Unsung Heroes : Vauxhall Chevette

Keith Adams takes a sideways look at one of the sheds that littered the highways and by-ways of the UK. Forgotten today, the Vauxhall Chevette was once the apple of England’s eye.

However, back in the summer of 1987 – for better or worse – Keith Adams also succumbed to the Griffin’s charms.

The General comes good…

Vauxhall Chevette range at launch
Vauxhall Chevette range at launch

I’ll never forget my first encounter with a Chevette. I was 17-years old, studying my A-levels at the Blackpool & Fylde College of Further Education and my best mate Pascal had decided he was going to buy a cherry red example on sale at R&B Motors on the way into school. Until that point, our favoured transport in was our pushbikes, or the number 9 Leyland Atlantean, and cars were still something very much associated with our parents. It was the autumn of 1987, and motorised transport was absolutely needed – when we saw the £350 R-registered saloon for sale, we had to have a look. Or my mate did. He was better with money. Bicycles weren’t that bad anyway.

Anyway… to the Chevette. He was keen as mustard and, although he’d never admit at the time, that car was going to be bought however it drove. And so it proved. We had a quick look round, prodded the rust bubbles, looked under the bonnet and asked for a test drive. Surprisingly, the garage owner just threw the keys over and said – ‘help yourself’. I thought ‘how cool…’ but I am sure the vendor was just relieved that WBV 777R was off his forecourt. Even if it was only temporarily.

To cut a long story short, the car was bought and Pascal, bless him, suddenly discovered the joys of liberation – and I found envy was a tough feeling to deal with. Truth be told this Chevette was a nail – and, although the engine was spot on, the brakes ground, the gearbox rumbled and its body was fizzing away before our very eyes in the salty Blackpool air. And we both loved it. Still it taught me the basic art of bodywork repairs – and the use of Isopon P38 – and it taught him that RWD Vauxhalls were unstickable – at least, in the dry.

Despite their great handling, Chevettes can go off in the wet.
Despite their great handling, Chevettes can go off in the wet

As you’ll see from the photo above, in the wet, it could understeer with the best of them. One fateful day after college, it ploughed off a 90-degree right and straight into a concrete bollard. Good job the girls from our Psychology class didn’t see our shame. Ouch.

However, my love of these cars had already been established at that point. And despite Pascal moving on to Rover SD1s (good man), I remained loyal to Vauxhall for a year or so, first getting myself a nice Cavalier Mk1, then following it with a Bright Copper Metallic Chevette GLS (below), and then another Cavalier. Since then, I’ve had a few more… and obviously I can blame my repeat purchases on the the fun I had in them during the wonderfully uncomplicated days of 1987 and 1988. Truth be told, my heart still skips a beat if I see one littering the streets in re-runs of Minder – and I am not averse to watching the film The Likely Lads? just to see Bob and Terry’s exploits in their mint hatch-cum-caravan combo.

Britain enjoyed a similar and enduring love affair with the Chevette, hard as it is to believe today. Every street corner, supermarket car park and, yes, college was full of them. And rightly so. Because here was a Vauxhall which, when it arrived on the UK marketplace in May 1975, was able to hold its head up high, and buyers didn’t need an excuse to buy one. The styling was clean and contemporary thanks to Wayne Cherry and Geoff Lawson’s reworking of the GM T-Car Opel Kadett’s front end. Out went the German car’s bluff nose and round headlights, and in came a dramatic droop snoot first seen on the Special edition Firenzas.

The UK look went further than that, too – because the UK styling studio also devised a clever hatchback rear end that significantly improved the T-Car’s practicality, turning it into a slightly cramped RWD faux supermini – making it the UK’s first mainstream challenger in the sector. Yes, now you didn’t have to buy French or Italian if you needed to join the smart city set – it was built at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire from the outset. The Chevette three-door ended up being such a successful interpretation of the T-Car theme that Opel ended up taking it back for the Kadett – aptly calling it the City.

Keith Adams' first presentable Chevette. Nice until the gearbox broke...
Keith Adams’ first presentable Chevette. Nice until the gearbox broke…

Today, we tend to think of Vauxhalls as rebadged Opels but, back then, there was genuine UK input into the Chevette’s running gear, too. The platform, running gear and body aft of the A-posts might have been Opel-esque, but the engine was the same venerable old pushrod 1256cc 56.5bhp unit fitted to the Viva – characterful tappet rattle and all. But fitting it made perfect sense for Vauxhall – the UK was still churning out these engines in their hundreds of thousands and it was a well-known quantity in the trade – despite needing imperial spanners all round.

The combination just worked beautifully – it was tough; it was perky (15.5secs to 60mph and 90mph were nothing to be sneezed at in 1975); it as fun to drive; and it was economical. In short, how could you not want a Chevette? Soon the little Vauxhall was selling in its droves and, when joined by the Cavalier Mk1 later that year, Vauxhall suddenly found that not only could it sell every car it made, but buyers were actually queuing around the block for the privilege. A very different situation to a few years’ before when the company was on its knees, with a seemingly destroyed image, thanks to those rusty Victors from the 1950s and 1960s.

The Chevette also came with a pretty fully stacked range – and, by June 1976 (it was a hatchback only at launch), you could buy it in base, E and L trims initially with the GL and GLS coming later, and as a three-door hatchback, two- and four-door saloon, estate and panel van (known as the Bedford Chevanne). So there were lots of bodies and trim packages (tartan being a favourite for those lucky enough to afford the L or GLS), but sadly only the 1256cc engine was offered. If you wanted anything bigger, you needed a Cavalier.

Well, until the wonderful HS came along in 1978.

So, it was cheap, simple, stylish and adaptable. And likeable. Young drivers liked it for its light controls, positive gearchange and good visibility, and it soon became a driving school favourite. Chevettes also went the other way, too, being favoured by more mature drivers – especially towards the end of its production cycle. Compared with its main rival, the Ford Escort Mk2, the Chevette possessed a feeling of genuine solidity – possibly because of its German DNA – while you knew where you were in that no-nonsense interior and smart, sparsely calibrated instruments (in a British-designed dashboard). The seats were also firm and supportive, and you sat relatively low with a legs-akimbo driving position – and it all felt terribly grown up.

Oh, and who can forget all those Chevannes keeping the British TV viewing public in working TVs, thanks to the fine effort of the Visionhire and Granada rental fleets and their engineer drivers?

Throughout its life, Vauxhall tinkered with the Chevette in order to keep it fresh. The company continually played with trim levels and equipment, while keeping the sheetmetal and engines stubbornly unchanged. In late 1979, those charismatically bezelled headlamps were glazed over to become flush in the way they always should have been; and, in 1981, the ES (for Economy Special) models were launched to fight the Fiesta Popular and Metro City. This back to basics approach was caused by the post-1979 recession and ushered in the return of vinyl seats and a bargain basement £2884. Wonder how many are left today?

As it happened, the Chevette outlived its German counterpart by quite a margin. The Kadett D arrived in September 1979, with its UK counterpart, the Astra following on the following Spring. This was a more upmarket car so, even when production of the Astra arrived in the UK in late 1981, the Chevette remained in production right up until 1984, by which time the Vauxhall Nova – and senility – rendered it finally obsolete. But not after it had gained a loyal following and nearly half a million UK sales.

