Great news! The Vauxhall Viva is back!
The Viva was one of Vauxhall’s two best selling model names of the 1960s, starting with the Viva HA series in 1963 and finishing with the demise of the third series, known as the HC in 1979.
All Vivas were conventionally engineered cars, with base models featuring four cylinder 1.0 to 1.2 engines, four speed gearboxes and three box styling. The HA was also available as van, but never a four door saloon, coupe or regular estate. It was more closely related to the Opel Kadett A than was originally told, with a shared floor pan and drivetrain. Vauxhall had ambitions for independent rear suspension and even a transverse engine, but GM, through Opel, blocked those ideas. It came to north America as the Epic, through not in huge numbers. The Kadett might have become a serious Beetle challenger in Germany, but the Viva didn’t manage that in Canada, and it wasn’t sold in the US.
The Viva was the first car to be produced at the new Ellesmere Port factory in north west England, which is now GM’s lead factory for the Vauxhall/Opel Astra.
The Viva was a success for Vauxhall, and the following HB model diverged from the Opel Kadett B, with Vauxhall unique running gear and styling. It was now larger – the wheel base grew from 92in to 96in and the engine range included 1600cc slant-4 from the Victor. Four door saloons and an estate were now offered and the car formed the basis for the first Holden Torana. American sales were again under the Epic branding.
Finally, in 1070, came the Viva HC, sold in north America as the Firenza, although in the UK only the Coupes wore this badge. By now, the car has grown again to a wheelbase of 97in, and was trapped into a no-man’s land between the Ford Escort and Ford Cortina, in a similar way to the larger Victor was between the Cortina and the Granada. Engines were now 1300cc, 1800cc or 2300cc, the style unashamedly aped north American trends and the corrosion resistance as bad as ever.
In 1979, the Viva name died; its place was taken by the Chevette and a 1300cc version of the newer Cavalier.
And now, after 35 years, the Viva name is coming back, on an entry level hatchback, essentially a re-skinned version of the Chevy Spark, already sold in the US for some time. This is a typical compact five door hatch, with a 1.0 litre three cylinder engine, built in Korea by Daewoo, and lining up against the VW Up!, Ford Ka and Renault Twingo. It will be called the Opel Karl on the continent.
So, the Vauxhall Viva is back ; what other possibly underrated, maybe even tarnished, nameplate do you want to follow it back onto the market?