I did a momentary double take when I saw that little red hatchback in this shot. Looks rather Chevettish, but this is 1972. Aha! It’s a Vauxhall Firenza, as this is in Canada, where things were a bit different. Vauxhalls had long been sold there—as they had been briefly in the US—by Pontiac dealers.
Here’s another shot of it.
What is it with Europeans and their 3 door wagons with those huge rear side windows?
What a contrast in styling and size with the Pontiac wagons.
I was thinking that as well. Ford Escort, Austin Allegro…..
I did a similar double take, if not triple. 1) I had never noticed that Pontiac called a version of the Vega Firenza. 2) Bzzzzt. Wrong. That was an Astre. 3) Bzzzzt. Wrong again. That was no Astre in 1972.
If I had known these existed, I had forgotten about them.
These were the 3rd-gen Vauxhall Viva (HC?), rebadged as Firenzas. Sharp-looking and good little rally cars, they were hampered by absolutely horrible reliability issues.
This was pretty much the low point for English cars. I don’t remember seeing one later than about 1976.
I can’t recall seeing either a Lemans wagon or a Firenza wagon.
Firenza and Cricket were the last gasps of captive British imports I think
LeMans wagons had a very tiny market. People who bought them were young dads who pined for a GTO but their wives and families reminded them that a 2-door hardtop wasn’t family friendly.
Several enterprising builders have created GTO “tribute” wagons.
Not exactly a captive import, but there were those early-’00s Honda Civic SI hatchbacks that were very unlike the Civic coupes and sedans sold in North America. The Si hatchbacks were built in Swindon, England, likewise the late-’10s five-door hatchbacks.
Saw this one for sale several years ago.
The 1973 Crickets were the last for the U.S.A. Basically leftover 1972 models.
In Canada, the British-built 1973 Cricket was replaced by a Mitsubishi- built Plymouth Cricket. And the Mitsubishi-built Plymouth Cricket name survived through 1974. They even had a Formula S model.
The Plymouth Colt (a Dodge Colt with Plymouth nameplates) replaced the Plymouth Cricket for 1975.
Other NA small models –
1974 & up – Mercury Bobcat (Pinto)
1974-1975 Pontiac Astre (Vega)
1976 & up – Pontiac Acadian (Chevette)
to 1973 – Ford Cortina (UK and Germany)
to 1974 – Mercury Capri (UK and Germany)
Ahh, so that’s where the leftover ’66 Impala tail lights went……
You beat me to it Dave!😉
For some reason I look at this as a 2-door hatchback while a ’72 Squareback or Opel 1900 wagon is a wagon to my eyes all day long. They’re all within a few inches of each other in total length so not sure why, perhaps (probably?) the extra pillar those two have instead of the one large rear side window here. Perhaps that makes it more of a shooting brake?
Jim, I make the distinction based on the angle of the rear glass. If it’s more than 30 degrees or so from vertical, it’s a hatchback to my eyes. Most Audi “wagons” look like what I’d call a hatchback, for example.
I get the “hatchback” argument but here (UK) Vauxhall sold it as the “Viva estate”. The larger Victor FE was similar, but put it against a VW Passat or Chrysler Alpine and the similarity is clear.
Very clean shape which Vauxhall developed into the short run Sports Hatch to use up droop snoot frontends it hadn’t shifted. Apparently good for 120mph but probably suicidal.
One of two car brochures that came from Dad’s desk (the other being for a Bond 875, sadly lost) was this Viva one from about 1971. The single piece rear windows made for a clean look though perhaps not the greatest ventilation for those in the back seats. There actually was a hatchback version of the HC Firenza in South Africa which used the Chevette tailgate.
The Firenza had a horrifically bad reputation in Canada. One of my Canadian relatives couldn’t believe GM re-used the name so quickly for a 1982 Olds; it would be like calling the new car the Oldsmobile Vega.
The Viva was the last real Vauxhaul, wasn’t it? Before they became rebadged Opels.
The last to not share any structure, engines, suspension or drive train with Opel yes, though the last Victor FE (1972) had shared largely invisible structral underpinnings with the Rekord D. More a hybrid than a clone.
The original Viva HA was a mildly disguised Opel Kadett A, despite Vauxhall’s attempts to suggest otherwise:
The HB and HC were evolutions of the HA, so while there were relatively fewer Opel genes in them, there still were some. The base pushrod four is essentially identical to the small Opel four except for non-metric dimensions and fasteners.
