A Busy Week-End With The New Vauxhall "Velox"
A Refined, Comfortable Car, Effortless to Drive and Offering American-Car Acceleration to High Speeds from 2 1/4 litres, with Commendable Economy
A week-end when we had to "cover” different events in diverse directions, the shipment of the Glasgow contingent of the Monte Carlo Rally included, coincided, fortunately for us, with the arrival for test of the new Vauxhall "Velox" saloon. Throughout 485 varied miles this car provided restful, rapid transport, and contrived to average approx. 25 m.p.g. throughout, calling for no oil and only a little water for the pressurised cooling system.
These new Vauxhalls, of which the "Velox" is the six-cylinder 18-h.p., 2 1/4-litre version, have aroused considerable controversy since their appearance at Earls Court. Granted they are not entirely the enthusiasts' cup-of-tea, being softly sprung, with somewhat vague steering, and styled in the modern manner, the fact is that they fill the bill presented to present-day manufacturer by a very large proportion of their potential customers. That is to say, these cars are simple to drive, refined and essentially comfortable, and capable of excellent average speeds. From our point of view the "Velox" is interesting because on 2 1/4 litres it offers a direct challenge, in respect of riding comfort, silent effortless running, and acceleration to quite high speeds, to the far larger American automobile.
Critics have pointed to these Vauxhalls as small for their engine size and as having but three forward speeds. Answering them, we can say that the "Velox" possesses ample width front and back, even with the rear arm-rest lowered, and generous headroom, and that it is easy to enter and leave, while the luggage accommodation is also generous, even if nothing would induce us to pack expensive suitcases on top of the unprotected spare wheel found within the unlined locker. So far as lack of a fourth speed is concerned, the fact is that the "Velox" is essentially a top-gear car. Its o.h.v. engine, peaking, curiously, at the same speed, .i.e., 3,300 r.p.m., as did that of the OE "30/98" Vauxhall, is one of the smoothest and most willing units we have encountered and is free from vibration periods and flat spots, and devoid of any tendency to "pink." Yet is has very real power, as you might expect if you have contemplated the manner in which a laden Bedford lorry goes about its task. Although the "Velox's" highest ratio is 4.125 to 1, it will run down to 5 m.p.h. in that gear and accelerate smoothly therefrom without a change-down. Indeed, from about 25 m.p.h. the pick-up changes into very real acceleration, which continues right up to some 70 to 75 m.p.h.
Such acceleration makes the Vauxhall a delight to drive, whether it is used from 20 to 40 m.p.h. for overtaking in traffic, or from 50 to 70 m.p.h. on the open road. Such acceleration is sufficient to make many so-called sports cars and American "land-cruisers" lag behind. Small wonder thal even your enthusiast finds himself staying in top from 10 m.p.h. corners and the average owner well content to get into second gear at about 10 m.p.h. after starting from rest, and to get out of second gear without exceeding 25 m.p.h. Purely as an indication of the engine's ability, it is possible to start in top gear without "revving" unduly.
Obviously, a man in a hurry can really enjoy himself if he does use the gears, 25 m.p.h. coming up on the speedometer in bottom and 55 m.p.h. in second gear with no evident distress beyond some excitement within the interior-heater if its water-cock is "on." Moreover, this car has speed. No opportunity occurred to check it, but the speedometer goes so readily to 80 m.p.h. that we can well believe other testers who have written down the true maximum of this "Velox" as a genuine 75 m.p.h. Cruising at an indicated 70 m.p.h. is to drive naturally, and a short downhill stretch took the speedometer needle well beyond 90 m.p.h.
Not only on account of its one-gear characteristic is the new six-cylinder Vauxhall a really effortless car to drive. Its very comfortable bench-type leather seat adjusts, against a spring, after a sidelever is released, close up to a well-placed steering wheel — although to find three T-set (sprung) spokes in the aforementioned wheel seems a trifle odd. Clutch, brake and throttle pedals are well placed, though the last-named is below and somewhat remote from the brake pedal; all work lightly and effectively. The clutch is smooth, the Vauxhall-Lockheed brakes about the most powerful we have met for many a month, as well as being quite silent, progressive and free from fade, while the steering, again, is smooth and light. Visibility, too, is good, even if neither front wing is in view and if the screen pillars seem unduly thick with the seat fully forward.