The Chevette also ended up being sold in Europe – firstly as a rival to the Kadett, then sans Vauxhall badges as its replacement. What the Germans would have made of those imperial nuts and bolts is anyone’s guess. And being a T-Car, the Chevette also shared its underpinnings with all manner of cars across the GM empire – from Brazil, via Japan to South Africa. The most interesting of the T-Car off-shoots no doubt being the Isuzu Piazza…

Now, though, in 2014 the Chevette has pretty much reached endangered species status. The HS and HSR are all set for immortality thanks to their Group 4 rally status (and dashing good looks), but will the standard car live on to make it to all-time classic car status? If there are people out there as passionate about them as I am, don’t bet against it!


Keith Adams


  1. Lovely colours — they’re almost retro cool now. That lime green is quite common these days on Fords and Peugeots.

  2. Yeay! Chevettes!

    My first car – at least, roadgoing – was a Chevette. I had a choice, really – before I was 17, I was given a £150 Champagne Beige Allegro 3 1.5 HLS – twin carbs, paprika red seats, the lot. I spent the couple of months before I was old enough to drive on the road manoeuvring the unfortunate beast around the driveway, learning to reverse into the space using the mirrors, and picking up tricks like using nearby windows to check if the lights were all working. Rusty bubbles were duly scraped off and Kurust and Hammerite applied in equally pointless measures, before finding a Fanta can was part of the floorpan and being slightly less enthusiastic.

    A few days before my 17th birthday, the suspension popped. No parts available to fix it apparently (I am sure it would have been possible, in hindsight), and so it was scrapped.

    My parents were buying a Peugeot, and offered me the low mileage Uno 70SX. E-reg, with electric windows, about 30,000 miles on it, absolutely perfect condition – even had foglights and stripes. I hated it. Hated the driving position, hated the feel of it. So instead, I got a red Chevette.

    70,000 miles, A-registration (1984 registered), it was a truly mint example. No rust or repairs anywhere. The dealer was very near the house, and I kept peering into the workshop to see my Chevette being valeted and fitted with parcel-shelf Saisho speakers and a radio cassette with an equaliser.

    My dad, who had done catalogue shoots for Kirkby Central (the buses, IIRC – things like a chassis being driven on the motorway), impressed upon me just how lucky I was to have a Chevette. His succession of Marinas, Maxi, Allegro and Ambassador had been partly fuelled by access to ex-staff BL cars via my Uncle – a Chevette had been too expensive, and the Chevanne was a positively luxurious alternative to any of the other car-derived vans about at the time.

    At the same time, he remarked that I was driving a car which was 8 years old, and an 18 year old design – and yet it fit perfectly with the roads and traffic, compared to say, driving a 1950s design in the 1970s.

    The mobile tuner at the local Sunday Market set it up for me, and it ran like no Chevette I’ve driven since – near silent, smooth and I can only assume, exactly as it was supposed to be. Learning, I did over 4,000 miles, not letting any adult with a licence drive if I had to go anywhere, and the car was polished underneath and on top – even the suspension turrets gleamed. I got hold of some bumper overriders, and it got a cheap private plate when the DVLA launched their cherished scheme – new suspension, all geneuine parts, fitted at the main dealer.

    Then the brakes failed. They just needed replacement, but the local garages sensed fresh blood, and convinced me it was dangerous, beyond economic repair. By that time, I’d already got a Renault 5 “Cleveland” convertible and a Morris 1100 project – and a random 2 door Chevette project I’d been given – and the car bug had bitten, so the excuse to get a new one was hardly needed.

    Really, though, I should have kept that Chevette. Ones I have tried since haven’t been the same, and now – no old car can be the same, as the freedom of driving is little more than a chore, and being 17 a distant memory.

    When the Chevette’s replacement, an MG Metro, blew its engine up I was loaned an R-reg yellow one with some rally bits underneath that had to be started by hitting the motor with a jack handle. Or always parked on a slope.

    I was a bit of a RWD Vauxhall fan after that though, and had a couple of Manta Bs (one with a scary 3.0 transplant), Carlton, Senator and a set of FEs – Victor, VX saloon and estate, and a rare manual Ventora that ended up being the final nail in the relationship with the garage that I’d trusted for over a decade.

    (And yes. everyone called it the Shove-It, and was mean about it. And in a sign of the times, that one and the 2 door project I’d been given by the local Lada dealer were named after twins on Neighbours).

  3. I had one from new for 10 years/104k miles, despite putting it in a ditch 3 weeks from new due to black ice. It came with a huge list of faults – I think Ford were on strike at the time so Vauxhall was banging out as many cars as it could. One of the first things I did was paint the big slab of black plastic facia to match the beige interior.

    Great car to drive, and you could almost get inside alongside the engine when servicing, but it was a rotbox – you could see the rust forming almost immediately if left damp after sanding the paintwork down.

  4. Visually they don’t seem to have dated as much as many cars from that era. (cf: Allegro and Marina). I actually think these look better now than I thought back then.

    My first car was an HC Viva, which was basically the earlier version of the Chevette with that same engine. I owned it for 2 years and it was as basic as hell but it was a pretty good car for a beginner.

  5. Thanks for this Keith – big fan of the Chevette in all its forms – perhaps especially in hatchback form. I love the tartan style upholstery and the stylish but minimilist dashboards.

    Shame that the only ones to ever appear for sale are £3k minters.

  6. Have a little thing for the two door version, lovely car and my uncle owned one when i was very little bought new in 84 when i was born lasted four years … i now have the ignition key to that car .. even though its been scraped for over 2 decades 🙂

  7. “Shame that the only ones to ever appear for sale are £3k minters.”

    That’s because people keep on doing things like this to them:


    Thus consigning the occasional affordable one to a dramatically shortened life at the hands of people who think rattlecanned matt paint, hacksawed suspension and hammered-out wheelarches are the only way to enjoy a simple, classic car.

  8. Or, offer people a product they want and they will buy it.

    Simple and basic the Chevette might have been, but Vauxhall/Opel made a commercial success of doing simple things well, such as locating live axles properly in the Chevette / Cav Mk1 period, despite much of the Euro competition going for more modern and sophisticated front drive at the time. Interesting to compare the Chevette with the Allegro in that respect.

    Personally I prefer the original recessed headlights, same as I prefer the look of early SD1s, the later ones look stuck-on and bulbous to me.

  9. A Chevette was all set to be my first car, a trade in at a dealer. Unfotunatley the owner sold it privately. i ended up with a Marina 1700L in brown. Things could have been so much different…

  10. Thers an identical one for sale at £2995 in Loves Garage Chester. A local guy runs one of the the 2 door booted saloons and an HB viva there too.


  11. Any information on how the U.S.A. T car name “Chevette” came to be used in the U.K? The name makes sense as a little Chevy, less as a Vauxhall. There were of course legions of Chevettes on the road in the U.S. though they are certainly a very rare site today. The Chevy Chevette is not so highly regarded here as many of you feel towards the Vauxhall. I always saw it as good honest basic transportation.

    • The Chevette was launched in Brazil and Europe before it was launched in the United States..1973 for Brazil,1975 in Europe and 1976 in the US

  12. Couple of people in my street growing up had these.

    Always preferred the Opel Kadett version.

