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