• VAUXHALL HA ROADSTER CONCEPT
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THE CLAY MOCK UP OF THE HA VIVA BASED SPORTS ROADSTER CONCEPT ON THE VIEWING AREA OUTSIDE THE DESIGN CENTRE IN V BLOCK, SECURITY WAS JUST A HIGH CORRIGATED FENCE

PART 1:

Vauxhall production since the WWII had concentrated very specifically on family transport, aside from commercial vehicles, and it was a formula that had proven reasonably successful for the Company as sales had grown steadily along with, generally, profits. Despite this outward conservatism there were innovations, Vauxhall were amongst the first to offer synchromesh and also automatic gearboxes in Britain, unitary construction and the panoramic windshield on the flamboyant PA. In addition Vauxhalls Design & Engineering department were capable of taking any styling model or drawing right through to a fully working prototype in house, they also experimented with many advanced features that for one reason or another never got to production, for example during the early development of the HA Viva they were experimenting with a novel independent rear suspension set up. In May 1963 with the HA project completed and awaiting release the design team headed up by David Jones embarked on a project that could use the underpinnings of the new Viva to create a budget 2 seat sports roadster to rival cars such as the frog eyed Sprite that were popular and affordable. Various drawings were done, then a clay scale model and finally a full sized clay which can be seen in the pictures which date from around July 1963. The design is a curious mix of E Type Jaguar and Lotus Elan with a little bit of Corvette thrown in but the result is an incredibly neat and attractive looking car.  

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THE TAIL VIEW FROM DIRECTLY BEHIND, NO INTERIOR WAS FITTED AT THIS STAGE

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THREE QUARTER SIDE VIEW FROM THE RIGHT, THE TWO LUMPS SEEN IN THESE PICTURES REPRESENTWHERE THE SEATS WOULD BE FITTED INSIDE THE CAR

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VIEWED DIRECTLY FROM THE FRONT THERE IS AN ALMOST "DROOP SNOOT" TYPE LOOK BEING CREATED. DAVID JONES IS IN  THE WHITE COAT IN THE BACKGROUND ALONG WITH AN FB VX4/90

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A THREE QUARTER VIEW FROM THE FRONT LEFT SHOWING THE FRONT TO GOOD EFFECT, IN THE BACKGROUND IS AN EARLIER LHD VX4/90

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AN ELEVATED SIDE VIEW FROM THE LEFT SIDE SHOWING HOW THE PROPORTIONS WERE , IN THE BACKGROUND IS THE HIGH SECURITY FENCE!

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THE LEFT SIDE VIEWED FROM GROUND LEVEL WITH THE SPRITE IN THE BACKGROUND

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THE THREE QUARTER VIEW FROM BEHIND ON THE LEFT SIDE, THE FROG EYED SPRITE HAS BEEN MOVED AROUND AGAIN

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DIRECT FROM THE SIDE WITH THE SPRITE FOR DIRECT COMPARISON WHICH LOOKS POSITIVELY FRUMPY NEXT TO THE DESIGN PROPOSAL, DAVID JONES IS AGAIN IN THE BACKGROUND WITH THE WHITE COAT

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ANOTHER LEFT SIDE VIEW WITH NO DISTRACTIONS IN THE BACKGROUND

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A COMPARISON FROM THE HEAD ON FRONT VIEW MAKES THE VAUXHALL LOOK ALMOST SPACE AGE COMPARED TO THE FROG EYED SPRITE

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VIEWED FROM THE REAR THE NARROW TRACK OF THE SPRITE IS CLEARLY EVIDENT, DAVID JONES IS IN THE BACKGROUND ON THE LEFT

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A FINAL RIGHT HAND SIDE VIEW WITH  SOME TREES AS A BACKDROP

PART 2:

