Vauxhall cars of the 1960s

Vauxhall Ventora 1968-9
Vauxhall Ventora 1968-9

Vauxhall's range from the 1960s in order of size comprised:

Vauxhall began the 1960s with a medium-sized car, the Victor and a large car, the Velox/Cresta range. The Victor was new in 1957. Both ranges used styling derived from General Motors' products in the USA. The Victor had an unwanted reputation for rust. Both cars were very American in style, which was not to everyone's taste in 1960s' Britain.

This look changed dramatically in the 1960s through Vauxhall's policy of regular facelifts. Each new model got a new look every three years.

In 1963 Vauxhall expanded their range of cars to include a small saloon, the Viva, and widened the appeal of their mid-sized Victor to include executive class cars. Their large cars became larger and more luxurious as the decade progressed.

Viva and derivatives

Vauxhall Viva HA, 1965
Vauxhall Viva HA, 1965

Viva HA

Vauxhall announced a new small car in 1963, the Viva HA.

The Viva was not cut to the bone in cost. The car was bigger than the Mini and Hillman Imp. The styling though was boxy and plain looking.

The original Viva had a 1057cc engine. It was available in both standard and de-luxe trim. More luxurious and sporting versions came later.

Viva HB

In 1966 Vauxhall completely revised the Viva and it became the HB. Unlike the boxy HA, the HB was bang on trend in style. It had a neat grill with rectangular headlamps and coke-bottle body styling. Its 1159cc engine also gave a little extra performance over the outgoing model. This was the car Rodney Bewes drove as 'Bob Ferris' in 'Whatever happened to the likely Lads' (1973-1974).

In 1968 Vauxhall added two new models to the Viva range, the Viva 1600 and the Viva GT. The GT had a twin-carburettor 2000cc engine. It combined outstanding performance with garish looks. The Viva GT had a matt black bonnet, chromed wheel trims and a four branch exhaust system. It looked like a back-street customisation of the standard Viva.

Bedford Beagle

Based on the original Viva HA, the Bedford Beagle was Vauxhall's small estate car. It was introduced in 1964.

Although Vauxhall introduced a Viva HB estate in 1967, the Beagle continued into the 1970s.

Vauxhall Victor FB, c1961-3
Vauxhall Victor FB, c1961-3

Victor and derivatives

The Vauxhall Victor story was one of ugly duckling to swan. The decade began with an unloved American-styled car with a reputation for rust. The decade ended with a range of cars that was moving the family saloon into the executive class.

Victor F Series

Today the late 1950s Vauxhall Victor is a favourite with classic car fans. It goes great with a pair of Levis and a leather jacket. In the early 1960s it was an embarrassment. The poorly rust-proofed body with lots of water traps left Vauxhall with a decade-long reputation for corrosion and everyone hated the styling.

Victor FB

Vauxhall learnt the lessons of the original Victor. The new Victor FB was completely different. Out went the brash styling, in came sleek modern looks and extra rust proofing.

Alongside the new Victor was a stylish sporty number with a contrasting colour flash and twin carburettors, the VX 4/90. The VX 4/90 also boasted a luxurious interior with walnut facia and cappings. Who could ask for more in the early 1960s?

Victor FC (Victor 101)

In 1964 Vauxhall upgraded the Victor again. The new model now had an even sleeker body. Cleverly designed curved side panels and doors gave more elbow room inside. The VX 4/90 also got a new-style body.

Vauxhall Victor FD (1968-9) photographed in 1971
Vauxhall Victor FD (1968) photographed in 1971

Victor FD

In 1968 Vauxhll upgraded the Victor a third time. This time it had a brand-new body with coke-bottle styling and four headlamps. The range of engines started at 1600cc, but included a 2000cc option. A year later Vauxhall updated the range again. The cars had new names, Victor Super, Victor 2000SL and Victor 3300SL Estate. The VX 4/90 was powered by a twin carburettor version of the Victor 2000SL's engine.

Vauxhall topped the new range with the Vauxhall Ventora. It had the 3300cc 6-cylinder engine of the Cresta, a special grill and a vinyl roof - late 1960s' automotive heaven.

The Ventora was a true executive saloon. The engine was a smooth quiet 6 with a top speed of well over the ton and a 0-60mph time of 10.5 seconds.

Velox, Cresta and Viscount

Vauxhall Cresta PA, 1961
Vauxhall Cresta PA, 1961. Showing the US-influenced styling. Image by Graham Robertson licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) (cropped).

The Velox and Cresta were Vauxhall's big cars. Both boasted a 6-cylinder engine. They competed with Ford's Zephyr/Zodiac range and BMC's Austin Westminster.

Like the Victor, the Velox and Cresta were much influenced by American automotive styling. At the start of the 1960s they looked like mini versions of American cars with chrome, fins and a wrap-around windscreen and rear-screen. The American look better suited the larger car and they did not come in for the same criticism as the Victor.

Velox and Cresta PA 1960-62

The 1960 Velox and Cresta were derived from models first introduced in 1957. The Cresta took the American influence one stage further. It boasted two-tone paint jobs and white wall tyres.

Both received an upgraded 2.6 litre engine instead of the original 2.3 litre in 1960.

Velox & Cresta PB 1962-65

As part of Vauxhall's modernisation programme, which started with the FB Victor, the Velox and Cresta received the same treatment in 1962. The new PB Cresta and Velox were modestly styled with the emphasis on simplicity rather than brash and flash. Whilst they got it right with the Victor, the styling of the larger car was a bit too plain. The new models did not sell as well as the outgoing cars.

To top the range Vauxhall asked coach builders, Harold Radford, famous for the Radford Mini Cooper, to work their magic on the Cresta. The treatment included reading lamps, picnic tables and dual headlamps. Some were supplied as military staff cars with an optional chauffeur's screen. [1]

Cresta PC 1965-1972

With the PC Cresta of 1965, Vauxhall got the styling right. This car had a lower, wider look and restrained coke-bottle styling. The proportions were better.

There was no Velox in the new range. It started with the Cresta. There was a Cresta De-luxe to top the range. The De-luxe had four headlamps and a different grill.

Viscount 1966-1972

In 1966 Vauxhall introduced a new luxury car, the Viscount, based on the Cresta De-luxe. It had automatic transmission as standard, leather upholstery with picnic tables for the rear passengers and a black vinyl roof.

References

[1] Vauxhall Cars 1945-64 by Alan Earnshaw and Robert W Berry, published by Trans-Pennine Publishing, 2000, page 42.

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Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

20th Century History ★ Antiques & Collectables

Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

★ 20th Century History ★ Antiques & Collectables ★