vaux­hall CHEVETTE

Key mod­i­fi­ca­tions can cre­ate a gen­uine wolf in sheep’s cloth­ing out of the humble Chevette

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Living With Classics - Richard Dredge

Un­usu­ally for a main­stream fam­ily car, the Chevette line-up was al­ways very sim­ple. Ini­tially there was just a three-door hatch­back with a 1256cc four-pot en­gine; later there were two- and four-door sa­loons as well as a three-door es­tate and a van – the Che­vanne. The big news came in 1978, with the ar­rival of the 2.3-litre HS. Vaux­hall was keen to pro­mote the Chevette as a young per­son’s car, and its strat­egy was to take on the might of Ford by get­ting in­volved in mo­tor­sport; it boosted the baby Vaux­hall’s cred­i­bil­ity, but with just 400 cars built was only ever a halo-ef­fect de­riv­a­tive. Things got even fruitier in 1979 when 32 HSs were de­vel­oped fur­ther to cre­ate the HSR, com­plete with four-link rear sus­pen­sion and up to 200bhp.

Nowa­days, most Chevettes have been mod­i­fied in some way. In terms of mak­ing the stan­dard car more re­li­able, a Tal­bot Lo­tus Sun­beam al­ter­na­tor copes bet­ter with en­gine bay heat; the high tem­per­a­tures also take their toll on the starter mo­tor, so fit­ting a high-torque unit is a good move; a Bed­ford CF am­bu­lance starter mo­tor was the done thing in pe­riod, but you’ll struggle to find one now. Mal­colm Davis, chair­man of the Chevette Own­ers’ Group, says: ‘The most com­mon power up­grade is to fit the 2.0XE en­gine as used in var­i­ous As­tras, Cal­i­bras and Cava­liers. This pro­vides a re­li­able 150bhp and is a straight­for­ward swap us­ing ei­ther a Manta five-speed gear­box or an adapter plate and Ford Type 9 gear­box. With the Manta gear­box, a mod­i­fied Manta propshaft and rear axle can be used. The Manta A axle is rare but ideal be­cause it’s the same width as the Chevette’s. The Manta B axle is 30mm wider and may re­quire wider rear ‘arches.

The 115bhp/130bh­pVaux­hall 2.0-litre eight-valve is also a com­mon swap. The Ford 1600 used to be a re­ally easy power up­grade but now the parts are harder to find.’

EX­HAUsT £400+ The original cast-iron man­i­fold is ef­fi­cient, but the seal­ing rings came from a Bed­ford TK truck and fail quickly. Get a stain­less steel tubu­lar man­i­fold made – PD Gough pro­duces one that’s a straight swap for the original. PrOPsHAFT £60 The propshaft is un­usual in that the front sec­tion in­cor­po­rates a torque tube mounted to the floor­pan. If the bolts snap, the floor­pan can be ripped out. The an­swer is to fit bolts with a much higher ten­sile strength. ELECTriCs £25+ The Chevette’s elec­tri­cal sys­tem in­cor­po­rates just four fuses and no re­lays. As a re­sult the wiring and light switch burn out. Fit­ting some ex­tra fuses (ei­ther in-line or in an ex­tra fuse­box) and re­lays is cheap and easy. iG­ni­TiOn £150 The Delco dis­trib­u­tor is poorly made; shaft wear leads to an in­con­sis­tent dwell an­gle. Fit a Bosch dis­trib­u­tor if you can find one, oth­er­wise con­vert­ing to a Lu­me­ni­tion elec­tronic ig­ni­tion sys­tem is the next best bet. BrAKEs £400 The Chevette HS’s brakes – front discs and rear drums – work OK but lack feel. Wil­wood calipers with Carl­ton discs is a pop­u­lar con­ver­sion. A VW/Peu­geot rear disc con­ver­sion is pos­si­ble but isn’t a straight­for­ward swap. CLUTCH £250 The right man­i­fold and carbs pro­duce an ex­tra 60bhp, which gives the clutch a hard time. Fit an uprated clutch kit with a Firenza 2.3 cover and spe­cial cen­tre plate; the key is to use some­thing with stronger springs. The stan­dard twin Stromberg 175 car­bu­ret­tors strangle the en­gine so you’re bet­ter off with a pair of Dell’Orto 48s. They make a mas­sive dif­fer­ence but you need the cor­rect man­i­fold to make it all work prop­erly. CArBs £600+

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