News : Vauxhall Heritage unveils latest resto at NEC


Vauxhall Heritage’s restoration of its Monza Red Viva GT (HB) is complete. It will be shown publicly for the first time at the 2016 Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show, held at the NEC, on 11-13 November.

The Viva GT will be unveiled at 11am on Friday, 11 November on the Vauxhall stand in Hall 5 (near Entrance 5.1). It will form the centrepiece of Vauxhall’s multi-themed stand this year, celebrating 50 years since the Viva HB was launched.

The 1970 MkI½ GT is believed to have been registered by Vauxhall as one of its company cars back in the day (its ‘YXD’ suffix makes this likely). It was purchased by Vauxhall from the partner of its late owner, Steve Walton, in June 2014. It was restored over a two-year period by Andy Boddy and Terry Forder (with assistance from their Apprentice, Chris Smith).

A ‘labour of love’

Many HB panels, especially around the chassis, inner wing areas and in the boot floor, are difficult to source. So, specialist Keith May was brought in to painstakingly craft new metalwork from scratch. He was helped by the Heritage Centre’s Apprentice, Chris Smith.

After a final visit to Enviro Strip for a further acid dip and etch priming, the body was prepared for paint, including long-blocking the shell. It was then sent to BASF’s training facility in Milton Keynes, where the team there spent over 60 hours applying the primer and final colour coats, using R-M refinishing products.

Indeed, such was the Vauxhall Heritage team’s attention to detail, that they tasked BASF – their regular supplier – with applying the Viva GT’s Tasman Orange stripes. These aren’t mere graphics, they are actually painted on.

In the meantime, back at the Heritage Centre, the GT’s 2.0-litre engine was being overhauled by Andy and the team, ready to be reunited with the rest of the car. The race was then on to have the GT ready in time for the show.

‘We’re now on the finishing straight with this restoration,’ said Andy. ‘It’s been a real labour of love for the team over the last couple of years, and sometimes quite a challenge when we have 70 other vehicles in the collection to maintain, too.’

Keith Adams


  1. Excellent, the 2 litre engine found in the Victor and VX 4/90 would have given this Viva a real lift in power in 1970. What I would like to see as well is a restored Magnum, this was a better equipped, better looking and more powerful version of the Viva, which with the 2.3 litre slant four was an excellent Q car.

  2. Close friend had one of these when I lived in London. White with Matt Black Bonnet. Quite nippy and the first engine I ever saw with a rubber timing belt if memory serves me well which is not always the case. Rubber Timing Belts, they’ll never catch on .. 🙂 Sold it to my younger brother he with the intention of a light restoration but, spent years tucked away in his garage untouched. When I got married and moved in our house in Gloucester in 1972, young couple next door had a blue one. They were a rare car and as far as I can remember, apart from those two, never knowingly saw another.

    Handled well and great fun to drive by the then standards and would be able to keep up with today’s traffic flows easily despite severe old age.

    I had a bronze coloured Magnum 2.3 briefly back in 1982. Few months only. Sold it to a close friend who passed it on to his son. He then wrote it off around a tree.

  3. Absolutely stunning. These big engine Vivas beat the Escort RS2000 to the market by around 5 years and with coil springs all round and a properly located rear axle where a more sophisticated product. Real shame they are largely now forgotten.

    • Vauxhalls of this era tend to be mostly forgotten as the company was struggling to shake off the image for rusting they had in the sixties and souped up Fords were the in thing to have. It’s a shame as the Viva GT, the FD VX 4/90 and FE VX 4/90, the Firenza, and the two Magnums were quite nice cars. In particular the Magnum 2300 would have been a much nicer motorway car than an Escort Mexixo.

      • Glenn… I share your enthusiasm for these Vauxhall cars. While I owned a Viva HC (also with painted coachlines) I yearned to replace it with a Magnum 1800/2300 – never did though.

        I still have a glossy launch brochure on the Viva GT HB. The restored Monza red GT looks a lovely car.

      • The HC Viva/Magnum/Firenza had put on quite a bit of flab, ending up trying to bridge the Escort and Mk3 Cortina slots like the Avenger and Marina and failing in both markets. The HB though was right on the money and the car Ford benchmarked the Escort against during its development. At the time the HB was slaughtering the Anglia. The slant 4 HB then offered an RS2000 package in 1967, actually 6 years before the Pinto engine Escort appeared in late 1973. The earlier Escort Mexico only offered a 1600 OHV Kent engine so wasn’t really comparable with the 2000cc Viva GT.

  4. There was a time when every petrol head you met had owned a Viva GT – it was a rite of passage! The early ones with matt black bonnets had chrome wheeltrims designed to look like no hubcaps (!) and FOUR exhaust pipes. They had a 3.9:1 diff, and took off like a scalded cat, but did 18mpg. The 120thou distributor drive tongue tended to shear off, especially in the middle of forests on rallies!
    The later models with 3.44 diffs and 180thou dizzy drives were more sensible, doing at least 22mpg.
    My mate Steve upgraded his pea green GT reg. XHX777G with a 2.3 engine with a Piper cam, a close ratio box with overdrive, and Spax shocks all round. It was an absolute hoot to drive – so short you didn’t notice when you got it sideways. He offered to sell it to me in 1985, but I already had one 2300, and my £8800 salary wouldn’t stretch to two! Panels were already getting scarce.. I own a factory manual for the early GT, this is one of my most treasured possessions.

  5. My grandfather had an ‘F’ reg viva from new after a big old rover so it was quiet a change. It was light blue and I remember it being very modern for its time. It was a family car after he died and I got the job of flogging it. Got £123 for it.

  6. VX 4/90. Highly regarded by some at the time. Bit like the Ford V4 Corsair which had a nice style about its lines. I also drove an example which I soon sold.

    Drove one of those VX 4/90s during the 1960s and one time made a rather rapid gear change which resulted in the Gear Lever coming away from its housing completely. Bit like something that would happen in a Monty Python Sketch. What to do. I pushed it firmly back in place and thankfully, could select all gears so was soon on my way again.

    Great days gone forever. Nice as they were, much nicer to get back into the Maxi. Good suspension, five gears and loads of usable space. All mostly firm’s cars I worked for at the time. Yes, five gears commonplace now but back then, some car owners thought the three gears their Fords and Vauxhalls had were more than sufficient. Bit like that then new fangled Rubber Timing belt… that will never catch on.

  7. I’m fortunate in having both an MG ZT 190 and my 76 Vauxhall Droopsnoot Sportshatch, which is basically the same large engined Viva, but in unique clothes – with original snoot, extra dark wine paint with red stripes, just as the 197 styling-exercise cars left Ellesmere Port.

    You’re all right in that they (all the big engined Vivas/Firenzas/Magnums) really were (and still are) underrated and largely undiscovered, a bit like a ZT IMO. Very torquey, great handling, fairly robust mechanicals, and not as uneconomical as they were portrayed. Not the most refined of cars (even back then), but a hoot to drive (Gerry Marshall only ever drove them sideways) and a real head turner today. We’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Sportshatch and they’ll be 2 at the NEC along with the actual concept car, Silver Bullet, which started the high performance hatch/wagon theme off at the 75 Motorshow. It was the personal transport of Wayne Cherry the American designer of the Droopsnoot, with a 3-headlamp snoot, leather interior and many external styling features disguising its Viva origins very effectively.

  8. We really need a feature on sporting Vauxhalls from the VX 4/90 FD to the Magnum. These really are underrated and rare cars now. While everyone seems to rave about Escort Mexicos and big engined Capris, a 2 or 2.3 litre slant 4 Vauxhall was a powerful, tuneable engine that was more reliable than the Fords of the era. In the last generation FE form, the VX 4/90 was a highly desirable car for people in the know, looked like a Chevy, was very well equipped for the time and could take out a 2 litre Cortina easily.

    • Hear Hear Glenn. As mentioned previously my Dad’s first NEW car was a 1966 VX4/90 FC. Despite owning lots of more sophisticated cars as time went on (Audi, BMW etc) he still loved that VX.

      • No disrespect to AR Online, but it does seem that Vauxhall before 1975 is largely ignored. I know the company churned out a few duffers like the FE Ventora and rotbox Velox, but the late sixties to the mid seventies saw some interesting cars based around the Victor and the Viva. They might not have sold in such massive numbers as their British Leyland and Ford rivals, but Q cars like the FD Ventora, a Victor fitted with a 3.3 litre engine, and the Magnum 2300, looked like a Viva but could do well over 100 mph, need more coverage. Also these are the last purely British designed and made British Vauxhalls and are significant for this reason.

        • Glenn – I remember seeing the FD Ventora at launch in our local dealers (white with black roof)and admired it from the word go. a Victor body with a Cresta engine – the “lazy fireball” as Vauxhall called it.

          As you say, they were amongst the last totally British designed and built Vauxhalls.

  9. The original F series Victor had it’s scaled down ’55 Chevvy bodywork & sold quite well particularly well in some export markets, but was a real rust magnet.

    FD was also quite nice with it’s coke bottle flanks & OHC engines but still had the oxidation jinx.

    The HA Viva sold well in the time it was in production & the van based on it was made for many more years.

    • The sixties Victors were what gave Vauxhall an image for rusting that saw sales slip and the company didn’t start to recover until the Chevette and Cavalier appeared in 1975, with much better rust proofing. Yet this still didn’t stop the company from making some interesting cars and turning basic Vivas and Victors into performance machines( for the time) with a much better level of equipment and more aggressive styling.

      • Surprisingly, my Dad’s Victor F & VX4/90 didn’t really suffer in the rust department, though they were kept in our garage and looked after. My own Viva was a different story though, but looked a better car when I sold it in 1979

        • Interestingly, my family experience was the same. My Mother had a 1957 Victor on which every external panel except the doors had to be replaced within 4 years. Later, in 1965 she had the same model VX4/90 as DH refers to , known at that time as the 101, which was still spotless when traded in 5 years later. These were lovely cars to drive, refined, comfortable and quite fast for the time, and also quite handsome in an American sort of way

          • @ chris storey, my Dad’s VX4/90 101 was also immaculate when sold at 7 years old. I drove it a couple of times when I was learning to drive in 1972/73. Good memories of that car

  10. Looks and performance wise, what would you really want, a Morris Marina 1.8 Coupe or a Vauxhall Magnum 2300? The Marina might have a bit of poke if it was a TC and was quite well equipped, but the Magnum would beat it on performance, handling, refinement and looks. Even the 1.8 Magnum would still do the ton and be more fun than the Marina Coupe. Rust protection and build quality might not have been brilliant on these mid seventies Vauxhalls, but was the Marina or the Escort any better.

    • Glenn… also as I remember, the Magnum was available initially as a 2 door coupe (Firenza HC body), then saloon & Estate cars. The 1977 Viva GLS was effectively a Magnum but reverting back to the 1256cc engine.

    • I once took part in an experiment, where a Marina 1.8 didn’t see which way a Viva 2300 went. As there was some danger of at least one of us exceeding the speed limit ;o) , I turned off down a lane to close the contest.

  11. With the news that GM are intending to sell their European operations to PSA, I really hope the Vauxhall brand (inc Ellesmere Port & Luton)still have a future…

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