The cars : Vauxhall Viva development story

The Vauxhall Viva helped restore the fortunes of the Luton-based manufacturer, after several years of decline. It was a small saloon which went head-to-head with a number of British mainstays – and proved to be remarkably successful in the process.

Between 1963 and 1979, it sold 1.5-million examples – not a bad effort, and one that’s only really being appreciated, decades after it disappeared off the scene.

The watershed Vauxhall 

Vauxhall’s first post-war small car was something of a late arrival to the party. It was a bold new start for Vauxhall – a baby car produced at an all-new factory at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. But, by the time it was launched in 1963, rival small family cars such as the Austin A40, Ford Anglia 105E, Morris Minor and Triumph Herald were well established and selling like hot cakes to new drivers, getting into their first cars.

Despite the late entry, the Viva HA did well during its four-year production run, selling more than 300,000. The Viva owed a lot in terms of styling and design to its cousin, the Opel Kadett A, so it was very functional in appearance, lacking in some of the flair of the opposition. The mechanical package was spot on, though – with a four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox, rack-and-pinion steering and disc brakes up front as an option.

The range soon expands

It made a good impression at launch. Motor Sport magazine commented in its 1963 road test, ‘This General Motors’ inspired Vauxhall Viva is quite the most notable conventional-layout rear-drive, strip-steel suspended small car to be announced for a very long time. It is by no means a mini-car – indeed, in body width, seating space and luggage-boot size it will be acceptable to most families.

‘It can out-perform all its competitors and undercuts them on purchase price. Issigonis/Moulton-wise eyebrows can be raised over the suppleness of the suspension, but clearly the Vauxhall engineers have sought to combine reasonable roll-resistance with all-round riding comfort in a leaf-spring layout. They have very nearly succeeded.’ Praise indeed…

Vauxhall certainly saw that the demands of an increasingly affluent marketplace were met with frequent updates, and improvements in specifications. The more desirable variants – the De Luxe and the SL90 – boasted 54bhp from their 1057cc engines, but the Viva’s main claim to fame was in being the first Vauxhall to emerge from the Ellesmere Port plant near Liverpool.

The second-generation Viva was a vastly improved product over its predecessor. It’s not that the old car was particularly bad – just it lacked finesse and charisma, something that the Vauxhall designers worked very hard to inject into the HB.

Adding style to the undoubted function

So the HB received more attractive and trendy ‘Coke bottle’ styling when launched in 1966. It was also larger, and much more accommodating. Aside from the engine, an enlarged (to 1159cc) version of the HA unit, little was carried over from the previous model, which was quite a feat considering that car’s short four-year life span.

The main improvement was in the suspension, which was completely new and quite advanced, and this resulted in quite excellent handling. The Viva’s appeal was further widened with the arrival of the high compression 60bhp SL90 version.

Adding racing appeal

The Vauxhall Viva Brabham (above) was a short-lived model designed to add a little panache into the range – in the way that the Cooper did for Mini or Lotus did for the Cortina. Given that, you’d be expected to think that it was a fire-breathing homologation special capable of seeing off some serious machinery.

Not so – if anything, the Brabham was a bit of a dealer special in that it was all show and not enough go. It did receive a mildly-tuned version of its 1159cc engine. It featured twin Stromberg carburettors, reworked exhaust manifolds and an uprated camshaft, which delivered a very useful 68bhp.

The interior was upgraded and the bodywork treated to some nice stripes – but, in the end, it remained in production for a mere year before being ousted by the Viva 1600.

In 1968, the Viva GT (above) was added to the range, taking over from where the Brabham left off. It was powered by the 1975cc engine from the Victor, fitted with twin carburettors and mated with a close-ratio gearbox. With 104bhp, it was a genuine 100mph car, and a credible rival to the Cortina GT (if not quite the Lotus). It looked the part, too, with bonnet scoops, a black grille and contrasting bonnet.

It went well, too. Motor Sport magazine’s Bill Boddy said in his 1970 road test, ‘We found this so-called Grand Touring Viva a car which devoured the miles quite effortlessly. It is docile in top gear, yet accelerates very usefully from 50 to 80mph, for example, while at the British legal cruising speed of 70mph the 1975cc engine runs at well below 4000rpm. It says not to exceed 6250rpm on the tachometer, but there is seldom any need to go to anything like this extreme to extract very ample performance from this quick Vauxhall. Indeed, maximum power, 112bhp, is achieved at 5400rpm.’

He then concluded: ‘The engine, carburetted by twin variable-choke Zenith 175 CD-28s, started readily, idled rather frenziedly at 1000rpm and ran quietly unless really working – it has the toothed-belt drive to the single overhead camshaft and is inclined in the car at 45 degrees. In give-and-take driving, including a little motorway motoring, we obtained 28.1mpg, which is excellent for a high-output 2.0-litre. This Vauxhall Viva GT created a generally favourable impression and is the best of the current range of Lutonian products’

A new style for the ’70s

When the Viva HC arrived in 1970, few would have believed that it was to be the last of its line. However, the creeping integration between GM’s German and British operations would gather pace during the 1970s, and one victim on that was going to be the Viva – that, though, was yet to come.

In 1970, it arrived on the scene, with smart new styling, but underneath, it was little changed, with the engines and platform carried over from the HB, although the engine capacity of the base version was enlarged to 1256cc. However, the range was about to grow significantly – the Viva HC was available as a saloon, estates and as a coupé.

Coupe style with the Firenza

When the the Ford Capri exploded onto the scene in 1969, there were far reaching ramifications. For one, every rival manufacturer wanted to build an alternative and cash in on the craze for European Pony cars. The Firenza was Vauxhall’s attempt at a Capri rival, although its sales never came close to those of its Blue Oval rival.

It was launched in 1971 and clearly bore a family resemblance to the Viva HC it was based on. Effectively, it was just a Viva HC, but with a more swooping fastback roof – and yet it worked very well indeed.

Engines were shared with the Viva too – so that initially meant the 1159cc entry level model and a rather enjoyable 1975cc version. But changes that echoed those made to the Viva in 1972 meant 1256cc, 1759cc and 2279cc four-pots, with the largest of the lot developing a very lively 110bhp. In 1973, the Firenza name was dropped, with them becoming known as the Viva E (base model), and plusher Magnums instead.

The great droopsnoots

The Firenza HP – nicknamed the Droopsnoot – was the ultimate variation of the Viva HC theme. It was launched at the London Motor Show in 1973, and was developed as a more appealing version of the underwhelming Firenza. It combined an HC coupé body with a glassfibre nosecone designed by Wayne Cherry.

It was powered by a tweaked 2279cc slant-four that kicked out 131bhp and twin-Stromburg carburettors – and looked the way it did due to considerable aerodynamic work. In all, it was quite an advanced package, especially so with a dogleg five-speed ZF gearbox to add an air of sophistication.

The streamlined front was aerodynamically effective, giving the Firenza HP a maximum speed of more than 120mph. But due to its high cost, the HP wasn’t a success – a mere 204 had been built by the time it was dropped in 1975 – which didn’t compare well with Vauxhall’s target of 1000 per year.

Vauxhall used the left-over nose cones on 197 HC estates, to create the even more appealing HP Sportshatch, which was launched as a last-minute addition at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1974.

By the first facelift in 1973, a range of new engines was ushered in, with the old 1159cc entry-level unit being up-gunned to 1256cc. Also, the 1.6- and 2.0-litre cars were expanded to 1759cc and 2279cc. To make the higher-powered cars stand out, they were re-badged as Magnums, and the coupés became knows as Firenzas.

It was in entry-level form that the Viva soldiered on until 1979, when it was pensioned off in favour of the Vauxhall Astra.

Keith Adams


  1. Yes, a relatively unsung hero of the sixties and seventies – where have they all gone?

    The Viva also formed the basis for the Panther Lima, the lovely concept Vauxhall Equus built by Panther for GM (why did they never build that?), the Aussie Holden Torano, the Chevrolet Can Am V8 in South Africa, lent it’s suspension to the Jensen Healey and Panther J72, and also it’s 2 litre engine dimensions to Lotus.

    The Droopsnoot Firenza ran twin strombergs, unfortunately not fuel injection which only appeared on the one-off Silver Bullet concept car (which still exists owned by Dave Boon), whilst the Sportshatch appeared in 1976 (in extra dark wine and red stripes only). The one-off ‘prototype’ Sportshatch (the silver one in the photo) appeared with little explanation at the 74 show (that car also still exists). With red carpet, tartan trim, de-chromed colour coded bumpers, and black headlining, it preceeded that trend of the 80’s by some margin, nevermind the droop front end that spawned the same style for Escort RS2000, Chevette, Cavalier, and, at a push, the Calibra (the Vauxhall’s all being designed by the Droopsnoot Styling Chief, Wayne Cherry).

    A little biased being an ex-Vauxhall apprentice, I fondly remember my 1256 Viva, my 2300 Magnum, and still have my Sportshatch today. Yes, there’s some rose tinted thinking going on – like most 70;s stuff, they did have some foibles and weak points of which I’m well aware.

    • I’m sure it’s just a typo, but you mean the Holden Torana, not Torano. It soon left its Viva roots and became a somewhat larger car, famously available with 4, 6 and 8 cylinders.

    • Just adding to the HPF corrections here. Yes it ran Strombergs and not injection, plus the gearbox was a rather agricultutal five speed dog leg first ZF and not Getrag as stated. (The Chevette HS & Later VX4/90’s ran the Getrag box)

  2. I have a lot of affection for the HC having owned 2 Magnums and 2 Firenzas in the past. As you say, very underrated cars that, in my opinion, suffered from appearing, shall we say, a little basic when compared with their blue oval rivals and from a confusing multi-named model line up..

    Just a small observation, with the arrival of the HP Firenza, the name became reserved for just that model and the HC range became a little confused. The Magnum nameplate was used on the saloon, Coupe and Estate for the more upmarket versions with 1800 and 2300 engines from that date. Also, the 1256, 1800 and 2300 engines were found in the last year of Firenza flat-front production, as well as the short-lived Viva 2300 SL. All of these were effectively replaced by the Magnum.

