• VAUXHALL 93000 - HC FIRENZA IN CANADA
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During the 1960s by far the largest single export market for Vauxhall was Canada, sales in the United States had finished in 1962 with only a few FB Victors being sold and in Australia the numbers were quite small. In Europe sales were patchy with the Benelux and Scandinavian countries taking the lion’s share of all European sales with Germany, despite some half-hearted marketing attempts, taking virtually none at all. Vauxhalls were well liked in Greece, Cyprus and Malta but the markets were small and so were the sales numbers. So clearly the Canadian market was critical to Vauxhall. Within Canada there was a two tier approach to sales and marketing, virtually identical cars were sold through no less than four separate dealer organisations – the Vauxhall Viva and Victor through Pontiac and Buick dealers and the Epic and Envoy through Chevrolet and Oldsmobile franchises. As complex and duplicitous as it may seem it worked reasonably well and the cars sold in relatively large numbers especially compared to the offerings from the Rootes Group and BMC at the time. There were however issues building on the horizon and the Vauxhall name was dropped for the 1970 HB Viva and FD Victor, the cars were just sold on their model names.

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ALL HC MODELS WERE CALLED FIRENZAS AND THERE WERE NO VAUXHALL BADGES TO BE SEEN. THE CAR WAS SOLD EXCLUSIVELY BY PONTIAC DEALERS

When planning the replacements for the HB and FD Vauxhall decided to move the two cars up slightly in size specifically to suite Canadian requirements at the expense of what was perceived to be needed for the UK and Europe, which is why the HC was always bigger than its main rival the Ford Escort and the FE was just a bit smaller than the Consul / Granada. Also, by 1968 Chevrolet. Oldsmobile and Buick had already signalled that they would not be selling the replacements for the HB and FD which just left Pontiac and so the styling of the HC and especially the FE was very much aligned with Pontiac design cues, this can clearly be seen from the grille and front end of the FE. The principles were applied to the interior style which showed a transatlantic flavour but also were designed to comply with Canadian crash protection regulations known to be being implemented from 1971 onwards. To save tooling costs the dashboards were a mirror of each side making the change to LHD easier and cheaper.

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THE FIRENZA SL INTERIOR WAS A CURIOUS MIX WITH UK SL FRONT SEATS WITH HEAD RESTRAINTS BUT WITH UK DELUXE DOOR TRIMS. SEAT BELTS WERE STANDARD FRONT & REAR ON ALL MODELS

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THE REAR SEAT WAS UNIQUE TO CANADA BUT WAS NEARER TO THE UK DELUXE SEAT THAN THE SL WITH NO INDIVIDUALIZED REAR SEATS

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THE FIRENZA ESTATE INCLUDED STANDARD ROOF BARS AND ROOF STIPS AND ACTUALLY LOOKED BETTER THAN THE EUROPEAN VERSION

Another area that was heavily influenced by the Pontiac connection in Canada was the requirement for a Coupe to sell. In both the US and Canada there was a growing market for what was called the “Personal 2 door Coupe” and was big business as a higher price could be charged for something that cost the same to make a normal 4 door saloon. Vauxhall had produced mock ups for a 2 door coupe version of the FD, detailed in another section of vauxpedia, but it was not pursued because of the tooling required and likely sales prospects especially in the UK and Europe. So this time Vauxhall decided to make a coupe version of the new HC to satisfy what the Canadians wanted and also be a counter for what was being offered by Ford with the Capri and also the upcoming Marina 2 door coupe.

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A CANADIAN SPECIFICATION FIRENZA SALOON UNDERGOING EMMISIONS TESTS AT MILLBROOK, VAUXHALL SPENT A FORTUNE GETTING THE SLANT FOUR ENGINE TO MEET THE REQUIREMENTS BUT THE DRIVABILTY WAS SERIOUSLY COMPROMISED.

The next problem to deal with was the new emission regulations coming into effect in 1971 which was the proposed launch date for the HC car. Up until 1970 Vauxhall had been able to use the 1159 “90” engine as well as the 1599cc and 1975cc slant four, but this would all have to change. Only the slant four could meet the new regulations but required extensive modifications. The compression ratio was reduced to 7.3:1, the head was modified to use unleaded petrol and also run much leaner, the piston heads needed to be reshaped, an exhaust gas recirculation pump was fitted along with closed loop evaporative emission equipment, a special single sidedraft Zenith carburettor with automatic choke and a thermostatically closed air intake system, vented fuel tank and a different distributor with temperature controlled vacuum advance completed the changes. The end result was the 2litre produced just 77bhp (net) when applied to the 1600 the power dropped to 57bhp and so Vauxhall went for the 2litre across all the HC range in Canada, they also started working on the upcoming 2.3litre version with emission equipment for the FE range.

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A FACTORY PHOTOGRAPH FOR THE FIRENZA ESTATE WITH A GIANT MUM & DAUGHTER

Launched as a 1971 model year car the HC was called Firenza regardless of body configuration. It was available as a Standard 2 door Saloon (dropped for 1972), an SL 2 and 4 door Saloon, an SL 2 door Coupe and an SL 3 door Estate – which actually looked good with its built in roof bars! The marketing slogan was “The tough little fun car from General Motors” and a big play was made of all the testing that had been done to ensure the car was right, even the inside of the brochure showed a man in a white coat with a clip board ticking off everything was right. The trouble was everything was not all right.
As anyone who has experience of the Vauxhall slant four engine they are very “twitchy” and need careful attention to

give their best, the trouble was saddled with the earliest and most primitive emissions equipment available the Canadian Firenza didn’t stand a chance and often ran like a dog almost as soon as they left the dealer’s forecourt. Non starts, misfiring, oil leaks, electrical faults, slow performance, especially the automatic, cold running engines and therefore poor interior heating, valves sooting up, plug fouling, 15mpg fuel economy, the list went on and on. Pontiac dealers were overwhelmed with warranty claims. Unfortunately this also coincided with industrial disruption in the UK, something which Vauxhall were not used to having always had better industrial relations than other major carmakers in Britain, parts suppliers were also suffering the same. The result was the normal supply of replacement parts to Canada was insufficient to keep up with demand and many dealers were forced to cannibalise new cars for parts to repair cars they had already sold. The other problem was quality control which included paint problems, rust, trim falling off and ill-fitting panels.

