Today’s flip of the 1960 Auto-Parade has a decidedly Oldsmobile-esque look, at least to my eyes. The Cresta was the top offering of GM’s UK ops, and the 1957 – 1962 PA version has become a very collectible and cult classic. It represents the the closest England got to the exuberant finned fifties of America, and is an icon of the rock and roll era. The basic facts are pretty straightforward, but once one starts a further trip down Cresta Lane, some distinct variations appear:
The front end may have undergone some minor face-lifting during its six year run, and its engine got a major boost along the way, from the original 2262 cc OHV six with 72 hp, to a bigger 2651 cc version with a whopping 104 hp (the 100 hp barrier at the time was a huge one in Europe). But the rear ends show off even more variety:
There’s this style, which appears would be the older version with smaller taillights. (Update: this is actually the later version)
This version with those ovoid taillight pods had to be a later tail-lift. (Wrong: this is actually the earlier taillight design)
And then there’s this one with a segmented rear window, right off a 1957 Oldsmobile. Having opened up this Cresta can of worms, now I’m confused. Maybe someone out there can set us straight. (And this turns out to be the first year only version. Thanks David, Bryce and others!)
A friend of mine has a couple of these – they are quite nice cars. He has an early on with white and yellow two tone paint but from what I remember it is rusted pretty badly at the rear. Here is a his blue one which was drivable last time I saw it. Amazingly I found a puzzle at Saan (small town only department store) with a Cresta on it in a similar colour for him. A few other interesting things in the shot too – see how many you can name.
In the UK these are quite popular – think a British ’57 BelAir – but they had a reputation for rusting so not many left sadly.
I think that one in the middle with the mixed styles would be a 1959 when they where phasing over to the one piece window and then the revised tail lights later. The early cars have the big tail lights and three piece window, some ’59s have old tail lights and one piece window and after that one piece window with the smaller tail lights.
Agreed, the early cars had the big tail lights and the segmented rear window. The facelifted cars got a deeper grill as well, which improved the front-end.
The 1959 PA Velox was my first car !
This was the model with the twin-divided rear screen ~ the best looking of the lot !
Mine was 13 years old when I got it and it had done 75,000 miles by then.. it was in ‘sweet cream’ monotone ..and in very cherished oft-polished condition (as most NZ cars were back then, being such hard to obtain critters subject to cruelly restrictive post war import licencing).
The first owner had treated it like a baby and it was in perfect unworn condition inside and out, with not one sign of rust anywhere.
The only thing showing any wear at all was the Solex throttle spindle allowing a little too much unintended air into the venturi. Once this was re-bushed there was no further ‘leaness’ on take-up, and the car ran faultlessly .. ..
When the time came to sell ..there was a mad rush for the car with hands and arms oustretched by the ‘dealers’ at the Newmarket Car Fair, even as I was driving in down Morrow Road outside the entrance to the fair..
Stupid and sad. It was the nicest car I have ever had really, and the prettiest by a very long way..
My current vehicle is a 3.6 VR6 VW CC, but I would happily swap it for that same condition 1959 PA Vauxhall ..if it were only possible
The one with the ovoid tallights looks like the offspring of a 58 Studebaker and a 60 Mercury. The front view reminds me a bit of the Amphicar. The styling cues of mid-century U.S.cars don’t seem to translate well to the smaller proportions of that era’s european cars.
Ohhh, gawd, the Amphicar! Paul’s gotta find one of those for the site!
I was about 7 or 8 when those came into consciousness…someone in our town had a place on a resort island in Lake Erie, only way in or out was on the ferry…or puddle-jumper aircraft…
…or, apparently the buyer hoped, Amphicar. Although as an adult, I now know that anyone trying to traverse choppy Lake Erie, even if only for two miles, in a wallowing Amphicar…would be certifiably INSANE.
