ‘Cricket chirpers’ Plymouth supplied the store with to hand out to the kids so they could drive their parents crazy. I think that was the best part of having the cars to sell.

  20. Mitch Member

    These were not Leyland cars. They were great little cars that had a reputation for durability. They were made up into the ’80s in Brazil, Argentina and Colombia. They were used in Colombia as taxis and were reliable.

  21. Jay

    My grandparents had one of these. I have no idea what turned them onto it other than my grandmother made the decisions and maybe she liked the cute styling. They had it for a good number of years and then she started having trouble with it. They traded it for a ’78 Mercury Zephyr that they kept for 20 years before she gave up driving and sold it to my brother-in-law.

    • michael

      They didn’t live in el dorado, ks, by chance did they?

  22. John H

    God, this thing is less than 10 miles from me. I would never have imagined that there was a surviving example anywhere in the rust belt!

    I worked on these things when they were new. They certainly were nothing to write home about … unless you were looking for someone to pick it up and take it back where it came from or pick you up from wherever the car died and take you home.

    FWIW, the Dodge Colt was a much worse car.

    • cyclemikey

      FWIW, the Dodge Colt was a much better car.

      There. I fixed it for you.

      I can’t think of a single aspect in which the Plymouth Cricket was better than the Dodge Colt, and I worked on both when new.

  23. rando

    I learned to drive a stick in one of these. A minty green one. A buddy had it during our high school years. We worked together and he had car, I didn’t. One day, the boss needed something and my buddy said take my car. I knew the HOW part of driving a straight. Just had never done the actual driving. So it was a trial by fire. But I got out and back. Only stalled 8 or 9 (hundred) times til I got the swing of it. lol. I will be sending him this link though… he may want to relive those years….

  24. Tim Flynn

    I vaguely remember Sandy Duncan driving a green Cricket in the 1972 Sandy Duncan show – can’t find any links that show the car, however.

  25. Rockin' J

    I remember these back in ’71 … Plymouth’s rebadged import answer to the Pinto, Vega, Gremlin and Beetle. Check out this Cricket TV commercial on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfCl1LYwdB0

  26. George B Member

    I remember when these were being sold, and as others have noted, it was a rebadged Hillman, the Dodge equivalent was a rebadged Mitsubishi

    Detroit auto makers initially wanted to meet small car markets with captive imports, but the government, insisted that they go with domestically produced imports to meet CAFE standards, so if he Plymouth cricket disappeared when the Omni/horizon twins took over

    Forcing automakers to build a specific model domestically was stupid back then, and it is equally stupid now. Automaker should decide where to build their various models

  27. Rustytech Member

    I worked for a C/P dealer back in the day. I think these may have been one of the worst cars Mopar ever imported or sold. Parts started breaking and falling off before they ever got off the lot. I remember one customer that paid cash for the car, went to leave the lot and the door handle came off in his hand. I don’t think I ever heard so many words I can’t repeat here in a single sentence! This may be the first barn find miracle!

  28. John

    In spite of all the comments here, we had two of them in the family. They were actually very good little cars. My Sister drove one. She could have destroyed a Sherman Tank. She drove hers well over a 100k. No drama. Boring, but bullet-proof. Hers was a stick. The clutch led a VERY hard life. My Mother drove the other one. She had it 12 years. It had 14k when she passed away. It needed tires.

  29. Kevin Flood

    The Avenger was a Cortina competitor and were built by what used to be the Rootes Group which was bought out by Chrysler. These cars are quite popular starter Classics over here in the UK. Parts availability isn’t as bad as you’d think.

  30. Martin Horrocks

    The Avenger is not a bad car. It rusted, like most things at the time. It was widely used for race and rally in UK, was competitive against Escort Mexico but not BDAs (which was a handbuilt car on a very different cost level).

    Avenger handled, stopped and steered well. There was plenty worse at the time, but it wouldn´t have been my choice in the US, ever! They are now an unusual sight, so turning up at a Historic rally in one is fun. Ditto Vauxhall Firenza.

