(first posted 3/8/2013) So far we’ve seen the original–and very much American influenced–Vauxhall Victor F-series, as well as the ‘FB’ follow up. This FC generation Victor; introduced in 1964 is often called “the forgotten Victor” due to its humble styling and low survival rate.
Vauxhall’s official designation for this generation of Victor was 101, a reference to its (apparent) 101 new improvements versus its predecessor, probably the biggest of which was curved-glass side windows that provided rather generous interior proportions, especially in width, for its class. Its slab-sided exterior, which reflected rather shrunken American styling, was not terribly well accepted at home, and generally viewed as a step backward from the subtle but charming FB.
Mechanically, the FC was mostly a carry-over from the previous generation. A 66-hp OHV inline four was utilized throughout the entire run; in 1968, it would be replaced by the first of a series of OHC engines for a new and larger generation of Victors. Gearbox-wise, buyers could still choose from a three-speed, column-mounted manual or four-on-the-floor. Your transmission choice also dictated the front seating arrangements: Three-speed cars got a bench seat, while four-speeds were fitted with buckets.
Also available for the first-time was a proper automatic transmission (the F-series offered an optional, rarely-picked and troublesome semi-automatic), a two-speed Powerglide gearbox that probably provided extremely leisurely acceleration. Our featured car features this transmission–I imagine it is rare to see a survivor like this anywhere in the world.
Once again, the sporty VX4/90 model was offered, featuring an uprated engine with twin carburetors, an alloy head and higher compression, as well as a stiffer suspension and an available limited-slip rear axle. Unfortunately for Vauxhall, the VX4/90 didn’t prove competitive with the hot Ford Cortinas of the day, and sold in quite-low numbers.
Inside, the American vibe continues with a dash featuring chrome in place of traditional British wood. The radio holes were pre-cut–again, a very American touch not usually seen on British motor cars of this era. Viewed as a whole, it certainly looks like the 2/3-scale interior of an average American sedan of the same era. Of course, that could be partly due to the fact that this is the higher-spec Super model.
Overall, the interior seems to have suffered just a bit from wear, showing only a little fading on the seats and a layer of dust. Note the attractive, two-tone color scheme of the door panels. The odometer showed a mere 34,000 miles, a figure I believe is actual, original mileage due to the remarkably good condition of the interior and the rust-free body.
While Vauxhalls were sold alongside Pontiacs, Canadian Chevrolet-Buick dealers once again got their own variant, the Envoy, offered as the Special sedan and Sherwood wagon. Only badges, a U.K.-market VX4 specification grille and minor trim variations distinguished Envoys from their Vauxhall cousins.
I actually quite liked this Victor–in fact, I liked it enough to bid on it. On the face of it, and even with my questionable taste in cars, that seems ludicrous: Why would anyone in their right mind want this elderly Vauxhall, especially since it’s saddled with a two-speed automatic?
Well, for one thing, it was going too cheap. It also did have some good points: The interior was usable as-is (after a good cleaning), and while the paint might have suffered in the sun, the body itself was remarkably free of rust. The hot rod crowd pays good money for patina like this. I also know that this particular car had been a running and driving vehicle only a few years earlier. The engine wasn’t stuck and the fluids were clean, so there a good chance it would revive easily and make this an affordable classic driver. And as a bonus, it also reminds me of the Volga GAZ-24 (above), which also has slab-sided styling and a chrome grille. I’m unlikely to ever see Volga over here, so this Victor could be as close as it gets.
I actually did win it, for the princely sum of $250, but when my friend and I arrived in his two-wheel drive truck to collect, disaster struck. First, the yard was indescribably muddy (it’s not really visible in these photos–all the mud is just out of view, just where the truck needed traction)–which hindered our progress. Next, we discovered that the rear brakes were seized solid. While this wouldn’t have been the end of the world within the comfort of my own garage or even in my driveway, it was a major issue when it came to loading it on a trailer in a mud pit. Thanks to some tall, very dry grass, using a torch was out of the question.
Ultimately we were unsuccessful in freeing the drums, and we had to call everything off. If we’d been closer, I’d have made another attempt, but I didn’t fancy another unsuccessful, three-hours-each-way drive with a truck and trailer. My friend was similarly stymied in an attempt to load the Jaguar he purchased when we discovered it was missing a rear tire: A classic case of seeing a car through rose-colored, potential-project buyer’s glasses. The Jaguar problem was later remedied with a Daimler spare rim and tire, but the auction allowed me to pass on the little Victor.