    As well as using up HPF nosecones with the Sporthatch, the remaining Coupe body shells were used for a limited run 1256 Viva E Coupe when the HPF and Magnum Coupe were axed. The Magnum name was dropped in 1977 and the “posh” HC became the Viva GLS, available in Saloon or Estate and with 1256 or 1800. The limited run Viva E proved so popular that a saloon version became part of the line-up as an entry-level model.

  3. It’s interesting that while the Kadett A and Viva HA were quite similar, the models then diverged, with the HB being much better than the Kadett B, which carried over more of the original Kadett A.

    Then in 1970, instead of replacing the Kadett B, Opel launched the Ascona A which was instead sold alongside it.

    Thus effectively the larger engined Vivas/Magnums were replaced not by a version of the Kadett C, but were instead replaced by a version of the Ascona B!

    • @maestrowoff – the Ascona B of course was also-known-as…. the Cavalier (with a redesigned nosecone reminiscent of the droop-snoots). So the Viva wasn’t replaced by the Astra at all but the Cavalier. The Chevette had taken over the mantle of the UK Kadett by that point and was replaced by the Astra.

      • The Cavalier was a bit bigger than the Viva, and the Viva stayed in production for several more years afterwards until the Astra was launched, so both partially replaced it (though in reality it just died of old age)

        • The Ascona A was pretty much the same size as the HB/HC Viva and was originally intended to be the Kadett C which would have mirrored the change in size Vauxhall made with the HB four years earlier. Instead Opel made it an additional model. By that time Vauxhall was looking at enlarging the next HD model (and changing the name) to compete with the Cortina. Opel were obviously thinking along the same lines too, enlarging the Ascona B over the previous A (Of course, the comparable British Ford Cortina and the German Ford Taunus were largely the same car by 1970-76) so combining the two projects into one made sense when Vauxhall got into serious financial trouble.

        • Vauxhall have a thing with confusing model ranges.

          Take their current small car range, you have the ‘new Viva’, the evergreen Corsa (which in reality is more of a facelift of the previous model) and the Adam, or if you want more “family” small car you can have the Meriva (to be replaced by the Grandadland X) and Mokka. When they were also marketing Chevrolet you also had the Matiz/Spark and Aveo into the mix.
          The Astra having moved, like the Focus, into the blurred boundary between small-large family car where the Cavalier and Sierra might have once been popular.

          • Yes, it’s confusing for the brand when you try to sell a normal European supermini (Corsa), a budget small car (Viva/Karl) and trendy city car (Adam) all under the same badge.

            To me Fiat’s branding is also confusing, because they’re selling aspirational models (500, 124 Spyder) with the same Fiat badge as VFM hatchbacks lime the Turkish made Tipo.

      • The Cavalier was a new model that didnt replace any other car. It was Vauxhalls Cortina competitor and bigger than the Viva. The Viva was effectively replaced by saloon versions of the Chevette (Opel Kadett C) in 1976. The Viva stayed in limited production to give Ellesmere Port something to do until the Astra arrived in 1979.

  4. Were there any differences between the Opel OHV and Vauxhall OHV, heard that both were originally conceived as 700cc engines before growing to 993-1196cc and 1057-1256cc production engines?

    Also curious to know whether both engines were capable of growing beyond their existing 1196cc (Opel) and 1256cc (Vauxhall) displacements?

    • I think it was Billy Blydenstein (RIP) who stroked the Viva engine out to first 1350cc, then 1500cc. Lots of torque, still economical; but like his 2600 OHC conversions, tended to “nip up” on the bores if they got a bit hot. An easier and more practical way to get more power was to fit a Weber 28/36DCD twin choke carb’, which gave economy on the first choke and power on the second. The pushrod engines suffered from weak pressed steel rockers – the pushrods tended to puncture them, which reduced a lady friend of mine to tears! The timing chains also only lasted 40-50,000 miles, which was a nuisance – for whatever reason, replacement was regarded in the trade as an “engine out” job.

      • Read Billy Blydenstein saying that the 1256cc engine was capable of being reliably tuned to around 72-80+ hp.

        For some reason was envisioning the Viva engine (and Opel OHV) having the potential to grow into a -1600cc max Vauxhall equivalent of the Ford Kent unit, though it seems that unlike the Viva unit only the Opel OHV was used in FWD form via the Nova. Than again it seems there were plans to produce a diesel version of the 1256cc Viva unit as well as a 45 hp 989cc version for the FWD Vauxhall Scamp concept.

      • It was a bad bit of design. The sump extended beneath the timing chain cover at the front of the engine so to take the cover off the sump needed to be removed first. With a cross member beneath the engine the only way to do that was to take the engine out!

      • Since last have found with Vauxpedia the Viva / Kadett engine was tested with displacements up to 1375cc, while the following link is of a Kadett with an enlarged 1273cc engine by someone who was at GMZA. –

        Apparently some at GMZA looked down on both the 1600 Vauxhall Slant-Four and 1500-1600 Opel CiH, believing GM would have hit the jackpot had they followed the same route with the Viva/Kadett OHV as Ford did with the Ford Kent.

        To that end they lobbied hard for the Viva / Kadett OHV to be stroked to 1500 or so by maintaining the 81mm bore, yet at the same time moving to 5 mains and lifting the deck height some 20mm to keep the rod/stroke ratio intact. This would have required some investment cost but would have been amortized quickly in engine cost differential. However the idea was rejected by GM.

        While Blydenstein’s 1500 was not production feasible because of the deck height and three main bottom end, it did show what a stroked version of the OHV was capable of and would have been very useful for the likes of Vauxhall as well as Chevrolet South Africa who both had large gaps in their range between the 1256cc and 2279cc Vauxhall Slant-Four / 1960-2512cc Chevrolet 153 4-cylinder engines respectively with the Vauxhall Chevette, Chevrolet Firenza, Chevrolet Hatch and Chevrolet Chevair. It would have also been an asset to Vauxhall at 1500-1600cc in place of the less than reliable 1.6 Vauxhall Slant-Four.

    • my main experiance is of the small viva engines, the opel engines looked similar but were metric so completely incompatible.
      the viva engines were all the same except the bore sizes, from my knowledge of overhauling the engines until the Chevette with the 1256, came out with a bit more power output the 3 bearing crank would break at the front main bearing so the crank was made thicker by 0.040″ and of course the con rods big ends main bearing then changed dimensions to suit, the HA van [still in production till 1982 was also fitted with this engine from about 1975 as well as the last HC Vivas to 1979. I tuned a couple of 1256’s probably got about 10-15 more bhp around 80-90 bhp, which made it a very willing & revvy engine would just about get to 90mph [probablly a 4,125 diff so but quite quickly! and personally broke 2 cranks till I found a late HA van donor block.

      • i am surprised you only got to 90MPH..a HB viva was my car in my boy racing days ..the engine was a 1256.. the cam was unknown but could have been something like a Piper 270 or even standard but less warn than the others we had the head was an 1159 head that put the compression up and had much bigger ports i DIY gas flowed the ports using rule of thumb from a David visard book valves was standard carb was a Stromberg from a 1.6 Hilman Hunter.. the needle was spot on i could pull 6300 RPM in top gear on a strait road near me ..the car was still picking up but i would run out of road if i put the gearing, diff (4.1) tier size into an online calculator it equates to 103MPH ,,back in the day i think about 100MPH so happy to see it was more than confirmed with the online calculator..i am geasing around 75 plus HP as i could keep with MG metros and they were 75 HP but maybe I was heavier

  5. Yes, picked up the sporthatch brochure from Ormskirk Motors – John Price the dealership owner had just one car in and a few (now) super rare brochures. And, ahem, Ellesmere Port is in Cheshire, not Merseyside. BTW, Ford’s Halewood plant was in Lancashire – if memory serves – until local government re-organisation

    • Roger, do you still have, or know of the Sportshatch brochure. Never seen one, would be interesting to see if you still have a copy.

  6. My Uncle had a Blue Viva, and my great Uncle criticised him stating it would rust away.

    It did and he replaced it with – wait for it – a Fiat Miafiori! His next car was a Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2 which was actually bomb proof.

    Problem with Vauxhalls post-war until the Opel invasion was that they rusted even more profusely than every other British motors.

  7. My experience of cars throughout the 50’s and 60’s was that the Vauxhall rust reputation was one of those inexplicable myths that comes along every now and then in car history. Of course they did rust but absolutely no more than a Hillman, Humber, Ford or some Daimlers! Even when I was a child and only my father and a handful of other residents owned a car on our estate, one guy had a 3 year old Minx on its side under a tent in the garden – completely rebuilding the underside. Years later, my father had a Daimler Conquest Century Automatic – it was a nightmare chasing the rust bubbles and general decay.
    I think Ford had a pretty good time in the 50’s – their Mk 1 Consuls and Zodies – even the Mk 2 versions didn’t rust so bad as some of the Rootes, GM and continental stuff but by the time of the Mk 3 Cortina came along they were up with the best of the rusties!
    I am biased as well no doubt – I delivered new HB Vivas all over the country for a year or so. I loved them to bits and when on the return journey – and thus in a 30,000 mile used one – I would have such fun and take on Escorts, Heralds and 1100’s with confidence. They were so sure footed, chuckable and controlable from the throttle – even with such modest BHP.
    In those days – mostly pre motorway – I used to leave Swindon at 4 in the morning and drive to Liverpool; get a lift to Elsemere Port and drive a new (un PDI’d) car back. Get in another new one and drive back to Liverpool – getting a lift again to EP and the drive another new one back – arriving home st about 8 in the evening. Great days!
    I got to drive lots of cars and my favourite was the HB but the Fiat 124 ran a close second and then the Simca 1000 – I do have a soft spot for rear engines.
    I think I’ve had 4 or 5 HC’s – the Estate was just brilliant!

