How tHE NEw Vic­toR FB swappEd usa glitz FoR EuRo cHic

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Driven -

The Vaux­hall Vic­tor FB’s brief was sim­ple – to swipe sales from the Ford Con­sul and lat­terly Cortina MkI – but it swapped chrome, fins and Detroit-in­spired styling for a more mod­ern, Euro­pean look.

One of the things Vaux­hall worked par­tic­u­larly hard on with the new ar­rival in 1961 was clean­ing up the ‘rust bucket’ rep­u­ta­tion the F-Type had earned. It wasn’t un­known for Vic­tors to suf­fer from cor­ro­sion in the wings and sill pan­els af­ter just two years and Lu­ton de­signer David Jones and his team worked hard to elim­i­nate as many wa­ter traps as pos­si­ble on the FB. It was also the first Vaux­hall to use acrylic paint to ward off the tin worm’s ad­vances – a tech­nique GM was al­ready us­ing on its of­fer­ings in the US but still rel­a­tively new to Euro­pean mod­els.

GM’s man­age­ment pushed for the new Vic­tor to have a broader ap­peal in what was be­com­ing a very com­pet­i­tive cor­ner of the mar­ket and it was un­der this at­mos­phere that the glitzier US-in­spired cos­metic de­tails were ironed out. The FB’s development team in­cluded MG Mag­nette and Jowett Jupiter de­signer Ger­ald Palmer, who was par­tic­u­larly crit­i­cal of the showier de­tails of Vaux­hall’s and Ford’s fam­ily cars in the late 1950s. At one de­sign re­view in 1959 the team ex­per­i­mented with putting small fins and a more elab­o­rate grille on the front but the idea was quickly dropped.

The re­sult was a much more mod­ern look­ing car that matched the mood of the time – Ford went with an equally Euro­pean-in­spired look for its new Cortina a year af­ter the FB’s Oc­to­ber 1961 launch.

The pub­lic loved the new model’s style when it was un­veiled at the Earls Court Mo­tor Show, but the more ba­sic Vic­tors were over­shad­owed by Vaux­hall’s first foray into sport­ing mod­els since the 30/98 of the 1930s. The VX4/90 was os­ten­si­bly based on the Vic­tor but had a 71bhp twin car­bu­ret­tor en­gine ca­pa­ble of haul­ing it to 90mph. It had plenty of vis­ual flour­ishes to dis­tin­guish it on the out­side lane of the M1 too, in­clud­ing a side strip out­lined in chrome.

The press loved the FB’s im­prove­ments in com­fort, vis­i­bil­ity and re­fine­ment, with The Au­to­car de­scrib­ing it as ‘ap­pre­cia­bly bet­ter than its pre­de­ces­sor’ and The Mo­tor prais­ing its cruis­ing abil­ity, say­ing it was ‘fuss-free at any speed’.

Vaux­hall sold 328,000 FBs in three years but Ford man­aged to shift 933,000 Cortina MkIs in its 196266 pro­duc­tion run. Lu­ton’s ri­poste in 1964 was the stylish FC Vic­tor, which claimed to have ‘101 im­prove­ments’ over the FB.

The bat­tle for 1960s UK fam­ily car sales supremacy was on!

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