New 2008 Vauxhall logo.
The griffin emblem, which is still in use, is derived from the coat of arms of Fulk le Breant, a mercenary soldier who was granted the Manor of Luton for services to King John in the thirteenth century. By marriage, he also gained the rights to an area near London, south of the Thames. The house he built, Fulk's Hall, became known in time as Vauxhall.
Vauxhall. (England) 1903 to date.
The first Vauxhall of 1903 was an American-inspired 5 1/2 cwt. (616 lb.) runabout with a transverse 5 hp horizontal engine, chain drive and tiller steering. A 6 hp version came out the next year, boasting the luxury of a reverse gear!
In 1905 the company moved from London's Vauxhall to Luton, Bedfordshire, bringing out no less than three models of three-cylinder cars (though this time with vertical engines). These cars were successfully used in trials and hillclimbs, but an entry in the 1905 Tourist Trophy proved abortive, despite the use of a six-speed gearbox. Although demand continued, a more conventional shaft-driven car, the 18/20 four-cylinder model, proved extremely successful, leading to the demise of the earlier types. A 3-litre Vauxhall put up a sterling performance in the German Prince Henry Trials in 1910 and 1911. The engine capacity was increased to 4 litres and the car called the Prince Henry in recognition of the achievement.
From this emerged the most famous of all Vauxhalls, the 30/98. For this, works manager L. H. Pomeroy increased the engine capacity to 4 1/2 litres in 1913. A few examples were made before World War One, though it was again available in 1919. Designated the E-Type, it received a new ohv 4?2-litre engine and front-wheel brakes in 192?, thereafter being known as the OE. The company had been one of the few firms to continue manufacture throughout World War One, the D-Type being made for the services. In 1922 the cheaper 14/40 appeared and the D-Type was granted overhead valves.
In December 1925 the American General Motors took over, though it was not until three years later that the first GM-inspired Vauxhalls appeared, the 20/60 with overhead valves, coil ignition and central gear-change. The 2-litre Cadet of 1931 was a cheap six announced the following year, offering a synchromesh gearbox and beating Rolls-Royce to the post. Two other lighter sixes, the 12 and 14, were introduced in 1933, though at the other end of the range the company offered a 3.2-litre six in 1934, this "Big Six" surviving until 1937, when it was replaced by the independent suspension 25 hp model. Unitary construction on the four-cylinder 10 of 1938 gave Vauxhall another technical first in Britain. Priced at 158, though only having a three-speed gearbox, it offered 40 mpg. The following year all models were fitted with hydraulic brakes, one being the newly introduced J model, a 14hp car with a 1781cc six-cylinder engine, costing a competitive 220.
The post-war era saw the four-cylinder 10 and 12 and the six-cylinder 14 offered, though by 1948 all had been phased out, and replaced by the 1442cc Wyvern and the 2275cc Velox, using four- and six-cylinder engines respectively. These L-Type models featured completely new styling, with a markedly trans-Atlantic front end and faired-in headlights. A steering-column gear-change was another feature imported from America. In 1952 both models were re-styled, with short-stroke engines replacing the original power units. Three years later, a luxury version of the six, the Cresta, appeared costing 844. These E-Type models remained in production until 1957, a year that saw the introduction of the four-cylinder 1 1/2-litre Victor with its distinctive wrap-around windscreen, the six being similarly adorned in 1958.
By 1962 the Victor had been re-styled, the Velox and Cresta receiving similar treatment the following year. In 1964 more powerful engines were introduced, the Victor now displacing 1.6 litres, while the six was increased to 3.3 litres. Vauxhall made a major departure from previous practice in 1964 by announcing a new small car, the 1057cc Viva. It was re-styled for 1967 and again in 1970, this HC variant being offered in 1159cc and 1256cc forms.
A completely new Victor appeared for 1968 in 1.6- and 2- litre variants, having inclined ohc engines, the camshaft being driven by a neoprene belt, the first occasion that the feature was offered on a production car in Britain. The faithful 3.3-litre six was fitted into a similar bodyshell; and named the Ventora. It was "all change" again in 1971 the Victors being upped to 1800cc and 2300cc and sporting chunkier bodywork also shared with the Ventora. The Victor engine, though of 1600cc, was also offered in the Viva bodyshell. A coupe version, the Firenza, appeared in 1971 with a choice of 1256cc, 1600cc and 2300cc engines. However, in 1973 the entire Viva/Firenza range was overhauled, the Viva being retained for the smallest capacity engines, the 1800 and 2300 being called Magnums. In 1975 a new model, the Chevette, was launched, a good-looking coupe with hatchback tailgate, powered by the 1256cc Viva engine, and available in 10 variants in 1979. Early in 1979 new Opel-based luxury models, the Carlton and Royale, were announced. The Cavalier, a 1300/1600/1900cc mid-sized saloon originally imported from Belgium, was by that time made in Britain. The last Viva was built in mid-1979.
(Vintage European Automobiles)
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