You’ve only got to see the stunning new Vauxhall cars, to know that forward thinking is in our blood. But for our 110 Year Anniversary, we thought we’d look back at some of the other cars, and memories, we’ve shared. Join us now, on a drive down memory lane in Vauxhall and I.
Vauxhall started making cars in 1903. And the vision and philosophy we had then has remained with us through over 100 years of change. Let’s take a look back to forward thinking in a different age.
The first ever Vauxhall car was the 6HP with its slow-revving single cylinder engine and a chassis that was Forward Thinking – amalgamating the chassis and lower body into a composite steel and wood structure. Vauxhall’s sporting debut also came in October 1903 with a time trail in the ninth Vauxhall ever made.
The A-type grew out of the Y-type prototype that beat Rolls Royce on a 200 mile speed test at the newly opened Brooklands track, laying more foundations for a dynasty of sporting Vauxhalls. The A-type sported a wide range of formal, touring and sporting coachwork.
The Prince Henry, with its distinctive pointed radiator was the most famous Edwardian Vauxhall of all, enjoyed by wealthy customers who regarded sporting motoring as something of an adventure coupled with an interest in new technology.
The graceful Vauxhall 30-98 – one of the greatest sports cars of the twentieth century – set the fastest time of the day on its first outing at the Waddington Fell hill-climb in Lancashire. A distant relative of today’s Cascada convertible, the 30-98 celebrates its centenary on 3 May 2013.
In 1922, Luton wanted out and out racing cars to compete in ever more competitive events. The 1922 TT Vauxhall was all that and more. A 3.0 litre racing car with engines by design legend H R Ricardo. Two overhead camshafts with four valves per cylinder, roller big ends in an aluminium block with wet sump lubrication pointed the way forward.
With its overhead valve engine, the Vauxhall E-type 30-98 became the fastest catalogued car in Britain. Bodies included an elegant 4-seat Velox open tourer and a dramatic nautical-looking ‘boat-tailed’ Wensum with polished wood panelling.
General Motors buys Vauxhall for $2.5 million in a deal encouraged by GM President Alfred P Sloan Jnr. The first Vauxhall made under GM was a short wheelbase 21HP model.
GM’s policy of widening Vauxhall production took effect with the introduction of the Cadet at the 1930 Motor Show. It boasted leather trim, a smooth 6-sylinder engine and, by 1932, synchromesh gears – a first for the British market. Noting its American GM parentage, Motor Sport magazine said, ‘it is meant to be driven by lazy people with a long way to go’. Sales proved there was a lot of them around!
A notable milestone in automotive engineering, the Vauxhall Ten-Four was the first British car with unitary construction. It also came with torsion bar independent suspension and hydraulic brakes. Not surprisingly, it sold 10,000 units inside five months.
Four years work was compressed into one in the design and development of Vauxhall’s war-time production tank – the Churchill Marks I – III. The Mark III Churchill of 1942 was the only British tank whose armour could withstand the German Tiger tank’s 88mm tungsten carbide shot.
The first proper post-war Vauxhalls were the 6-cylinder Velox and 4-cylinder Wyvern, sharing a common body shell with its ‘alligator’ bonnet-opening. A two or three-year waiting list for new cars reflected the industry-wide obligation to export half its output.
Longer, lower and wider than its predecessor, the PA Cresta wowed the 1956 Motor Show with its full-width US styling and cool tail fins. Always a fashion statement, the colour schemes included new pinks and greens.
Vauxhall had never made anything so small, yet the Viva’s 1057cc engine found huge success. It was cheap to make, cheap to run, simple, reliable and strong. And of course, the early HA Viva gave way to HB and HC which lasted until 1979 after a 640,000 production run.
The overhead camshaft Firenza models included the 2000SL, made famous by Gerry Marshall in his Dealer Team Firenza racing models. By 1973, the Firenza HP with its ‘Droopsnoot’ fibre-glass nosecone was the most exciting Vauxhall for a generation. The first Vauxhall with a five-speed (ZF) gearbox and the first to break the 10-second 0-60 barrier.
The most important, and one of the most successful, Vauxhall cars ever launched, Cavalier started life in 1975, and quickly became one of Britain’s best-selling and best loved cars. By the time Cavalier III bowed out in 1995, it had debuted ‘platform’ engineering, and SRi sporting models, 4x4 traction and the first V6 Vauxhall engine, and overseen the end of Opel/Vauxhall dual branding in the UK.
