Sowerby spots rare Vauxhall Viva
I’m sure if you canvassed a hundred Canadian millennials, GenX’s or i-Gens, few would know what a Vauxhall or an Opel is.
Fewer would know where they are sold or, that for the past few decades, cars from the two brands were pretty well the same, save some badging, trim and option packages.
Vauxhall vehicles are sold in the U.K. and Opels are primarily sold in Europe and both companies were, until recently, owned by General Motors.
This past summer, GM announced it would sell off its British and European operations to France-based Groupe PSA, that’s Peugeot and Citroen. Neither Opel nor Vauxhall have turned a profit this century and time had come for GM to let them go for about $2.33 billion.
The deal was completed Nov. 1 and Groupe PSA has a plan that will boost sales and cut manufacturing costs for all its products.
Only time will tell what will happen and if we will ever see Opel, Vauxhall, Peugeot or Citroen vehicles in showrooms across Canada.
All four brands once sold in Canada but that was more than 30 years ago.
In the late 1950s and the 1960s, Vauxhall cars roamed the Canadian landscape as Viva, Velox and Victor models.
My grandfather owned a pink 1959 Vauxhall Velox, the luxury model with leather seats, a sixcylinder engine and a three-inthe-tree manual shifter.
Since he was deaf and the car had no tachometer, he tended to over-rev the engine when starting off. On hot summer evenings, I could hear him launching from the stop sign three blocks away. Here comes Gramps.
Of course I thought the pink Vauxhall was a lame eyesore even though my grandfather kept it spotlessly detailed.
The idea of getting a drive to school in a pink Vauxhall was a terror I lived with.
Mr. Tippett, my high school principal, drove a Peugeot 504 with a four-speed column shifter which was a statement in the era of flashy Detroit land yachts and muscle cars. It had reclining seats and rumour was even seat belts.
But GM, Ford and Chrysler were starting to build Falcons, Chevy IIs and Valliants and eventually chased Vauxhall and Peugeot out of Canada and back across the Atlantic.
In my final years at Mount Allison University in 1971 and ’72, twin Larry and I owned two Vauxhall products. The first, a beat-off 1961 Victor, was a rust bucket when Larry and I bought it from eccentric science teacher Ralph Whitely.
The ugly Victor was at the absolute bottom end of the cool spectrum, almost to the point where it was so bad it was good. Mr. Whitely had put rear leaf springs from a ’58 Ford on the faded gold skinny-tired heap which jacked the rear an extra foot.
The Vauxhall eventually turned out to be a campus hit as it degenerated through the fall and winter. By February, the rocker panels had all but disintegrated and a hole in the floor had grown to a point where college-gourmet grocery items like a box of Kraft dinner or a pack of Swift Premium Franks could drop onto the pavement below.
One frosty February morning, the mechanic at the local fuel station told me the Province of New Brunswick was introducing A recent rare sighting of a Vauxhall Viva in Halifax helped Garry relive his ownership, almost 50 years ago, of a Vauxhall Victor during his college days at Mount Allison University.
a safety inspection system and the Vauxhall needed one because the town cops had their eye on it. He knew that mechanically it was OK but in order to get a safety sticker, it would need rocker panels and a front bumper. A paint job wouldn’t hurt either.
I sacrificed the next weekend to work on the Vauxhall. The paint shop at the local Mercury Lincoln dealership donated the dregs of a half dozen cans of paint that, when mixed together, resulted in a light florescent green colour that looked like bad-tasting medicine.
Galvanized eaves troughs were pot-riveted into the place of rocker panels.
Duct tape was used to cover rust holes and then I hand-brushed the gooey green mixture onto it from the bottom up. There wasn’t enough for the roof so I painted it red primer while everything else but the glass, tires and lights got the green slime.
It was a red-roofed, two-toned
masterpiece with a 2x10-inch plank bolted to the front for a bumper.
That spring we sold it to a young farmer who turned it into a rudimentary farm tractor. A few months later we bought another Vauxhall Victor, a 1966 in pristine shape, but it wasn’t the campus hit Green Slime was.
These days Vauxhall sightings are rare in Canada. A few weeks ago though, I saw a Viva model on Kempt Road in Halifax. It was black and small with very skinny tires.
Vauxhall and Peugeot cars may eventually be back in Canada, but the sighting of the Viva brought a smile to my face as I relived slapping the green slime paint onto the Victor I owned almost a half century ago.
Viva la Vauxhall!