The Vauxhall Victor F-Type replaced the four-cylinder E-series Wyvern in 1957, and immediately set its maker on the path towards a more Transatlantic style. It had a sculpted rear door top, similar front end details, heavily curved front and rear screens, and lashings of chrome, just like a 1955 Chevrolet.
A better-proportioned estate derivative joined the range in 1958, but from 1959 Series II versions of both models toned down the original styling. The sculpted door tops, exhaust emerging through the overrider, and teardrop flutes all disappeared.
The more British FB
The Victor FB was a return to a more genteel style for Vauxhall following a decade of flashy American styling. The FB was actually a huge step forward aesthetically, and that was down to the design talents of ex-Jowett and Riley designer, Gerald Palmer, one of Britain’s best car engineers.
The new look was not only neat neat, but also handsome and inoffensive – and helped make this mid-sized family car one of Vauxhallâ€™s big successes of the 1960s, leading the way for more than a decade of Victor success. Four-door saloons and five-door estates were available, with the first cars (1961-63) sporting the same underpowered 1507cc engine as the F-type.
From September 1963 until the end of production, the Victor then received a 1595cc engine with 58.5bhp – and much-needed front disc brakes.
The crisp new FC 101
Continuing Vauxhallâ€™s policy of regular skin changes for its family cars, the Victor FC (also known as the Victor 101) appeared on the scene just three years after its predecessor. Although it looked significantly different from the FB, under the skin, little that changed. Still powered by the familiar 1594cc unit seen before it was still suspended by wishbones and coil springs at the front along with a live axle and semi-elliptic springs at the rear.
The new styling was much sleeker though, with thinner pillars, more curvaceous panels and a slightly concave rear window â€“ a trend which didn’t catch on. The choice of transmission was either a three- or four-speed manual, along with a two-speed Powerglide automatic gearbox, available from 1966.
The bold new styling also offered another significant upside â€“ the Victor 101 offered one of the largest boots in its class, more interior space and class-leading ride quality. There was a choice of six cars across saloon and estate bodyshells, including the range-topping VX4/90, which had a four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox as standard. The sporting Victor boasted a power output of 85bhp, compared to the standard carâ€™s 76bhp.
Back to Americana with the FD
The Victor continued its styling and design evolution into the 1970s, adopting the ‘Coke bottle’ look first used with great success on the Viva HB. It reflected contemporary American trends, and translated well on to this medium-sized challenger, even if the large body promised more power than the entry-level models were able to deliver.
Two new hemispherical-head overhead-cam engines were introduced – 1599cc and 1975cc – and they were complemented by servo-assisted front brakes for the latter. The VX4/90 continued in FD form, continuing with twin carburettors and overdrive and gaining Rostyle wheels.
Replacing the individually-bodied Cresta and Viscount was the Ventora – essentially a six-cylinder powered FD Victor – launched alongside its mass-market counterpart. It was powered by the smooth 3294cc six-cylinder 123bhp engine found in the Cresta and Viscount, and featured an upscaled equipment package. Appealing for all the wrong reasons.
The end: the valiant FE-series
The FE Victor was the last in the line of UK-designed mid-sized Vauxhalls – a line that goes back to the original Victor F-type of 1957, and the Wyvern before that in 1948. The Victor would end up being a victim of the design integration of Vauxhall and Opel, and even with the arrival of this car, had the process already begun.
The Victor FE also shared some of its underpinnings with the Opel Rekord, albeit with different suspension and engines. The latter were 1759cc and 2279cc four-cylinder overhead-cam units, giving these mid-sized models effective performance.
The ‘Transcontinental’ range as Vauxhall dubbed it, was appealing to look at and to drive, but it was larger than its most natural rival, the Ford Cortina, and that cost Vauxhall sales. The writing was on the wall, when the Cavalier appeared in 1975, and by the time Carlton was launched in 1978, the game was over.
The final VX4/90 was launched alongside the Victor – and with its Rostyle wheels and bold paint colours, it looked even better. It was powered by a twin-carb version of the 2279cc slant-four, developed 116bhp, and was a genuine sporting saloon. Later cars even featured a five-speed Getrag dog-leg gearbox – which was shared with the Droopsnoot Firenza.
From 1976, the Victor name was quietly dropped, with the range becoming known as the VX1800 and VX2300.