    • Umm, Vauxhalls did rust very badly from about 1957 to 1962, the PA Velox and Cresta and the F Victor being particularly susceptible. I once met a car salesman who had refused a 3yo F Victor p-ex because the boot floor had completely disappeared! The PB and PC Crestas, and FB and FC Victors, were much better; but the HB and HC Vivas and FD Victors had a very bad reputation for inner wing corrosion. These panels were used to mount the bonnet hinges. I once saw an FD Victor in a scrapyard, where the inner wings had rusted so badly that the bonnet hinge on one side had torn out of its mounting. HC Vivas were notorious for rust in the windscreen pillars; I had a very unnerving accident in my Viva 2300 when a trailing arm rusted through as I drove along. This seems to rather agree with Stuart’s post below.

      • A truly anorak point on the rust front – early HC Vivas had wings which sloped upwards on either side of the bonnet to quite a sharp point above the vertical drop over the wheels. These wings were found to retain mud and moisture and rusted badly. To their credit, Vauxhall retooled the wings to blunt the point, from about 1973. The earlier wings then became known as “raised lip” wings.

  8. Here in Australia, I had an orange 1300cc Torana (TA series, 1974)from 1991-’92. Had a plastic front grille which was quite novel for the time. However, as the body had been strengthened to take the local roads & the far more common in line six cylinder engines, it was a slug. One local hill that my next car, a 1300 Corolla hardtop from 1980 could just get over in fourth, the Torana was screaming in second.

    Before we left the UK to come to Aus, in Leeds my parents had a 1973 white HC 1300 two door which went far better than my Aus version. This was in 1983 & it had a fist sized hole at the base of the drivers side windscreen as well as holed floor in the back which filled with water during the rain. Don’t make ’em like they used to? Thank goodness!

  9. My cousin’s husband has restored a 1965 HA Viva.

    It needed a fair amount of derusting, as well as some work on the engine.

    Luckily the later 1256cc engines had a lot of common parts with the earlier 1057cc, so it was fairly easy to source spares.

  10. …..and all of the HCs went ‘tinka tinka tinka tinka tinka’ when you flicked the indicator switch 🙂

    • Oh yes! Memories…
      We couldn’t afford a family car when I was young but I remember my Dad getting a x-hand blue Viva that did that in the early 80s. He kept it really well.
      But I also remember that he was chasing rust bubbles all the time…

  11. In my younger days I owned two of the models mentioned here. My first car was a Viva HC (reg. WDD 234J) which I owned for two years in the mid-1970s. A slightly hideous lime green colour, it was pretty reliable and a bit out of the ordinary because at the time first cars were usually early Cortinas or some old Hillman or Mini.

    A few years later I had an 1800 Firenza (like the one above but mine was white). The roughest dog of a car I’ve ever owned; not unreliable but I could never get it tuned to run smoothly or quickly. I had to stick with it for two years until I could afford to get rid of it.

    • We had the same issues with our first Magnum, a 2 door 1800 saloon. The Zenith carb on the early 1800s was a piece of junk. We ditched ours for a Weber and it totally transformed the car.

  12. You’ve saved me a job here Keith – I was going to blog about the sports models. At the other end of the spectrum, the HA spawned the boxy van, which kept going until 1983, largely due to BT fleet orders; and IIRC was offered with 18bhp and 24bhp engine options to stop the drivers caning them! The HA estate was the Bedford Beagle, which was a van fitted with side windows by Martin Walker Ltd. Brabham built an HA Brabham Viva with lowered suspension, but it was only available as a dealer-fitted conversion.
    On the other hand, I didn’t know the HB Brabham was available as an estate – but I can’t argue with your picture.
    There was a gent working in Rolls-Royce Derby who owned a light blue HB Brabham 2-door, which he ran until the early 80’s at least as a learner car for his wife.
    The Brabhams went well, but if driven fast could get down to about 20mpg – as thirsty as an OHC car. Less exotic Vivas were good for 35-45mpg.
    The HB estates were launched shortly after the saloons; the 4-door saloons were later still, but close to the launch of the Mark 1 Escort 4-doors. All were well behind the 1962 Morris 1100, of course! More later…

    • The Estate in the picture is not a genuine Brabham, rather it is a low mileage Estate modified to Brabham spec which explains it.

      As stated the Brabham was a series of upgrades (engine, body, accessories) available from dealers (so they weren’t all the same), and I think the Estate was not launched during that period (67 and early 68), similarly, the four door in 69. However Brabhams were based on both deluxes and SL’s.

  13. Not forgetting the Chevette, which was essentially a more modern take on the HC Viva with a hatchback body and the same underpinnings. However, when the Chevette offered a saloon and estate option, what really was the point of the Viva, especially when the Magnum versions were ended in 1977?
    Yet quite a good car in all versions and one which established the Ellesmere Port factory that survives to this day.

    • The Viva was slightly bigger than the Chevette in both wheelbase (3″) and width (over 2″). The slant 4 OHC engine also continued as an option in Vivas after the Magnum name was dropped which, apart from the specialist HS/HSR rally models, was never an option in the Chevette. The droop snoot front on Chevettes made them about 3″ longer than their Opel cousins though, blurring the size boundary once the saloons and estates arrived.
      Interestingly the HC was available in hatchback form in South Africa.

    • The Chevette used the Viva’s engine, gearbox, and steering column; but the floor pan and particularly the very tidy-handling suspension were different. The suspension was so good that it cried out for more power; but while the Germans offered 1600 and 2000 Kadetts, Isuzu built an 1800cc 5 speed Gemini, and Chevrolet Chevettes offerd 1.4 and 1.6 engines and a 5-door hatch body, the only big engine we got in the UK was the 2300HS; which was nice, but extreme – and a rather tight fit!

    • I did wonder why the Viva was kept in production until 1979, & the Chevette until 1984.

      Peugeot did this sort of thing a lot by keeping older models in production after they were replaced.

      • For a long time French manufacturers hardly ever directly replaced current models
        The 304 was slightly bigger than the 204, the 504 was a bit bigger than the 404, and in turn the 505 was a bit bigger than the 504, allowing the older model to stay in production alongside the newer one
        Similarly the 12 sat alongside the 8/10 for a while, the 18 overlapped the 12, the 20 the 16 etc

      • I suspect the real reason for keeping the Viva in production after the Cavalier was launched in 1976 was to appease the unions and government. As all the early Cavaliers came from Belgium there would have been uproar if the Viva had been axed and the workforce laid off.

        The situation was similar when the Astra was launched- all the early models were imported so the Chevette was kept on to keep the production lines running. This was especially important at that time as Vauxhall could not be seen to be reducing British production when it was about to launch the Nova which was imported from Spain

  14. My brother owned a lovely VIVA SL HB in dark blue J reg, then I owned a 1972 Viva X14 (HC) in Emerald Starmist. Nice car with plenty of extras inc Rostyle wheels, but had to replace both front wings due to the well documented Vauxhall rust issues! I spent a bit of money on that car but it looked better by the time I sold it (1979) and have good memories.

    I aspired to own a Magnum 1800 after that but the aforementioned rust deterred me.

    • My experiences with Magnums were both pretty good. HCs were far better protected against corrosion than the previous HA and HB. Our 1800 Magnum Saloon was rot-free at 12 years old when we bought it and remained so for the 7 years we owned it. My ’75 Magnum Coupe was just staring to get a bit frilly in the usual places (bottom of the windscreen pillars) when I sold it in 2002. The two early Firenzas I had fared far worse. The first one (EHU30K) was too far gone to be anything other than a donor car for the second which I restored in 1992. That car (JHU644L) still exists somewhere in Yorkshire I believe.

  15. When the HC Viva was current, I always thought they looked bland and plain (even though I had one myself). Seeing them now – either in photos or on the road – I think they’ve aged better than most other cars from the 70s and they look good and almost modern. On most other models from that era, the styling has dated more – even if it’s in a cosy nostalgic way.

  16. Adding to my last post, from the pictures above, it shows what a good looking car the VIVA HB was, after the HA. Particularly the SL & GT versions. The Estate’s were practical load carriers too. I remember Vauxhall marketing it as “flaunting a Fastback”.

    Lledo made a scale model of the Viva HB SL in Pinewood Green. Regarding the last entry level model called the “Viva E”, it was available in 2 door saloon & coupe Firenza bodystyle.

    • The Viva E Coupe was produced to use up surplus Magnum and HP Firenza body shells when the Coupes were axed in ’75/6. The Viva E saloon followed on later as a permanent addition to the range. The two never ran concurrently.

      • That’s correct Tim… I knew someone who had a white Viva E coupe, before the saloon came out. In 1977 a Viva 1300GLS was also launched, identical in trim /headlamps /dashboard / Rostyles to the Magnum but with the normal 1256 engine.

  17. The Viva probably saved Vauxhall until the Chevette and Cavalier arrived and Vauxhall sales took off. This was one car that was clearly placed in the 1.3 litre class where the Escort was king and managed to maintain a healthy market share for Vauxhall, while the bigger FE Victor struggled because it was too big to take on the Cortina and too small and basic for the Granada class.

  18. I agree Glenn… the Chevette gradually took over the Viva mantle, particularly when Saloon & Estate’s arrived. As the same 1256 engine was used in those, the Viva’s legacy lived on.

    • Only drawback with the Chevette was it was only ever available with the 1256 engine, unless you include the specialist 2300 HS. Maybe this was a ploy to keep the Magnum selling for the first two years of the Chevette’s life, but once this was axed in 1977, surely a bigger engined Chevette with the smooth revving 1.6 from the Cavalier should have been introduced. This really would have done wonders for sales of the Chevette until the Astra arrived in 1980.
      While the Viva should have been phased out in the mid seventies when the Chevette arrived and ate into its market share, union pressure to keep jobs in Britain( early versions of the Cavalier were Belgian) and probably keeping the car as a larger companion to the Chevette saw the Viva survive until 1979.

      • A 1.6 Chevette using a Cav MK1 75bhp engine Glenn… another interesting idea. I’m sure it could have been done, as in the 60s Vauxhall put the Victor FD 1600 engine into the HB Viva.

        • While liking the idea of the Chevette receiving 75-110 hp 1.6-2.0 versions of the Opel CiH, it is a shame the Vauxhall Slant-4 never reached its full potential nor was as reliable as it could have been for Vauxhall to continue producing 1599-1975cc versions of the Slant-4.

