This comparison test from 1981 contains a surprise double. Not only does the Volvo 244GLT have overdrive, but so does the Vauxhall Viceroy. And the other surprise – there was a full road test of the Vauxhall Viceroy. It would therefore seem only right for Curbivores to see this, and gain an insight into these (Euro centric) vehicles.
Most familiar will be the Volvo 244, in this case the GLT (not GTL as the cover of the magazine labels it – doh!). By the end of the 1970s, the Volvo 244 had created a definite impression and place for itself on the British market and its aspirant executive market. We all have our opinions on these cars (they’re not my favourites, but YMMV) but there is no doubt that the 244 and 245 could be seen as premium in the UK, if a bit stodgy and starting to age – after all it was a 1966 144 with a new engine, crumple zones and big bumpers, basically. But Volvo had successfully created a slot for themselves with a premium rating, ahead of, for example, a similarly powered Ford Granada, Austin Princess, Renault 20 or larger Datsun or Toyota. A sort of Swedish Peugeot, if you like. It lagged behind BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and was perhaps level pegging with Audi, until the 1977 Audi 100 C2 stepped past it, and then the 1982 C3 left it in the weeds.
But it was never a sports saloon. I realise US perceptions differed, but in the Europe it was safety, durability and the first aspirant estate car that were the selling points. The 244GLT was planned to change that, by adding some sports saloon or driver focussed features to the regular car.
The Vauxhall was another surprise. Vauxhall, by 1981, was fully lined up with Opel in terms of models if not fully on smaller engines, and the Viceroy was a match to the six cylinder Commodore, a derivative of the four cylinder Rekord with a longer nose to take the straight six, and fitted in the range between the Rekord and the 2.8 litre six cylinder Senator (or Vauxhall Royale). The Rekord E has been covered here before, and matched directly to the Vauxhall Carlton, give or take some styling details that did the Vauxhall no favours and a narrower range of engines and trim levels.
The Rover probably needs little introduction – it is an SD1 so we know it well. Here it is in six cylinder 2600 form, which never made it to North America. Engine apart, it is the same as the 3500 V8.
And the Granada? This is a Euro Granada, built solely in Germany and common across all European markets. It had the 2.0 litre Pinto four, or Cologne V6 at 2.3 and 2.8 litres, independent rear suspension, a huge range of trims from taxi to Brougham, a mightily practical estate version and a brand image that arguably lagged behind the car. It wasn’t flashy, unless you wanted it to be and bought a Ghia, but with the V6 was very capable and a pretty good value.
This comparison, from UK magazine Motor (now defunct after being absorbed into Autocar) makes interesting reading, and comes to a conclusion I didn’t expect – Ford, Rover, Volvo, Vauxhall. The Rover’s style and flair were outgunned by the Ford’s all round competence, the Volvo was let down by its ride and refinement, and the Vauxhall, the newest car of the bunch, by its economy and performance, and interior style (an area where several of the early Opel Vauxhalls suffered comparatively, as Vauxhall sought distinction from Opel, a British twist and value), and perhaps a lack of any great advantages overall.
Maybe that’s why Vauxhall sold fewer than 2500 Viceroys?
For reference £10,000 in 1981 is close to £40,000 now.
(Hat tip to www.vauxpedia.net for providing not only one of the best single marque sites you’ll see but also posting this test, where “their” car doesn’t shine.)