Vauxhall Victor FD

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Vauxhall Victor FD

1967 - 1972
United Kingdom
4 cyl. SOHC
1599/1975 cc
83/104 bhp
3/4 spd. (+ overdrive) manual, 3 spd. auto
Top Speed:
Number Built:
2 star
In 1967 Vauxhall celebrated its Diamond Jubilee Year with the introduction of the new FD Victor. The range received much public acclaim for its styling, engines and safety features such as the energy-absorbing steering wheel.

In fact, The Times newspaper called it the “star” of the Motor Show and The Sunday Times voted it “British Car of the Year”. The FD Victor was the first British mainstream car to use a belt-driven OHC engine, and we believe also the first with a properly located live rear axle.

The FD also addressed the previous models shortcomings. Gone was the rather poor handling resulting from the severely compromised and inadequately engineered front wishbone suspension. Gone too were the unsupportive bench seats, column gearchange, umbrella handbrake and drum brakes.

Developed under the direction of chief engineer John Alden, the team were determined to give the new Victor as advanced a specification as possible. That said, when developing any car costs need to be taken into consideration, however with the development of the FD Victor each was considered in detail before any decision was made to reject it off hand.

During the development of the new model both front and rear wheel drive iterations were developed, as was testing of several different rear suspension configurations. With co-operation from the tire manufacturers, the designers decided on using a link and coil spring live rear axle which, apart from being cheaper to manufacture and more simplistic in design, helped reduce tire wear and lower noise levels.

As mentioned earlier, one of the big improvements for the FD Victor was the all new engine, an advanced overhead camshaft unit that had been developed stage by stage over 4 years. At release the engine developed a modest 52 bhp, however there were reserves for later development.

Development Of The New Engine

One of the requirements during development of the engine was that it should start in production with 50% more power than the existing Victor engine, but weigh no more. Rembering that the initial design started out in 1964, it is not suprising then that the engine was a four cylinder in-line design with a single overhead camshaft. Structural materials were entirely cast-iron, as the new "thin-wall" casting techniques were just beginning to be developed for production in the USA, and the weight savings by using alloy was not considered worthy of the extra cost involved.

Five main bearings were incorporated, and a cross-flow breathing system was a prerequisite. During development it was found that the secondary out-of-balance forces inherent in an in-line four cylinder engine were better absorbed when the engine was canted over at 45°. The very first prototype engine was up and running inside 6 months, it being 1725cc with a stroke bore ratio of 0.79. For the Victor 101 the 1595cc engine had a stroke bore ratio of 0.94 and the final new engine had 0.67 in 1599cc form, and 0.61 in 1975cc form.

The combustion chamgers were in the pistons of the first prototype engine, while a flat Heron-type head was used, the camshaft being driven by a chain. Once the engine entered the testing phase, develppment on how best to drive the camshaft went into full swing. The designers determined that the chain driven method would require careful attention at under 20,000 mile intervals to ensure they remained reasonably quiet, while the rubber-toothed belt type were then just beginning to become available. Nevertheless the rubber belts had their advantages, and so these quickly went into a testing phase. In the process they broke three test rigs, but not one belt. In fact, even after 2000 hours running at maximum speed there was only a 0.007 in. of permanent set.

So it came to be that the second test engine used a toothed belt (made from glass fibres as the tensile medium and neoprene rubber as a covering, in which teeth are moulded on the internal face and capped with nylon for long life) and had the stroke-bore ratio lowered to 0.75. By this time exhause emissions had become an important consideration and work on sources of unburnt hydrocarbons cause the Heron head to be discarded in favour of a classical hemispherical shape in the cylinder head.

The third development engine had flat-topped pistons and a combustion chamber as near a perfect segment of a sphere as could be arranged, with the large diameter in-line valve heads carving off two flats. It was during work on emissions that precise control of combustion chamger volumes and spark timing became necessary, and an extremely rigid, wide-based distributor mounting was incorporated to prevent timing variations from shaft flexing and waggle.

Vauxhall Victor 2000 Engine

Making The Engine Smaller and Quieter

The block was cast in high-grade chromidium iron with the crankcase split on the centreline of the crank. Stiff webs supported the five main bearing housings, which were fitted with white metal shells on the 1600 and heavy-duty copper-lead on the 2000. Special attention was paid to the bore finish to make it fully compatible with the type of piston rings, and the cylinder walls were honed to a carefully controlled pattern. At the rear of the block the clutch housing was cone shaped, and heavily stiffened inside with webs to reduce unwanted vibration.

On the 2000 entgine a mounting for the 3.5 in. diameter pre-engaged starter was bolted to an adaptor below the crank centre line. On the right hand side at the front of the block a very stiff integral support formed a rigid platform for the distributor and a housing for the oil pump assembly. The same crankshaft was used on both versions of the engine, the bore size being enlarged by 9.5mm in the bigger unit. The crank was cast from spheroidal graphite iron and dynamically balanced. There was a generous overlap of the big end and main bearing journals for extra rigidity; counterweights were arranged on a three-plane scheme.

Connecting rods were specially developed from steel forgings with normal H section and a horizontal split at the big end, secured by set bolts. Gudgeon pins were sweated into the litle ends by induction heating. There was provision for an oil jet to squirt from a small hole on the shoulders of each big end each time it passed the mail oil gallery in the crank hournal to provide lubrication for teh little end and cylinder walls.

