Engineering for the 1957-1961 Vauxhall Victor was conventional but sound. Vauxhall helped pioneer unit construction in Britain, starting in 1937, so that was never in doubt.
A monocoque cost more to tool than a body-on-frame design and needed long production runs to recoup the added expense, but it made for a lighter, more rigid vehicle. Besides, unibodies were all but universal in Europe by the late 1950s.
Prospective trim variations were tried out on
both sides of this Vauxhall sedan at GM's
Technical Center in Warren, Michigan.
The short-stroke Wyvern engine, which dated from 1952, benefited from GM expertise, gaining a stiffer cylinder block, a new cylinder head with individual instead of siamesed inlet ports, and a more efficient intake manifold. The resulting 48 horsepower (rated at 55 in the States) wasn't much by Detroit standards, but was competitive against the 50-horsepower A50 and Oxford.
Top speed was about 75 mph, which was deemed sufficient, particularly given the awful roads in many export markets. The transmission was an all-new three-speed manual with synchronized first gear, a real advance over previous Vauxhall gearboxes, though most British road testers thought the Victor should have had a four-on-the-floor.
Suspension was American GM, with coil springs and double wishbones in front, and a hypoid axle on semielliptic leaf springs at the rear. Brakes were drums all around and unassisted, of course, as was the recirculating-ball steering. Tires were 5.60 (sedan) or 5.90 (wagon) bias-ply types on 13-inch wheels.
After the Victor made its English debut in March 1957,
left-hand-drive models began arriving in America
late that year as 1958 models.
The Victor sold strongly in Britain from its March 1957 launch. Initial demand was also brisk in some overseas markets. In the UK, the base sedan started at £729, then equal to $2,041, which might seem high to Americans but included a sizable £244/$683 in British sales tax.
The Super naturally cost more but offered additional chrome trim outside and such interior niceties as door armrests, rear ashtray, a passenger sunvisor, door-activated courtesy light, a better steering wheel (complete with Detroit-style chrome horn-ring), and the individual front seats.
But how did it perform? Find out in the next section.
For more information on cars, see: