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1. BACKGROUND:

The HC was the last, and the largest, incarnation of the Viva series and the second Viva to use the Vauxhall 93000 platform first seen on the HB at the end of 1966. It also had the longest production run, from September 1970 to August 1979 and therefore not surprisingly the biggest seller of all three incarnations. Along with the FE Victor the HC Viva was also the last car designed under David Jones’ stewardship of Vauxhalls Styling Department. As originally planned the HC was designed to last until late 1974 when it would have been replaced by a larger HD which would have moved the car into the lower middle market and allow the upcoming T Car Chevette to effectively slot beneath the HD in the range. As we now know this did not happen, and for a multitude of reasons; the Canadian debacle, political & trade union influences, a deteriorating image, a lack of significant car generated profits (not vans & trucks) and the overall sales volume success meant Vauxhall was not in position to carry on as a standalone independent GM Division. As a result the HD was cancelled late in 1972 early 1973. The period from 1970 to 1973 were very dark days for Vauxhall and also for the UK in general.

2. DESIGN & ENGINEERING:

DESIGN: As was normal Vauxhall practice in the 1960s work began on the HC just after the HB launch in January 1967. The main design parameters were to increase interior room especially in the rear, to improve refinement & wind noise as well as improve the ride quality without detracting from the HB’s excellent road holding & handling. The last goal was to bring the styling up to date, this was a tough call as the HB was a styling sensation when launched in October 1966 and a giant leap over the rather drab Opel inspired Viva HA. There was, however, a fly in the ointment, the car needed to be saleable in Vauxhalls biggest export market – Canada where the car would be sold by Pontiac dealers. This not only influenced the exterior styling but also the interior which would need to meet upcoming Canadian safety regulations in crash worthiness, dashboard & seat design and not all of these necessarily meshed well with UK & European customer tastes. In terms of styling the HC was not the quantum leap like the HB was over the HA, it was tasteful but certainly wasn’t a trend setter and started out with a transatlantic flavour which did at least fit in well with Pontiac dealers in Canada – at least until the problems started!

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MECHANICAL: The HC weighed in at an average of 4% more than the equivalent HB model and therefore an increase in engine power was required to maintain the same performance, this was only partially successful. At launch in September 1970 Vauxhall claimed that an increase in engine capacity was rejected due to the high tooling costs, in fact the 1256cc engine was all ready for production but Vauxhall simply did not have the finance to make the changes, and it would be over a year before it finally did get introduced.

On the Basic & Deluxe versions the standard 1159cc engine carried over from the HB produced 50bhp (net) @ 5300rpm compared to 47bhp @ 5200rpm, a 6% increase. With the “90” engine, optional on Deluxe & standard on SL models, power went from 59.5bhp (net) @ 5300rpm to 61bhp @ 5200 rpm, only a 2.2% increase. The increases in output were obtained by simply enlarging the inlet valve diameter by 7%, from 1.32ins to 1.36ins on both and the standard unit was fitted with the “90” exhaust manifold. The optional 1600 OHC engine, available on SL models only, was de-rated in the last of the HB Vivas by fitting a lower lift camshaft in an effort to try and improve the uncompetitive fuel consumption but in the HC the benefit was negated by the increase in weight so the performance & fuel consumption was worse than the models they replaced. The 1600 produced 70bhp @ 5100rpm and 83.5lb.ft of torque @ 2200rpm, the flat torque curve did mean that the 1600 could pull away in top from a walking pace – possibly its only advantage over the “90” engine. The OHC engine also featured improved oil sealing, which had always been a weak point.

