"Way back in 1987, the very apex of exhibitionist, greed-is-good, me first Capitalism I bought a car. It should have been a Golf or Peugeot 205 GTi or even a BMW 3 Series shouldn’t it? It was actually a tatty 1975 Vauxhall Viva "
Viva la Vauxhall Viva
Did your family own a Viva?
The Vauxhall Viva is one of the earliest cars I can remember.
I recall sitting snot-nosed in my neighbour’s HC Viva on the way to nursery. I was also slightly jealous because the saloon looked cooler than my dad’s Hillman Avenger.
But what are these two letters ‘H and ‘C’ I’ve just typed? Well, unless you’re an automotive anorak or a Viva fan, you may not know. A trio of models was made from 1963 to 1979 – the HA, HB and the HC series. During this time, over 1.5 million units were sold.
So, let’s take a brief journey through the timeline.
HA Viva (1963-1966)
The HA was the pioneering edition and signified Vauxhall’s move into the small car market following World War II. Propelled by a 1,057cc four-cylinder powerplant with rear-wheel-drive, the two-door saloon was similar to sibling firm Opel’s Kadett. The model sold well due to its affordability, effortless steering, slick gearbox and nippy performance. My mum reckoned it was a cracker of a car. It was her first ever motor, mind – but she still harks back to it to this day. Anyway, by 1966 the HA boasted over 306,000 sales, so it was a good time to up the ante.
HB Viva (1966-1970)
The next incarnation of the car was the HB. It was bigger than the HA, and housed a stronger 1,159cc engine. Enhanced suspension set the Vauxhall apart from the preceding model, too. Indeed, the design set a new benchmark in handling for the small family car segment. The line-up soon encompassed a four-door saloon, an estate, an automatic and the option of 1,600ccs. Additionally, the Viva sprouted a sporting edge. First came the tuned-up 1,159cc ’90’, then the ‘Brabham’, with an additional 9bhp. But the star was the two-door GT into which was jammed a 2.0-litre powerplant from the larger Vauxhall Victor. It was a lively 104bhp performer with 0-60mph arriving in 11.9sec, and a top speed of 100mph. 556,752 HBs were produced until 1970, paving the way for the HC – Vauxhall’s Viva for the Seventies.
HC Viva (1970-79)
With a lengthier wheelbase, the HC was more spacious. As well as 1.2 and 1.6-litre engines, Vauxhall squeezed in 1.8-litre and 2.3-litre powerhouses.
A bamboozling assortment of models followed: two and four-door saloon Vivas, two-door coupés; Firenza coupés; a two-door estate and the opulent Magnum. Altogether, nearly 700,000 HC Vivas were built, but production ended in 1979 when the change from rear-wheel-driven saloons to front-wheel-driven hatchbacks started becoming popular with the family car market.
New Vauxhall Viva
It had been long over for the Viva as we knew it, but the car made a comeback in 2015. My mum was excited, but she was the only person I knew that was. The new model brought back the iconic motor in name only. It’s a city car and Korean-built, so, not anything like the Viva we knew and loved.
One thing remains though; the Viva still aims to bring the Griffin-badged marque to the broadest audience via value for money and usability.
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