          Using the 2.3 Slant-4 in the Firenza HPF “Droop-Snoot” and Chevette HS/HSR as a rough guide (along with the fuel-injected VX4/90 prototype), even a Twin-Carb 1.6 engine would be capable of putting out around 92+ hp while fuel-injection (plus 16-valves) would theoretically increase power of the same 1.6 engine to around 105 hp.

        • The 1600 ohc [84hp] was only a little more powerful than a ’90’ 1159 ohv engine [69hp] but twice the size/weight so virtually no improvement on performance & in fact was a thirstier engine, in contrast the 2 lt 110hp was a much better option with reasonable fuel consumption 26-30 mpg I still have one!.

  19. Some more “anorak points”.
    The Viva was built as a Chevette-style 3-door hatch in South Africa; where they used Cavalier engines and instrument pods, rather crudely merged into the UK style dash (I will upload pix if I can find them!)

    Viva GT: you were a true petrolhead about 1978 if you were a year or two older than me, and owned a Viva GT (usually among several other dodgy cars). Like the Ventora, the VGT came as an ill-developed Mark 1, and a more refined Mark 2, as illustrated above.

    The Mark 1 had not just the bonnet air scoops shown above, but also a matt black bonnet, twin coachlines, chrome hubcaps designed to look like standard steel wheels chromed, a matt black panel between the taillights, and FOUR exhaust tailpipes. They also had a 3.9 diff, which gave brilliant acceleration, but an 18mpg thirst. The Mark 2 had a 3.44 diff, which made it much quieter and more economical. It also had a rear antiroll bar, which cut down the understeer somewhat.
    The HB and HC 1600’s were slow and thirsty – 18 mpg was all too typical. The 1800HC was a bit quicker and possibly smoother, and would do about 24mpg – very poor by today’s standards, competitive back in the day.
    History repeated itself with the Magnum 1800 – early models had 77bhp, two round dials on the dash, and no rear antiroll bar. The rare late model 1800’s had 88bhp, seven dials, and a full complement of antiroll bars.
    The Viva was significantly roomier than the Chevette, and tended to appeal to older customers; especially the plush GLS models, which were sold in New Zealand as “Magnum 1300”.

    • Like your points, Ken, from a Kiwi perspective, where British cars were popular and amended to suit New Zealand tastes when they were imported( mostly in kit form, I believe).
      The Magnum 1800 over here had a similar spec until 1976, two main dials, nylon seats, four headlights, and was intended to be a sporting alternative to a 1256 Viva with slightly more equipment and a 1.8 Victor engine capable of 100 mph. If you had more money and didn’t mind the higher fuel consumption, there was a 2300 version with similar spec to the later NZ 1800s and capable of 108 mph, excellent for 1974.
      Over here the Viva, which also had a GLS version launched when the Magnim was phased out in 1977, tended to do very well as an estate, a two seater with van like space that was popular with families and dog owners, while the saloon version was slightly larger than an Escort and also considerably bigger inside than a three door Chevette hatch. ( Not as much fun to drive and a bit heavier on petrol, though).

  20. I remember hearing about a limited edition “poverty spec” Viva HC, which was drempt up by the marketing dept to help clear an oversupply of 2 door saloon bodyshells.

    They were fitted with the minimum of mod-cons & sold at a discount price, & went down better than expected IIRC.

    • E was the poverty spec model for the Viva and Chevette in the late seventies. My dad was given a 1979 Chevette E as a company car and this really was basic motoring, horrible plastic seats( cured with cloth covers from Halfords, though), bare metal everywhere, no rear demister( optional one bought from Halfords) and basic driving instruments. Although my parents were divorced, and I didn’t get to ride in that car much, my dad loathed that Chevette with a passion, even though it was reliable and did 40 mpg.
      Two years later he was made redundant and he lost the company car. When he became self employed, he bought a car on here everyone will love, a 1971 Rover 2000 TC. I can remember this being immaculate and almost rust free, unusual for a ten year old car then, and being light years ahead of the Chevette in terms of comfort and equipment levels.

  21. Regarding the E spec, I remember at the time Vauxhall proudly advertised the fact that the E stood for Economy. It was a twisted version of marketing where they emphasised the fact that you weren’t having to pay for anything you didn’t really need.

    • There was an even lower spec introduced in 1981 on the Chevette. The E was upgaded with cloth seats, a demister and two sun visors to make it acceptable to most buyers, but there was an ES below that did without these and was one of the cheapest cars you could buy at the time. Mind you, it was an extremely basic for the time, on a par with a Ford Fiesta Popular for its lack of standard equipment, and I can’t remember seeing many ES Chevettes.

  22. The Viva was notable for keeping a strip speedometer well into its life, when most manufacturers had gone over to round speedometers. I wonder if this was the American influence at work as the Victor could be ordered with a column mounted gearshift into the seventies.
    I do recall the HC being a common sight well into the eighties( I think the rustproofing was better than on the HB and HA, the HA being a very rare sight after the mid seventies). The HC Viva offered basic motoring at a low cost, was reasonably reliable and easy to maintain, which was what buyers wanted.

    • I had a 2-litre Firenza with a strip speedometer. After an unfortunate incident involving a hangover and a barbed wire fence, I needed some replacement parts, and found a similar Firenza being broken for spares on a used car lot (this was 1979 – you wouldn’t do that today!) The salesman had a bit of a silver tongue, and claimed to have seen at least 105mph on the speedo’, which (unusually) only had markings up to 100mph on a 100mph car. “That’s interesting”, I replied, “I maxed mine, and found there’s a stop at 100”.

    • Yes Glenn, my 1972 Viva 1300 had the strip speedo with red needle. I think it was in 1976 when models like the Viva Deluxe(renamed 1300L) got 2 round dials. The Viva GLS (like the Magnums)got the 7 dial sport dashboard which included an ammeter and oil pressure guage.

      On paper the Magnum 2300 would be faster than a Capri 2 litre but I’ve never seen a Magnum race a Capri!

      • Viva and Firenza 2300’s had ammeters, but they had an unfortunate tendency to overheat (there were nasty brown marks on the back of the 7 dial pod on my Viva 2300) Later 7 dials, probably all of those fitted to Magnums, had voltmeters. Quite a few had the tacho’ mounted “the wrong way up” because it was easier to read that way; while the clocks – early ones had second hands, later ones didn’t – tended to stop working after a while.

      • I’d think a 2300 Magnum, which is a lighter car than a Capri, would take it on and probably win. Also the 1800 model would keep with a 1.6 Capri quite easily.
        I’ve always preferred the Magnum, particularly the rare coupe version, to the smaller engined Capris as they offered similar performance and were lighter. Also most people thought it was a Viva, but didn’t realise the Msgnum had engines from the Victor.

  23. Speaking of speedometers, the major instrument on my brother’s Morris Minor seized up. We left the house with the needle on 0; by the time we got to the motorway, it had wound its way up to 10 mph. After a few miles on the motorway, it said 50. When we stopped at the pub, it said 40. After a pint, it said 30. The vehicle is no longer on the road.

  24. The Magnum is a seriously underrated car and the 2300 version, using the Victor slant four, would quite easily beat a 2 litre Capri as it was lighter and had 300 cc more. Even the 1800 was quite a powerful car for the time, being capable of 100 mph, and the last versions were given the same spec as the 2300( six dial instrumentation, clock, better seats). The Magnum was the ultimate Q car as most people at the time assumed it was a fancy Viva and didn’t realise some versions were 20 mph faster than the standard Viva.

  25. I remember my Dad getting his first company car in 1968. A white Vauxhall Viva, OWD 883F if I remember correctly. We often used to go out in it with 4 kids aged from 3 to 10 in the back seat. No seat belts in those days of course! My abiding memory of it is watching dad back it up the path from the garage at the bottom of the garden in Enfield as he did every morning only this time he was waving the gearstick in the air. It had come off in his hand when he put it in reverse! He had it for 2 years then swapped it for the first of a line of 4 Cortina’s. 11 or so years later I got my own first company car, a yellow Chevette hatchback, RDP 934R IIRC.

    • Paul, I reckon your Dad’s white Viva would have been Grecian White and your yellow Chevette would be Jamaica yellow. Such is my knowledge of Vauxhall colour names back then! The tale of the Viva gearstick is amusing, I think I have heard similar stories on Chevettes.

      • I’ll bow to your greater knowledge of Vauxhall colours! I know the little Chevette had a nice gear change and cornered rather well. Now I know where land Rover got the idea for all their colour names!

      • Yes, the 1159 and 1256 HCs and Chevettes had a very slick gearchange. GM did have some great colours back then. My HCs were Riviera Blue Starfire, Aqua Starmist, Flamenco Red and Bronze Gold Starfire respectively. My Chevette was Volcano Red.

        • Tim, my Viva HC (an X14 edition) was in Emerald Starmist – dark green metallic. I remember another 70s Viva colour was Coppertone Starfire. Actually there were some nice looking colours in Vauxhalls palette back then.

      • My Dad had a 1977 Chevette L hatch in yellow, but that was called Kashmir Yellow. It was a pale yellow that by the time it was replaced by a most modern Kadett D in 1980 it was almost white..

    • The “lift and select” reverse!! Happened to me whilst being turned back from a closed road by the police, there is a circlip or e-clip that easily comes adrift on the mechanism releasing the lever…

      Two kindly coppers assisted with my three point turn by pushing whilst I steered…

  26. 1.5 million over 16 years is a very good performance, considering Vauxhall were Britain’s fourth biggest car manufacturer and considering the Allegro, which was the Viva’s rival in the seventies and so much was expected of it, only managed 700,000 in nine years. Had the Allegro been in production for 16 years( perish the thought), it still would have fallen way short of the Viva’s total production.
    It’s hard not to see why the Viva was Vauxhall’s big success while sales of its bigger models fell away. The HC in particular was a roomy car for its size, it was dependable and cheap to own, the sporting versions were worth a look, and the estate was a brilliant load carrier. Also by the mid seventies, the Vauxhall rust problem was being beaten and buyers liked the conservative yet good looking Viva styling compared with the weird beard Allegro.
    Of course, the Chevette came along and changed the game for Vauxhall by introducing a three door hatchback that was an instant hit and started to steal sales from the Viva.