    To me the Chevette always looked like it had an underbite.

    Perhaps if the bumper was lower it might have looked like an ancestor to the Peugeot 307/407

  13. I never owned a Chevette but remember them well. I had a Viva HC (same engine as Chevette of course). Apart from the HS model, I would have fancied a Chevette GLS saloon or hatch, but 3 years of Viva ownership persuaded me to change to another manufacturer – Datsun.

    My old employer operated a Chevanne which was actually quite reasonable to drive and as it was newish, hadn’t started to rust! Rememember the launch slogan “Vauxhall Chevette – it’s whatever you want it to be”

  14. Flush lights always! How the car was always supposed to look.

    (And make sure they have the lens retaining clip, which was a later addition – one of my lenses fell off when driving!).

  15. I took over a MOH 928 P, a Volcano Red Chevette hatch, from my mother and used it to travel from Bristol to my job in Bromsgrove for 18 months.

    Like you Keith, it left me with a real soft spot for Vauxhalls and I loved the handling (in the dry)and it proved to be reliable and fairly practical. I always liked the hatchback best and lusted after a Blackwatch limited edition owned by a chap who worked nearby.

    We traded it in in 1982 for a 1.3 Marina Coupe; but it left its mark and I went on to own a succession of Firenzas and Magnums right up to 2002.

  16. My wife’s first car was a Chevette, when it was getting on a bit I decided to PX it for something newer as a Christmas present. On the way to the garage I had a argument with a VW Polo and wrote it off. She was thrilled to bits when I told her!

  17. Ah, the Black Magic – what a fantastic looking 70s car – and an object lesson in how the Shove-it’s headlights should look too…….

  18. Black magic really brings out the best in how the shovel nose should be incorporated in a design.

    Almost looks like a mini-Mad Max Interceptor!

  19. i used to love these,what a drive-ten time better than the escort,i know the 1256 engine breathed and growled cos of the three bearing crank but they were ace!the steering was just perfect.

  20. “I am not averse to watching the film The Likely Lads? just to see Bob and Terry’s exploits in their mint hatch-cum-caravan combo”……me too – I always feel sorry for Bob when he has to break in through his driver’s side window…..and when the wheels get nicked…..and for that matter when he drives into the back of the caravan…….he had a HB Viva beforehand if I remember rightly?

  21. At launch in 1975, only the Hatchback was available. The saloon and estate – Droop Snoop Kadetts with Viva engines – arrived in the summer of 1976. Great cars.

  22. A Chevette memory I have is that of my teachers at primary school. It was a frosty winters morning, walking up the drive to school there was a short steep bit that had my teachers Chevette really struggling. Back wheel(s) spinning frantically. Eventually she got up the slope, the teacher in the car behind (a Mk1 Fiesta) shrugged her shoulders and then drove straight up no problems. Poor Chevette, alas I’ve never sampled the delights, I’m more a fwd fan.

  23. Nice car and the start of a real turn-around for Vauxhall, culminating in the wide international range sold today. Wasn’t it crying out for a 1.5 or 1.6 version? The three Chevettes in one of those photo’s are lhd, with the extra ‘Chevette’ badge on the nose – sold without a marque name in Europe wasn’t it? I think I prefer the non-flush headlights version – more character. I agree though, strange it didn’t have flush headlights from the start.

  24. These cars and the Golfs were the reason why I started driving BL cars. To get away from the Kadett/Chevette boxes. Good cars, sure. But a fridge or doorknob can be good too…

    • Indeed Fridges and Door Knobs tend to do exactly the job they’re designed for. Get into a BL car and turn the key and you never knew what might happen!

      • It does start of course… In well over 60 years of BL cars in our family, they _always_ have been extremely reliable and dependable. Maybe the importer did a better pre-sales check, maybe they have been serviced better – but one thing was practically granted: They started at the turn of the key and simply worked.

      • The Chevette was intended as a smaller and more modern alternative to the Viva, and the three door hatchback was also aimed at the supermini market. It was a simple car, but one that looked good and was fairly reliable and managed to be a regular in the top ten best sellers. Also it looked more European and modern than previous Vauxhalls, as the trend in the seconf half of the seventies was to move away from American looking Briish cars.

  25. It’s funny but at the time I preferred the styling of the Ford Escort mark 2 (probably because my Dad had one). With the benefit of hindsight however, I think that the Chevette was by far the better styled car of the two, a mini-Cavalier and very well proportioned. An aero look front end well before the Sierra really.

  26. Comments 18 and 19 – Yep, flush lights for me too – as the designer (and not the accountant) intended.

  27. Has anyone else noticed how thin the middle pillar of the rear side window of the estate version is, even by the standards of the day?

  28. I think the early Chavettes had off the shelf headlights with bezels to save costs until the Cavalier fittings were commonplace.

    I did wonder why the non-sporty models only had the 1256cc engine, were they worried about overlapping too much with the Cavalier? Even the smaller Opel units would have made the range a bit wider.

  29. @Jonathan Carling: Those LHD Chevettes with the Chevette badges on the front instead of the griffin was how they were sold through the Opel network from 1980 to ’84, at least here in Germany (probably other continental countries as well). Contrarily to the erroneous statement in the article, they did not receive Opel badges but were indeed marketed just as the “Chevette” in a move reminiscent of BL and later ARG practices. Another notable difference from the Vauxhall-badged version was that the rear numberplate also on the saloon and hatchback versions was located above the bumper like on the Kadett C. Can’t remember anymore if the four-door saloon was offered too, while the Chevanne definitely wasn’t.

    However, a “love affair” isn’t exactly what the German car buying public had with the Chevette. As I recall it, Chevettes appeared on German roads in small numbers only and disappeared again within only a few years. The requirement for imperial spanners can’t have helped their popularity with Opel garages, or for that matter would-be second-hand buyers either.

  30. Like many others it seems my first car was a Chevette (NSH209R) in ’83. I remember it had a fabulous gearchange and light steering- and on its budget radials allowed me to make the most of its RWD handling.

    The Chevette was defiately a case of the right product at the right time- and despite only one engine option was an exceptionally good seller. Vauxhall did miss a trick however by not offering the Opel 1.6 engine or a droopsnout version of the stunning Kadette Coupe which was offered in Germany with a 1.9 injected engine. Now that would have been nice.

  31. they are cool when modified.. I’ve seen several examples and I want to drop in a VR6 engine linked to a BMW gearbox, with Manta A rear axle. A V8 would be too much hassle but this setup would be a great compromise.

  32. They were fantastic cars in their day. Only downside was that the front wings rusted too quickly and they were a little slow. Rear legroom was tight too.

    If only Vauxhall had fitted a 1600 to make a sports version. It would have been far better than a sporty Escort

    • @Will (#46)

      The Chevette as well as the Kadett City did indeed have the rear number plate between the rear lights as all Kadetts had. But the hatchbacks obviously retained the British rear lower panel, as it always featured a rather unsightly number plate mounting plinth in the pressing.

      But solid cars as they may be, they are so boring. Give me an Allegro any day – not better to look at I’d agree, but better to drive, more room inside and possibly more rust resistent (although the Kadett C did seem to do very well in this respect, it did last as ‘street furniture’ for a very long time and in many cases seemed to outlive the following FWD Kadett D by a good marging – did Vauxhall screw this up?).

