Fast new Hillman
The past couple of months have seen the introduction of new or revised models from all the Big Four in Britain, plus the Jensen Healey; while on the Continent, Fiat, Opel and Volkswagen have also introduced additions to their ranges. With all this activity we thought it worthwhile to re-cap on some of these models, while mention of others has been omitted due to lack of space and/or printing schedules
For instance, Chrysler (UK) announced several interesting changes to their range just before the end of last month. They held a two-tier press launch in which Motor Sport came out as rather second grade citizens, being treated to a lunch and drive in the Sussex countryside, while other, more favoured journals and papers were put up for the night, with their wives, at a rather more luxurious establishment. Such is life! This aside, Chrysler introduced a new hot Hillman Hunter which is bound to appeal to the motorist who wants a sporting saloon car. This latest Hunter is rather confusingly called by the meaningless symbols GLS (although it is faster than the GT) and could well fill the niche left by the Lotus Cortina. The new Hunter, which also has revised frontal treatment, is powered by the Holbay-developed 1,725-c.c. aluminium headed engine, previously only seen in the Sunbeam Rapier H120. The engine makes an impressive sight when the bonnet is lifted with its twin Webers and smart alloy rocker cover. It gives 93 b.h.p. (DIN), 110 b.h.p. gross, which coupled to the Rapier’s close-ratio box, gives it excellent performance and a top speed of fractionally over 100 m.p.h. One of the most attractive features of the car is its price for, at £1,261, it underprices all but the cheapest Cortina GT 4-door. Straight-line performance is certainly impressive but the car does give a somewhat taut ride and the handling is adequate rather than noteworthy. Nevertheless we commend Chrysler on this fastest ever Hillman.
Announced at the same time was the Avenger Estate which comes in either 1,250 or 1,500-c.c, form and will attract sales from those after a reasonably small station wagon at attractive prices between £986 and £1,087 depending on engine size and trim. Other Chrysler news is that both the Sunbeam Alpine and the Rapier have uprated engines, and other detail changes including a revised interior layout which is also shared by the Rapier H120. The Humber Sceptre also has an uprated engine, trim changes and also the fitting of the close-ratio gearbox, wider wheels and new fan.
Finally, Chrysler have also disclosed news of the hot Hillman Avenger to be known as the Tiger, named after the lamented sports cars of that name. The Tiger is not for general sale although a few may be available, and the car will possibly be made more easily obtainable if demand warrants it. The engine is the 1,498-c.c. unit as in the Avenger GT but with a modified cylinder head, twin Weber carburetters and special exhaust manifold. The suspension is lowered and stiffened, there are adjustable shock-absorbers at the rear and power-assisted brakes. The wheels are magnesium alloy, there is a “power” bulge in the bonnet and a gimmicky aerofoil on the boot lid, in addition to special seats, steering wheel and facia. Apparently there is a possibility of making all the parts available through the Chrysler competition centre so that drivers can uprate their own Avengers.
New wine in old bottle from BL
British Leyland’s two most recent offerings, the Triumph Dolomite and now the Austin, Morris and Wolseley 2200 range, are both exceptionally pleasant to drive. But both use totally out-dated body shells which are associated, in the minds of the masses, with cars from the mid-sixties. Particularly so the 2200, which is the brand new six-cylinder version of the faithful old 1800 range, first introduced in 1964. Sure enough such measures ensure maximum utilisation of incredibly costly dies and presses for body panels, but does it sell motor cars?
Perhaps, because of the old-fashioned and well-known body shell which houses the components of the 2200, one is surprised at how well the car performs on the road. Basically what British Leyland have done is to take the 1800 in its latest well-developed and reasonably snag-free form, and power it by a six-cylinder version of the Austin Maxi overhead camshaft engine. By all accounts the six-cylinder engine was designed at the same time as the Maxi “4” and has been in use for some time in Australia in the Austin Kimberley. The new unit gives 110 b.h.p. from 2,227 c.c. and has exactly the same bore and stroke as the original four-cylinder 1,500-c.c. Maxi engine. On the road we found that it proved an excellent power unit giving plenty of low-down torque and good acceleration and top speed, without being at all fussy.
Unlike the 1800, the six-cylinder version has an electric fan for the sealed-for-life front-mounted radiator. Transmission is taken through the same 1800, four-speed gearbox, with identical ratios which are changed through a larger 8 3/4 in. clutch by a new rod-operated, rather than cable, gear-shift. Larger brakes are also fitted, which help to bring the car down from its top speed of just over 100. m.p.h. The 2200, of course, retains all the assets of the 1800 including roominess, excellent handling and road-holding, from the front-wheel drive and hydrolastic suspension, and gains greatly from the increased power of the new engine. The car retails at just about £60 more than the old 1800S which is dropped. Badge engineering gives you the choice of Austin or Morris versions, while there is a more luxuriously appointed version called the Wolseley 6, complete with the traditional illuminated badge on the grille. We hope to try a 2200 over a greater mileage in the near future.
At the same time as British Leyland announced the 2200, they also told of various changes to the 1800 range which, apparently, sells on average at the rate of 40,000 a year. Mechanically the latest 1800 is unchanged save for a new rod-operated gear-shift. The interior has come in for something of a face lift, particularly the instruments, and there is a new grille and badges.