The pistons were made from diecast aluminum with solid skirts and three rings all above the gudgeon pin. The upper two compression rings were made of cast iron, the top one being inlaid with molybdenum and the lower one stepped internally. The oil control ring belowis of three piece construction, with a thin rail on eash side of a spring spacer. The pistons have flat crowns with a slight nick to provide clearance should the valve timing go wrong for some unlikely reason. The cylinder head too was made of cast iron, the valves arranged in-line at an angle of 6 deg. to the cylinder centre line.

The hemispherical combusion chambers were fully machined to give a smooth finish and to equalize their volumes. The valves were arranged alternately to give an even temperature distribution and they were as large as the combustion chamber allowed. The hemispherical shape was machined away to felieve valve masking on the outer edge at each side and the spark plug was positioned as near the centre of the chamber as possible.

The inlet valves were one-piece Silchromel forgings, and the exhaust valves had austenitic steel alloy heads with a hardened Stellite insert for the seats, and carbon steel stens hardened at the tip. Double valve springs had normal single-groove cotters for their caps, the seat agnle being 45 deg. and the valve guides being machined directly into the head.

Suspension and Brakes

The FD Victor used double wishbone coil spring front suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and a multi-link location for the live rear axle. At the rear, five inclined links wer used in the form of parallel trailing arms and a Panhard rod. Coil springs acted on the lower links at each side and the dampers were mounted vertically behind the axle. In doing so, the engineers made sure that each function had been kept entirely seperate, Panhard rod for lateral location, springs purely as a suspension medium, trailing arms for correct geometric control and prevention of wind-up and dampers only for energy absorption.

The front track was 3 inches wider than the Victor 101's, and the rear track almost 1.5 inches wider. Roll heights front and rear wer raised approximately 2.5 inches to reduce the rolling moment of the centre of gravity about the roll axis, which cut body lean on corners by 20%. For the standard 1600 5.60 x 13 in. tires were fitted in 4½ J rims, while the 2000 had 6.2 x 13 inch tires fitted to the same wheels - which also featured safety rims. 44.

Calculating the optimal front/rear brake ratio was done using Vauxhalls analogue computer, which determined the optimal balance to be 70:30 as compared to the previous 65:35. Drum brakes all round were standard fare on the 1600, although front disc brakes were available as an option. The 2000 had the front discs as standard.

The FD Victor's Body and Styling

The body of the Victor was shaped under the General Motors influence by the styling department at Luton. The interior was well planned and a lot of attention had been paid to detail. Overall the new model was both longer and wider than the 101, and featured a very low waistline resulting in lots of glass and great visibility. This was further enhanced by the designers using very thin screen pillars - thankfully not at the expense however of roll-over strength.

The FD Victor used all the latest engineering techniques to make it as light and rigid structure as possible. Vauxhall also wanted to ensure their new car would be very durable, and in doing so develop a reputation for longevity. Anti-corrosion was taken seriously, and to that end each shell was degreased and phosphate dipped before stoving. Then an anti-rust primer dip was carried out right to almost roof level before a second stoving and a primer spray all over, including the inner door sills. The underbody and wheel arches received a second coat before another stoving operation and a sealer spary to a minimum thickness of 0.06 inches and yet another stoving. Next 4 coats of acrylic lacquer were applied with a stoving after each two. Aluminized bitumen was sprayed inside the sills after the top coats, and the design alloed ventilation of these cavities to prevent moisture build up.

All sealing strips round the doors and boot lid were fixed mechanically to the body without the use of adhesives which might have deteriorated. The windscreen and backlight were bonded in place with a special seal that was heated electrically by an element running through neoprene strips.

Inside The New Victor

The interior of the FD Victor was rather plain yet remained functional. On the 2000 there were four shaped seats, making the ride comfortable 4 up but not so if there was a 5th middle rear seat passenger. Cars fitted with the 3 on-the-tree column transmission were also fitted with a front bench seat, but the 4 on-the-floor option was usually chosen, and was standard on the 2000. The bucket seats had a better rubber diaphragm base.

And for the first time on a Vauxhall saloon (excluding the Viva Estate), positive ventilation was provided with extractors being located in the rear quarter panels and facia vents for fresh air situated at face level. Air was ducted along the outside edges of teh front seats to the rear compartment, however the distribution was considerably improved over the old model.

The steering wheel spokes were padded with a 30 sq. in. area as required by US safety standards at the time, and the GM energy absorbing steering column was a standard fitting to all models. There was also effective fascia padding and a break away support for the interior mirror. To increase passenger safety in the case of a frontal collision, the designers did away with the usual glove box set up, instead opting for a central locker being located under the fascia and between the seats.

The interior door handles on the 2000 were protected by armrests on each door, and the locks complied with the US burst-proof standards then required. Other safety features included the fuel tank being located outside the main structure and sheet metal seat back frames that were less likely to cause injury than the then normal tubular variety. The outside of the body was kept smooth and clear of dangerous projections and special care had been taken to prevent reflections in the screen at night.

In many respects the new Victor was a brilliant car for the money. It offered reasonable performance, modern styling and a comfortable and compliant ride. The engineers had taken great care to develop the car both in style and in engineering quality - and while cost considerations had naturally been a consideration, the development of the new engine along with the many new safety features and construction techniques employed to ensure the highest possible quality for the price made the Victor a winner. What a shame then that in 1967 Australia ceased the factory importation of Vauxhall cars - but not before over 3000 had been sold.

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Also see:

Vauxhall Victor FD Technical Specifications
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