  33. Ignore my last post – its a Griffin! I talk rubbish sometimes – unlike the Chevette, which was a great motor apart from those front wings.

  34. Indeed!

    Did you clock all the filler in the front wing of the car we crashed in 1987? And the fact that my mint bronze one had already had both front wings replaced at seven years old?

    Could you imagine that now?

  35. IIRC Vauxhall continued to sell into Scandinavian markets when Opel would have been more logical – there are many FE-series for example, including the lovely 3300SL estates – lurking around Finland.

    Something about Scandiwegians not being overly fond of German marques for some reason. Can’t think why…

    (One day I will have loads of money, have learned how to weld, and will take a front-end damaged Kadett C coupé shell, a rear-end damaged Chevette nose, and a 1.8 injected “Family” engine and Manta 5-speed box, and make the RWD Coupé Vauxhall should have offered. Though the running gear from a Piazza is also a possibility for that…)

  36. The US Chevrolet Chevette offered a 5-door hatch option, and was the #1 best-seller in the States in 1975? – due to panic about fuel economy. They had 1.4 or 1.6 Isuzu engines, and the base model – the Scooter – had no back seat! It was a $99 option…

  37. I remember whilst working as an apprentice in local engineering firm, one of the staff chopped in his Viva and obtained a brand new Chevette hatchback in a light blue,this back late 70s, I thought then was a quite a nice looking car and verstile.Dont see many around these days. Good feature,m well done,

  38. Brazilian Chevettes are even more interesting – a huge range of engines, the first global release of the T-body, and I think the market with the most body variations.

    Though the T-body itself – Chevette only being part of it – is a fascinating car. Kadett and Chevette make some sense as “related” vehicles, but outside of Europe and North America, the car was made with so many facelifts and tweaks… and lasted well into the ’90s.

    The least recognisable relative has to be the aforementioned Piazza, of course. Flip up the forward-hinged clamshell bonnet, and there are those telltale suspension turrets though.

  39. “But solid cars as they may be, they are so boring. Give me an Allegro any day – not better to look at I’d agree, but better to drive, more room inside”

    I drove an Allegro 1.3 and Chevette back to back about four years ago. Both beige, both about £400, both in similar “solid but not show-quality” condition.

    The Allegro was too much like a modern car, aside from the excellent visibility. If felt comfortable, the driving position was spot on – it felt good, apart from the lack of power.

    The Chevette was similarly underpowered, but in this case, I knew it was just not set up right; I remember what my Chevette was like, and this was slower. THe ride quality was poor, though the steering and gearshift were much nicer.

    The Chevette felt more interesting as a classic car. The Allegro felt like, if you put a good engine in (and again, I remember what the 1.5 I had was like, surprisingly smooth) it would be thoroughly capable in modern conditions.

    I bought neither. Chevette didn’t meet expectations, Allegro was a bit too slow and otherwise too competent.

    I wouldn’t say a Chevette was any more or less boring though. It’s got a decent front suspension layout, a nice gearbox and shift, and the view over the sculpted bonnet is nicer than the Kadett’s flat one.

    • Now think about that the Allegro and the Kadett C/Chevette were launched at the same time (roughly) – and you can state now that one feels modern and one like a classic… I once had a similar experience, being driven in a late Morris Oxford (I think) after driving our Austin 1800 – the Oxford felt like from another planet! That’s why I like the FWD series starting with the 1100 so much (and the 3litre) – they still feel very competent today. The drive experience is somewhat less ‘classic’, but that’s not really the key point for me.

    • “A cushier ride does not make it better to drive” – yes it can. I can’t comment on the Chevette, the Kadett I rode in as a passenger was firm, bordering on uncomfortable. That combined with the live rear axle making itself felt make this a no brainer to me, knowing that the Allegro has a reasonable good steering, a very stable and safe ride and handling (no nasty surprises on the wet), the Kadett’s other qualities as a sum cannot beat the Allegro for me – using the car as transport, not rally sports.

  40. I’d much rather drive a Chevette than an Allegro – I find most modern cars woefully dull to drive. They were launched at the same time, sure, but the Allegro looked badly proportioned and wasn’t even a hatchback – the flat floor might have helped the passenger compartment, but the overall package wasn’t particularly practical.

    When I say one feels like a classic, I don’t mean it feels “old fashioned” – particularly by comparison to an Allegro – I mean it feels different to a normal modern car. The Allegro is as unexciting as a modern FWD car, just crudely finished, a Chevette feels like it’s from a different train of thought, with different priorities. When I drove a 1-series for the first time, I immediately thought of the Chevette; I still quite fancy the idea of a BMW 3-series compact as a toy.

    Put it this way – other than in a straight line to amuse people, I wouldn’t care about having an Allegro with, say, an Maestro Turbo or VVC engine under the bonnet; whereas I would really rather enjoy driving an over-engined Chevette.

    As an aside to the Oxford comment – in 2002ish, I nearly bought an old A40 Devon. It was a barn find project, but running – so I took it for a drive. The steering, brakes and body control were thoroughly impressive – I was expecting something akin to a scaled-down Series Landie, and instead it was as easy to drive as a Mk 1 Fiesta. And having driven a Cambridge, a 4-Litre R and a 2200 Landcrab, I’m inclined to go with “different” rather than “better” – the Landcrab was undoubtedly capable, but all of them were equally enjoyable. I preferred the Cambridge to the 2200, which sounded positively asthmatic (it was an auto) and felt a bit heavy on the steering for really nice, relaxed progress.

    • “I nearly bought an old A40 Devon. It was a barn find project, but running – so I took it for a drive. The steering, brakes and body control were thoroughly impressive”

      Now, all from a passenger perspective here: I found a 1955 Cambridge with the pre-Farina body to ride much better than the later Farina bodied models. It is probably due to the fact to put a much larger body over more or less the same mechanicals upsetting the balance. The owner of this car claimed it handled much better than the Farina cars. It certainly did not roll much when we followed him from Ipswich all the way to Gaydon over A and B roads. But this is a 1955 car – the late one was 1970 or 69, by that time the standards have been raised considerable – with BMC having their part in it.

  41. On new, standard suspension, my Chevette was comfortable, well controlled (it had new springs, dampers and bushes all the way around – spent as much as the car was worth getting it done). The only handling trait it displayed when I got it out of shape as a novice driver was understeer, and it was entirely controllable. Never had it snap or misbehave in the wet – the only cars I’ve had scare me in wet conditions have been an XM on horrible remoulds, and an MG Metro which didn’t so much drive as float when it encountered a puddle.

    (I did tend to drive the 924S a bit slowly in the wet, despite the Pilot HXs on it – they were so much wider than the Capri I was used to and felt like they weren’t gripping well at all. Once got overtaken by a Transit on a bend, I was going so slowly by comparison).