With such pleasantly-functioning controls the Vauxhall goes silently and quickly through traffic, making the minimum of demand on its driver. The gear-lever, on the left of the steering column, is really well located and, apart from occasional difficulty in engaging a gear from rest, couldn't work more easily, for it goes firmly from one position to the next lightly and quickly, good synchromesh being an outstanding feature. It is spring-loaded to the upper, or bottom and reverse-gear, position and has no catch for reverse. The gears are almost inaudible and the car runs really smoothly on the over-run. The right-hand trigger hand-brake holds well but is set rather too far forward under the facia.
The steering wheel asks just over 2 1/2 turns lock-to-lock of a generous lock, transmits practically no return motion and the column is absolutely rigid. It is generally accurate steering, although cross-winds tend to make the car wander. The sensation is of gearing a trifle low for speed work, possibly because the castor-action is a thought lethargic about bringing the wheel right back to the straight-ahead position.
The suspension, torsion-bar Dubonnet independent at the front, conventional 1/2-elliptic at the back, hydraulically-damped, is essentially soft, ironing out bad roads so that only a slight tremor along the car, a few minor rattles and the patter of the tyres indicates a road surface which most cars dislike at 20 m.p.h. as the "Velox" sweeps on at nearly 50 m.p.h. Naturally, the nose dips under heavy braking and the car rolls when cornered, but the tyres seldom protest and some cars go much more berserk when violently deflected from straight-ahead than this Vauxhall does.
Looking at the "Velox" generally, before we delve into detail, it can be said that it is unquestionably a brisk car, able to cover long distances at high average speeds without fatiguing its occupants. Moreover, it offers that silky smoothness, silence and comfort once the prerogative of cars in the four-figure price bracket — yet this "Velox" costs only £430, or £550 3s. 11d, when the Government has had its purchase-tax. Actually, equipped as the test-car was, the total price is £586 18s. 8d. The wheelbase is but just over 8 ft., resulting in a significantly low kerb weight, and it is probable that the compact appearance of the car has resulted in the erroneous impression that it is cramped within. Vauxhalls have obviously used the time-honoured formula of "adding more lightness" to achieve excellent performance rivalling that offered by American cars, and for the refinement incorporated at a basic price of only £430 further praise must be bestowed elsewhere.
After which, let us confess that from the viewpoint of the enthusiast the car's handling qualities leave something to be desired, for the steering has a vague sponginess not unfamiliar in modern cars, roll occurs under even moderately brisk cornering, and so powerful are the brakes that care must be used in effecting a crash-stop on wet roads, if sideslips quite as entertaining, if not so prolonged, as those of our valued contributor "Baladeur" are to be avoided. The tendency is towards oversteer, but those familiar with the earlier i.f.s. Vauxhalls will be able to take the "Velox" round corners quite rapidly if not altogether tidily. The enthusiast, indeed, must remember that in a car possessing such excellent acceleration a driver can afford to be less vigorous round bends and still achieve good A-to-B speeds, and that this is how a large proportion of the world's car buyers are minded. That the Vauxhall is so successful a challenge to the multi-litred automobiles of the U.S.A. offers us any excuse needed for including a test report on it in our pages.
To run briefly over the detail-work, the exceptional silence of the car is marred somewhat by the hum of the very effective interior-heater, which is located in the front compartment instead of under the bonnet. A few minor rattles intrude over rough roads and some wind noise is provoked at speed, otherwise this car is well suited to radio listening-in, the set provided being able to pull in a wide variety of stations and having good tone, but being rather prone to interference from power cables, trees and suchlike.
The test car had covered over 9,000 miles, yet the steering was all but devoid of lost movement. The rear axle, however, gave audible evidence of "play" when the clutch was engaged too briskly, one screw had come away from the interior lining of the body, and a little water came in round the dashboard, while mud tended to seep through the top rearward edges of the front wings and the control knobs of the radio to come off in one's hand. Those were the sole defects; everything else worked and kept working. The engine started easily from cold and pulled away with a minimum of choke, and the battery stood up to hours of parking with the lamps alight. This is noted, because there is no starting handle.