  27. My first car was an HC Viva. My parents bought it for me from our next door neighbour in 1991 for the princely sum of $800 NZ. It was a 1974 base model in Orchid Red. Of course, to my 17 year old eyes it looked pink! It was in perfect condition the only issue being slight paint fade (understandable after 17 years), small rust patch on drivers door and torn seam in vinyl drivers seat. The car only had 80,000 kms (50,000 miles) which I learnt to drive in and had it for a three years. By 100,000 kms the engine was knackered though chewing through litres of oil every tank of fuel. The dipstick used to be ejected from its home and lodge itself in the bonnet lining when driven under load (up hills).
    I crashed it once where I hydroplaned into a guard rail and nearly ended up in the local harbour with three mates in the car and once scraping the front wing down the corner of our home when reversing into the garage trying to beat my parents home when I shouldn’t have been driving alone (still on L’s).
    Fond memories!

  28. Late to the party I know but further to the comments about Vauxhall’s reputation for rust, this tale is part of our family lore. My father’s first car was a phase 1 F-type Victor,black with a red interior, and complete with the early baroque styling. On arriving at work one morning a couple of colleagues, who had been behind him on the journey informed him that the car was ” crabbing” along the road. On investigation it was found that almost the entire rear underside had rotted out and the rear axle was attached to the rest of the structure by means being bolted to what appeared to be a railway sleeper. And this was the car in which I was transported as a baby! Didn’t do much to dim his enthusiasm for Victors mind, he had four more of various iterations over the years.

    • I’ve heard the boot floors of the early Victors were very rust prone, & some other parts would rust from on the inside first, with the rust only showing when it had done a lot of damage.

      P6 Rovers & Jaguar XK40s have a habit of rusting like that was if neglected.

    • Yes, Victor F series had a bad reputation for rust. However my Dad’s first car was a 1960 F Victor deluxe in blue/grey, bought around 1962 and kept till 1966. He looked after it and it was a nice looking car up to him selling it. Of course most cars tended to rust quicker in those days – especially in the North of England’s winter weather!

      • Funnily enough, my dad bought a (light) blue over grey F type Victor de luxe in 1962. We were on holiday in Bournemouth and had gone to look at the newly released Morris 1100 and the dealers had this for sale second-hand. Dad was so taken by the Vauxhall that he part-exchanged our Morris 1000 and we drove home from holiday in the much roomier Victor. (An unfortunate downside to the purchase was that the planned model railway track around the inside of the garage had to be cancelled otherwise the Victor wouldn’t fit in!). Dad remained a loyal Vauxhall owner from then onwards, replacing the F type with a Peacock Blue 101 in around 1967, and then a pre-registered FD Victor 2000 in Garnet red in 1972 and his final car a 1300 Astra Mk 1. The ‘Vauxhall effect’ obviously influenced me as I owned an 1159cc HB Viva before moving up to a 2 litre Viva GT and then finally a Droopsnoot Firenza which was unfortunately written off when someone jumped a red light and hit me head on!

        • @Alistair. I think the colours you mentioned were called Horizon Blue & Storm Grey. Ironically My Dad also part exchanged his Victor F for a 101 series VX4/90 in white / blue flash in 1966. His first brand new car – and it was nice! I had my first driving lessons in that.

  29. I had two Viva E’s. A bronze coupe that was as rotten as a pear and then an immaculate yellow 2 door saloon. I also had a Chevette E two door saloon in pale blue. That car had a hard life. It was bought secondhand from the garage I worked in by a chap who commuted to the local station. One morning we found it abandoned on the forecourt and a note through the door saying ‘run out of oil, rattles like hell, is there any hope?’ thinking it would be knackered we got on with other stuff until he rang up and told us the tale. Late the previous evening he had set out on the seven mile drive home, and after about a mile the oil pressure light came on. He pressed on and arrived home with a rattle in the motor. The next morning he started it up and rattled it all the way to the garage, talk about lack of mechanical sympathy! We pushed it onto a ramp, could see no leak and so we filled up with oil, put our fingers in our ears and started it up. Man did it rattle, until the oil got round and it quietened down to the normal sound of a slightly neglected Chevette engine. We did the tappets, changed the oil and filter, took it for a run and it purred like a kitten. Matey ran it for about six months with no trouble and then abandoned it in his garage because he left his wife for his secretary. Over year later I bought it off of his now ex wife for £50 and ran it for nearly a year and then sold it to a friend whose daughter had just passed her test. She ran it for another two years, it finally died in Germany when a Volvo slammed into the back. That oil starved engine was never changed, or given any more love than an odd service here and there.

  30. Andy’s right, the Viva/Chevette 1256 engine was fairly sturdy providing oil changes and services were adhered to. I didn’t have trouble with my Viva’s motor, apart from the creamy sludge that built up in the rocker box cover (particularly during short winter runs.). it wasn’t as bad in the summer especially on long runs.

    My Vauxhall dealer never really gave a credible explanation for this happening so I assumed it was a trait of the engine.

    • The 1256 Is an underrated engine and ooing back forty years, it was to be found in the Viva, Chevette, Cavalier, Chevanne and Bedford HA van. Obviously not as refined or powerful as the newer Opel 1.3 that appeared in the Astra, but quite a strong engine that in the lighter bodied Chevette could power the car to 90 mph, and was capable of 40 mpg on a long journey. Also maintenance was simple and the engine had few problems if serviced regularly.

      • My cousin’s husband would agree with you. He had the earlier version of the engine in the Viva HA he restored, but a lot of the parts were common with the later Chevette 1256cc units & still available.

        • There was a lot of commonality with Vauxhall engines until the late seventies when Opel units were used on bigger cars. The slant 4 found in the Victor could fit quite easily into the Viva, and the 2.3 could be fitted into a Chevette at a push. Also the 1256 remained into production into 1984, meaning it outlived the slant 4 fitted to the Magnum and Victor by six years.
          While reliable enough engines, the 1256 and slant 4s suffered from tappet rattle, and the slant 4 could be thirsty, even in 1.8 form. Engines from Opel that appeared from 1975 onwards in the Cavalier and spread to other Vauxhalls were quieter and more economical.

    • The creamy sludge “mayonnaise” was water mixing with the engine oil to form the off-white cream. My father had an FB Vauxhall with the same issue, Vauxhall seemed to overcool their engines, therefore not a head gasket leak as you would expect, but condensation of water inside the rocker cover, the fix was found in the Car Mechanics DIY magazine and their suggested solution to mount a wind deflector attached to the bonnet slam panel ahead of the rocker box cover, the wind deflector diverted cold air away from the rocker box cover preventing water condensation inside. It worked, no more mayonnaise!

    • The sludge was a known issue, the fix was to make a wind deflector to shield the forward face of the rocker box cover from cold windblast as you drove, the sludge was water vaopur condensing inside cold face of the rocker box cover emulsifying with the engine oil. I’m surprised the de34aler did not know the answer

      • cyclist… you are right in your opinion regarding rocker box sludge. It wasn’t such a problem in the warm summers but worse in winter. I used to remove and clean out the rocker box cap just about every weekend.

        The MKIII company Cortinas I drove never seemed to have such problems, neither did my later Datsuns.

  31. The thing that strikes me as odd is apart from Ford none of the manufacturers seem to have a middle gear. You can get 1256/1800/2300 hc cars but how hard would it be to fit a 1500 and 2000 into that mixture? Ford could do it and let’s be fair the Cortina wasn’t exactly rocket science.
    BL were as bad, but they seemed always to undersize everything. The Marina was 1300/1800 but no 1500 (unless Australian) and a 1500 diesel if you were really unlucky (you can still find these in narrow boats and pleasure cruisers (hmm 2 1800 B diesels, such a pleasure)).
    It’s worse that they never learned either. Time after time you got restricted engine/trim choices except Ford. They’d have probably sold you a Fordson Major with a Lotus Cortina twin cam in it.. If you knew the manager..
    By the way has anyone any idea how they managed to get a Ford v4 to sound like that in the Matra 530? Almost makes me want one.

    • Vauxhall seemed to go down the Ford route by the mid seventies when the Chevette and Cavalier arrived and offered cars with lettered trim levels, rather than badge engineering cars like the Viva and the Magnum, which was a bigger engined and better equipped version of the Viva.
      However, it has to said the E version of the Chevette( E for economy) was a miserable place to be 40 years ago as it lacked even a rear demister and its interior was full of bare metal and the seats made of hard vinyl. Go up to the GL, though, and you got tartan coloured cloth seats that always looked different.

  32. I had several HC vivas a I always liked the way they drove and found them more comfortable than the escorts. I briefly owned a Magnum 2300 that went like stink! Could easily outrun my mates MGB. I inherited a 1300 GLS estate from my dad and used it as a daily hack for years. When I lost storage I had to sell it but by then (2013) it needed a fair bit of work and it had been off the road for ten years but I would love to buy it back as I have seen it for sale on eBay a couple of years ago. It had done over 150k on the original engine and the only thing I had to do was replace the head when it cracked. Happy memories.

  33. I remember going to the motor show with my father as a school boy possibly 1973/4 and a Firenza drop front, had a Lotus twin cam head fitted on a 2300 lump.

  34. Strikes me GM left it too late before banging Opel/Vauxhall’s heads together. The rot seemed to set in with the HC Viva. It ended up too big to be an Escort and too small to challenge the Cortina. The HB was bang on the money as an Escort competitor – Ford’s main benchmark when developing that car – and was only 4 years old in 1970. 1970 was also the year that the first Taunus/Cortina sized Opel Ascona A was launched. The HB should have stayed on and Ascona turned into a Cortina fighting Vauxhall at that point. The Kadett C that formed the basis of the Chevette arrived in 1973 so could have replaced the Viva then and in 1972 the FE Victor would have been a rebadged version of the svelte if mechanically similar Rekord D instead of the barge like Cadillac impersonator it became.

    • I didn’t think the Viva HC was much more than a facelift of the HB, it’s a shame Vauxhall let their rust-proofing standards slip.