  31. Harvey

    I had a 1971 blue one in about 1985. 4spd stick. I drove it like I stole it on the unpaved roads to work. It was a crazy and fun car to drive. Parts were available from the local Mopar. I thought it was just a reliable work vehicle that I could rally. Only realized how uncommon they were after I sold it. This was in Manitoba. Funny how you think about it later, the uncommon cars.

  32. David Hammond

    If whoever buys this needs parts you’ll have to go to England. I have one I’m restoring. (it’s not for sale) I found a company called “Speedy Spares” who had the parts I needed

  33. Dearles

    My first car was a 1972 Plymouth Cricket. The prior owner had installed side pipes and sporty chrome wheels. It was still too slow to get out of its own way but I loved it! When you let off the gas the pipes would backfire and light up the night. (Great way to deter tailgaters who wanted to get up to the speed limit in less than five minutes) I got my $500 worth before selling it to a mechanic who kept it running for his daughter for a few more years. If I saw a running example I would buy it in a heartbeat. Probably have to go places alone but that’s ok.

  34. Paul

    Found a ’72 Cricket on a used car lot back in 1978. It was bright orange with an off-white interior. It had dual carbs which my main mechanic – my older brother – refused to touch. Fortunately, my hometown had a British car repair shop owned by a couple from England. They handled the tuneups and carb adjustments while I explored their big old barn of a repair shop packed full of all kinds of British sports cars and my Cricket. Finally gave up the car when a front suspension piece broke and it sat in a Plymouth service center for three weeks until the replacement park could be found.

  35. Wayn

    That front part that failed was most likely a lower ball joint. That and the lower control arm were one piece. ( if I remember correctly). I know that in 1975 or 1976 they were on national back order from everyone.

  36. timothy john warner

    Grew up in the UK had a 1974 Sunseeker avenger .2 of my friends also had avenger as did their dad .

  37. Mike

    Had 72 cricket…a little engine work…dual carbs…tuning..and we eating Vegas and pintos for breakfast. Turn the Goodyear wide ovals over in 2 gears. Couldn’t keep clutches in the car. You could shoehorn a Chevy 350 in them…or better a hemi. Saw a couple in Columbus Ohio at the strip. Brakes did suck…

    • Werner

      Never too late to update different truths. Your Plymouth Cricket was also built in Argentinean Chrysler Assembly Plant since 1970 ’til 1981 , then it was the move of local Volkswagen de Argentina for rebadging it and improving it under the name Volkswagen 1500 , Volkswagen 1.8 and Volkswagen Rural until the year 1991 .
      These vehicles became the most reliable cars of the region . Mechanically 100% reliable, structurally indestructible . Every client owned it average 15 continuous years since it was the unbeatable good boy . Near 300,000 units were built , more than 150,000 still survive and are driving everywhere both in the city and around the rough countryside surfaces . At least the Argentineans “Dodge 1500” & “Volkswagen 1500″ were made under Brit’s methods from the Sunbeam Avenger / Hillman Avenger . Finally after 40 years these domestic ” Crickets” result being the best popular buyer’s choice . For us , dwelling in the other corner of the Planet, it is so difficult to believe that whatever Pymouth Crickets were so bad engineered in USA or Canada , whilst those 300,000 made in Argentina never brought job to mechanic garages , so then “Crickets” “Avengers” or “Dodge 1500s” are absolutely troublefree great little machines

      • Mikeystoy

        The bigger problem was waiting on parts, even simple parts to come from across the pond.
        I have four of them

  38. Steve

    My folks had a 1972 Plymouth Cricket that was bought almost new. Brought it down from Ohio to New Mexico when my dad retired from the Air Force. When we couldn’t find many parts for this we did locate another 72 from friends of the family. A perfect running car and straight, etc. At 13 years old I drove (snuck out) the Cricket one Summer when my mom went back to Spain to visit family. I broke it in real well and when my mom got back she was freaked out on the car on how well it ran. Not how she looked at it though…lol. I detailed that car ground up. That was the first car I rebuilt a carburetor (Stromberg) glass float bowl…..As far as performance, it was quick to me with it’s AT and 3.90 gears….

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