Put it on the wish-list, though
In the early 60’s when the Amphicar came out, there was a dealer near us we used to pass when with my parents shopping. I always wanted dad to stop and take a look, as I thought they were the neatest thing.
There is a car club devoted to these, too.
i uploaded some amphicar shots to the cc flickr pool:
You can find them in Florida being used as a ride on the lake at Disney Springs.
When I saw the front end, my first thought was also Amphicar.
What a nice-looking car! I see design attributes to several American cars of the fifties: Oldsmobile, Chevy, even a Kaiser Manhattan!
When did Vauxhall come under GM? Wasn’t the Chevette and T1000 Vauxhalls?
The Chevette was a Vauxhall name; the car was pretty much taken verbatim Stateside to graft on 5-mph bumpers and an (inferior) American engine. Seen photos of the Vauxhall Chevette and it’s a dead ringer for the original American model.
The T-Car had many forms worldwide; the Isuzu “Opel” of 1978, later as the Isuzu Gemini in its own stores, was also a GM T-series. Apparently GM allowed local divisions and subsidiaries to add their own flavors liberally.
I have some dealer issue cufflinks that came with a batch of Chevettes or HC Vivas they shared mechanicals 1256cc engine 4speed etc late 70s this was it 2 models both econoboxes, the company who made the first 3 litre car to top 100mph and built the 30/98 Velox which rivalled Bentleys was reduced to horrible little rot boxes.
WOW where did you find that, my favourite cars, There are 4 distinct models over 4 years Ill explain,
PA 1959 oval taillamps 3 piece back window 2.2 engine
PAY 1960 oval grille 1 piece rearwindow 2.2 mill
PAX 1961 combined tailamp/indicators 2.6 motor
PASX 1962 same as 61
The 2.6 cars could get 100mph quite fast back in the day but very floaty at high speed lots of front end lift I had a 61 PAX Velox after I left skool and it could easy see off a mates hot MK2 Zephyr but it was a rust bucket Vauxhalls main failing was lack of paint from the factory but these were fast comfortable cars further upmarket from the ozzy Holden and with more performance but they cornered on the door handles if pushed hard. The traffic police in NZ used Vauxhalls as patrol cars for many years and with the later PBs with 3.3 litre engines nothing could catch a Vauxhall. The original Bathurst annual race used to be held at Philip island and in 1960 was won by a Vauxhall 6.
GM took over Vauxhall in the 1920s and set them making family cars instead of the sports models they were famous for Unitary construction was used from the 30s one of the first mainstream makers to do it.Sadly Vauxhall became nothing more than a rebadged Opel in the 70s the last real Vauxhall being the 3.3 engined Victor.
Lotus used Vauxhall engines in preference to the Ford Kent from 1966 LV on an engine number stands for Lotus Vauxhall and that tie up produced the fastest 4door sedan ever made in the late 80s the Vauxhall Carlton Lotus good for 181mph fully laden. The only thing that could catch one was a Ferrari.Quite an achievement for GM.
Oops slight glitch I used Velox model prefixes insert D for cresta trim ie PADY,sorry
Funny you should mention the “last real Vauxhall”, the 3.3 litre fully loaded version of the Victor. A friend bought one new , to replace a Lotus Cortina, and it broke his heart. So many problems.
In those days Opels were well-made cars so most people were happy to have a Vauxhall-badged one.
Do you mean the Ventora that had all the fruit and the problems that go with it one reason I always bought Veloxes nothing to go wrong
That last Vauxhall had an interesting after life it went overseas in Aussie Holden adopted it as the 79/80 Holden Sunbird/Torana with no V8 option it had different suspension to the Toranas and handled well, Next stop was India for stint as the Hidustan Contessa and with a dip in GMs parts bin an Isuzu diesel transplant This was sold as an up market car Hindustan also make the 1958 Morris Oxford as the Ambassador
A real world car.
Lotus Cortina? Do you mean Lotus Carlton?