      Having both the Viva & Chevette in production for a few year was an odd choice, unless Vauxhall were worried about losing customers who were put off by the Chevette’s styling & wanted a more conventional car..

      Certainly upsizing the Victor FE was a mistake as it was too big to compete with the Cortina.

    • Actually the Ascona A was almost the same size as the Viva HC and the cancelled HD was going to move up to Cortina/Taunus size, as the Ascona B did.
      wb Length Width
      Viva HC 97″ 163″ 64.75″
      Ascona A 95.75″ 164.5″ 64.35″

      Ascona B 99.1″ 170.1″ 66″

    • Would have to agree. There were proposals for a Vauxhall – Opel – Holden Interchangeability programme (or VOH) as well as a US equivalent known as TASC, neither of which amounted to much pre-1973 fuel crisis.

      Much of GM could have utilized common platforms with different exterior styling and unique engines had it been implemented earlier on until the early-80s onwards (e.g. Family II, Family I, etc) after which brand loyalty would have become increasingly less relevant for GM to considering rationalizing its global marque portfolio down to say Chevrolet, Cadillac and Hummer / GMC or just simply Chevrolet and Cadillac.

  35. The rot certainly set in on my Viva HC. By the time it was 4 years old it needed a front wing replaced then a second one a year or so later. Other than that it performed well mechanically and was a better looking car when I sold it.

    My brother had an earlier Viva HB which looked good without the rust problems that mine had.

    • @ HILTON D, the Viva could also rust in the sills. However, the rust was usually treatable and wouldn’t condemn a Viva to an early grave. Also mechanically, apart from some tappet rattle, the car was strong and the 1256 and slant 4s rarely gave trouble. Possibly it was the HC Viva that kept Vauxhall alive in the first half of the seventies due to its strong sales as the FE Victor was a relative failure/

      • I agree with that Glenn. The sills on my Viva were OK (just both front wings that corroded). Was a better looking car by the time I sold it. You’re correct, the Viva & Magnum’s kept the Vauxhall flag flying till the Chevette and Cavalier arrived. The Magnum in particular was a well equipped car for its time.

        • The Magnum was a seriously underrated car in its day and quite a good looking one, like a cut down American muscle car. Also Vauxhall engines of the time were very tuneable and easy to modify, and I wonder if someone who was handy with car engines turned their Magnum into something that could keep up with a 3 litre Capri.
          Interestingly regarding the rust issue, later model Vivas seemed quite rust resistant and you still saw the occasional late seventies Viva running into the nineties, same as Chevettes seemed to have beaten the Vauxhall rust bug.

  36. My Viva was a 1972 X14 spec model, bought in 76 and sold in 79. Around 2012 I saw a yellow Viva E saloon on display at Matthewsons Garage in Thornton le Dale. it’s bodywork looked okay considering its age.

  37. Late seventies Vauxhalls seemed better made than early seventies cars, probably due to the Opel influence, and Mark 1 Cavaliers, Chevettes and Vivas from this era were still around until the mid nineties.I do remember FD Victors largely vanishing by the end of the seventies due to rust.

  38. Yes Glenn, I recall seeing some FD & FE Victors suffering from rust at a young age like the Viva. They did look nice when newish and rust free though. Of course in more recent times rust prevention measures and the use of polycarbonate bumpers have improved the situation. Vehicle paint warranties are more extensive as well.

    Like yourself, I still have an affection for Vauxhalls of that era, particularly the Cavalier MK1

    • The FD was the best looking of the old school Vauxhalls and the Ventora was a real beast, using the same body as the awful 1600 Victor, but having a 3.3 six that gave it effortless performance and was the choice of some police forces due to its deceptive looks.

      • Ah yes, the FD Ventora (marketed as the Lazy fireball). Though I believe the VX4/90 (2000cc TC) was a better performer. Jeff Randall drove a white Victor 2000 in “R&H deceased”

          • Jeff’s Victor also turns up in some episodes of Department S.

            I read somewhere that both series shared production facilities to save money, hence the shared cars.

            I’ve got the feeling that more than 1 car was used in R&H(D) as the dashboard is mostly red, but is black in some scenes.

        • The Ventora could reach well over 100 mph and was marketed as a slightly cheaper and similarly equipped alternative to a Cresta. Most would have been sold as automatics. The 1970 VX 4/90 came with four speeds and overdrive on top and could probably crack 100 mph in good conditions. This was marketed more as a sporty version of a Victor 2000, with better performance, sports wheels foglights, extra instrumentation and leather seats( the Victor 2000 SL was quite a basic car)..

          • Right again Glenn… the Victor 2000 had Ambla upholstery. The VX 4/90 got Twin carbs, Rostyle wheels and more instruments inc a Rev counter plus, as you say, leather seating.

            Towards the end of production, the FD Victor 2000 was called 2000SL. As the Ventora had the same engine as Cresta’s but in a smaller body, it would be a better performer. There was a 3,3 “Ventora” Estate too, but marketed as Victor 3300 Estate.

  39. The Ventora probably was the ultimate Q car, as most people would assume it was just a Victor, unaware it had a 3.3 litre six that could probably reach 110 mph. No wonder due to its good performance relative to its price, some police forces chose the Ventora as a traffic car.

  40. Just realised we are making all these comments about Victors, VX 4/90 & Ventora’s on the VIVA pages! Maybe we should divert to the Victor & sporty Vauxhall pages?

  41. I do remember an E reg( 1967) base model Viva lasting until 1980 locally, which was very good for a sixties Viva. Owner had a wife and three kids and a big mortgage and could afford nothing better until he found a better job and bought a Volvo 343. I do remember them chancing taking this car on a 200 mile journey, and carrying gallons of oil and water as a precaution, and the Viva just about making it with three stops for oil and water. A month later the old stager had to be scrapped as it was completely rotten underneath and mechanically almost dead, but still an achievement for the Viva to last so long.

  42. My first car was a Viva HB estate, my father bought it, ran it for a good few years then handed it down to me, I think to develop my welding/filling/finishing skills. The way it rotted was not exceptional for its time and set up an obsession with preventing dire corrosion which lasts to this day. Had a couple of hairy moments with it, top hose broke up and blocked the radiator and total brake fade were the on road issues. The engine was unexceptional, but a Lucas distributor and the Vauxhall supplied Weber conversion kit made a big difference – seemingly causing more rapid failure of gearbox bearings. Brakes were awful, with front drums, requiring constant adjustment and a useless handbrake – until the correct levers were fitted. It was eventually scrapped due to a crack running up the front bulkhead suggesting the front end was about to go its own way.

  43. What it’s like today, I haven’t got the faintest idea, but Britain lived in a world of make-believe until at least the middle 1970s. You know, the old “British is best” slogan that pervaded society when the consumer goods produced and sold there were third-rate rubbish at best. Cars in particular. I’m from Canada and lived in the UK from 1969 to 1974 earning a postgrad degree in mechanical engineering, so I have some idea of what I’m talking about. I’m not speaking of the design engineering for the most part, but the utter inability of British industry to actually productionize, make and assemble a decent durable car, and to make quality components like alternators, starter motors and what have you. Ford was the exception — the rest was unmitigated rubbish of very low quality. Austin, Morris, Rover, Standard, Triumph, Hillman, Vauxhall — complete nonsense from beginning to end, the designers’ dreams dashed on the shores of slapdash detail engineering, likely some poor draughtsman left to cope without supervision, and people without a clue as to how to design a production line to assemble the resulting cheapo parts properly. Amateur grade, and nobody with a clue as to company organization and how to run things properly. Someone has to say how pathetic it was, and now I’m in my dotage, well I’m going to, because I really don’t care if a lot of spluttering Colonel Blimps pop out of the woodwork to tell me I’m wrong. Because I’m not.

    Vauxhall Viva HA and HB models sold like hot cakes in Canada in the 1960s due to the low price and lack of Commonwealth tariffs, the ubiquity of General Motors dealers, and pleasant initial driving impressions. They had VW on the trot for years. They rusted badly, but not as badly as the initial Japanese imports. Then the Viva HC arrived on the market at the same time for the 1971 model year as the Vega, Chevrolet’s attempt to channel their inner Vauxhall.

    I was home on vacay in ’71, and saw the new Viva HC labelled as Firenzas.By the time of my next vacay in September 1973, Vauxhall had left the Canadian market. So pathetically dreadful were the HC’s, wings rusting off (in just a year and a half!), bits falling off, the useless 2.0 litre slant four always going wrong, that an organization called the Automobile Protection Association had formed, and a class action lawsuit was being organized against GM so that owners could get their money back. A total disaster, the HC. The Vega was bad, but not as bad as the Viva HC. Vauxhall hasn’t darkened Canada’s doors with mobile rubbish since. They were a complete betrayal of buyer’s trust. And about epitomized British “quality” for me, as in – none whatsoever. That market withdrawal effectively ended the import of British cars to Canada for ever, all makes. Because it was increasingly obvious they were not competitive.

    So, if you believe these were good cars, you’re living in the clouds of unreality.

    Minis, 1100s, 1800s ( my father got caught with one of those giant heaps of rubbish), all rusted to blazes, and the engines were stoneage. The Hillman Avenger was so dreadful, Chrysler dropped it in 1973, and the Marina? That was surely a joke, no? Rovers and Jaguars had a mean time between repairs of about ten days. Component quality was lousy on all of them. Simply not competitive in international markets. Even the glue holding leatherette to hardboard for door cards used to fail. Amazingly, the weather is not the same as Blighty elsewhere in the world, but the attitude was, well it’s good enough for us, so it’s more than good enough for you bloody colonials. Wrong.

    Enough. I read the comments and had a good laugh, then remembered back and got annoyed. Brits and Americans seem to live in a world of their own, in which reality rarely intrudes, in my opinion. Blind patriotism and denigration of anything and everything else. At least the Americans could make generally durable cars, but that talent evaded the English completely.

