Vauxhall Grand­land X

John Simis­ter and Danny Hop­kins ex­am­ine the use of Vauxhall’s own clas­sics in the mod­ern man­u­fac­turer land­scape

Practical Classics (UK) - - CONTENTS - PHO­TOS VAUXHALL HER­ITAGE, DANNY HOP­KINS & JAMES WAL­SHE

Be­ing proud of your past is a very good mar­ket­ing tool for a car man­u­fac­turer. One way of show­ing this is to amass a col­lec­tion of ve­hi­cles, ideally in running con­di­tion and able to be used for PR pur­poses. Many man­u­fac­tur­ers do this and, as we shall see, it is a great way to get brands seen in places that they oth­er­wise would not. The news that the Vauxhall Her­itage col­lec­tion, now owned by PSA, is to be re­homed af­ter 25 years at its Lu­ton fac­tory base, makes a re­view timely.

In the UK, the high­est pro­file her­itage op­er­a­tion is cur­rently Jaguar Land Rover, whose clas­sic divi­sion not only has a fine fleet of sig­nif­i­cant old­sters but also now re­stores clas­sics for cus­tomers. Bent­ley has some fine vin­tage ma­chines, too. But big­ger in the num­bers of ac­tive clas­sics, and re­flect­ing their im­por­tance in the UK mar­ket, are the Bri­tish arms of Ford (read more on p84) and Vauxhall.

Based at their heart­land fac­to­ries at Da­gen­ham and Lu­ton re­spec­tively, both firms’ her­itage fleets go right back through his­tory and are reg­u­larly seen at shows, on his­toric car runs, at dealer events and in the hands of the mo­tor­ing press.

Vauxhall, in par­tic­u­lar, are masters at unit­ing past and present. For them, the warm glow of see­ing and driv­ing their clas­sics helps make the world feel good about the new cars that make the money. There is also a recog­ni­tion that clas­sic de­signs can still in­flu­ence con­tem­po­rary think­ing.

Her­itage at work

At its re­cent clas­sic driv­ing me­dia event at Bices­ter Her­itage, Vauxhall Her­itage Cen­tre (25 years old this year – so a clas­sic it­self!) brought not only a lot of old Vaux­halls from vet­eran, through Wyverns, Vic­tors and a Viva GT to a Lo­tus Carl­ton, but also UK man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Rory Har­vey and Vauxhall/opel chief de­signer Richard Shaw, nei­ther of whom had driven the clas­sics be­fore.

Also present, seen for the first time in the UK, was a pre-production Grand­land X. That’s the SUV based on Peu­geot 3008 un­der­pin­nings – a col­lab­o­ra­tion that pre-dated Vauxhall/opel’s re­cent ma­jor­ity ac­qui­si­tion by PSA Peu­geot-citroën, in­ci­den­tally. So, what did Richard make of the old Vaux­halls, shar­ing as they do many of the de­sign sig­nals of their Opel coun­ter­parts even be­fore the two brands ef­fec­tively be­came one, de­sign-wise? Would a clas­sic Vauxhall ever in­flu­ence a new one? ‘We tend to look for­ward rather than back,’ he said, ‘but when we get new de­sign­ers in we

al­ways take them through the clas­sic col­lec­tions [Opel has a good one too], so they can see the at­ten­tion to de­tail of the past de­signs and sense the pro­por­tions. We have to keep mov­ing for­ward but for me, to­day, the chance to see the cars ac­tu­ally mov­ing is in­spir­ing.’

Es­sen­tially, the Vauxhall Her­itage fleet is as much about mar­ket­ing as about keep­ing hold of his­tory and the com­pany is keenly aware of its her­itage cars’ value and use­ful­ness – enough to jus­tify the stor­age and main­te­nance costs in­volved in keep­ing them running sweetly. The small team in Lu­ton also reg­u­larly ren­o­vate and re­store them in-house, the 50th an­niver­sary of the HB Viva GT be­ing cel­e­brated re­cently by the com­ple­tion of the re­cent project, with Andy and Terry in the Her­itage work­shop, once again per­form­ing mir­a­cles on a very tight bud­get. So clas­sics are in de­mand at Vauxhall as well as Ford and JLR, yes­ter­day fram­ing the cur­rent crop of mod­ern cars. Clas­sics work­ing for a liv­ing – do­ing a job.

Her­itage UK - the oth­ers

For­eign brands have sig­nif­i­cant her­itage col­lec­tions in the UK, too. The Ja­panese com­pa­nies are par­tic­u­larly strong in this: two original NSXS, an S2000 and sundry hum­bler fare at Honda. Mazda re­cently spent bud­get on ebay to cre­ate an en­vi­able her­itage fleet in­clud­ing a num­ber of MX-5S, sev­eral ro­tary-en­gine cars and an original Cosmo. An original Corona, an AE86 Corolla Twin-cam and var­i­ous oth­ers are present at Toy­ota. Suzuki have a fleet as do Mit­subishi. BMW GB has a pre-war 328, a 507, a 3.0 CSL Bat­mo­bile, a blis­ter­ing 2002 Turbo and more.

The Volk­swa­gen Group’s UK arm also has good form here. Its sil­ver Golf GTI MKI, re­stored by ap­pren­tices, has made many a me­dia ap­pear­ance over the years. There’s a MKII, too, plus a very late original Bee­tle and an early camper. Audi has a couple of Qu­at­tros, Seat an early Ibiza, Skoda a bevvy of rear-en­gined de­lights plus an original Oc­tavia and Feli­cia. Mercedes a fab­u­lous Gull­wing, an early W201 190E and an original A-class. Re­nault has a re­mark­able 27 cars in­clud­ing a 1900 C-type. And Peu­geot-citroën? Both have vast French col­lec­tions, but Peu­geot doesn’t re­ally have any­thing in the UK. Citroën UK still owns a Slough-built ID19. Then there’s Fiat, Lan­cia and – es­pe­cially – Alfa Romeo, which lack UK clas­sic fleets but are big in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tors in his­toric cel­e­bra­tions and mo­tor­sport events, as is Porsche.

Ev­ery age of Vauxhall. The whole story in one place… serv­ing the brand for over 100 years. Price­less.

Four great cars from Mazda’s Her­itage fleet… bought from ebay be­cause the com­pany knew it would be worth it.

BE­LOW: John’s pick of the fleetMy favourite? That will be the Vauxhall 30/98. It’s a stunner. And this 1926-built Bent­ley ri­val hap­pens to be one of Vauxhall Her­itage’s busiest cars, too.

RIGHT: Good­wood Taxis Breaking into the Revival. The PC team and a fleet of Vauxhall Her­itage ve­hi­cles used as taxis.

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