The Vauxhall VX 4/90

A high-performance disc-braked family saloon. nearly 90 mph and very good acceleration from 1,508 cc.

There is visible evidence, by the large number of new Vauxhalls on the road, that the revised Victor has been very well received and is selling strongly. If this cleanly-styled, practical car from Luton is proving popular with family and business motorists, the twin-carburetter, disc-front-braked, high-compression version—the eagerly-awaited VX 4/90—is of equal interest to enthusiastic and discerning drivers.

Fortunately. I have been able to gain considerable experience of the new Vauxhalls. There was a preliminary canter in Wales while these promising cars were still on the secret-list, a full road test of a Vauxhall Victor estate car (Motor Sport, January 1962), a drive of over 1,100 miles in a Victor de luxe saloon in the Mobil Economy Run, and, more recently, nearly 700 varied miles in a VX 4/90.

There is no need to describe in detail the differences between the Victor and the VX 4/90, because I went into this in a special article in Motor Sport last December. Suffice it to say that the more powerful engine of the latter provides considerably enhanced performance compared to that of the Victor, and acceleration, indeed, that is superior to normal saloon cars of approximately 11/2-litres capacity, with the exception of the Fiat 1500. 

Allowing that a Victor saloon would be somewhat quicker (having an axle ratio of 3.9 instead of 4.13 to 1), the worth of the VX 4/90, expressed performance-wise, to fast drivers, is readily apparent. The VX 4/90 also has the 3.9-to-1 axle ratio, which is regarded as too high in some quarters—the gearbox ratios are such that bottom and 2nd are relatively low, 3rd and top rather too high, calling for much gear-changing and sluggish pick-up from low speeds if the gear-lever is neglected. It seems likely that the estate-car axle ratio may be adopted in conjunction with the 9.3-to-1 compression-ratio, twin,dd-Zenith, 711/2. (net) bhp VX engine, to better effect.

As it is, genuine maxima of 30; 50 and 73 mph are obtainable in the present indirect ratios, with a top speed of 88.mph. To match this speed there are the Lockheed servo-applied disc front brakes that function well (although there is some pedal movement to take up and therefore a sense of lag) and springs which are 35% stiffer at the back, 33% stiffer at the front, in conjunction with a Victor estate-car anti-roll bar, which kill roll but induce a good deal of rather tiring shake through the body/chassis shell and do not prevent the back axle from contributing to this shudder and trying to compete with the steering wheel over rough roads.

The controls are generally as on the Victor and are explained in the diagram. The gear-lever is a splendidly placed, short central floor lever that controls the all-synchromesh 4-speed gearbox to perfection—the action is just a shade sticky, otherwise it would be in the VW/Porsche category. Movement across the gate is small. The VX 4/90 has a sensible central handbrake lever and big, separate front seats upholstered in rather over-shiny plastic leather-cloth. These are very comfortable seats, once the occupants become accustomed to the shape of the high squabs, which fill in at the shoulders, and the somewhat short cushion length. Whether the imitation walnut trim of facia and window fillets, which is really metal, is acceptable or objectionable is a matter of taste.

The steering wheel carries a full horn-ring which was somewhat unpredictable in action, and the light steering takes 31/2-turns, lock-to-lock, plus-a little free play. It transmits vibration rather than kick-back and is good but not outstanding, with useful castor-return action. Forward visibility over the undistinguished wide bonnet is slightly obscured by the wiper blades.

The controls tend to a feeling of looseness, but not much came adrift—the knob of the trip-zero control came off in my hand but was easily replaced, the daylight lamps-flasher failed towards the end of the test, and some rattles came from below the facia. The screen-washers seemed more interested in cleansing passers-by than wetting the screen and on one journey neither the washers nor fierce cleaning provided clear vision, making a long night run round London’s North Circular Road miserable and somewhat hazardous—this was probably as much a product of diesel fumes, etc, as any inherent fault of the Vauxhall’s. The bonnet-release toggle, under the scuttle on the near-side, was stiff and the bonnet has to he propped open. The off-side wing mirror was not much help with rearward vision.

These minor complaints dealt with, it can be said that the VX 4/90 proved enjoyable to drive, being a sporting saloon with every expected family amenity. The boot is very large, with the spare wheel out of the way in the off-side well. There are sill internal door locks, swivelling anti-dazzle vizors, crash-padding above the facia, an ash-tray in the wide screen sill, a central roof lamp controlled from the lamps-knob (and having courtesy action), arm-rests on all doors, a central folding arm-rest in the wide back seat and a generous rear parcels-shelf.

As a safety measure the internal door handles move up to open the doors and the test-car had safety-belts for the front-seat occupants.

For stowage of miscellaneous objects there is a big cubby-hole with a non-lockable, rather ” tinny,” drop-lid, and a shelf before the front passenger’s knees, with supporting stay. In addition, each front door has a wide if shallow pocket. The driver’s feet rest on a rubber mat and the interior is nicely carpeted.

The window winders, set rather low, call for just over 11/2 turns, front, a shade over two, rear, to open the windows; there are openable front quarter-lights, fixed rear ones.

Even when driving the VX 4/90 hard oil pressure remains at 40-50 lb/sq in and water temperature at 19-deg F. Unlike that of the Victor I used for the Mobil Economy Run, the petrol gauge was virtually spot-on. The back doors have recessed ash-trays, the instruments are AC, the speedometer being calibrated in kph as well as mph, and reading to 110 mph, the tachometer reads to 6,000 rpm, with red marking from 5,500 rpm, to which the engine goes very easily, there are trip with decimal and total distance recorders, and the test-car had a Vauxhall push-button radio, Lucas Ranger and Lucas Fogranger spot-lamps, and was shod with Firestone tyres. The doors shut decisively, the self-propping boot lid less readily. The screen is Triplex zone-toughened .

On the road this Vauxhall VX 4/90 is a car which, although devoid of “character,” is a sensible, spacious saloon with a maximum speed of nearly 90 mph, and extremely good acceleration, which dispels the boredom of long journeys. Its high 3rd and top gears render it an excellent Motorway car and the handling is in keeping with the high performance. Roll is well controlled for this class of vehicle, oversteer only intrudes on really fast corners, and steering and road adhesion are entirely reassuring.

The worst feature is the too-lively suspension, which sends coats and small objects flying off the lipped under-facia shelf and seats, causes a great deal of shudder/judder of body and gear-lever over any but the smoothest roads, and is tiring rather than uncomfortable to the occupants. This is to be regretted, for this fast Vauxhall isn’t fussy, engine and gear noises being moderate, wind noise low.

A weekly contemporary has remarked that the 0-60 and ss times are good without being exceptional for a modern 1-litre saloon. I disagree, and commend the VX 4/90’s acceleration taken with the aid of our fifth-wheel-driven electric and published in the accompanying table, and you study them carefully. They show the ability of this car to move quickly, yet 100-octane petrol isn’t needed, on a long run I recorded a useful 27.6 mpg, the overall inclusive of town driving, being 26.48 mpg. About half-a-pint of oil was needed after nearly 687 miles.

To sum up, generally this Vauxhall VX 4/90 is a most attractive proposition. It is nicely styled, with no tail-fins and a neat rearlamp cluster of its own, it runs 3,000 miles between sump-draining and needs chassis grease to four nipples only after 12,000 miles (the service-book lives in a pocket on the inside of the scuttle, as a reminder), and is both fast, very accelerative, securely braked and economical. Its worst feature centres around too much shudder/judder but at the new price of £9273/4, inclusive of purchase tax, you will be well advised to order at once if a VX 4/90 is your sort of motor car.—WB.