    • I’ve read several articles about the Firenza in Canada and I’m rather surprised at the reports of unreliability and poor build quality. I can’t disagree that the seventies were not the British motor industries finest hour but in many ways the rest of European motor manufacturers hardly covered themselves in glory either. Anything made in Italy came with rust from new and suffered from appalling electrics. The lancia beta being the highlight of the lowpoint. France’s offerings were only slightly better. Probably the only country that could put a decent car albeit rather dull were the Germans.
      Back to the Firenza and the HC Viva, in the UK they were no worse than anything else from Blighty. Vauxhall had really tried to pull their socks up with rustproofing after the problems with the early Victor. They certainty did better than Ford where McPherson strut tops would rust through in five or six years. As far as the criticism of the slant four, this engine was used in several cars and light commercials and were capable of racking up very high mileages. The trouble with the cars destined for the Canadian market was the crude emission control equipment that dragged the output down to a paltry 77bhp. I think if it wasn’t for this millstone history would have judged this car rather better. It might not be exactly remembered as a great car but neither would it be remembered as a lemon.

      • I think the difference with here and Canada is the amount of salt that is used there because of the weather. The Viva wasn’t great here, my Uncles rusted away within a few years good knows how bad it was in the other side of the pond. The thing is American cars were not exactly that brilliant either, Ralph Nader showed the issues with safety, the Ford Pinto and its exploding petrol tanks, Cameros and Firebirds that leaked when it rained, Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare and its quality issues. I think the 60s and 70s were terrible, and it was only in the 80s we saw great improvements.

        • I agree about many American cars in the 1970s not being very good, especially when their designers suddenly had to drop their love affair with V8s & make something less thirsty.

          The AMC Gremlin & Pacer were desperate attempts to compete with the Pinto, Vega, Cricket & the ever increasing Japanese imports.

          By the end of the decade some lessons had been learnt, with the more suitable GM J platform & Chrysler K cars in the pipeline.

      • @ Robert, Fiat had to pull out of the North American market as the rust protection and build quality was so bad, same would be true of Lancia and Alfa Romeo, while French cars only had a very minimal presence. Meanwhile for all the problems with their seventies cars, Americans stayed loyal to Jaguar and the eighties revival saw a big increase in sales, while the Fiat dealers probably went over to selling other brands/

    • Bill Malcolm : It must be very reassuring to know that you are always right, and if you think your bombastic post shows you in a good light then at least in that respect you are wrong ! Further , if you think Ford produced good quality product in the 1970s then your judgement is seriously at fault. It seems to me from your prolix post that about the only thing you are personally any good at is being offensive . I wish I hadn’t wasted my time reading it

    • Interesting to hear the “colonial” side! Unfortunately, these sentiments are probably shared all over the world.

      British industry got fat and lazy on Imperial/Commonwealth Preference. It’s important to note that before this was introduced, Britain indeed had a genuine and well-deserved reputation for quality – the idea of “Britain is best” was actually grounded in reality.

      Imperial Preference was a tariff wall introduced in the 1930s as a response to the depression. It was aimed at propping up the failing textile industry, but others soon noticed its advantages, in that they could sell any tat they wanted while still undercutting the competition.

      The worst feature of this skewed market was that it rewarded such shoddy practices – companies that produced low quality goods were more successful because their costs were lower. And so this feedback loop reinforced the attitude until it was endemic in British industry.

      In the 60s, this advantage went away, and British industry was now on level terms with the competition. Decades worth of malpractice was by now ingrained in every level of British companies, combined with the long-inaccurate belief that they produced the best in the world. Companies lost their “traditional” (Commonwealth) export markets one by one, usually going bust in the process. I imagine they were rather surprised.

      With Commonwealth markets in freefall, the British government gave its manufacturers a second chance by finally managing to join the EEC, a large and wealthy market on its doorstep. BL celebrated this by introducing its new “car for Europe” – the Austin Allegro.

  44. Not much to argue with in your post except the curious statement that Ford be exempted from criticism. I can assure you that in Britain FoMoCo products rusted with similar enthusiasm as their competitors and were notoriously poor wet-weather starters. I’ve often thought that every new Ford of that era should have come with a can of “DampStart” or WD40 in the glove box.

    • General Motors/ Vauxhall were the first of the British Big Four to realise they had to up their game in the mid seventies in the face of falling sales and a low rent image and brought out the Chevette in 1975. Yes this was a near copy of a German car. but using familiar Viva mechanicals and better build quality and rust protection, the Chevette reversed Vauxhall’s fortunes. Then there was the Cavalier, again an Opel in all but name and built in Belgium until 1977, but once British assembly started, sales took off and the factory in Luton proved they could build a decent car.

  45. It’s a puzzle why the HC was such a disaster in Canada as its quality and rust resistance were certainly no worse than the HB and HA. I would have thought all the same durability problems would have been just as prevalent with the earlier cars. Maybe the troublesome slant-fours led owners to pay greater attention to other issues that were present in the earlier models, but were forgiven because of better reliability?

    • If I recall correctly, early HCs suffered badly from corrosion due to industrial strife leading to bodies being stored outside in the lovely damp climate of North-West England. They were actually one of the first cars to be properly factory undersealed. However, as I found out with my first Firenza, that effectively meant that the floor that looked perfect from under the car was just the outline in bitumen underseal with a pile of brown powder behind it as the moisture had nowhere else to go. This might account for the Canadian 71-73 cars being particularly bad, especially given the Winter climate there. The 2 Magnums I had fared far better, still looking very smart even at 15 / 20 years old.
      The slant 4 was actually a very durable and reliable engine in my experience, although the early Zenith carbs were terrible. The issue with the Canadian cars were largely caused by the very rudamentary emission control equipment fitted to comply with new Canadian clean air laws which pretty much left the 2.0 OHC with all the power of an egg whisk. UK cars were not so equipped and generally performed well and reliably.
      These same laws led to the old 1159 (later 1256) OHV from the HA and HB being withdrawn from the Canadian markets altogether, although given the ability of Canadian and US spec emission equipment to bugger up a perfectly decent 4 cylinder engine of any nationality, I’m guessing that the OHV would probably not have pulled the skin off a jug of custard.

      • @ Tim Burgess, the 1256 wad quite a durable engine, but too small for the American market and as you say, emissions equipment would have made it completely underpowered. Also the 1800, while a bit sluggish in the Victor, was perfect for the Magnum and after some modifications for the 1976 model year, came good in the Victor, which became the VX
        Actually the VX, like the first generation Carlton that replaced it, is one of those little remembered but actually quite good cars of its era. While people still mistakenly called it a Victor, the car was better, with a decent list of equipment, more powerful engines and better rustproofing. Also the 2300 GLS became a motorway police car in County Durham for a few years.

      • Well I never, @Tim Burgess! I remember your Magnums, in fact I owned your blue one for some time after it left your stewardship. I previously owned a 1976 bronze gold version which meant I could compare them. The later engine was quite a bit nicer but your earlier car was in fantastic rust-free condition.

        What you said about the very early models resonates when I think of my first car which was a J-reg HC four-door in green. It had a gaping hole in the rear inner arch which meant the floor flooded whenever I drove it in the rain. Happy days!

        • @ James Brooks, Well hello, it’s been a long time! Hope life is treating you well. If you do FB or Linkedin then send me a friend request if you’d like to catch up.
          I sold my last Magnum (the gold Coupe) in 2002. Wish I hadn’t, it was a great car.

      • Re; the early Zenith carburettors…………I had an 1800 Firenza (M reg) when it was around 4-5 years old. Rust wasn’t a problem, but performance was non-existant. It was sluggish, lumpy, and could be out-accelerated by anything. I had it tuned and adjusted by various dealers and specialists but no-one could fix it.

        Many years later I read about the carburettor problem and realised that was what mine suffered from, but it was never diagnosed back in the day.

    • It’s worth remembering that the Viva HA and HB had a shocking reputation already in Canada. GM solved this in two ways: 1) They renamed it “Firenza”; 2) They removed the Vauxhall badges. It was sold as “Firenza by General Motors”. This skullduggery was one of the reasons for the lawsuits filed against GM, and did not improve the reputation of the car.

      • What I don’t understand is if the HA and HB had such a shocking reputation in Canada, how was it that they sold as many as they did? I’m sure if this is true then that could be leveled at almost every other British and European offering. Most cars built in the sixties and seventies had an average life of between 8 to 12 years, in the case of Italian cars much shorter and that’s in the British climate which whilst not perfect by a long way is kinder than the extremes of Canada. One example is the bmc 1100/1300 range that would often disengage from it’s rear subframe before it’s fifth birthday! How on earth that would cope with the Canadian winters is beyond me. Then there was the Alfasud. A brilliant car in so many ways but I can remember seeing six year old examples corroded to the point of actually being dangerous.
        Getting back to the Firenza I’m almost certain that if it wasn’t for the crude emission control system it would probably have been a different story. It would never have been remembered as anything other than a small import that had its flaws like every other car of its time.

        • I have to admit, I was a bit surprised when I read about the Canadian Firenza. I remember Vivas back in the 70s, and they weren’t *that* bad! A step up from the Marina and Avenger, at any rate. They disappeared pretty fast in the 80s, mind.

          You’re probably right that the emission control was what did for the Firenza, but that was likely in addition to the existing problems that had given the HA and HB a bad reputation. The final straw, which caused GM to take a close look at its British subsidiary. There’s a couple of things that strike me about the story.

          First of all, GM organised a “Top Gear Challenge”, where they drove a group of Firenzas from Halifax to Vancouver in order to demonstrate how robust the Firenza was. This went badly, with the cars being followed by a team of mechanics and a lorry full of spares to deal with the frequent breakdowns. Just like Top Gear in fact.

          GM ran an advertising campaign full of lies about the reliability of the Firenza, and subsequently got hit by a big fine for false advertising when the truth came out.

          The point is that GM had direct, first hand experience of how poorly the Firenza worked in the Canadian climate, independent of customer complaints or Vauxhall’s explanations.

          The second point is the question of what happened next.

          There’s an article on this site about the development of the Mk1 Cavalier. Vauxhall’s model plans at the time were for a Viva HD, based on the HC, and the Cavalier, a reskinned Opel Ascona with Vauxhall mechanicals – a similar solution to the development of the Victor FE/Rekord.

