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Vauxhall brand in the USA 1950's


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Hi,

I was in Cuba last week and amongst the glorious old cars we saw was a Vauxhall sedan. We did see the make a couple of times, but only one photo. It was curious, as the Vauxhall brand was always a GM Europe product, and not a US brand to my knowledge. The models I saw were most certainly never available in the UK. I was wondering if anybody could tell me anything about the Vauxhall name in the USA?

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Pontiac dealers sold Vauxhall Victors in the USA in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I have an owners manual for a 1959 model that was printed for the U.S. Market. I don't recall seeing one back in that time frame but I lived in an area where foreign cars were not very popular. I've read that rust out was an issue with them so not many are left. Occasionally one for sale shows up on this forum.

Terry

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There were many different models of Canadian Vauxhalls. That one looks like a UK model to me? Rusty, the Envoy was a slightly different model than the Vauxhall Viva. It was the Envoy Epic. The Firenza was possibly the worst car ever built by British-Leyland. There was a class action suit brought against them in Canada if I remember correctly??

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Vauxhall is a GM brand and not British-Leyland. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vauxhall_Velox

The car is the pics above is an E series model which was first seen in 1952 but this one is 1955 or later as it has the facelift model grille top. This one has had a different main grille fitted, and a modern front bumper, though I have not yet worked out what either is from. In this series there was the base four cylinder Wyvern, the six cylinder Velox and the more upmarket Cresta. The PA series replaced it in 1957.

Here in New Zealand, and in Australia, these bigger Vauxhalls were some of the best selling cars. The Australian Holden (another GM brand) eventually overtook them in sales in the 1960s, though Vauxhalls continued to be sold here into the early 1970s.

Edited by nzcarnerd (see edit history)
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Here is an interesting article which sums up Vauxhall's efforts in North America - http://www.britishcarforum.com/files/james_tworow5.pdf Put simply the car in Cuba is not ex-USA as only the F series Victor was sold there and only from 1957 to 1962 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vauxhall_Victor I guess this car may even have been sold new in Cuba?

Edited by nzcarnerd (see edit history)
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There were many different models of Canadian Vauxhalls. That one looks like a UK model to me? Rusty, the Envoy was a slightly different model than the Vauxhall Viva. It was the Envoy Epic. The Firenza was possibly the worst car ever built by British-Leyland. There was a class action suit brought against them in Canada if I remember correctly??

Vauxhall was an English car company taken over by GM in 1926. They were all made in England. The one shown in the picture is from the mid fifties. The Vauxhall Viva and Envoy Epic were practically the same car. I think they changed the name when the public got wise to them.

Firenza was the worst car ever made by anybody anywhere. And, I am aware of how stiff the competition was in England for the greaseball Oscar in those days.

You are right about the class action suit. Firenza was the only car to have a car club organized for the purpose of seeking redress from the manufacturer. They held a protest rally in Toronto and planned a parade of Firenzas to the GM headquarters in Oshawa. I think there were about 35 cars involved, more than half of them broke down on the way and at least 2 caught fire. Oshawa is about 40 miles from Toronto.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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Yes Rusty I remember the parade as I guy I went to school with in Nova Scotia tried to get there, but his almost new Firenza broke down at least twice before making it! My mistake for calling them British-Leyland, I knew they were GM of England. Brain freeze on my part.

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I think we're going to find that Cuba has cars from all over the world, as any tourist or new resident could bring a car to Cuba on the ships and ferries that regularly sailed there. What happened to them once they got there, laws for import, post-embargo, etc., requires further study. The American companies' subsidiaries in South America and elsewhere continued to ship cars long to Cuba long after our Embargo was imposed.

My sources show Vauxhall being retailed from model year 1958 to 1962 in the U.S.

TG

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The Vauxhall models I can remember by name are Victor, Cresta,and Viva. That was a long time ago for me and they wern't cars I was fond of as a kid growing up in Ontario and Nova Scotia. We had a large number of English cars on the road in Nova Scotia back then. They didn't last long in that salty, moist Atlantic air. European cars did very little rust protection it seemed.

Even Mercedes Benz's were victim after a few years. Jaguar, Peugot, Lancia, even Borgward's were everyday common sites.

A lot of them came back with Canadian Armed Forces personell stationed overseas when they returned. The Vauxhalls were sold new in Halifax I do recall.

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Vauxhalls were available in Canada from about 1950 until the middle 1970s. The car in the picture is either a Wyvern (4 cyl) or Cresta(6 cyl). Both were definitely available in the UK. The car in the picture has the wrong grille in it.

