Look familiar? It should, as it was the Vauxhall Viva HB that became the General's first "small" Aussie car, the Torana HB
. Originally introduced in the UK in August 1966
, it would take until March, 1967 for the car to be "Australianised" and ready for local consumption.
As was the trend with any new model, the Viva grew in size and the engine capacity was increased, although it could be argued that the extra 100cc's were needed to cope with the larger and heavier body.
The HB was in fact some 6.5 inches longer than the HA Viva
, and with styling queues taken from the PC Cresta
, the new model was arguably far more attractive too.
The handling was considerably improved, with the engineers modifying the independent front suspension and replacing the rear leaf-spring set up with a new coil with trailing arms configuration.
In an era obsessed with individuality (long gone were the days of the one model, one color Model T
), Vauxhall introduced two additional engine sizes, and increased the model lineup to include the Deluxe, 90 Deluxe, 1600 Deluxe, SL and SL 90.
The Viva Deluxe carried over the 1159cc engine from the HA Viva
, although the new model did indeed include a few more "Deluxe" features not found in the previous model. This included better sound insulation, a heater as standard kit, carpets and additional bright work.
The 90 Deluxe added power brakes and a wider wheel/tyre combination to the equation, and the engine was tuned to produce 69 bhp.
The 1600 Deluxe
was fitted with the Vauxhall 1599cc OHC slant four engine developing 83 bhp, which was in turn mated to a stronger transmission. The suspension was also beefed up, and an even wider wheel/tyre combination was used. Apart from that, however, it was identical to the 90 Deluxe.
There more upmarket SL models followed a similar mechanical specification as their Deluxe cousins, the main difference being the better standards of interior trim, which included a wood-grain dash, better designed rear seats, Ambla upholstery, a more upmarket grille and, of course, the addition of extra bright work.
In September 1968
Vauxhall released the 4-door Viva DL 90, the extra doors adding £48 to the purchase price. At the same time, all models went up an additional £8 as General Motors introduced their collapsible steering column across the range. To fit a reasonably sized rear door in the space available, without major and therefore expensive structural alterations, the engineers made the front door a little narrower. Thankfully the door was already quite large, so the "trimming down" in size had little impact on driver and front passenger entry and egress.
Unfortunately no changes were able to be made to increase the rear leg room, which was rather limited when a tall driver had their seat in the full-back position. But Vauxhall did introduce a few minor changes, such as armrests with ashtrays fitted (a welcome addition in the 1960's), and "sill-pip" door locks. The switchgear, which was often criticised for it's poor placement just below the fascia, was moved to a much more user friendly position directly underneath the long speedo. Flattened blades were used for each one, with symbols to identify its job.
The single speed heater blower was finally fitted with a second speed, the "half speed" option being much better suited to keeping the cabin at a constant temperature, particularly given the sliding heater control offered absolutely no progression, and was in effect simply an on/off switch made to look like one that afforded more precise temperature selection.
Road testers of the day praised the Viva's road holding, which displayed minimal body-roll and predictable steering through corners. The light clutch and gear-shift was class leading, although there were a few niggles. Handling on poor roads was adequate at best, and the wind noise front the front quarter vent windows was more than a little irritating when travelling at speed. That therefore was a problem for the go-fast iteration. Yes, just as Australia had the "Brabham Torana
", so to did Vauxhall, it identical in specification, although this was eventually replaced by the Viva GT. In an era when AM radio ruled the airwaves, it was advisable to bring a pair of ear-muffs if you were intending to cruise the autobahn in a Viva.