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The transmission options were carried straight over from the HB, 4 speed manual as standard with the larger Victor gearbox fitted to the 1600, but the GM Strasbourg 3 speed was now optional only with the “90” or 1600 models, the rear axle ratio was standardised across the range at 4.125:1 to compensate for the larger 13ins wheels, a 3.9:1 was an option in certain export markets. In an effort to improve refinement Vauxhall engineers cured the HB’s vibration problem due to a lack of concentricity and face run out in the flange to which the rear UJ was bolted, this was solved by a shortened & strengthened pinion shaft and a longer length propshaft. A slightly larger 6.5ins diameter clutch was fitted to the 1159cc models while the 1600 retained the 8ins as before.

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SUSPENSION & BRAKES: An area of concern during the HC’s development was to greatly improve the ride quality which was an area of consistent criticism of the HB and was largely down to the rear axle’s tendency to hop and bounce on uneven surfaces and compounded by the interior seat design. This was improved with revised damper settings with a stiffening of the rebound pressure and a completely new design of seating with a new type of springing and padding. New more resistant rubber bushings on the frontsuspension arms also improved road noise.

The HC was also the first Vauxhall to feature negative offset geometry steering which meant some control was retained in the event of a front tyre blow out.The braking system followed advances by other GM divisions and featured a split hydraulic system so that if a leak developed it would not result in a total loss of braking. Standard & Deluxe models used 8ins diameter drum brakes front & rear, servo assisted 8.5ins diameter front disc brakes were optional and standard on SL, “90” & 1600 models.

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BODY STRUCTURE & SAFETY: Although the HC gave the impression of being much larger than the HB in fact it was only 1ins longer and 1.7ins wider, this impression of size was emphasized by a much larger glass area than before greater side curvature. Despite the small increase in size the interior benefitted from 2.5ins extra front legroom, 2.5ins extra rear shoulder room & 2ins extra in the front along with a 16% increase in luggage capacity. The body was also made from thicker grade steel, as much as 28% thicker than some competitors, and was necessary for increased crash worthiness with specific crumple zones front & rear. The body’s torsional stiffness was also 20% better than the HB - which was already pretty good. Safety features built in included dual circuit brakes, collapsible steering column with safety steering wheel, standard front seat belts with strengthened anchorages along with fixing points included for fitting rear seat belts (standard fitment in Canada), breakaway interior rear view mirror, padded sun visors, collapsible front seat backs and no protruding interior objects that could cause personal harm in an accident which included a safety designed top windscreen header that helped to minimise head injury. Completely new anti-burst door locks were developed in conjunction with AC Delco which gave a 100% increase in longitudinal burst strength & a 50% increase in transverse burst strength and were required to meet Canadian regulations.

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HEATING & VENTILATION: The Viva HB used facia mounted air vents which relied on pressure pushing through the door seals for extraction, the HC featured larger “eyeball” style vents at each end of the dashboard and proper ventilation extraction through the louvres in the lower edge below the rear window or above on Estate models. In addition an air blending heater unit was fitted as standard on all models which gave far better temperature control than a water valve system and was combined with a quieter running 2 speed blower fan.These changes meant that more effective door seals could be fitted thereby reducing wind noise which was also aided by the deletion of front window quarter windows.

LAUNCH: The public & motoring press reaction was a mixed bag, it was seen as an effective re-body and mechanical upgrade of the HB rather than a completely new car. Nearly all the major components were carried over with only mild changes. The body exterior design was quite well received and incorporated a wrap around rear light design that had first been shown on the XVR design exercise from 1966. The interior was far less satisfactory and was not up to matching the competition at the time. The dashboard had obviously been designed to make LHD conversion as cheap as possible and the extensive foam moulding was specifically designed for the Canadian market where Pontiac dealers sold all versions of the car as the Firenza. The motoring press criticised the lack of power from the standard engine and also the subjective lack of performance from the 1600 which should have been much better. Also there was no replacement for the HB Viva GT, Vauxhall knew the Firenza was coming but didn’t realise what a flop that would be. There were also complaints about the lack of standard equipment even compared to home grown competition let alone Japanese imports which were really starting to make inroads into the UK market. Despite this initial sales were quite good, Vauxhall made great play of the Millbrook connection which was a little tenuous as most of the major development work was done at Chaul End before Millbrook became operational. The launch slogan – “The car we beat around to beat any car around” – sounded punchy but in reality the early HC reliability was highly unsatisfactory, particularly in Canada which is dealt with in the Firenza section of the site