Terry

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Vauxhalls were available in Canada from about 1950 until the middle 1970s. The car in the picture is either a Wyvern (4 cyl) or Cresta(6 cyl). Both were definitely available in the UK. The car in the picture has the wrong grille in it.

Terry

That hood badge is from a Vauxhall Velox, a model mid-grade between the Wyvern and Cresta.

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Vauxhall is still around but they are just rebadged German GM Opels. The British operation has been reduced to just one assembly plant, a shadow of what it once was.

Likewise, English Ford is in a similar position as an assembler of German Ford products. US Ford is replacing the Econoline with the small Transit Connect and the full size Transit van from Europe. There are lots of them in my area. I would not be surprised to see GM do something similar soon.

Terry

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The Vauxhall models I can remember by name are Victor, Cresta,and Viva.

There was also the badge-engineered for-Canada-only Envoy line introduced in 1960 and sold at Chevrolet-Oldsmobile dealers, which was basically the Vauxhall with VX4-90 trim. At first there was the Super & Deluxe which was counterpart to the Victor, with the Sherwood station wagon having its own model name, and later when Vauxhall introduced the Viva, Envoy had a corresponding model labeled, Epic.

Craig

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In this age of recalls for various product defects, it is hard to remember a time when auto makers did their best to avoid them. Early Victors and Envoys were well known for howling front pinion bearings because of poor oil flow in the rear axle. GM had a fix for it but was in no hurry to tell people about it. As a result many Victors were never fixed so it wasn't hard to pick one out on the street because the howl was quite loud.

Terry

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In the seventies I know guys who picked up mint 10 year old Envoy Epics and Vauxhall Vivas (same car) for $50 - $100. These were mint low mile cars. They had spent all their lives in someone's garage because they would not start if the temperature was below freezing. Something of an oversight if you are planning to sell cars in Canada. Newer Vauxhalls were worse.

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They had spent all their lives in someone's garage because they would not start if the temperature was below freezing.

Not an issue in Vancouver, although the starters did slow down in cool weather. There are two Vivas still going about their daily duties here. They are a five minute drive from me and I see one or the other fairly frequently. Both are in good shape and appear to be well maintained.

Terry

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  • 1 year later...

I grew up in the UK & the Vauxhall was considered an up scale Gentleman's car. My dad had 1939 Vauxhall 12 - 4. Great car for the 30"s. I still remember the registration number. AUX598. Wish I could trace it. License numbers in the UK stay with the vehicle until removed from the road.

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Just to expand a little on the original question about Vauxhall in the US.  I understand that they were brought over in response to sales of VWs and other small import cars in the 1950s.  Buick dealers handled Opels and Pontiac dealers handled Vauxhalls and in fact they even looked like a little scaled down 1957 Chevy/Pontiac complete with chrome, fins and a wraparound windshield.  The experiment worked better for Buick/Opel and they were here into the 1970s, my understanding is the Vauxhall was sold roughly 1958-63 before they were dropped, probably due to lack of interest from the dealers having new prosperity with good selling Pontiacs.  The quality problems mentioned above probably did not help either, excellent stories there I had not heard before, Todd C   

Edited by poci1957 (see edit history)
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I expect the selling of Vauxhalls by Pontiac dealers was a fill in to give them something to sell in the compact car boom until they got their own compact, the Tempest  in 1961. Then it was phased out.

 

In Canada GM sold them spasmodically from the fifties thru to the introduction of the Astre and (Chevette based) Acadian around 1976.

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7 minutes ago, Rusty_OToole said:

I expect the selling of Vauxhalls by Pontiac dealers was a fill in to give them something to sell in the compact car boom until they got their own compact, the Tempest  in 1961. Then it was phased out.

 

I think that is exactly right.  Plus in 1957/58 Pontiac sales were off and they probably seemed like the right place for a little boost, but by 1962-63 the Tempest was available and the big Pontiac was selling very well, so most dealers were just not interested.  I understand the Buick dealers also did not all embrace the Opel either but some did and the product quality was probably better too, Todd C

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One must remember, right after the war, Germany was divided into four zones; France, British, Soviet, and the U.S zone, and Canada was a part of the British Commonwealth.  Therefore, it was fitting for General Motors to import more Opels fro, Germany into the United States that Canada, and the opposite with Vauxhalls from Great Britain.  The only Vauxhalls officially sold in the United States was the Victor four door sedan and station wagon from 1958, until 1961, or so.  And in Canada, the only Opel was the 1970-72 1900GT that was officially imported.  The Opel Olympia, Kadett, etc., was never sold in Canada, while the Vauxhall Viva, Velox, and Cresta were never sold in the United States. 

 

Craig

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