Following on from the raw clay model, seen in the previous section, various reviews and discussion of ideas took place and opinions on any subtle changes were agreed before the original clay mock-up was modified. It would now feature a dummy interior complete with beautifully simple dashboard featuring FB VX4/90 speedometer and rev counter along with ancillary gauges. The steering wheel looks a little out of place in terms size but was spot on in design, complete with drilled holes in the spokes and an aluminium centre boss complete with the word “VAUXHALL” inscribed on it. The front end was modified with fared in headlamps with chrome outlining and quarter bumpers in chrome either side of an almost E Type Jaguar like grille and completed with a vertical narrow design of the Griffin logo which would end up in a larger form on the wall at the forthcoming new Design & Engineering Centre. From the side the wire wheels were carried over, a ribbed lower sill panel was added along with detailing of the door outline and also a clamshell bonnet outline, the other detail was a designer style badge just behind the door outline which at a distance could be mistaken for somebody like Bertone but is in fact another version of the Griffin logo.

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A THREE QUARTER VIEW OF THE LITTLE ROADSTER PHOTOGRAPHED FROM GROUND LEVEL COMPLETE WITH SOME FEMALE ADORNMENT FROM THE TYPING POOL

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ANOTHER GROUND LEVEL VIEW OF THE ROADSTER CONCEPT

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THE MOCK INTERIOR WITH SEAT BACKS IN PLACE AND A SIMPLE BUT SUPERB LOOKING DASHBOARD FEATURING VX4/90 SPEEDOMETER, REV COUNTER & TRADITIONAL SMITHS ANCILLARY GUAGES

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VIEWED AT EYE LEVEL FROM THE LEFT HAND SIDE SHOWING THE EXQUISITE DETAILING

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A DEAD ON FRONT VIEW SHOWING THE FAIRED IN HEADLAMPS AND CHROME QUARTER BUMPERS. THE THREE BAR GRILL IS FINISHED OFF WITH A NARROW VERTICAL GRIFFIN LOGO

The rear end featured twin exhausts, although very small they suit the car, no rear bumper and Bedford TK rear lights with chrome surrounds. In the centre is the locking cover for the fuel cap and on the edge above the number plate is a chrome strip spelling out “VAUXHALL”. Although it looks like the car is painted it is in fact covered with a synthetic covering called Dinoc and used frequently on clay models to make them appear as if they are painted. These photographs were taken in August 1963 and the lady in the picture was one of the few typists in the Design department and the wood tile flooring shows it was still located in V Block. The car was eventually transferred to the new Design & Engineering centre in 1964 and was used in part for the construction of the GT Concept. The car is a fantastic testament to the design talent that Vauxhall had at it's disposal at the time, the simple and elegant looks were as good as anything being produced by any manufacturer in the early 1960s with no exception. The next stage was to build a roadgoing version.

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ANOTHER SIDE VIEW OF THE ROADSTER FROM A SLIGHTLY LOWER ASPECT

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A THREE QUARTER VIEW FROM THE FRONT LEFT HAND SIDE TAKEN AT EYE LEVEL

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THE SAME THREE QUARTER VIEW FROM THE FRONT LEFT HAND SIDE TAKEN FROM A LOWER ASPECT

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A THREE QUARTER VIEW FROM THE RIGHT HAND SIDE TAKEN AT EYE LEVEL AND WITH THE STYLING DEPARTMENTS TYPIST

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A DEAD ON FRONT VIEW TAKEN AT EYE LEVEL, NOTE THE OVERTLY LARGE STEERING WHEEL IN RELATION TO THE SIZE OF THE CAR

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FROM THE REAR AT EYE LEVEL THE REAR NUMBER PLATE GIVES A CLUE AS TO WHAT WAS BEING PLANNED, THE SMALL TWIN EXHAUSTS SUITED THE CAR NO BOOT LID WAS FEATURED

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TAKEN AT A LOWER ASPECT WHAT LOOKS LIKE A CHROME STRIP JUST ABOVE THE NUMBER PLATE IS IN FACT A SCRIPT BADGE SPELLING OUT VAUXHALL, THE FLAP ABOVE WAS THE FUEL FILLER

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FROM THIS THREE QUARTER LEFT SIDE VIEW THE LARGE WIRE WHEEL FILL THE WHEELARCHES & ALSO LOOK SIMILAR TO JAGUAR ITEMS

