THE CAR AND ITS OWNER
1972 Plymouth Cricket owned by Rick Nossa
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING
Even as Fiat-owned Chrysler today injects European DNA into its American cars, few remember that the company once marketed a genuine English sedan under its Plymouth brand to compete with Ford’s Pinto and Chevrolet’s Vega. “The Cricket is a rare British import,” says Nossa, “and there are only about 10 left in the country that I know of. It is actually a Hillman Avenger, which was rebadged in America to compete in the U.S. subcompact market. It was a market failure. It only sold here for three years before they decided to import the Mitsubishi-based Colt instead.
However, the same car did well in the European and world markets. It sold there under the Avenger and Sunbeam badges for well over 10 years. The Avenger even became a competitive rally car in Europe. U.S. driver Scott Harvey won (Michigan’s) Press-On-Regardless Rally of 1971 in a Plymouth Cricket. So, despite the fact that it was an unpopular import, it has quite an interesting history.”
HOW LONG HE’S OWNED IT
WHERE HE FOUND IT
Nossa, whose father once owned a similar car, found his sedan at an online auction site as he was searching for Cricket photos.
“I had the Cricket shipped here from Colorado virtually rust-free,” he says. “Upon arrival, the car was in dire need of a good cleaning, a tune-up and a head gasket replacement. Once those were out of the way and the engine was sound, I slowly replaced parts with new-old stock or original parts sourced from England. I joined the Avenger Sunbeam Owners Club based in England, and their members advised me and helped me source parts. They were a great help.
The car has a much nicer reputation ‘across the pond.’ My Cricket has under 50,000 miles, so there isn't much wear on it. It feels and drives like a peppy little car. Now that the major work is behind me, I just enjoy driving it, along with the occasional maintenance.” Nossa also installed a manual transmission and repainted the Cricket in ‘Phantom Mist Metallic,” the same color as his father’s old sedan.
TIPS FOR OWNERS
“If you do own this car,” Nossa advises, “you'll understand that it is a living dinosaur and it is extinct here. Your best support will be in England via the Avenger Sunbeam Owners Club.”
“I have no idea, given its rarity,” he says. “I'd say over $5,000 in this condition.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
“This car is a head-turner,” Nossa says. “I get the full range of reactions, from laughter to jaws dropping. The Cricket is unlike any of the classics you usually see at car shows. It just makes me smile.”