New British Cars

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Introducing the Vauxhall Victor

Late in February a coachload of pressmen travelled to Woburn Park at the invitation of Vauxhall Motors Ltd., to try the then-hush-hush Victor and Victor Super. It had taken since 1953 to evolve this new Vauxhall, the design being the responsibility of Luton, with advice from the parent company in America; Maurice Olley, the roadholding expert, was not consulted.

Eleven of these new cars were placed at the disposal of the Press, to drive round the beautiful estate. The Victor had been described as “the most exciting motoring news for years,” but clearly the publicity boys had got at it, because in reality it is quite an ordinary 1,507-c.c. four-door four-seater saloon, with, however, some appealing features, and selling at a competitive price. The specification is normal, even mediocre, with four-cylinder o.h.v. engine, a gearbox with only three forward speeds and steering-column lever, a hydraulic (but manually-operated) clutch; i.f.s. by coil-springs and wishbones, with anti-roll bar, and a rigid (4.125-to-1) back axle on leaf-springs.

The Victor, outwardly and from the interior, resembles a scaled-down American car, its outstanding features being exceptional visibility through panoramic screen and back window and side windows with thin pillars, and enormous (10.47 cu. ft.) luggage space in the overhanging boot. A low roof-line (58 in.) is obtained by the use of small wheels shod with 5.60 by 13 Firestone tubeless tyres, and the almost-square engine gives power above the average — 52 or 55 b.h.p. at 4,200 r.p.m., depending on whether 6.8 or 7.8-to-1 compression-ratio is used. A Zenith 43VN carburetter provides a fuel-consumption “approaching 40 m.p.g.” and as the tank holds eight gallons the range is in the region of 300 miles. The Victor costs £728 17s. inclusive of p.t., and for the £30 extra that the Victor Super costs you get the unusual distinction of an exhaust-pipe outlet within the off-side rear-bumper porthole, more chrome, wider choice of colours, three-spoke spring steering wheel with horn-ring, doors-switch for the roof lamp, dual vizors, extra ashtray, ornaments on the front seats, and “Super” in white on the back doors so that the neighbours will know your’s is the expensive model. Both models have flutes along the body sides — vestigial reminder of the pre-Velox Velox. Heater, fog-lamps, clock, etc., are extras, however.

A brief trial showed the performance to be brisk for a car approaching a kerb-weight of one ton, although the three-speed box limits maximum speed in middle gear to a speedometer 50, or 55 m.p.h., depending on which compression-ratio is selected. Top speed is in the region of 75 m.p.h. with h.c. engine. The splendid all-round visibility is most enjoyable unless you prefer back-seat privacy and the shape of the doors renders entry and egress unusually easy. The gear change is amongst the best of its kind, rather reminiscent of Ford, with a slender lever and positive action, and even bottom gear is easily selected on the all-synchromesh box. The Victor has very flexible suspension and rolls considerably when cornered fast, but the car sticks to the road and the tendency is understeer until light roll-oversteer intrudes. The steering wheel is well back from the ornate dash; the steering is soggy, though light, and needs nearly four turns, lock-to-lock. It might be thought that the big screen and wrap-round back window, together with the thin side pillars, would result in a weak body structure, but when one of the cars went out of control during a brake test we had an impromptu demonstration that this is not the case — after hitting a fence beside the road the Victor rolled completely over and onto its wheels again, but the roof did not cave in and only one of the three occupants was slightly hurt. The luggage boot really does offer an immense capacity, in spite of the spare wheel being mounted vertically therein.

Vauxhall Motors Ltd. have built a new 1,500,000 sq. ft. factory in which they will concentrate passenger-car manufacture, and are confident the Victor will sell briskly in World markets. We had hoped to see a car with a rather more up-to-date specification but if in this we were disappointed, we were certainly not disappointed with Woburn Park, where the Duke of Bedford’s gracious home is surrounded by 3,000 acres of beautiful parkland in which herds of deer, bison, and rare birds roam and age-old trees, smooth green-sward and great lakes delight the eye. Here is an excellent objective for those on “basic”-bent in Bedfordshire; every visitor who pays the entrance fee has the satisfaction of knowing that he or she is helping to save this fine estate from our common-enemy, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. — W. B.

New-Styled Austin A50 Becomes The A55

Last month the Austin Motor Company announced the introduction of the A55 saloon, which is to replace the present A50. This new model is more powerful than its predecessor but still retains a 1½-litre power unit, now giving 51 b.h.p. on a compression-ratio of 8.3 to 1.

Principal advance in mechanical specification is the fitting as an optional extra of Manumatic transmission with overdrive, the former two-pedal control costing an additional £49. The price of the car without this transmission is £772 78s., which is unchanged from the previous model.

Slight styling alterations have been made to the rear end of the car to give larger luggage accommodation and at the same time improve the appearance by creating a lower look. The luggage boot is now truly enormous for what is still quite a small car and there are no obstructions, the spare wheel being stowed on a tray underneath and being lowered by use of the starting handle, and the tools are housed on a shelf at the forward end of the compartment. Visibility rearwards has been increased by the fitting of a larger rear window which curves round the rear quarters of the roof, eliminating any blind spots. New interior fittings have been incorporated and a safety-type dished steering wheel is now being fitted. Alterations to the interior trim are confined to washable headlining, improved seats giving more support and increased leg-room. Minor improvements include headlamp cowls, chrome flashes on the exterior of the body, restyled rear lamps and number-plate. The advantages of the Manumatic transmission as opposed to less expensive automatic transmissions are that it allows free choice of gears for the driver whereas the fully-automatic types sometimes change at inopportune moments or fail to take advantage of easier conditions. Clutch wear is also considerably reduced, engine revolutions being automatically adjusted before and after the gear change, so that no special techniques in driving are called for.

The A55 still retains the familiar name “Cambridge,” which was used on the pre-war 10-h.p. models and the 1954 A50 which superseded the popular “Devon” and “Dorset” saloons.

The 1955 car had a completely new body style of larger dimensions, giving greater interior space with many other technical advancements. In 1956 an A50 was first fitted with a Borg Warner overdrive unit, enabling the car to better 40 m.p.g. on an economy run. This unit provided semi-automatic control of the gearbox and was added to the A50 specification as an extra.

Comparisons of the A50 and the A55 power units show the later model to have 4 b.h.p. more with an increase of compression-ratio from 7.2 to 8.3 to 1. a full-flow oil filter as opposed to a by-pass type, higher rear-axle ratio and larger capacity battery to cope with the higher compression-ratio engine. — I. G.

The Jaguar 3.4-Litre Saloon

Another new model recently announced by a leading car manufacturer was the Jaguar 3.4-litre saloon. This car is basically the 2.4-litre chassis and body but is fitted with the larger 3½-litre power unit as fitted to the Mk. VII and XK series cars. With the 3.4-litre engine the car is said to have a maximum speed of over 120 m.p.h. It is expected that this model will be available on the home market shortly and it will be priced at £1,672, including tax. — I. G.

Cariboo Canadian Rally

The Second Annual Two-Day Cariboo Rally in Canada was won by P. Smith and H. Shap, driving a VW. Another VW was second, beating a Morris Isis, which was third. Retirements numbered seven cars, including an M.G. which ran its bearings and an Austin-Healey that holed its sump. A Landrover was fourth.