The first picture is a scan from my 1960 Auto Parade; the others from the web, because I wanted to get some front and rear shots. Thanks for the clarifications. I figured you’d set me straight. I’ve amended the text.
Didn’t Vauxhalls of this vintage get imported to the US betweeen 1957 to 60-61 as captive imports at Pontiac Dealerships, much like Opels at Buick Dealerships during the same period?
To my my memory, yes, but the smaller Victor only, I believe. It was similar in size to the Opel Record Buick dealers were selling then during the import boom.
Imagine what that sucker would be like with 300hp from a snortin’ V8!
I just wish I could see one of these in the flesh – or steel – and get a good look – then the V8 can go in!
From memory this was badged as an Envoy and wasnt there a cc on the Viva once?
By CC Contributor David Saunders
Yeah on the old site I like Vauxhalls Paul Ive owned lots of different models my dad drove them new when I was a kid vastly underated cars and some model quite fast ,there was a sporting version of everything Vauxhall made the Cresta and Velox were GMUK s best effort my father occasionally used work cars just 2nd hand trades if he needed acar He had at the time sold his new Holden HQ wagon and had a new sedan on order meantime he was driving a used 65 Vauxhall Velox It amazed a 14 year old as my dad explained hed prefer the used Vauxhall to the new Holden we were cruising at 80mph plusHWY1 just regular 2 lane tar roads this old car went like a rocket dad always seemed surprised when I liked Vauxhalls but he taught me which ones went well .
My warm 3.3 PB went to 85mph in second it could outrun a V8 Valiant up Taupo hill it was a quick car Traffic department loved Vauxhalls nothing could out run a black and white PB Vauxhall and a breathed on engine did wonders ex patrol cars were easy to get they vwere a popular choice if you could get one Australia didnt get Vauxhalls from England, Holden watered down the 63 Velox and built it for 5 years and put their effort into Holden but here we got both it was the 70s before Holden caught and passed Vauxhall for performance we got stripper Victors with Cresta engines and running gear it was a KIWI thing not a UK model we got the 4 bangers too but the 6 was the quik one outa da box
You could get the whole Vauxhall line (as sold in Canada) badged as an Envoy in Canada in this time period. There was even a Bedford van available as an Envoy. Probably the Victor of that style is the most common survivor but they are all rare now.
I have a 1960 Vauxhall Victor.I am just interested to know whereabouts this photo was taken as there are not many Victor ‘F’ s around.
The photo here is my 1960 Vauxhall Victor F2,the one I am referring to is the one above a grey 1959 Victor NY736
I’ve always admired these cars. They’re pretty rare in any condition, which lead me to purchase this one, a 1958 Velox. It’s rusty as all get-out, but it’s complete and has the fantastic three piece back window.
A month later I found on Kijiji a 1961 Cresta. Someone had chopped the roof and replaced it with one from a ’54 Plymouth to make a custom and had got no further. It’s in running shape, and the car is rust free. Having assessed both of them, my cunning plan is to cut the roof off of the ’58 and graft it onto the ’61. It’ll be a bit of a hybrid, but it’ll also be my cheapest way into one of these cars.
