The Vauxhall Victor was a medium/large model of automobile produced by Vauxhall Motors, the British subsidiary of General Motors from 1957 to 1976, when it was renamed as the VX Series and continued until 1978, when it was replaced by the Carlton, which was based on the German Opel Rekord D. The last model was manufactured under licence by Hindustan Motors in India as the Hindustan Contessa, during the 1980s and early 1990s, with an Isuzu engine.
The original Victor was the first European car to used the panoramic windscreen, and for a time was Britain's most exported car, with worldwide sales in markets as far flung as the U.S. (sold by Pontiac dealers, as Vauxhall had been part of GM since 1925), Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Asian right hand drive markets such as Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.
In Canada, it was marketed as both the Vauxhall Victor (sold through Pontiac dealerships) and Envoy (marketed through Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Buick dealers). The Victor was also instrumental in giving Vauxhall its first in-house designed estate car, which complemented the four door saloon.
The original Victor (1957-1961)was dubbed the F series and saw a production run totalling over 390,000 units.Today there are only a few left as they rusted away and have become very rare.
The cleaner styled FB ran from 1961 until 1964. It was widely exported, though sales in the US ended after 1961 when Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick came up with home-grown compact models of their own. Consequently, the FB only achieved sales of 328,000 vehicles by the time it was replaced in 1964.
The FC (1964-1967) was the first Vauxhall to use curved side window glass, allowing greater internal width. It was also the last of the overhead valve Victor models and racked up 238,000 sales by the end of its run in late 1967 when the 'Coke bottle'-shaped FD replaced it.
The FD (1967-1972) was released at a time when the UK was undergoing a currency crisis as well as increasingly militant labour relations, resulting in rising prices and poorer quality. On paper, the new 1599cc and 1975cc overhead camshaft engine design (the Slant Four) was advanced, as was the suspension design of the car which was far less compromised than most previous British mass-produced efforts, featuring a live axle with trailing arms and coil springs instead of the traditional leaf springs, and a double wishbone front suspension assembly, but the FD's on-road performance and durability were less than its on paper promise in standard form. Indeendent tuner Blydenstein could effectively transform the overhead cam Victors to fulfill their advanced specifications.
The FD, however, departed from the traditional Victor family car bench front seat norm and could be ordered with comfortable contoured bucket seating front and rear. This was standard on the Victor 2000 (later 2000 SL with the facelift for 1970) and optional on the Victor 1600 (renamed Super with the 1970 facelift). Bucket seats were standard on the VX4/90 and Ventora models, with the latter having reclining backrests as standard from 1969. All bucket seat models dispensed with the column shift and adopted a four speed floor shift, with overdrive optional on the VX4/90 and Ventora.
Sales of the FD came in below that of the FC at 198,000 or so units produced over a slightly longer production run that ended in early 1972. The lower numbers reflected the effects of a long strike Vauxhall underwent in 1970, as well as the closing off of some export markets - the FD was the last Victor to be sold in Canada as either a Vauxhall or Envoy, and the last to be officially imported into New Zealand.
The last of the Victors was the FE (1972-1976) which was also known as the Transcontinental. It shared its floorpan with the Opel Rekord but retained a distinct bodyshell, its own suspension and rack and pinion steering as opposed to the Rekord's recirculating ball unit.
The FE Victor was the last Vauxhall to be designed independently of Opel. The engines were carried over from the FD range and slightly enlarged to 1759cc and 2279cc. For a short period, the straight six engine was used in the Ventora and 3300SL models, the latter effectively a Victor Estate with lesser trim than the luxury Ventora. The estates had a more sloping rear, similar to a hatchback, than the Rekord equivalent. The FE estate in fact had perfect 50/50 weight distribution.
1974 finally saw the introduction of a proper Ventora Estate, along with running changes for the rest of the range.
World energy crises, falling exports and an increasingly muddled image led to Vauxhall's decline from the early 1970s, such that sales of the FE slumped to 55,000 units before it was transformed to the VX series in early 1976.
The VX Series was a minor update (facelift) to the FE series. It is distinguished by revised grill and headlights, and improved interior trim. The VX 2300 GLS replaced the FE Ventora as the Vauxhall flagship.
The VX four-ninety was introduced to the FB series as a performance oriented version. During the FB series, the name changed slightly to VX 4/90 which continued, until the FE range. The final VX incarnation was badged VX490. The VX Four Ninety designation originally came from its engineering designation - Vauxhall eXperimental four cylinder engine of 90 in3 capacity. As well as performance increasing modifications, VX 4/90s also had a number of exterior and interior modifications to distinguish them from Victors.
The Ventora, was introduced to the FD series sold between 1968 until it was dropped from the FE series in 1976. This used the Victor bodyshell, but had the Bedford derived 3294cc straight six engine from the larger Cresta models. Again, the Ventora was distinguished from the Victor by improved trim levels
A unique version of the FE was the one-off 1974 Holden-Repco Ventora, nicknamed "Big Bertha", built to compete in the V8 class in the touring car championship. Driven by the legendary Gerry Marshall, this car was fitted with a massive race-tuned 5.7 L V8 Holden engine and bore little resemblance to the production car except in its overall appearance. However the design was ill-fated, and suffered a major accident after only a few races. It was considered too big and too heavy, and had serious handling problems, even in Marshall's capable hands. Eventually it was decided to build a new, much smaller car around the same engine and chassis (much shortened) and this car was given the sillhouette of the "droopsnoot" Firenza. Nicknamed "Baby Bertha", this car was very successful went on to dominate the sport until Vauxhall moved from racing into rallying in 1977.