General Motors persisted until the end of the 1972 model year when the Firenza was withdrawn. Dealers were told to issue credit slips to Firenza owners to get them to trade in for another car and the last class action lawsuit over the Firenza was not finally settled until 1980. All of this had a catastrophic effect on Vauxhall. A team of US engineers and quality control staff were flown in to try and sort out what had gone wrong, the FE was never sold in Canada so was stuck with a

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THE DASHBOARD WAS THE SAME AS THE ORIGINAL HC VIVA & FIRENZA IN EUROPE BUT WAS USED AFTER THE REVISED VERSION HAD BEEN INTRODUCED IN THE HOME MARKET

transatlantic style that did not suite every UK or European taste and the Firenza in the UK was also stuck with a compromised design that was selling very badly. Alex Rhea Vauxhalls Managing Director was put on notice that he would be moved as soon as a replacement had been found. But the biggest blow was in terms of Vauxhall operating as a separate unit within GM, with all Canadian export sales gone Vauxhall would now be forced to further integrate with Opel. Another casualty was the HD Viva which was already underway and was cancelled in 1973, the project was eventually integrated into the U Car programme in conjunction with Opel (more of which to come). So 1972 ended with Vauxhall's plans in tatters, the PC range had ceased production leaving just the HC and FE models to cover the market and it wasn’t enough, the T Car programme would not be ready until 1975 so 1973 proved to be a pretty bleak year for the Company and in effect it was all down to one car in one market. You could say the Firenza was the car that killed Vauxhall as a separate entity.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Production:      February 1971 to July 1972

 

Prod No’s         Canadian Firenza HC = 15,245 (when looking at total HC production these are classed as HC Viva

                                                         and are not included in the production total for the HC Firenza which is 18,352)

                                                        

Factory:            Luton (plant code Y)                                       

 

Model:              Firenza Standard 2 door Saloon

(1971 MY)         Firenza SL 2 door Saloon

                          Firenza SL 4 door Saloon

                          Firenza SL 2 door Coupe

                          Firenza SL 3 door Station Wagon

                            

Model:                
(1972 MY)         Firenza SL 2 door Saloon
                          Firenza SL 4 door Saloon

                          Firenza SL 2 door Coupe

                          Firenza SL 3 door Station Wagon

 

                                                      

Engine:                                   1975cc = 77bhp (net) @ 5100rpm  100.5lb-ft @ 2500rpm
                               

Engine Plant:                         Luton

 

Compression Ratio:              7.3:1

                                                 

Transmission:                        4 speed floor change = Standard all models

                                                 3 speed Automatic (Code 501) = GM Strasbourg Automatic optional

 

Exterior Dimensions:            Length       = 163.0ins

                                               

                                                Width:        = 64.75ins
                                               

                                                Height:       = 53.0ins

                                               

                                                Wheelbase = 97.0ins all models

                           

Turning circle:                       28ft

 

Fuel Tank Capacity:              12 gallons

                                                       

Standard Equipment:            Standard 2 door Sedan     

 

1975cc ohc 4cylinder engine

4 speed transmission

Full coil suspension

Four sealed beam headlamps

Front bucket seats

Heater and defroster with 2 speed fan
Full width package shelf
Lockable glove box
Moulded rubber floor mat

Door pull straps

Power brakes with front discs

Domelight

Fully counter balanced trunk lid

Rubber trunk mat

Bright hub caps

62 Amp battery

Speedometer and fuel gauge

Indicator lamps for directional signals, high beam, coolant temperature, oil pressure, ignition and parking brake

Steering column lock

Ten Magic Mirror acrylic lacquer finishes including 4 Starmist colors
All vinyl interior available in Onyx or Saddle

Interior hood release

Exhaust and evaporative emission controls

Two speed electric windshield wipers

Bright moulding on rocker panel

Ashtray

Upper level ventilation with instrument vents and rear extractors

Full side glass styling with no vent windows

 

Firenza SL distinctive features:

 

Deep pile carpeting on the floor

Front door courtesy light switches

Front door armrests

Rear door pulls

Dual paint stripe

Whitewall Tyres

Wheel trim rings

Cigarette lighter

Cloth and Vinyl interiors available in Onyx, Saphire or Saddle

Bright moulding on roof gutter

 

Firenza SL Station Wagon features:

 

Fully counter balanced rear door

Vinyl covered load area

Cargo area light

Luggage rack

62.3 cubic feet of cargo space

 

Available equipment:

GM 3 speed automatic

Radio

Cigarette lighter

Engine block heater

Battery heater (blanket type)

Trailor hitch

Wheel trim rings

Rear window defogger sedan models

Map reading lamp

Trunk lamp

Rear fog lamps

BROCHURES:

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THE 1971MY LAUNCH BROCHURE FROM THE HC FIRENZA IN CANADA

THE 1972MY HC FIRENZA BROCHURE, THE LAST YEAR OF SALES

ADVERTISING:

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