1959-1962 Vauxhall Victor
Vauxhall moved swiftly to answer early Victor criticisms; it even rerouted the tailpipe to below the bumper within a few months of launch.
A front bench seat and
were more North American
than British in concept.
Then, when the station wagon was added, Vauxhall introduced an optional semiautomatic transmission with the odd name of "Newtondrive." Priced at £25.50 (about $72), it employed a centrifugal clutch operated by touch-sensitive microswitches in the gearlever knob. It was much like BMC's "Manumatic" transmission, providing two-pedal convenience without the power losses of a full automatic, but it was no more reliable or popular, and few Victors were so equipped.
After barely two years, substantially facelifted "Series 2" Victors began sale in the UK in February 1959 and a few months later in the United States. Despite some evident resistance from Detroit, Vauxhall had pushed through very rapid tooling changes, again in response to early press and buyer comments.
New outer pressings eliminated both the waistline notch and the useless hood strakes, body trim was modified, the rectangular grille was widened, and bumpers became straight-lined wraparound units with no outboard "bombs." Mechanicals were untouched, but both body types added top-of-the-line DeLuxe versions with carpeting and two-tone leather upholstery.
UK prices now started at £759/$2,125 (including £254/$711 tax), but fell to £717/$2,008 with a tax reduction in April. Prices held steady in the United States, but most DeLuxe equipment was now included, though the cars were still badged as Supers .
The Series 2 Victor rolled into 1960
essentially without change.
There were no changes in 1960, but GM Canada began selling lightly retrimmed Victors as the Envoy sedan and Sherwood wagon. Another visual makeover occurred in August 1960 for the 1961 model year. This introduced a new five-bar grille, a larger rear window (by 18 percent), and a modernized instrument panel with additional padding, strip-style speedometer, and relocated controls.
Prices nudged up again in the UK, this time to £724/$2,027. But there was still no change in the United States, perhaps because of continued slow sales.
The Victor was now thoroughly developed, and not even a financial credit squeeze could harm its sales in Britain. By the time production closed down, in August 1961, nearly 250,000 Series 2 models had been built. Luton was now turning out up to 145,000 Victors and six-cylinder Velox/Crestas each year, a company record that had the much-expanded plant quite bursting at the seams.
Aside from modern styling, the Series FB featured
a two-inch wheelbase extension (to 100 inches)
and, thanks to a slight compression boost,
a gain of one horsepower (to 56).
For 1962 came a redesigned Victor (Series FB) with smart new "international" styling and a little more power, but the same basic platform and running gear. This car and the replacement Victor "101" (Series FC) would be even more successful than the original F-except in the United States, where Vauxhall disappeared after the 1962 model year, never to return.
The problem there was competition from Detroit's new homegrown compacts: larger, more powerful, and more comfortable than the Victor, yet little, if any, costlier. Then too, as with most British cars, Vauxhall build quality never came close to satisfying American buyers, especially those who had experienced the well finished, ultrareliable VW Beetle.
Vauxhall now builds more than 260,000 cars a year, basically retrimmed Opels with right-hand drive and, sometimes, different model names. But though Vauxhall remains an important part of the worldwide GM empire, it has no chance of returning to the United States, leaving Pontiac's short-lived British cousin as an interesting artifact from a very different time in General Motors history on both sides of the Atlantic.
For a rundown of Vauxhall Victor specifications, see our final section.
For more information on cars, see: