Events : Luton Festival/Vauxhall Heritage open day

Keith Adams

The Luton Transport Festival is well established as one of the classic mainstays, where visitors to the big field near London’s least local airport are treated to a nice mixture of cars, lorries, buses and automobilia. Once again, the local boy – Vauxhall – opened the doors at its Heritage Centre, giving enthusiasts the opportunity to view at first hand its enviable collection of turn-key cars.

And if you like your Vauxhalls and didn’t get a chance to visit Luton this weekend, you missed a real treat. The latest addition to the fleet, a 1980 Royale Coupe looked magnificent under the fluorescent lights, and it’s a great example of what makes this eclectic collection a real treat. In the car park outside, we were treated to the sweetest Mk2 Ford Escort and two-door Mk1 Cavalier – and the amazing Vauxhall Silver Aero concept.

Vauxhall laid-on a Routemaster bus to ferry visitors to the Festival, and it was here that the selection of classics surprised and delighted. Being so near Luton, the car selection was heavily Vauxhall biased, but there was nice selection of home-grown cars.

Enjoy the 112-image gallery (it may take a while to load!)…


Keith Adams


  1. Some great vehicles and photos here. I particularly recall the “Cardinal Red” Cavalier 1600L (a neighbour had one)and the Zephyr MKIV (I was only 11 when they launched). Good to see the Viva HB Estate and Viva HC’s, plus the FB VX4/90… and everything else too! Thanks for sharing this.

  2. @ Keith

    You must have taken your collection near the end of the day judging by the amount of cars leaving and the spaces.

    There were some really nice cars including a Humber Hawk and a mint Princess 1300 – I think mine was the only Marina there.

  3. A Viva estate – don’t think I have ever seen one of those before. Can anyone tell me what is sitting behind the SRV1 – it looks like a Stingray Corvette with a different cab.

  4. Some excellent photos there!

    The aero Cavalier coupe demonstrates what the Cherry shovel nose could/should have looked like. Extremely sporty and good looking.
    Though the Chevette engine bay picture shows how far back the engine is from the end of the existing shovel nose, compared to modern cab forward designs.

    Tidy mk2 Escorts – most of them round here have been snapped up by rally drivers.
    And the mk2 Granada reminds me of the old man’s 2.8i Ghia X.

  5. Wow- this was a treat for the eyes!

    Of particular note was the Vauxhall Super Aero. Not sure about the rear valance design, or the stick-on styling enhancements on the doors, but the Porschesque front end styling (despite oblong headlights), and the wheels, looked fabulous, and might have kept the Manta looking much fresher towards the end of its days. The steering wheel looked a bit impractical (it would obscure the dials), and I’m not sure of the logic of putting the gearstick under the fascia like that- sure, several modern vehicles, vans especially, use a dash mounted stick, but usually the gate is more-or-less parallel to the floor, unlike this. Nonetheless, a fascinating vehicle.

    Was that Viva a Brabham conversion? Can’t quite make out what is written on the ‘go-faster’ stripe along the front wing.

    Haven’t seen any Zephyrs for many a year. Did that car use the doors from the smaller Cortina, or was it just a scaled-up Tina Mk2, most Grannies that followed were likewise larger Tinas in essence.

    Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a Ford Corsair for many a year either (none pictured)- always liked those when I was a little boy.

  6. @daveh… The Viva was available in Estate car form in both HB and HC series, though most Viva’s were saloons. The Magnum was also available as an Estate car (HC body).

    The black car at the top of this feature is (I’m pretty sure) an E series Velox which shared the same body as the Cresta & Wyvern in the 1950’s

  7. The Silver Aero will get its own page… it’s mentioned on the Cavalier development story page, but it would be nice to do something more specific. And as it’s such a cool looking car – and the owner’s really helpful – it deserves some proper exposure online 🙂

  8. Looked like a great day out – IIRC they have an FE Victor 2300S there in blue – just like a company car an uncle had when I was a lad. The red HC Viva looks just like my granddad’s old one……Are you anywhere nearer to some pages on the ‘British’ Vauxhalls?

  9. Anorak Fact: The FB Victor VX/490 was fitted with a limited slip diff as standard (quite a novelty for a British saloon car in the early 60’s). The LSD could be fitted into the later Victor and large engined Viva axles. (And one would have been fitted to my Viva GT in the 1970’s if it hadn’t have totally knackered when I removed it from a car in the scrap yard!)

  10. This, except with the black vinyl roof, is so much like my first car I felt quite sad seeing it!

    But no FE-series Victors? Did I miss one in the pictures somewhere, or were they absent?

  11. Will M.
    Most of the Escorts seem to get eaten up by the rally boys as you suggest. Probably the reason these two have survived is ‘cos they’re 4 door versions.

    Chris Baglin.
    The steering wheel in Aero isn’t that bad, you do tend to lose the switches a bit but it’s not that bad. It’s just a standard wheel with a bit of leather trim on really.

    The gear shift is all standard stuff too, just a bit of console trimmed around it makes it look so different.

    Dave B

  12. Dave H.
    The car behind SRV is XVR, another styling wonder from 1966. This one sadly must have been a trim / body buck only as it has no engine / trans fitted

    Dave B

  13. @12- Silver Aero- would love to hear how you came to aquire your motor? I’m sure there’s a good story in it!