    • @Richard K (#59)
      “On new, standard suspension, my Chevette was comfortable, well controlled (it had new springs, dampers and bushes all the way around – spent as much as the car was worth getting it done)”

      I got curious and googled some original road tests for the Opel Kadett – it is possibly set up different to the Chevette though. The press’ opinion on ride comfort ranged from average to uncomfortable. The best I found was ‘Opel made the best from the available setup, majoring on roadholding’. Handling and roadholding was indeed described as good, if a bit unsettled, but not better than more modern contemporary cars – mainly small VW’s. Interesting fact: The small engined Kadett was often compared to the much smaller VW Derby or Polo and lost out. The Derby was just as roomy as the Kadett! But most of the comparisons I found were obviouslty drawn with the Escort, a car that never particular catched on in Germany and was a typical bottom in any group road test.

  42. Pity Vauxhall never put in a 1600 engine into the Chevy…
    And could have developed a couple of sporty numbers lower down the market say a

    1600 Sport / 1600 SuperSport
    1600 GL /GLS
    Other than that the Chey was a fine if slighty dull motor

  43. @Will M: Yes, that’s the very thing.

    To be fair to Keith, the “Opel Chevette” error is a very common one, Germans not being used to marqueless badging that much. The flickr link given by Will repeats it too and so does even Wikipedia (as of the writing of this comment, at least).

    “Rear must be straight off a Kadett C with the numberplate in between the lights.” – Indeed it was, including a slight depression in the sheetmetal for the numberplate on the saloon that also the Kadett C had had but UK Chevettes hadn’t (the hatchback and the estate had identical sheetmetal anyway). I’d always found it puzzling that GM had gone to the trouble of using just slightly different pressings for the “Opel” Chevette saloons when the original Vauxhall pressings could perfectly well have been employed just the way they always had been on the Kadett version of the hatchback, or for that matter on the hatchback version of the “Opel” Chevette.

  44. Will always remind me of the Likely Lads film and that example in red with the checked cloth seats. Obviously Bob must have tired of his rusty and old hat Viva HB, but being a Vauxhall man, decided to test drive their latest model and traded in the Viva for a Chevette L three door hatch as no doubt this was a funky car for its time, far more than the Viva.

  45. Just as an aside – I’ve been trying to find a clip on ‘You-Tube’ of the HC Viva being driven – what I’m particularly keen to find is a clip of one with the indicators on (from inside the car) – we had 2 Vivas in our family in the 70s, and both made a distinctive ‘tinka-tinka-tinka’ noise from the indicator relay….anyone else remember that?

  46. Hi Simon… yes – I remember the tinka-tinka-tinka noise on the Viva’s relay, it was quite loud compared to other cars. I had a 1972 Viva HC bought in 1976 and very quickly had to replace both wings. I sold it in 1979. My brother had also owned a Viva SL (HB). It also had that tinka-tinka indicator sound too.

    I believe Likely Lad Bob had a Viva deluxe HB before that Chevette in the screen film. Seen the DVD!

  47. I had a Chevette in ’97 after my Mk2 Escort caught fire and it was a much nicer car to drive than the Escort. It was a red hatchback with the recessed headlamps and tartan interior. TCT 777S, now no longer with us 🙁 I suspect rot got to it, when I bought it the inner arches were rusty, we jacked it up and with the first swing of the hammer the sills fell off. I got plenty of welding practise on that car.

  48. I’ve never driven a Chevette but my parents had one – NCW349T – when I was a child. I remember rusty front wings and a dodgy starter motor being recurring issues with it. It was still running when they sold it and got a Nova in 1987.

    My main memory of it was the black vinyl seats and bright red paintwork, much of it exposed inside the car, which both got incredibly hot on a sunny day.

  49. Yes, and most conspicuously to the driver, the griffin badge was also retained in the centre of the steering wheel. However, the significance of that badge was not officially explained to the German customer.

  50. Another clarification may perhaps be in order because the text as it is now may convey the impression that after the demise of the Kadett C, for a brief period actual Vauxhall-badged Chevettes were sold through the Opel dealer network. That definitely wasn’t the case in Germany and I believe neither was it anywhere else. To the best of my knowledge, all the Chevettes and only those sold through the Opel network were marqueless.

  51. Thanks for the Chevette article – such an overlooked car these days in my opinion. Always prefered them to the mk2 Escort. Hopefully I will get mine restored this year, another standard 1.3 saved from the crusher…

  52. Good write up. I always thought that the Chevette was a decent little motor. The wife had one before I met her and liked it a lot. A company I worked for had a fleet of them for managers’ cars and they were pretty well satisfied even though some of them were flogged within an inch of their lives.

    The Chev always suffered from having the rattly Viva lump under the bonnet and would have been much metter with the later OHC 1300 from the Astra. Still, they were a pretty little car and the estate version always looked good to me.

    I think that they had much more character than an All-Aggro or Escort and they are a classic car I could probably live with today.

    Bad points were the dreaded rust (1980s lack of rust proofing) and that the gear level would occasionally come off in your hand leaving a stub to change gear with. The upper lever was only crimped on, not bolted.

    Still, much nicer than an Escort.

  53. Tony’s idea of fitting Chevette’s with the Astra 1.3 75hp engine sounds good (and the Viva too?) but of course the Viva ceased production before the Astra arrived and Chevettes were nearing end of manufacture. Some good nostalgia here!

  54. The 1.3 Astra engine was fitted to the Ascona and Manta in Europe. I imagine it would have fitted the Chevette since they got the 2.3litre engine into the HS

  55. Forgot to say I like the gallery photos of the CHEV. That red 3 door on grass outside the Vauxhall Office is probably one of the first production cars issued as a press release image. Also remember the GLS having chrome wheelarch trims? Lots of cars like Cortinas & Granadas etc had that feature in those days. I had those plastic trims added to my own Datsun Cherry…

  56. I had an estate chevette in the early 90’s and it was a great car, although as I was a sutident at the time it was bought cheap.. with burnt out inlet valve as I dicovered(very odd!), this was down to the head having a crack between exhaust and inlet ports. However none of the scrappies would sell a head just a whole engine so I just ground a new valve in. This improved things greatly but three years later it was missfireing again and it had to go. But it never let me down and had the best geachange I have ever found on a car. The astra that came after it made me want the chevette back

  57. And… I agree with DoctorD about those retro colours. A richer lime green metallic as shown on the GLS Chevette is popular on the current Fiesta. Probably not a colour to hold its resale value, but I find it sort of attractive.

    I dont remember seeing a Chevette in that colour but as it’s so long ago, who knows.

  58. #48

    Most T-car engines and bodystyles? Probably New Zealand, with the 1256cc Chevette in 2-door, 4-door, hatch, estate and van, and the OHC 1600cc Isuzu/Holden Gemini in coupe, 4-door, estate and van. Plus limited imports of Isuzu Gemini ZZ/Zs with the DOHC 1800. And a few HS2300s for the local dealer rally team.

    1967 F1 champion Denis Hulme had a Chevette and featured in ads for it.

  59. Within my family we must have had at least a dozen Chevettes and Opel Kadett C’s!! I preferred the Kadett’s dashboard personally, which had the wonderfully 1970s round “porthole” air vents, to the square Chevette one (they did have the same instrument pack though), and if I remember right the Opel version had the indicator switch on the left hand side of the column, whilst the Chevette had it on the right, as per olde worlde British tradition. Saw a cracking one not that long ago in a car auction – A-registered and a real minter!

