Now that we’ve seen the very shrunken, American-influenced F-series Victor, let’s take a look at its successor, the Victor FB. With the FB, Vauxhall finally gave the Victor its own styling identity rather than adapting American styling cues. With its improved quality, Vauxhall hoped the FB would redeem the marque’s reputation, which had been severely damaged by its problematic predecessor.
Although the F-series Victor sold in large numbers, it soon gained a reputation for inferior build quality and easy susceptibility to rusting. The rust bucket knock would dog Vauxhall for many more years, but by most accounts the FB series, introduced in 1961, was a well-built and generally solid car that resisted the dreaded tin worm as well as (or even a little better than) its contemporaries.
The old F-series Victor was looking quite outdated when the new FB, looking crisp, fresh and up-to-date, came along in 1961. For the first time, an in house-designed estate (station wagon) was offered alongside the four-door saloon; yet again, there was no two-door model.
Much of the old F-series mechanicals carried over to the FB, albeit with updated specifications. The 1,508cc four-cylinder engine gained both power and fuel efficiency, thanks to a boost in compression and a revised exhaust manifold. In mid-1963, its displacement was bumped to 1,594cc, and compression was boosted further to take advantage of better quality fuels now available in the UK. A three-speed column shift was standard, but a floor-mounted four-speed was available as an extra cost option.
Inside, the Victor hadn’t completely lost its American roots: The base car featured both a column shifter and a bench seat, although buckets were available. This sensible wagon buyer opted for the front bench.
It’s hard to believe, but prior to its acquisition by GM Vauxhall’s lineup had included quite a few sports cars; now, with the introduction of the FB series came a sportier variant of the Victor. Given the tongue- tying name of VX4/90, it offered twin Zenith 36 WIP-3 carburetors and was rated at 71.5 hp and 91 lb-ft of torque.The 1963 displacement bump boosted these numbers to 78.3 hp @ 5,200 rpm and 98.7 lb-ft of torque @ 3,200 rpm. A revised alloy cylinder head, camshaft, bearings and a toughened crankshaft rounded out the engine upgrades. Despite 2,208 lbs to haul around, performance was increased: Zero-to-60 came up in 15.7 seconds–slow by modern standards, but certainly competitive at the time.
The heavier duty suspension featured 33% stiffer coils up front and 35% stiffer springs at the rear. It was also fitted with the anti -roll bar from the estate, as well as 14” steel wheels vs. the usual 13-inchers. Interestingly, wheels are not swappable between the models: Five-bolt wheels were specified for the VX4/90, instead of the four-bolt wheels on the regular Victor. The VX4/90 also got a pull-handle brake lever located between the seats instead of the dash-mounted pull handle of the standard Victor. Cosmetically, the VX4/90 was distinguished by a glitzier grille, larger tail lights and color-keyed body side striping.
The independent front suspension featured a-arms, coil springs and telescopic shocks; the rear setup comprised a live axle suspended by leaf springs and telescopic shocks. In addition, there was Burman recirculating-ball steering and, initially, front and rear drum brakes. In 1963, the power-assisted discs from the higher-performance VX4/90 became available as an option on other models.
The FB series was offered in the United States for only a short time preceding the introduction of GM’s home-grown compacts, the Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile F85 and Pontiac Tempest. Naturally, Pontiac dealers were much more interested in selling their own Tempests than British Vauxhalls. Vauxhall stopped exporting Victors in 1962, but a few leftovers were sold as 1963 models.
In Canada, the Victor remained available, in both Vauxhall and Envoy guises, for the rest of the FB run, which ended in 1964. Essentially, Vauxhall applied the VX4/90 cosmetic changes (but not the mechanical upgrades) to differentiate the Envoy, which Chevrolet dealers sold as the Special.
I quite like the funky door handles.
The estate we have here is a rare sight, especially in left-hand drive form. Instead of the sedan’s 3.9:1 rear axle ratio, the wagon uses a 4.13:1 ratio in order to offset the impact on performance caused by its added weight. Estate models also received a standard front anti-roll bar. This example, with the base three- speed column shift and bench seat, is a 1963 model.
From the date of this inspection sticker, we can assume that this Victor at least made it through 1969 as a roadworthy vehicle, and I also found a 1990 registration in the glove box. Although it’s missing the front bumper and showing a little body damage, let’s hope someone finds this Victor interesting enough to save.