These are reasonably strong cars My father told of one that broke a front uni at about 80mph the day the guy bought it it end for ended and it was fixed because they could not get another one. but that was a new car they fold up pretty bad in a crash, not enough paint rust just nibbles at them my dadf had a 54 Vauxhall new and by the time the PA was released the year I was born it had been repainted due to rust mettalic green the only one around that colour the old man used to drown it in waste oil every few months Id be wary of anything from this era Ive owned some of these cars and early models wobble like jelly on rough roads the 61/62 are a better car bigger wheels brakes motor all set for the new motorways these drive well and are identical to the next models underneath which were capable of 100mph cruising speed in fact there werent many cars around that could catch a Vauxhall in UK a 3.3 Vauxhall was the fastest accelerating car to 50mph and the fastest accelerating 4door car… yep blow the doors off a Jag, Vauxhall had its own engine and they were good Traffic cops loved them in NZ it was years before anything with 4 doors could catch a PB Vauxhall 3.3
Just had a close up of your car its not too bad usually the top of the rear guards hole thru first boot lid and bonetlower edges go if it leaks the floors rust out if you get it wet it rusts GM taught the Italians how to make rustbucket cars with these and the early Victor, When my Dad bought a 64 Vauxhall he only kept it 18 months cars were hard to get at all so his lightly used one went up in value he did this every 2 year from 64 on and made money reselling but with Holdens Vauxhalls got too expensive and didnt do wagons but a new Holden wagon every model change was ok as a kid and having rides in some fairly interesting used cars Dad used to borrow was cool he believed in downshifting to lose speed into corners and driving thru them with the noise up he used to try a lot of different things both old and new he came home with a 58 Holden sedan once no bumpers hubcaps or any excess anywhere on wide radial tyres floor shift someone traded a semi street rod so dad test flew it and liked it Mum wouldnt even ride in that one a brand new car suited her fine Dad liked new cars they werent rusty he never kept em that long
Just looked online hell do it even here where these are common they are expensive found a original recent daily driven clean 58 $6,800 or a restored 62 $21,000 and a 61 $17995 shoebox Chev money we laughed at car prices last time it went mad whats hot next time PAs have been collectable for a while plenty of rust free Aussie cars out there for parts if you know where to look.
I’ve been following that ’61 Cresta on Kijiji for a while. Neat project but I thought impossible to source glass for. I’m glad it will see a good home with you.
Yup, I’m looking forward to getting into it. The doors and roof from the pink one will fit straight on, and I have a lead on a new stock windshield. I have to finish the wife’s Studebaker first though, or the Cresta will be my new bedroom…
I lived in Britain in the early ’70’s as a teenaged American expat (my Dad was transferred over there) and there were still a few of these on the road.
Plenty of these in NZ Horopito wreckers have these and new parts are available for PAs&PBs in Melbourne OZ.The PAs were big sellers downunder
I have the Matchbox model of one of these from the 60s – two tone bronze and turquoise. I wonder if that was an actual color combination on the full-size ones.
Yesterday I followed a 2010 or ’11 Vauxhall Astra with recent, regular Oregon plates, on I-5 heading north through Portland. The big logo on the back was unmistakably Vauxhall. How is that possible? Vauxhall’s not even sold in Canada.
Most likely someone put on those logos to mess with your head (won’t be the first time). There are some other possible explanations, but I bet it was the first. A Brit, most likely.
Ha! Well, it worked. I see, there was a Saturn Astra. Thanks, Prof. Paul!
Along those lines, I’ve always thought this would be a great badge for a DIY electric car. Very few over here would get it.
Agreed. Always liked it as a kid; and the name too: Blitz.
I have 3 vauxhalls a ’54 a’55 and a’58. All are partly restored. The ‘ 54 can be driven. It is licenced. I would like to sell them. If you are interested email me and we can chat about it. Jim Birch
Where are you at, Jim?
The original PA Velox/Cresta makes an interesting comparison with the short-lived 1958 Opel Kapitan P1, which sold very badly. Both of them represent the triumph of style over common sense – I am not sure which I prefer, aesthetically. A 1961 PA Velox was our family car during my teens. Pretty effective vehicle, apart from over-soft rear suspension, which made towing problematic.
Opel went its own way with the Kapitan P2, that seemed a bit idiosyncratic at the time, but sold very well. It looked quite effective in a Germanic leader-of-industry sort of way.
I always felt the PA Vauxhalls looked OK from some angles, but needed a longer nose. The Mark II Ford Zephyr/Zodiac looked more authoritative, as did the Mark III Zodiac. (The Mark III Zephyr 4 and 6 looked dreadful, in my view.)