  60. The Chevette started Vauxhall’s revival in Britain and was a decent car. It might be a film, but the Likely Lads might have convinced people that after so much punishment, being crashed into the back of a caravan, having its wheels stolen and being broken into, it still started first time and always seemed repairable, why not buy one? If the director had decided on using an Allegro, I can imagine the British Leyland jokes being a big part of the film, but Bob’s Chevette’s seems to keep going in spite of the mishaps.

  61. Thanks for the memories Ex Visionhire Chevette estate driver In white of course!! with the green stripe .

    happy days


  62. A pity the Coupe body from the Vauxhall Chevette 1600 GT Coupe never reached production.

    Despite liking the aero-look front-end, I personally prefer the look of the Opel Kadett C and find it a shame that the Opel versions never received the 2.3 Slant-Four engine in some form.

  63. Loved the Chevette. My dad was a big Vauxhall fan in the 80s (despite living in BL territory in west midlands!!!) and we had two Chevettes, a red one and a pea green one, both L hatchbacks and they were stunning cars to look at and ride in. I remember the two tone versions as being really eye catching

  64. As a boy I liked Vauxhalls over the other ‘British’ marques during the Seventies, (my Dad’s cool floor-change 2000SL FD Victor Estate being the main reason)

    I particularly loved the clean modern image of the Chevette hatch when launched and thought it had the best dashboard of any mass-market car of the time. Realized then that RWD was going-out, the 1256 pushrod lump/Viva-esque gear whine and cramped rear was old hat, but for sure a better car than the then ‘new’ Mk.2 Escort. All the family did’nt agree and bought Escorts instead, including my Dad’s 1976 beige 1300 basic estate, (to my disgust)

    Agree it was crying-out for a bigger/better engine, but the obvious choice for GM then would have been the ‘detuned’ early-years spec 1800 out of the Magnum/FE Victor. Nice smooth quiet slant-4 OHC would have made for a great Chevette 1800 GLS…

  65. Nearly bought one of these as my 1st car, Baby Blue 3 dr which didn’t look quite right, it was the earlier version with the sunken headlights (incidentally they are not interchangeable with the later type as the front panel is slightly different, unless you fancy cutting metal out), It also had the 70s Tartan Trim (An acquired taste which VW are still pedalling on their GTi’s).

    However a Mk2 Escort was to be my 1st car, shame I wrote it off ! then a few years later I nearly bought the Opel Kaddett version which somehow I preferred (nicer dashboard) and in shocking Yellow 2dr saloon, but whilst the car was cheap the Insurance (£250 TPFT for Mini’s and Escort 1100s back in the early 1990s) was more than £700 for essentially a Chavette with cosmetic different frontend.

    I also remember changing a Starter Motor on one which was surprisingly awkward due to little space around the Bell housing, But my lasting memory is watching the twin towers of Dawdon Colliery coming down, a big crowd of locals all stood behind the Police line patiently waiting when a red Chavette saloon filled with the Family from Hell, scraped and grounded to a holt (they just drove through the Police tape) then just sat and watched the event, the Police just shook their heads.

  66. My first car, a 1982 red Chevette 1.3 L 2 door saloon automatic. It was a bit rough around the edges, but it still drove well and could leave Audi’s and BMW’s standing at traffic lights thanks to the very responsive auto gearbox with a fierce kick down on the accelerator (Usually driven by middle management bores or sales reps, they’d usually catch up and leave me standing after 500 yards, but it was worth it for the look of horror on their faces being left standing by a clapped out old Vauxhall).
    Towards the end of it’s life I spent a lot of time talking to RAC patrol men as it broke down so often, one of them was a Vauxhall enthusiast. He told me my Chevette was mega rare, one of only 250 automatic 2 door saloons that were ever built. Sadly it had to be scrapped as it was starting to seriously rot underneath and was not going to pass an MOT and it was virtually worthless. Still a great car in its day and was very easy on fuel but could shift when it was needed.

  67. 87- Certainly can see why you went Vauxhall, the FD was a brilliant beast, the floor change 2ltr ones were to kill for. Shame theres no articles on here about them.
    I’ve always been a bit of a Vauxhall aficionado, having spent the first thirty years of my life working for Vauxhall dealers, and when the Chevette came out it was like Christmas had arrived early. There wasn’t really much wrong with Vivas, they just were never quite right. BTW, I don’t know why Viva indicators were so loud, they only used a standard flasher unit, same as every other UK produced car at that time.
    And I’m going to vote for the old recessed headlamps.

  68. The Chevette should be the benchmark for steering set ups on cars today,i cant think of another car with such nice a communicative tiller,only the MK1 1256cc Cavalier would pip it to the post.

    I always ask myself why some of the progress in cars has made them less of a joy to drive,artificial EPAS that you can ‘beat’the assistance if you are quick with the steering,i would urge anyone if ever they got chance to drive a Chevette to do so and i think they could identify with what i mean.

  69. A mate had one as his first car, however we seldom went out in it, much preferring his mum’s Mini 1000!!!

  70. Jack @90, the Victor would have cleared up if it didn’t rust badly and was better made, as in FD form it really looked the part with its Americanised styling and four headlamps. The VX 4/90 would be the one to get as it was better equipped and faster than the standard Victor.
    However, the Chevette was the real step forward for Vauxhall as their sales were falling before it was launched due to the rust issue and the Viva was looking old hat.

  71. I always remember its appearance in ‘The Likely Lads’. What could have been a brilliant PR introduction of the then new Vauxall car seemed to become a joke itself. The poor car lost its wheels, was crashed into the back of a caravan, and then had its windows smashed. Oh and if that wasn’t bad enough it was owned by Bob Ferris. Possibly didn’t do it any harm though….

  72. I drove a GLS hatch in the late 70’s for my work. Despite my general dislike of Vauxhalls, it was a great little car – a nifty drive, comfy and those tartan seats! The way the gearstick wobbled around under load used to get my girlfriend all frisky, hem hem. Last seen with rotting sills and bubbles around the (non glazed) headlamps.
    Happy days!

  73. @87 Autostrada… yes, the Chevette would have benefitted from the 1800/2300 engines from the Viva/Magnum range (or just the 1800?). Sadly the 1256 was the only engine, apart from the 2300HS.

  74. The Chevette marked the end of Vauxhall producing cars where most of the content was British, the Astra and Cavalier were just British bodied German Opels. In a way the Chevette marked the end of an era for Vauxhall, but also started a new one in the mid seventies when it was proved that the British part of General Motors could make a fairly reliable, popular car that didn’t rust like its predecessors.

  75. The 3 blocks of flats in Wallsend where the Chevette had many of its mishaps in the Likely Lads were demolished in 1991 due to structural faults, vandalism, lift failures and being difficult to let. These familiar 3 landmarks to anyone driving on the Coast Rd to Newcastle are now replaced by a far less remarkable low rise estate.

  76. The Likely Lads was on TV recently.

    At least Chevettes were used, as the wheeless one has the spacing of the figures on the numberplate different from the one used in different scenes.

  77. I only really remember them from the days before I could drive. Visually they never appealed……..

  78. @ 100, the General Motors connection even extended to Terry’s van, which was a Bedford CF. I wonder if a deal was done with General Motors for the film as the two main vehicles were made by them.
    I do remember Willington Square, the location of the flats, from my younger days. These had become rather a dump by the eighties and became popular with glue sniffers who tended to jump off the top floor. Indeed, when the flats were being sealed off prior to demolition in 1991, two corpses were found in an abandoned flat who were believed to be addicts.

