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by Allan Foreman
Chrysler had a genuine presence in Jamaica in the late 1970s, and the cars of that time were still seen quite often on the roads into the early 1990s. One will still see them today if one waits a while and watches.
The two Chrysler cars most often seen (by me, anyway) on Jamaican roads were/are the Valiant and the Avenger. A Valiant was a car one aspired to in Jamaica and was almost on par with a Volvo in that regard. Some of them had Plymouth badging but most were right-hand drive, so I would suspect they were Australian Chryslers.
An Avenger, which was variously badged Dodge or Hillman (I knew them mostly as Dodge Avengers), was a rival to the Ford Escort (European version) of the time, but did not have the Escort's rally cred. Avengers were quite popular with teenagers of well-to-do families, to the point that quite a few sixth-formers at St. George's College drove Avengers and were referred to as the Avenger Posse, a name that sounded rather sinister when I read it in my brother's high-school yearbook. More than two decades later, one of my superiors at work was still driving an Avenger; he changed his car about two years ago.
I have seen various other Chrysler products on Jamaican roads, including a car I thought was a Satellite but which I now wonder if it wasn't a Duster, a Coronet 440 sadly abandoned on the side of a road, and a 1968-70 Charger in what appears to be very good condition. I have also seen one or two K-cars.
I was very glad when the Plymouth name was saved by axing Eagle instead and very sorry when those bloody Mercedes people killed off the Plymouth name for good and all. No more Barracudas, Dusters or Satellites! Worse yet, no more Valiants!!!
Motor Sales and Service, the Mitsubishi dealer in Jamaica, recently had a PT Cruiser on display at a car show. They advertise Dodge Ram pickup trucks on their site. They do not advertise Neons or Jeeps and I did not see any the last time I went to their showroom. (2004)
I asked a senior member of staff at work about his previous car, a 1977 or 1978 Dodge Avenger 1600. He told me that he bought it almost new. It had been ordered by a bank manager near retirement who returned it shortly after taking delivery because it was too fast for her and scared her. He bought it from the dealer and kept it for about twenty years before selling it in 1998.
It was reportedly quite reliable, durable, and fairly quick. Parts were available right up to the time he sold it. The most frequent problem he had with it was with the piston rings, which needed fairly frequent replacement. The correct size of piston ring eventually became unavailable; the engine
was then bored out slightly (dimension unknown) to accept a more available size of piston and corresponding rings. During his ownership, the car also needed front-end parts and some body work. The buyer has never contacted him since the purchase, so he assumes it has not caused the buyer any
As a further note to the car's durability under stress, he noted that it was stolen from him by armed robbers shortly after he bought it, and that the police found the robbers still driving it in Bull Bay, a town a few miles east of Kingston. The police chased the robbers at high speed into Kingston and up to Mona (in north-east Kingston) where the robbers abandoned the car after a shoot-out with the police. He retrieved the car from the police after a few days. The damage resulting from these events was a broken engine mount and a bullet hole, neither of which incapacitated the car.
Phil wrote: “I am currently visiting Jamaica from Australia and can confirm that I have seen 2 right hand drive, Australian built Valiants here — a sedan and a ute (pickup).”
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