The HB was very different from the HA in more than just appearance. The engine (enlarged from 1057cc to 1159cc) and gearbox were the main carry-over items, but suspension moved to SLA coil sprung independent at the front and the live rear axle was mounted on four coil sprung trailing arms. In size terms it was 6½” longer and 3½” wider with the wheelbase going from 91½” to 95¾”. The HC saw a further, but smaller enlargement, but overall they are about the same size as the Ascona A. Part of the reason for the extensive redesign would have been to allow for the fitting of the new OHC engines (from 1968). Comparing the bodyshell assembly the HA and HB are significantly different under the skin.
I understand that, about significant changes to the HB/HC. I was just pointing out that there was a lot of Opel DNA in the HA, and still a bit in the HB/HC.
So bad it launched the first consumer class action law suit againest a manufacture in Canada back in 72.
Google ”Law suit againest Vauxhal Canada for more infon.
HC Vivas were common in NZ they came as a reasonable small family wagon all the way down to delivery van with the rear side window and seats deleted for a longer finance term and some turned up with Canadian spec front suspension which was stiffer that the British CKD tune Ive driven a lot of these and they arent much fun, these are the cars that made people think a Ford Escort ‘handled’
The Firenza’s rear bumper has to be the thinnest I have ever seen…
The Firenza was a running joke in Canada. I heard many of said jokes as a kid.
So terrible, our next door neighbour had one and it made our Vega look like an anvil of reliability…
Never seen one in the metal but from the brochure picture that’s one good looking rear end. Of course I’ve long been a sucker for hatchbacks and you have to ditch the roof rack.
This car was sold made and sold in Uruguay as the Opel Indiana. As far as I remember, the engine was either a Vauxhall or Opel 1100, and the body was made out of fiberglass. The original prototype was just one of these Vivas imported from the UK. They were quite succesful in a controlled market where everything had to have some local content and taxes would be much lower when that content was higher. Hence, a local GM dealer began producing these, and worse, a double cab pickup on the Viva underpinnings, so that it could be classified as a commercial truck. The name was Grumett.
Here’s a mid 70s Grumett
Sorry, it’s from 1970, not “mid 70s”
Always interested to see/read about versions of cars from other countries, Rafael. My country, Australia, has done some strange stuff, I’ll admit, but a fiberglass extended-cab Viva pickup? Wow!
Hi, Peter. Bear in mind that Uruguay is just 3.5 million people…we used to assemble CKD cars, and even that was just a tax incentive for local industries. Cars were more expensive when imported only because of taxes. The actual labor and materials, when locally made, was highly inefficient. The extended cab came from the need to justify a 4 passenger vehicle as a commercial “truckette” and thus eliminating the car tax. Fiberglass wasn´t especially cheap, but steel dies were impossible to amortize. Those bodies were hand finished, as they would always have some irregularities…the cars themselves weren’t bad at all. After those Vivas, many Brazilian Chevettes station wagons were produced, also fiberglass, but much better in fit and finish. There were also some batches of a Chevette coupe, which wasn’t produced in Brazil and was copied from a Kadett around 1978. The steel car itself, which was used to make the molds. was around for about 10 years
That’s fascinating, Rafael. Thanks for sharing this information. As a GM fan, I have always been intriguied by the various local vehicles. I knew from a child about Canadian Pontiacs as I live near the border and the Parisienne was hugely popular. But the company’s operations in various markets with high tarriffs really made for some interesting local products. The Canadian Pontiacs were built in Australia and NZ from CKD kits due to the Commonwealth status of both. But I was unaware of Uraguay’s efforts in producing the Firenza from fibreglass. I suppose even if it would be less expensive to build the British-built vehicle vs the local effort, I am sure Uraguay benefitted from employing local skilled craftsmen. And in the end, with the hand-finishing, the build quality was much better. Very, very interesting information indeed!
The sedan version was built as a chevrolet in South Africa and a limited run repowered with a 302 V8 was called Can Am it was another GM car shopped around overseas assemblers to badge as the local model,
Locally some got repowered with 2.3 OHC Bedford CF van engines as those vans got repowered with Holden or Cresta 6s or US V8 engines, but the HC Vauxhall is a very rare car these days they werent very durable mechanically and they rusted quite well.
Sold as the HC Vauxhall Viva estate in New Zealand, a good friend of my Uncle’s had one from the 1970s until the early 2000s. He was a handyman and used it as a most unlikely work vehicle, generally full of paint and building gear, with a roof rack full of ladders. I saw it around town all the time over the decades and in the metal the huge rear side windows made it look ungainly.
Was the first Victor model the only Vauxhall to be sold in the US?
I worked at Pontiac dealer and was sent to a GM course to learn how to repair these cars . There was a list of 29 things to check and repair before they were delivered to customer. Didn’t help much. My wife had bought one before I met her. We managed to get 40000 miles. With several repairs.
Tail lights from the “66 Impala”. Kinda looks like an Opel Kadette and a Chevette had a baby. and …