The pivoting half-windows and balanced sliding windows in the doors work well, those at the front being locked by small catches on the doors. Equipment includes front-door pockets, ash-tray for the rear-seat occupants, a lined cubbyhole with a non-lockable tin lid, "pulls" for the rear passengers, set rather far back, loose mats over the carpets, and a good roof-light with rather vague switch. But there is no rear blind, no clock and no trip-recorder on the speedometer. The front doors are hinged at the rear. A handle tucked away by the front passenger releases the catch of the alligator bonnet, which has the usual additional safety-catch and a good prop. The only dials are those of the 80 m.p.h. speedometer, ammeter and uncalibrated fuel gauge, but illuminated warnings indicate that the headlamps are not dipped (why?) or that oil is required.
Starter, choke, lamps and scuttle ventilator have separate pull-out control knobs, which have to be felt for at night as the rather too-bright panel lighting does not illuminate them. This lighting unfortunately comes on with the sidelamps and has to be endured while driving. The built-in headlamps provide good light, until dimmed by the foot dipper, when it becomes rather pathetic. The radio has a tone-knob tucked away beneath the facia, and the heater selector ("off," "de-ice," "boost ") cannot be seen with the seat fully forward, although its water-cock knob is accessible. Good anti-dazzle vizors and an excellent rear-view mirror are fitted and the self-parking suction screen wipers work admirably, controlled by a tiny lever on the screen sill. The screen, of course, does not open but has twin de-icing ducts to its interior. The roof, too, is fixed. The rather flimsy luggage locker lid is light to raise and has a good automatic prop. Beneath it are effective twin rear lamps and "stop" lamps, and the car has substantial bumpers. The self-cancelling direction indicators function well, operated from a large control ring on the steering wheel, in the centre of which is the push for the rather feeble horn. We noticed slight interior-reflection in the screen only in bright sunlight.
An ingenious quick-release, flush-fitting fuel filler is fitted in the near-side rear wing but the actual orifice is irritatingly small if a can has to be used. The radio aerial is telescopic. There is only a narrow shelf available for coats, etc., behind the rear seat. The clear floor space and wide doors are appreciated when entering and leaving the car. The ignition key serves also for the rear locker and door-lock.
These new Vauxhalls have a neat, compact appearance and impress as light, gaily-coloured carriages. They appear high and, indeed, the ground clearance is the useful one of 7 1/16 in., loaded. In our view, the frontal aspect is rendered unnecessarily cumbersome by a radiator grille resembling the cow-catcher of a Canadian Pacific locomotive, the difference being that a cow-catcher serves a useful purpose.
In conclusion, the new Vauxhall "Velox" is a grand car to drive on straight roads, its high maximum speed, its extremely rapid top-gear acceleration and effortless cruising up to 70 or more m.p.h. leaving a profound impression, while it is one of those rare cars which has no single adverse feature, representing extremely good value for money, judged as a whole. We refuse to be drawn into a comparison between the car tested and the "Velox" of an earlier era except to observe that in the latter we should certainly have been more aware of the elements than was the case at any time during the present test! — W. B.
The Vauxhall "Velox" Saloon
Engine: Six cylinders, 69.5 by 100 mm. (2,275 c.c.), R.A.C. h.p. 17.96; 54 3/4 b.h.p. at 3,300 r.p.m. 6.75-to-1 compression ratio.
Gear ratios: 1st. 14.15 to 1: 2nd. 6.76 to 1; top, 4.125 to 1.
Tyres: Firestone 5.25 by 16 on steel disc wheels.
Steering ratio: 2 1/2 turns, lock to lock (ratio 15 1/4 to 1).
Fuel capacity: 10 gallons (range approx. 250 miles).
Wheelbase: 8 ft. 1 in.
Track: Front, 4 ft. 1 1/8 in.; rear, 4 ft. 1 3/8 in.
Overall dimensions: 13 ft. 8 5/8 in. by 5 ft. 5 in. by 5 ft. 2 in. Ground clearance, 7 1/16 in.
Makers: Vauxhall Motors Ltd., Luton, Bedfordshire.