  79. I think the Chevette could have really cleaned up if it had a 1.6 engine as a range topper. This would have given the car performance of over 100 mph with little sacrifice in economy and would be a quieter engine than the 1256.
    Compared with the Escort, though, I always found the Chevette a more economical car. My dad had a 1979 Chevette, which averaged out at 38 mpg and could get 45 mpg on a long journey, while my stepdad had a Mark 2 1.3 Escort, which never seemed to do more than 35 mpg. Also the hatchback made the Chevy look far more modern.

  80. @104 Glenn – I agree a bigger engined Chevette could have added to the range appeal. But in those days, the Vauxhall line up was 1.3, 1.8 and 2.3 litre (latter two in Viva SL, Magnum & Victor FE) The obvious engine to use would be the 1.8 OHC but then that would clash with the Magnum bodied car?

  81. @ 105, I think Vauxhall wanted to bury any links with the Victor era by 1977, when it was replaced at Luton by the Cavalier, and the 1.6 Cavalier engine would have been an excellent choice as it was more modern than the 1.8. However, that said, it was a nice engine in the Magnum and not bad in the Victor, even if the 2.3 was the one to go for.

  82. @106 – thanks Glenn. Yes, I forgot the 75bhp 1.6 Cavalier engine. So a Chevette 1.6 would have been possible. The 1.8 Magnum/VX was 88bhp. I remember the time when they dropped the Victor & Ventora names and changed to VX series.

  83. @107, Hilton, a 1.6 engined Chevette with GLS trim could really have made the car take off and also given it more refinement and performance of over 100 mph. I reckon this could have really scared the Escort as the Chevette was a better car and also featured a hatchback when the Escort didn’t. However, for the Leylandistas on here, such a move could have hurt the Allegro even more and made things worse at British Leyland.
    The VX/ Victor in its last few years was a very much underrated British car. The rust issue had been mostly beaten by 1975 and the VX 2300 GLS with five speed gearbox and luxury trum was a viable alternative to a Princess 2200 or a smaller engined Granada. Indeed Durham Constabulary had a few on motorway duty until the early eighties, which showed someone other than me liked them.

  84. I think I’ll buy a 1975 Chevette, have a dirty weekend in Whitley Bay in January, park it up in Howdon and wait for it to be vandalised and accidentally crash it in a service station.

  85. When i passed my driving test in 1986 my first car was a vauxhall chevette. It was a two door saloon in bright red but the cars paintwork was in a bad state when i purchased it off another owner for £350. The bonnet would not open so i reached up under the droop snoot with a screwdriver to pop the bonnet open – lucky i did as there wasn’t much water in the radiator and the oil needed topping up! Since it was my first car i loved it so much that i spent time painting and t-cutting the paintwork till it looked like new. I always felt that the 1256cc engine struggled with the heavy body of the car – a 1.6 would have been better. I managed to get 95 mph top speed out of the car on a old quiet road which i was impressed with back then! Then the front springs started to sag on the car which meant a mechanic needed to replace them, also my car had a noisy differential whine which would increase when you were going downhill! I was told i should put saw dust in with the gear oil but i didn’t do that! Anyway it gave me happy memories of the car as i’m now 46 and drive a Peugeot now! – P.s. i always preferred the recessed lights rather than the flush type ones!

  86. I was never a fan of the 1256 engine. Not as durable or pleasant to use as an A Series or crossflow and out of its depth in the chevette. It’s a shame they never made a 1.6 Chevette, they already had a suitable engine in the cavalier. The chevette GLS was a cool looking car, metallic paint, rostyles wheels, fancier interior…and that same crappy viva engine under the bonnet that would be smoking from the oil filler cap, have bottom end rumble and probably failing carburettor by 80k miles.

    • Totally agree the 1.6 from the Cavalier should have been fitted from 1976 onwards, or 1977 when the big engined versions of the Viva were phased out, but can’t agree the 1256cc engine was bad. This was quite a tough engine by the standards of the day, in the Chevette was capable of 40 mpg and over 90 mph( when this was very good), and very tuneable. Also it stayed in production for 14 years, which say something about the 1256.
      If you want a bad engine, try the 1.1 fitted to the basic Escorts of the aame era. Noisy, no power, thirsty due to having to lug around a heavy body, and not keen on starting in wet weather.

  87. From the B-post backwards this car is identical to a Kadett C.
    It arrived at roughly the same time as the Golf I, with which it had to compete in the market.
    Compared to the Golf this car was old hat, with its RWD with life axle, cast iron OHV engine and all.
    The Kadett increasingly gained an image as a pensioner’s car and Opel had to do something against that.
    They imported the hatchback version which was not originally available in Germany, not because it was a sales hit in the UK but because the hatchback Golf was eating away their market share. The Kadett City was a terrible car with nearly no room in the boot and therefore very little reason at all to have a hatchback, it was cramped in the rear and generally nasty. It was a complete sales disaster, only increasing the pensioner’s image of the Kadett.

    • Over here, the Chevette in three door hatchback form was an instant big seller as its only real competition was the more expensive Golf and smaller Italian and French superminis. It did use rwd technology and the less than thrilling( but generally dependable) Viva 1256 cc engine, but this was probably to save costs, and also in the lighter Chevette body, the engine was quite sprightly and economical. I’m not sure about the Kadett City, but the Chevette hatchback boot was quite spacious.
      The Chevette, once the saloons and estates joined the range, became a big success as it catered to all buyers in the Escort sector of the market. My main gripes with the Chevette was the lack of an engine choice beyond the 1.3, I’m sure the 1.6 Cavalier engine would have really increased sales it was a smooth and powerful engine.

      • This website is absolutely fascinating. To see how fundamentally different the perspective on cars was when they were new makes for good reading.
        The Kadett City was effectively killed in the market when the leading German magazine “auto motor und sport” opened their first test of that car with a photo showing that a crate of mineral water wouldn’t fit in the boot. They also compared it very unfavourably with the Golf and came to the conclusion that the Kadett City was a pointless exercise.
        At that time Opel was showing the first signs of losing the plot – just look at how incredibly long it took them to get FWD cars to the market. The rest is history.

        • They were behind the curve with FWD on small hatchbacks.

          However by the early 80s with the FWD mk2 Cavalier / Ascona they played a blinder.

          Ultimately a gamble in a traditionally conservative segment, the saloon variant appealed to those who preferred their Cortina sized cars with 3 boxes, the hatchback was practical and sport trims gave it street cred without the futuristic “jelly mould” look that was harming Sierra sales.
          The Holden sourced estate was cavernous a favourite of window cleaners, painters and other “don’t quite need a van” tradespeople.

          It would take a while for the Sierra to catch on, it wasn’t until the late 80s that the saloon Sapphire appeared, and 1993 before a FWD challenger from Ford in the segment in the “bet the farm” Mondeo after a disasterous showing with the mk5 Escort and Orion.