  14. @ Silver Aero… I have a copy of the 1960s magazine “Vauxhall Motorist” and it had photos of the XVR featured.
    @Simon Hodgetts – I also remember the limited issue Victor S which was available in metallic blue & met green with black steel wheels & chrome hubcaps. A Viva S in same colours was also produced in the mid 70s.

  15. @ Chris Baglin…. Yes there is a story to my purchase of Aero. If you get to know me you’ll know I always have a story !! That comes from 40+ years at Vauxhall / Millbrook. I’ll put together a proper story for you over the next few days and post it up.

    Thanks for the continued interest. I think Keith’s idea of a seperate section for Aero would be great. I could build up a lot of info and hopefully there are people still out there that could tell a story or two about it from over the years.

    Dave B

  16. BSD

    Can anyone help please with a few cars which i do not recognise?

    What are the cars in images 0666,0604 and 0644?

    Thank youu

  17. @19- Itzhak,

    They are all Standard Vanguards of one sort or another. I’m not really ‘up’ on that particular marque, which, as Standard Motors, dissappeared before I was born (although it lived on for a few more years as Triumph- formerly the sportscar side of the business).

    0666 is unusual. I wasn’t aware of Standard making ‘woodies’ (wood framed station wagons/estates), but a quick trawl through the net brought up a picture with a brief explaination- it was customised in Australia, fitted with a V8, and the roof was from a London taxi! I’m not normally into customs, but I take my hat off to whoever converted that, as it is very beautifully done, and enhances rather than detracts from the original (and also very elegant) styling.

  18. The pick up is interesting as well, were any built for export to Australia, as some other British cars were during the 1950s, or is it another custom?

  19. It was a really good show and considering it tipped it down the next day, we were lucky. Keith, only 115 photos? I have plenty more if you want them! I was a little disappointed with the heritage centre though, it felt like a token gesture to me and the choice of more contemporary models seemed a bit arbitrary?

  20. @21. Richard,

    According to Wikipedia there were Aussie built Vanguard pickups built.

    Despite having been a fairly major brand, and being a child of the 70’s, Standard was a brand I had no awareness of when I was a tiddler (I must have seen them about but probably thought they were Austins, or some other anonymous brand). And by the age of 3, I could identify almost all commonly available cars on British roads at that time, so they must have mostly rusted away by the time I became aware of them. And today, they are rarely sighted outside of classic car shows or museums.

  21. I wasn’t really aware of Standard until the early 1990s, when I got a copy of The A-Z Of Cars 1945-70.

    I’ve also attempted to identify cars from a youngish age.

  22. BSD

    @Chris Baglin and Richard16378-

    Thank’s for all the information!

    By the way,do you both live in the UK?

  23. Just going through my old copies of thoroughbred & Classic car (to list for sale on Ebay) and have found an article all about Silver Aero by Roger Bell in the May 1982 edition!

  24. @Chris Baglin

    Right, here goes – The short story of how I came to own Silver Aero

    I had obviously known of Silver Aero for most of its life and I suppose it came back to the fore when owned by Edmund and Mario Lyndsay. Anyway after they decided to sell it on it went through a couple more owners and eventually (in 2005) ended up for sale on ebay. Someone (knowing I already owned Silver Bullet – I feel another story may be required later !!) pointed me in the right direction, and after some discussion at home I decided to have a look on ebay one Saturday or Sunday – can’t remember which now – lunchtime, place a bid and then we were out for a few hours. Most importantly we were going to be out when the auction ended later in the afternoon.

    So, the idea was, put a big bid on, shutdown the computer, go out for the afternoon and have a look when we got home to see what the outcome was. Well I went into ebay and the ‘item had been removed’. I was completely panic stricken as I couldn’t work out what was going on. Anyway I gave up and we went out.
    A few weeks later I had to attend a VBOA meeting at Vauxhall and a friend of mine pointed me towards the window to have a look at his new car. You guessed it – he had contacted the owner and done a deal, there sat Silver Aero.

    So John enjoyed (I think) Aero for a few years and in 2010 decided it was time to part company. He knew I had tried to buy it back in 2005 when he bought it’ so I was on his (very) shortlist of people he thought might be interested in buying it. We discussed it on a few occasions and eventually agreed a price.
    So September 2010, John trailered the car to Dunstable, we got it MOT’d and I drove it home. Simples !!

    The rest – to date is yet another story of how frustrating a car can be, and perhaps I’ll hang on until Keith gets the Silver Aero page up and running.

    Dave Boon

  25. Look forward to that- and thanks Silver Aero for your tale.

    Good that it went to someone who really appreciates it, rather than perhaps someone for whom its just a bit of a novelty- a Cav coupe with a body kit.

  26. VivaGt – Roger Bell wrote quite a few – Very good – articles about Vauxhalls in the 70’s and 80’s – good man would love to meet him, mainly because he did some good articles on Silver Bullet and Silver Aero.

    Dave B.

  27. Chris Baglin.

    Sadly a few do take to Pee a bit when thay see Bullet or Aero, but once they have read the info the usually goes along with them, they are usually surprised that they have actually survived.

    Dave B.

  28. Article on Silver Aero, Silver Bullet and Black Magic in current issue of Classic Cars magazine. If your interested. It’s got a Ferrari California on the front!

    Dave B

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