The all-new Astra, Vauxhall’s first transverse engined, front wheel drive car, made a quiet introduction, considering what a huge success it would later become. Only the 5-door models were launched at first and we didn’t get an Astra diesel until 1982. In 1988, we saw the 16v Astra GTE, a car with direct lineage to the Astra hot hatches of today.
Built in Zaragoza, Spain, the new Vauxhall Nova, was a long time coming (after a first design phase in 1976!), yet almost 500,000 units we produced before the Corsa came along some 11 years later.
The new 1987 Carton II (Car of the Year) and the beautifully appointed Senator took Vauxhall into a new era of executive transport. In 1989, the Lotus Carlton raised more than a few eyebrows, not just with its £48,000 price tag, but Lotus-developed suspension, 377hp twin-turbo straight-six and 176mp top end.
With its ground-breaking 0.26Cd body and smart coupe styling, Calibra gained quite a sportscar reputation despite its Cavalier roots. This comfortable four-seater saw V6, 4x4 and turbo models offered throughout its six-year history.
By 1993, the small car sector was ready for a mould-breaking new entrant, and the new Corsa brought features like power steering, anti-lock brakes and a car alarm - all available. Water-based paints were an early environmentally-friendly move, as were CFC-free air-con and a pledge to 90% recyclability.
Taking over from Cavalier was no easy task, but the new Vauxhall Vectra performed admirably. With superb build quality, it was one of the few European cars to match Far Eastern competitors for reliability and low warranty costs.
Vauxhall’s long tradition for family cars moved into the 21st century with Zafira, a compact multi-purpose vehicle with its versatile Flex7 concept providing space for up to seven people or 1700 litres of luggage.
The launch of Vauxhall VXR and a list of incredible Vauxhall cars that have all gained legendary status with enthusiasts and press alike. In the same year, journalists from 26 countries name the 1.3 CDTi ECOTEC powerplant 'Engine of the Year 2005' in the segment of 1.0 to 1.4 litre displacement.
At the world premiere of fourth-generation Corsa at the British International Motor Show in London, Vauxhall announces New Corsa’s five star rating in the Euro NCAP crash test for passenger protection.
With its groundbreaking design and sophisticated technology, Insignia’s launch leads the way for a series of new cars that push Vauxhall brand values further than ever before. Named Car of the Year 2009 for its style and its innovation, safety and comfort.
New Astra follows Insignia’s lead in raising the bar for design, quality and innovation within its market sector. With its bold new shape, dynamic driving experience and a premium feel inside and out, it is the latest example of Vauxhall’s reputation for forward thinking.
Vauxhall launched the Astra GTC. The mid-size coupé caused a stir when it became available in June 2011. Its dramatic styling (created by a design team led by Brit Mark Adams) put the GTC up with the established front-runners in its class – the Volkswagen Scirocco and the Renault Megane Coupe.
Vauxhall also launched Flexible Finance, making owning a new Vauxhall even easier. Flexible Finance enables buyers to choose and spec their new model at www.vauxhall.co.uk, decide on a deposit from zero upwards (with Vauxhall contributing at least £500) and then select any term between 24 and 60 months. With the website’s easy-to-use Flexible Finance Calculator enabled buyers simply enter a deposit and then adjust the slider to get the desirable monthly payment figure and payback duration. Flexible Finance also enables customers to benefit from zero per cent APR on the offer.
In the gloomy European automotive market of 2012, Vauxhall introduced six all-new models – Zafira Tourer, Mokka, ADAM, Astra VXR, Combo Van and Ampera, our revolutionary extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV). The unique ADAM puts customers squarely in the driving seat, with over one million configuration combinations on offer.
In 2013 – Vauxhall’s 110th anniversary year – we extended our UK Home Nations Football sponsorship programme (covering all 24 Home Nations football squads) as well as our Football Association deal as England football team lead-sponsor, for a further four years.
Forward-thinking as ever, 2013 saw Vauxhall introduce the Cascada convertible, which harks back to the classic Vauxhall 30-98. Ellesmere Port and Luton are manufacturing cars and vans that will secure production at both plants well into the next decade, while our latest futuristic concepts include a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle (HydroGen4), a high-performance electric car (RAK e) and our e-bike concept (RAD e).
Images and colours shown are for illustrative purposes only and may show optional equipment.