          Following the Firenza fiasco, these projects were immediately cancelled. Design and engineering were run down and GM turned Vauxhall into a sales operation selling badge-engineered Opels.

          Vauxhall and Opel would have been merged at some point anyway, but there was more going on here. Why the sudden, dramatic change of plans? Just months after GM pulled Vauxhall out of Canada? There were serious problems there that went beyond a temperamental engine management system. GM knew it, and they didn’t trust Vauxhall to fix them.

          The Viva was a reasonable car for the UK market, but was totally out of its depth in Canada – this is the point that Bill Malcolm was making when he started this thread. For whatever reason, Vauxhall was unwilling or unable to solve this, so GM brought in the axe. It’s no accident that people point to the Chevette and Cavalier as being the point where Vauxhall started building decent cars. They were Opels.

          • I recommend that you go over to Vauxapedia site. On there it explains what happened. Vauxhall were losing serious amounts of cash, and with the issues that were ongoing, the newly appointed GM exec came in and cancelled everything.

  46. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my 1972 K reg Viva X14 (HC) needed the offside front wing replaced due to rust when I bought it in ’76, then the nearside one a short while after. The bodyshop did a good job & paint match. The rest of the bodywork was OK and the car was still looking good when I sold it in 1979. Otherwise it was reliable transport

    I fancied a Magnum 1800 / 2300 after that, but was alarmed in case it had similar corrosion in prospect as the Viva.

    • I had a 1976 Chevette hatch that needed new wings, and inner wing work by 1981. I found my 2 Magnums (a 74 Saloon, and a 75 Coupe stood the test of time very well.

      • @ Tim… I always regarded the Magnum as a worthy upmarket Viva and wondered how good the 1800/2300 engines were in that same body. The run out Viva 1300 GLS had all the trappings of the Magnum but with the 1256 engine.

        My brother once had an HB Viva SL (J reg)… also a nice car as I remember, it wasn’t very old when he bought it.

      • @ Tim Burgess, not bad for a 5 year old car then and the rust was treatable. Bear in mind, you could have bought a 1976 Alfasud or Fiat 127 that would have been completely rotten after 5 years and would be very expensive to fix. Never found the Mark 1 Cavalier to suffer much from rust and later Chevettes seemed to last well.

          • The Chevette and Mark 1 Cavalier seemed quite rust resistant and you could get more than 10 years out of a well maintained one. Late model Vivas seemed a lot better protected against rust and some lasted into the nineties. Fords seemed to improve on the rust front, the Mark 5 Cortina being a lot more rust resistant than the Mark 3 and late Mark 2 Escorts being quite durable cars.

          • I remember the odd Viva around into the early 1990s.

            Mk5 Ford Cortinas were common to see to almost the end of the 1990s, it helps that a lot were made & easy for a DIY mechanic to keep going.

  47. My first ever car was a Viva HC. It was a 1970 J-reg, 1159cc, and I owned it 1975-76. It wasn’t exactly plush and smooth but I don’t recall any excess rust, even allowing for the standards of the time. Fords of the time were noticeably worse.

  48. @ KC… my Viva X14 was better trimmed than the Deluxe & SL model. It had Rostyles, green metallic paint, cream fabric seats and reversing lamps – though a radio was still optional. I was relieved the corrosion was only confined to the front wings – and i did look after that car.

  49. In the end it is pretty telling, that GM chose the robust, simple but well engineered Kadett C to serve as their car for the world… (Well, in fact they chose Opel to develop a platform for the world (GM-T body) following the Kadett B)

    • After 1978, when the last VX came off the production line, Vauxhalls were Opels with only a few minor differences. Not a bad thing, as Vauxhalls sales started to take off and by the eighties, they had a competent range of cars that were selling in huge numbers.
      Yet praise must be given to the Viva for keeping Vauxhall alive in the early to mid seventies and the car was a consistent seller and looked quite stylish for the time. I’d say it was closest to the Avenger in its appeal, a simple rwd small family car that did its job adequately and had some interesting sporting variants.

      • I’ll agree with that. I kept my Viva for three and a half years and although I had to spend money on it for bodywork, it still looked good when I sold it. It was reliable and I got just a fraction less than I paid in ’76.

        Despite having many cars since then I still recall the “excitement” of collecting my Viva from its owner…

  50. I have a launch brochure of the Viva HC which has a pic of a 2 door base saloon in black. I never remember seeing any Viva in black…

    • Now that you mention it… but there must have been, surely. Seems to me black fell out of fashion for a number of years. I think people tended to buy cars in the more zany colours that were offered in the late 60s and 70s. When I was a boy I used to accompany my grandmother on visits to her family in the next county. Arriving in town by bus, we’d take a mini cab to our final destination. The local cab company’s cars were all painted black and seemed novel to me then. Black returned with a vengeance during the hot hatch era I think.

  51. I’ll have to check some old brochures to see if black was available then, certainly I don’t remember it being a common colour in the 1980s.

    • To my knowledge, black wasn’t available on the HC in any of its incarnations. From memory, solid colours were limited to White or Red, then you went in to the “Starmist” or “Starfire” metallics.

  52. Guy’s – Indeed The brochure I have shows a Viva SL in white and others in powder blue as well as the black Viva “Standard”. Likewise, I never saw a real Viva HB or HC in black. My own Viva was in Emerald Starmist.

    It’s true some colours were more vivid then, such as Fords Daytona yellow, Orange, bright green, purple and bronze etc. Good times in retrospect

  53. I can always recall chicken soup yellow, for want of a better word, being a popular colour for Vivas and Chevettes. Green seemed very popular as well. Never saw one of any age in black, I think by the late sixties, black cars were associated with funeral directors and the 1950s.

  54. Glenn… I think the yellow was called “Jamaica yellow”? The black Viva HC in my brochure was perhaps a one off for publicity purposes. I agree it’s mainly in the last 20 years that more black cars have emerged – and met. grey too.

  55. A lot of 1970s Vauxhalls were painted in a medium green, and towards the end of the decade & into the 1980s an apple green was popular. My Dad’s 1983 Cavalier was in this colour.

    One of the colour charts I’ve found from 1980 has black on it, but I think it was mostly used on sporting models with red & white decals.

    I imagine some manufacturers would paint fleet orders black even if it wasn’t a catalogued colour, like the the above mentioned taxis.

  56. @Richard… I remember in the late 70s the Cavalier MK1 came in a colour called “Jade green metallic” which looked very good on the Coupe & Sporthatch models

  57. There was a nice metallic blue that could be ordered with the VX and Viva that made the cars look quite upmarket. This was also available on the Chevette for a time.

    • We had an early Magnum 2 door saloon in Riviera Blue Starfire, with pale blue brushed nylon upholstery. It was a really classy looking car. IMO

    • I think the nice light blue metallic Glenn mentions was on the Victor 2300S and Viva 1300S limited editions. I was also on the run out VX490 (circa 1977)

  58. I think Black was not a popular colour until the 90s. Ford did offer it, and it was a colour on Capris and Mk2 escorts but when did you see a black Cortina or a Sierra? I remember seeing a couple of MG Metros, Maestro and Montegos but not standard cars. Was it because it was seen as old fashion?

    • Black really returned in a big way with the hot hatch. The archetypal Golf GTI is black with Pirelli alloys isn’t it? I recall being a student nurse in 1985 and being told by a staff nurse about her new black XR3, and how difficult it was to keep it clean.

    • Ford charged extra for black, I do remember seeing black Sierras and Mk3 Escorts but they were usually XR3 or 4 models

  59. Another nice Chevette trim of the late 70s was the GLS Saloon & Hatchback. Such models looked good in red or that light green metallic used in publicity photos

      • Indeed Richard… I also liked Pastel beige, Sapphire blue, Jade Green and Cardinal red on the Cavalier’s. Traditional white looked good also.

  60. Its a bit late now but some of the Viva rust problems would have been easily avoided.I found out too late to avoid the rot. Front wings, were there ever front mudguards fitted as standard? Regular jet-washing would have helped. Dont apply underseal, its a rust trap. Floor pan rot could be avoided by removing the felt and carpets in the footwells. I dont know where the water came from, I suspect it dripped in from the front ventilation ducts.Regular attention to door bottom drain holes and boot drainage pluga would also help.Rear valence and side sill rot had me puzzled, some cars were rot free for some reason. I had one where the rear valence was so solid I was able to bolt a light tow bar to it.

    • Yes, there were mudguards – a composite metal and felt panel behind the front wheels, intended to stop mud splashing into the bulkhead area. A more difficult area was the front screen pillars – it could have been a good idea to drill small holes in mine, to let the damp out!
      Chevettes were exported to Germany as an ultra-cheap alternative to Opels. They were sometimes bought by “anti-car-culture” types, I saw one with a Tweedy Pie cartoon stuck to the front panel by one headlight.
      Vivas again – Vauxhall changed the front wings from “raised lip” to a flatter top profile to reduce rusting.

  61. The Viva had none of the hate British Leyland cars endured during the seventies and was a quiet success, being a regular top ten best seller and being available in three body forms and engine sizes from the mainstream 1256cc to a very powerful 2.3 slant four. The Viva wasn’t anything great as a car and had no techological innovations like Hydragas suspension, it was just a conservative rwd light medium car aimed at family buyers, which as the Avenger and Escort proved, was a route to big sales. Also being made in the UK with mostly British parts kept patriotic buyers onside.

  62. I remember the Viva used to get a bit of ribbing in the 1980s, mostly because they seemed old fashioned by then, & many on the roads were deep into banger territory.

    Vauxhall could have easily dropped the Viva from production in the mid 1970s to make way for the Chevette, but must have seen there was enough market space for them. Same with the keeping the Chevette in production until 1984 rather than phasing it out when the Mk1 Astra was launched.

  63. The Chevette was kept alive as a budget car once the Astra was launched, performing the sort of role the Maestro had to the Rover 200, and being available as a rwd saloon, probably kept the ex Viva owner loyal to Vauxhall. Sales were still quite decent for the Chevette in the early eighties as the armed forces liked the estate version for its space, ordering 3000 in 1982, and the police liked the saloon as a cheap panda car( popular in Newcastle when the Mark 2 Escorts needed replacing).

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