Presently lying in an unhappy fourth place in Britain’s big four motor manufacturers, Vauxhall are hoping that their new range of re-styled and engineered Victors will help a revival. The new cars have been grandiosely nick-named “the Transcontinentals” by General Motors marketing people, which might suggest that the previous Victors were hardly suitable for travelling across the Continent—for that matter they may well be right. Undoubtedly the new range of Victors—encompassing the Victor, VX4/90, and Ventora—is a considerable improvement on the previous one.
The styling, for a start, is definitely a change for the better and there is even a hint, in the bonnet, of those famous Vauxhall flutes. The cars are basically larger having a 3 in. wheelbase increase and more room for the rear passengers. But the car is considerably heavier than the old model, the VX4/90 tipping the scales at almost 200 lb. more than the previous model. The interior of the Victors is nothing particular to write home about, the cheaper models having rubber floor coverings.
Apart from the body shape, the other major change is to the cubic capacity of the four-cylinder engines. The 1,600-c.c. engine has been upped to 1,759 c.c., thanks to a new longer throw crankshaft and this gives 78 b.h.p. and powers the bottom of the range Victor De Luxe and an estate car version. The 1,975-c.c, engine, which could also be found In the Firenza, is now increased to 2,279 c.c., thanks to a bigger bore, and gives 101 b.h.p. (DIN). This powers the Victor SL and, in twin carburetter form, the VX4/90. For the Ventora, the 3.3-litre ageing straight-six design has been left alone.
On the suspension side it is largely the mixture as before with some subtle changes, including larger ball joints in the front suspension arid slight geometry changes to multi-link rear, as well as the increased wheelbase and track. It is an improvement over the previous model but one could not say that the Vauxhall would out-corner a BMW or, for that matter, its German cousin—the Opel Rekord in 1972 form. Vauxhall have put a lot of time and effort into the safety aspects of the car both primary (new anti-burst locks) and preventive (tandem brake master cylinders). Automatic versions are available, and are fitted with the excellent boxes built by GM in Strasbourg, on which we have previously commented.
Of the range, the VX4/90 or 2300 would probably appeal to Motor Sport readers rather than the other models but, basically, our opinion is that the cars do not break any new ground and are very much Vauxhalls. All models cost more than in their previous form.
Following the trend set by Ford, with their special slated window, orange Capris, Vauxhall have also announced a short-run special to be known as the Viva X14. In total 6,000 are being built, 1,000 with the new 1,800 c.c. engine and automatic transmission and the rest with the regular Viva 1,256-c.c. unit. The special equipment fitted to these cars includes Rostyle wheels, radial tyres, power-assisted brakes, heavy duty alternator and other “special” items the majority of which can be found on the cheapest Datsun (see Cherry report elsewhere). But the X14 conies in special metallic paint finishes, known as Golden Sunspot, Emerald Starmist and Sapphire Starmist complete with coachlines.
New Opel Commodore
Following closely on the announcement of the new Rekord, comes news of the revised versions of Opel’s big Commodore and Commodore GS, each available as either a four-door or a coupé. The new Commodore was another of the batch of new cars at the Geneva Show, but it will not be available in Britain until mid-May.
The Commodore continues to be powered by Opel’s overhead camshaft, six-cylinder, 2.5-litre unit which gives 115 b.h.p, in standard form and 130 b.h.p. (DIN) as fitted to the GS. The Commodore GS Coup is the fastest of the range having a top speed of 114 m.p.h. while others are a little slower.
The new body shapes fit in well with the trend established by the Ascona and Rekord and, at the same time, the suspension and steering have been improved. As was the case with the new Rekord, Opel engineers say the suspension geometry has been specially designed to suit radial tyres. Prices are not yet available.
• Two new Simcas. During April Chrysler France introduced two changes to their range—the Simca 1000 Special now has a 1,294-c.c. engine and the addition of the Simca Rallye I, which also has the 1,294-c.c. unit. The new engine, in the 1000 Special, replaces the earlier 1,118-c.c. version and gives 60 b.h.p. The car is available immediately, price £896. The Rallye I includes special seats, steering wheel, facia with a rev.-counter, sports wheels, black anti-glare bonnet and engine compartment stripes. All very racy and yours for £892.
• Three-door 127. A three-door version Of the Fiat 127 has just been put on the market in Italy and will he available in Britain later in the year when the price will be announced. The three-door 127 is virtually a little estate car, for the rear seats will fold forward to give plenty of luggage space. The mechanical specification remains unchanged as does the lively 903-c.c. engine.
• Ginetta move. The little Ginetta company, whose glassfibre machines continue to enjoy steady popularity, have recently moved to larger premises where they hope to go into full-scale production with the promising G21 while maintaining G15 production at the same level. The new address. is Ginetta Cars Ltd., Edgworth Road, Sudbury, Suffolk (Tel.: Sudbury 4455). As Ginetta handle all sales direct. this is the place to contact for any further information.
• Now available in Britain is the Lancia 2000 Sedan F.I. equipped as standard with Bosch fuel injection, five-speed gearbox, power steering and electrically operated Windows. The price is £2,398 — A. R. M.