• VAUXHALL HP - FIRENZA SILVER BULLET PROTOTYPE
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The launch of the HP Firenza at the 1973 Motor Show had raised expectations of Vauxhall and was an impressive image builder for the Company and received rave reviews from the motoring press at the time. Vauxhall had patently unachievable plans to produce the car in the 1,000s with a target introductory price of £1995. The fuel crisis, the 3 day week and production problems surrounding suppliers along with build problems meant that when the car finally went on sale the following year the price had escalated to £2271 and the build quality of the original carefully crafted Luton made prototypes was not matched by the production versions from Ellesmere Port, with much of the issues surrounding the problematic fit and finish of the fibreglass nose cone. The high initial orders were unable to be fulfilled because the car ended up coming out of the factory in dribs and drabs at a rate of one or two a week and as a result potential sales were lost. The car was listed on Vauxhall Price Guides until about half way through the 1975 model year and then the car just disappeared. It was almost as if Vauxhall had lost patience with their biggest image builder for years and ended with a final official build count of only 204. 

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THE ORIGINAL SHORT LIVED HP FIRENZA COUPE OF WHICH ONLY 204 WERE BUILT OVER A PERIOD OF ABOUT 18 MONTHS

Before the premature demise of the HP Firenza Coupe Vauxhall had exhibited at the minute an estate version of the Firenza at the 1974 Motor Show called Sportshatch, this was “to gauge public reaction” as Vauxhall said. A rather bizarre statement in view of the fact that they were already unable to build the Coupe in any significant numbers at the time. The car attracted a lot of attention and to some looked better than the HP Coupe, however the display car was the only one was built.

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THE HP FIRENZA SPORTSHATCH WHICH WAS A LAST MINUTE ADDITION TO THE VAUXHALL STAND AT THE 1974 LONDON MOTOR SHOW, ONLY ONE WAS BUILT

The HP Firenza Sportshatch did give Vauxhall a solution as to how to use up the surplus nose cones and wheels after the HP Firenza had been dropped, and it shared the same name – Sportshatch. These were basically standard Magnum Estates with the HP nose cone and wheels fitted and then painted in a special paint (Extra Dark Wine at the time only used on the top of the range VX2300GLS) with special stripping and colour keyed bumpers and the Design Departments favourite tartan trim. The car looked superb so what did Vauxhall do? Well basically nothing! The car was never listed in any publicity and was not even sold directly to the public, instead select Vauxhall dealers were allocated them to register as “demonstration” vehicles (to demonstrate a car that officially didn’t exist!) and then sell on to the public. Even the exact number built is not 100% accurate and varies between 184 and 197, quite who in Vauxhall were making these decisions is unclear but one thing is for sure they did not have a clue what they were doing, it was another image building opportunity missed. The cars that remain are highly prized and very collectable. 

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THE 2300 SPORTSHATCH WHICH WAS A WAY OF USING SURPLUS NOSE CONES & WHEELS ONCE THE HP FIRENZA HAD CEASED PRODUCTION, LESS THAN 200 WERE MADE BUT NEVER ADVERTISED

So is that the whole story? Not quite, there was the Design Department Product Programme 2111. An unassuming title for one car that was the pinnacle of all the Droop Snoot variations that were ever built. This car was a “Wayne Cherry baby”, a personal project that only a Design Department chief would be able to pull off, it combined the HP Firenza Coupe & Sportshatch Estate concepts and took the ideas to a whole new level. The car was fitted with the HP Firenza 2279cc engine but was fitted with Bosch fuel injection which took the power output up to close to 150bhp, the clunky ZF 5 speed gearbox was replaced with the far better Getrag unit used in the later Chevette HS. Inside the car was lavishly trimmed with unique seats in a combination of black leather and tartan trim, red thick pile carpeting which included the luggage area and a huge glass fixed roof window, large head restraints and a unique centre console which housed the stereo radio cassette instead of just hanging under the dashboard as was the case with normal HC models. The 7 dial dash was standard but the dials used calibrations & pointers were crimson painted to co-ordinate with the black & red interior trim. The glove box also had a lid instead of the curious grab handle used on the standard HP models. Outside the car was even more dramatic, a unique bonnet used the normal HC bonnet but with the two air ducts at the rear levelled and split into 4 slots. On the driver’s side the bonnet was fitted with a specialist NACA air ducting vent for the oil cooler fitted to the engine. 

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THE ORIGINAL COLOUR SCHEME FOR SILVER BULLET INCLUDED A GRADUATED BAND OF COLOURS ON THE LOWER HALF OF THE BODY

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VIEWED FROM THE FRONT SILVER BULLET WAS AGGRESSIVE, IMPRESSIVE & VERY AERODYNAMIC

The droop Snoot was modified so the light windows were extended to allow for the fitment of no less than 6 Cibie oblong light units and an extended front spoiler which used a rubber skirt that went down to almost ground level. A specially made tailgate spoiler, unique door mirrors, side repeater flashers built into the special centre pillars and a discreet blue and red side stripe completed the stunning style of the car. The original paint scheme was primarily silver with banded layers on the lower half of the car but this was changed to all silver and the car was given its nickname “Silver Bullet”. The car had a top speed close to 130mph with acceleration to match. So often in interviews Wayne Cherry would quote the DRG - Down the Road Graphics - which was the visual impression of how a car looked coming towards you, Silver Bullet took this to the ultimate level possible with the HC body. The car was used as personal transport by Wayne Cherry eventually being replaced by another pet project – the Black Magic Chevette Concept.

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GNK31N SILVER BULLET IN ITS FINAL 2 TONE SILVER COLOUR SCHEME WAS USED AS WAYNE CHERRY'S PERSONAL TRANSPORT FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS

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THE INTERIOR FEATURED A MODIFIED DASHBOARD WITH THE REVISED 7 DIAL INSTRUMENTS, A UNIQUE CENTRE CONSOLE WHICH HOUSED THE RADIO CASSETTE, NOTE THE DIFFERENT GEARLEVER FOR THE GETRAG GEARBOX AND ALSO THE EVISED, LOWERED CLUTCH & BRAKE PEDALS

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THE REAR LUGGAGE COMPARTMENT WAS FULLY TRIMMED IN THE SAME STYLE AS THE REST OF THE INTERIOR

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A VAUXHALL PUBLICITY PICTURE OF SILVER BULLET & AN HP FIRENZA COUPE

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SILVER BULLET RESTORED WITH SINGLE TONE SILVER PAINTWORK

The Silver Bullet Concept was rescued from the roof of the Vauxhall Styling Department after it closed, along with Black Magic and a Droop Snoot Firenza prototype, after 18 months of work & negotiations  by Vauxhall employee Stuart Stringer. All three vehicles were in very poor condition and in effect ready to be scrapped. Silver Bullet had been hit by a fork lift on the rear quarter panel and Black Magic had a leaking battery stood on its roof and parts of the engine removed ! Once rescued by Stuart Stringer he kept and restored Black Magic but sold the Silver Bullet Concept to the Lindsay brothers who at the time were very prominent in the Droop Snoot Group, the prototype Firenza went to Kit Spackman (President and co-founder of the DSG) who still owns it. Silver Bullet is now owned by Dave Boon who also owns the Cavalier MK1 Silver Aero Concept

and was also in a poor condition when he purchased it, and he has spent substantial time & effort getting it back to the condition it is in today.

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THE CAR AS IT IS TODAY OWNED BY VAUXHALL ENTHUSIAST DAVID BOON