          • Not only were they behind the bend -or, rather, out of sight- with RWD, they also insisted on selling cars with built-in sneeze factor and lacklustre engines when copetirors had cars that were actually fun to drive and brought power to the people like the Golf MkI. Over here, Opel competed against Volkswagen who, after throwing out their air cooled Ferdinand Porsche memorial relics were quite on a run with the Audi 80 MkI, Passat MkI (conservative segment) and the Golf MkI. Against these cars the Kadett/Ascona looked like truly old hat, which basically is what they were. In the meantime, Ford found out the truly hard way that the time for American style tin barges was definitely over with the Taunus TC and Consul/Granada MkI, with the Escort already being a slow seller. And later – there is a reason why there is nor more big Ford and why Opel is sold to PSA, and this reason is their products.

  88. Mark 1 Golfs were fine to drive if you didn’t need brakes; the base engine was an 1100cc with about 50bhp. Chevettes were fun to drive.
    I hired a Golf in Germany in 1997, the 1.8-litre 8 valve engine was turgid, the handling was BIG understeer, and the paint, seats, and headliner were all black. Pretty dreadful to drive or sit in compared to my Rover 216GSi.
    Having said all that, I am not completely anti-VW: I currently commute in a Polo.

    • The Mark 3 Golf was ugly to add to its poor driving abilities and Marina like interior. Don#t forget there was an even uglier saloon version called the Vento, which sold badly and apparently wasn’t very reliable. I reckon this duo were Volkswagen’s Allegro and Mark V Escort moment, and even the ugly stick was applied to the 1988-95 Passat, which looked bloated and weird.
      However, normal service was soon restored, and the Mark 4 Passat looked every inch an upmarket saloon( drove one and was really impressed with the lilac dashboard illumination and soft touch dashboard), and the Bora saloon version of the Mark 4 Golf was a good looking car and sex on legs compared with the Vento. Also the Mark 4 Golf, while no great looker, was far better than the Mark 3.

      • The Mk3 Golf initially was a terrible car. The first series with front quarterlights was badly built and gained a reputation for a lack of reliability. The result was that Opel became number one in the sales charts for a short time. After Ferdinand Piech became boss at VW the quality of the Golf (as well as of the equally affected “nostril” Passat) improved greatly. The second series Mk3 (without front quarterlights) was still ugly and not very inspiring to drive but at least it was well built and reliable. From then on Opel was on a downhill route. The Mk4 Golf was a quantum leap in tactile quality and an example of German industry design in the best Bauhaus tradition, where a form is considered perfect when nothing can be taken away without destroying fuctionality and nothing can be added without destroying the optical impression. The shutline management of the Mk4 Golf’s rear hatch and the trailing edge of the rear doors is an absolute masterpiece of this school of thought. The polished gas struts and the parcel shelf hanger’s reels are examples for Piech’ mantra that “God is in the details”.

  89. Regarding the Taunus TC: the Mark 3 and Mark 4 Cortinas sold a million each. The Consul/Granada Marks 1 and 2 were also big sellers in the UK, and IIRC in Germany and Austria (I visited Austria inn ’73, and saw quite a few Granadas).
    Ironically, when Ford modernized with the Sierra and “aero” Granada, their sales fell rapidly.

    • Whereas the coke bottle Cortina was sold in some Continental countries and had a following there the more toned down version for the German market wasn’t particularly well received there. The first production run gained a reputation for unreliability, which Ford had to fix with a comprehensive makeover after only a year in production. The Consul/Granada production numbers look less impressive when compared to around two million Mercedes W114/115 and 2.6 million W123 made, and that was before Mercedes decided to become a mass producer. Even BMW, then still a niche manufacturer, managed to sell 1.5 million of the two versions of its first 5 series.
      I am not a particular fan of German cars (I’d prefer an Alfa any time, if -and that is a big IF- they could get their dealers to offer proper customer service), but it is impressive how far they came from bubble car manufacturing (BMW) or selling surplus war stuff (VW). Somewhere there has to be a reason why BMW is selling more 3 series alone than Ford and Opel are selling Mondeos and Vectras/Insignias combined.

  90. The Likely Lads film was on over the festive period, interestingly UTM10N was probably one of the very earliest examples, registered in March 1975, two months before the official launch in May.

    Good chance it was a Vauxhall demo with a bit of product placement. It also had the number plate mounted above the bumper a la the Kadett, not sure if this was the original intention or more likely because the car had a tow hook. Despite all the vandalism it suffered in the film it lasted until 1987, maybe stunt cars were used?

    • I know the car ends up on stilts in Wallsend, crashes into a caravan, and is broken into. Possibly four cars were used as if the same car was used, it would have taken quite a lot of punishment and not lasted until 1987 However, the Likely Lads film was good product placement for the Chevette and people could have thought that a car that could take so much punishment and still start first time was worth buying.

  91. A masterstroke for Vauxhall at the time, introduce a sporty looking three door hatchback when none of your British rivals have such a car, promote it as being a big leap forward for Vauxhall, but keep costs down by using the drivetrain from the Viva and keep the Chevette rwd to please more conservative buyers. Then, when the hatch is selling well, introduce saloon versions to win sales from Ford. It was a huge achievement for Vauxhall at the time.

    • And let’s not forget the Estate and “Chevanne”. I drove our company’s van a couple of times and it felt nippy enough even with the modest Viva 1256 engine. The GLS saloon was quite a tidy looking car as well, with sports style wheels.

      • The Chevette had the whole market covered by 1977 and was a more complete range than the Escort by having a hatchback. Also it seemed a lot better made and rustproofed than previous Vauxhalls.

  92. I’m surprised about Glen Aylett’s Chevette economy figures. In the days when I ran one as a company car I struggled to get more than 30mpg out of it. Then there was the day when the gear lever came off in my hand at 60mph on the M1. (What to do? Keep steady, draw breath, screw it back in again and keep going …) Although the suspension was firm it was well controlled, so back seat passengers were bounced around much less than in the later Astra. Overall the Chevette was nothing to get excited about but it was a decent car.

    • I think the three door hatchback could deliver 40 mpg on a long journey due to the lighter body, but the saloons would probably average 35 mpg. Bear in mind, at motorway speeds, the Chevette’s engine would be working hard and fuel consumption would suffer. Yet I always found the Chevette more economical than a Mark 2 Escort that seemed to average the low thirties.

  93. I seem to remember a remark about GM producing a hatchback before BL. Ahem, 1961 Austin A40 Countryman. We won’t mention the Maxi; but we will mention Bob Lutz, who made sure the Kadett was a sweet handling car. The Chevette was certainly better to drive than a contemporary Viva (I should know, I had 4!)
    The ordinary 1200cc Kadett coupe was nice to drive, the 2.0GTE even more so. A 3-litre straight six will fit, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to go round corners.

  94. I owned one Viva HC and drove a Chevanne a couple of times. The engine/gearbox in the Chevanne felt very similar to my Viva, as it should have! Hard to say if the Chevette was a better drivers car or not. Of course this was in the late seventies

  95. I can remember the ES that was launched at the height of the 1981 recession and priced the same as a Metro. It was, like the Escort Popular, a car with a rock bottom spec, not even having a rear demister, and was only available as a three door hatchback to keep cost down. I don’t think the Chevette ES had many takers, but being priced the same as a 1 litre Metro and with a bigger interior and engine could have swung over some people looking for a cheap new car.

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