3. PRESS RELEASES:

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4. PRESS PICTURES:

1971MY:

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1972MY:

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1973MY:

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1974MY:

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1975MY:

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1976MY:

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1977MY:

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1978MY:

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5. SPECIFICATIONS:

1971MY

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1972 MY

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1972.5 MY

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1973 MY

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1974 MY

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1975 MY

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1976 MY

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1977 MY

1978 MY

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6. VIN NUMBERS, MODEL IDENTIFICATIONS & TRIM / PAINT CODES

1973 TO 1976

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1976 ONWARDS

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7. THE 1,000,000th VIVA CELEBRATIONS:

The 1,000,000 Viva rolled off the production line at Luton on 20 July 1971, a few seconds later the 1,000,001th was made at Ellesmere Port. It had taken nearly 8 years to get there but the HC was initially the fastest selling Viva model, 100,000 in seven and half months although this sales rate tailed off soon after. The HC was actually the best selling Viva of all but it took nearly eight years to do it, the HB sold the most in the shortest time period. These pictures were from the Vauxhall Motorist to commemorate the anniversary.

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8. VIVA SILVER SPORT CONCEPT

Vauxhalls design deprtment had been playing around with styling variations on hatchbacks as long ago as the HB Viva. Several hatchback HB prototypes were built and evaluated and were internally known as “Kamback” and “Sportshatch”, nothing much came of these ideas until the T Car Chevette project got under way in 1971.

With the advent of the HC Viva 2300, also available with a fastback 3 door estate body, the idea of a sporting estate in the mould of the Reliant Scimitar GTE (Grand Tourismo Estate) found favour again in the Luton Design centre. In any event the HC Estate had deliberately sacrificed absolute practicality as an estate in favour of a much nicer looking, sporty fastback rear end. There were several prototype HC Estates made with additions such as spoilers and uprated engines and wheels.

One of these concepts, the Silver Sport, was shown on the Vauxhall stand at the London Motor Show in 1971. The basis for the concept was an HC Viva SL Estate painted in Sebring Silver Starmist but with a triple layer of lacquer, each coat was applied by hand and then hand finished. The side had a stripe running the full length of the car and it is easy to see where the idea for the Sport SL Firenza came from. Custom made colour coded door mirrors were fitted both sides and the door surrounds and centre pillar were painted black and the normal chrome sill moulding was also colour coded with the body. The final exterior touch was a custom silver (yes silver) vinyl roof covering

The car sat on a set of 13inch Rostyle wheels shod with 165/70x13 tyres. Under the bonnet was a standard 2 litre ohc from the Firenza – remember the largest Viva HC engine at the time was the 1600. The standard Viva grille was enhanced by halogen headlights and under bumper spot lights.

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However, it was the interior that held the biggest surprise. All seats and panel furnishings, including the headlining, were made from silver leather (yes really) complemented by thick fur carpeting – in silver (how do you do that?) and the moulded dashboard was also in silver (of course) but here was where the real surprise lay, for the first time the 7 dial dashboard with the centre warning lights where the ashtray would normally go was shown in public. The centre console (in silver) was also close to what would be seen in production with the auxiliary switches mounted in front of the gear lever. Possibly the only let down was the standard Viva steering wheel which looked distinctly out of place.

It is unknown what happened to the car or if it ever went on the road but it does serve to underline the fascination Vauxhalls Design Department had at the time for sporty looking estate / hatch type vehicles. The other question is why it took so long for Vauxhall to use the 7 dial dashboard. The picture from inside the Interior Design section was taken on 1968 and as can clearly be seen there is a mock-up of the dash.

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