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FROM EYE LEVEL THE PROPORTIONS ARE STILL PERFECT, THE REAR LIGHTS WERE FROM A BEDFORD TK BUT WERE PERFECTLY SUITED TO THE STYLE OF THE CAR

PART 3:

To coincide with a visit to Luton in December 1963 by Harley Earl, the Head of General Motors Design Worldwide, it was decided to build a working prototype of the small roadster concept. Vauxhall had the facilities at the time to take a project from a designer’s drawing all the way through to a fully working prototype so a team of five were allocated to the project and work started late in August 1963. In order to build a working version numerous changes were made to the clay predecessor, some were essential while others were cosmetic to give the car a more transatlantic appeal for Mitchell. The HA chassis was retained but a 1594cc VX4/90 engine was used instead of the highest rated 1057cc Viva 90 unit. The clam-shell bonnet arrangement was replaced by a relatively small conventional bonnet set quite away back from the front of the car, the doors were modified as well – the mounting was further forward and the wrap around windshield was now in 3 pieces to allow the door to open. The ribbed lower sill panel was done in bright chrome all the way down to the underside of the car also chrome racing mirrors were added on both front wings.

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THE ROADSTER PROTOTYPE BASED AROUND THE PREVIOUS CLAY MOCK UP BUILT TO COINCIDE WITH A VISIT FROM HARLEY EARL HEAD OF GM DESIGN WORLDWIDE

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A THREE QUARTER SIDE VIEW FROM THE RIGHT HAND SIDE SHOWING THE CHROME SILLS EXTENDING RIGHT UNDER THE CAR ALSO THE CHANGES MADE TO THE DOOR AND SIDE SCREEN WITH THE ADDITION OF RACING WING MIRRORS

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A CLOSE UP OF THE FRONT END SHOWING THE PRONOUNCED V BULGE TO BE ABLE TO FIT THE VX4/90 ENGINE AND ALSO THE SMALLER SPLIT RADIATOR GRILLE & SMALL FRONT INDICATORS

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VIWED AT EYE LEVEL THE FRONT HAD LOST SOME OF ITS STYLISH SIMPLICITY OF THE PREVIOUS MOCK-UP

Inside the seating was moved further back and the sloping backs to the top of the seats were made bigger. The very simple but elegant dashboard was replaced by a three piece unit which grouped the ancillary gauges in the centre and the speedo and rev counter in front of the driver. The fuel tank was also repositioned with the filler was placed centrally on the rear top panel. The rear panel was changed so the number plate, the car was registered with number 281NM, sat in a chrome cradle with the number plate lights either side, the Vauxhall script was also deleted and a single central exhaust replaced the previous 2 either side. The biggest changes were at the front where a large V shaped bulge replaced the smooth sloping front, this was partly to enable the VX4/90 engine to be fitted. The chrome quarter bumpers were retained but the grille was now much smaller and was divided by the aforementioned bulge extending all the way down to the front grille. Small indicators were added for road legality. Looks are always personal and subjective but to me the overall effect was far more aggressive in appearance but it had somehow lost the design simplicity and elegance of the original mock-up especially at front. The car was presented to Harley Earl who was very impressed, the car was taken to Chaul End, Vauxhalls test centre, and the whole management team all had a drive of the car and enthused over it. So what was the result? Very shortly afterwards it was dismantled and Vauxhall lost one of those golden opportunities to enhance its staid image and compete in a sector of the market that boomed throughout the 1960s. The whole story was interesting but very sad, it could even have been shown at Motor-shows in the way the XVR and late SVR concepts were just to let people know what the company could do given a free hand. Would it have been a sales success? I'll let you decide.

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A SIDE VIEW AT EYE LEVEL SHOWED THE SIMPLE OUTLINE OF THE ORIGINAL HAD NOT BEEN LOST ON THE ROAD CAR

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THE MODIFIED REAR END, THE PETROL TANK WAS MOVED FURTHER UP AND A CHROME CRADLE WAS FITTED FOR THE NUMBER PLATE & LIGHTING, A SINGLE EXHAUST REPLACED THE PREVIOUS TWO