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WITH THANKS TO JOHN K AT GENERAL MOTORS ARCHIVE AND THE LATE MAURICE PLATT FOR HIS PERSONAL CONTRIBUTION & EXTRACTS OF HIS BOOK "ADDICTION TO AUTOMOBILES" TO THIS SECTION OF vauxpedia

WARNING: THOSE PICTURES MARKED "© GM ARCHIVE" CANNOT BE DOWNLOADED AND USED OR PUBLISHED ELSEWHERE

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1. VAUXHALL PB - VELOX & CRESTA BACKGROUND:

The overtly transatlantic styling and choice of vivid exterior colour schemes of the Velox & Cresta PA models had caused a "bit of a stir" in the staid and rather dreary British car market when they were launched. They were also a radical departure for Vauxhall compared to the more traditional & homely styling of their E Series predecessors, and although viewed in hindsight the PA Series models were quite handsome, especially the original 1957 models, they were also far more flamboyant in style than most British family car buyers were used to or expected at the time. Outside of Britain things were very different, the cars were much more readily accepted and exports to most world markets were very good, in the home market they were really no more than adequate and never reached Vauxhalls original huge sales expectations. Therefore, when the time came for the PA replacement a body design with broader home market appeal was required in much the same way as the Victor FB replacing the original F Series but still one that was both modern & contemporary and therefore retain consumer appeal in export territories. This was in addition to other design goals of improving passenger & luggage space & comfort within similar exterior dimensions as well as improving ride, handling, performance whilst reducing routine servicing costs. The total world market for reasonably priced 6 cylinder cars offering generous passenger space was large and an important one in which Vauxhall had traditionally gained a significant amount of sales, with the Velox & Cresta PB Series Vauxhall planned to continue and expand on this success.

2. VAUXHALL PB - VELOX & CRESTA DESIGN & ENGINEERING:

Design work started on the PB Series in October 1959 with a variety different styling sketches completed by the beginning of November ready for review. The concept was to create a clean elegant design that fitted the same pattern and styling lineage as the forthcoming Victor FB, in fact some of the design cues were the result of the production PB sharing the same front & rear door pressings as the FB which was an unusual decision considering the quite large difference in the two cars overall dimensions. Another goal was to achieve greater interior space for small increases size whilst at the same time incorporating the same principles as the Victor FB to maximise rigidity & structural stiffness for minimum increases in weight. The first full size clay mock-up was ready in March 1960 and the design remained remarkably close throughout the development period to the final production version. The car gave the impression of a greater length and width than the actual dimensions suggested and was largely the result of being significantly lower than the previous PA models and was a huge step forward in styling. Tailfins were coming to the end of their attraction within GM and therefore at Vauxhall although some competitors were still launching their first models with this feature. The other priority for David Jones’ design team was the urgent need to pay particular attention to eliminating rust traps within the body shell, as was the case with the new Victor FB, and the PB was also refreshingly free of unnecessary exterior embellishment. Even at the time of the PB launch there were plenty of the previous PA models that were already rotting away in scrap yards and on second-hand car lots up and down the country. A recent addition to the Styling Studios at Luton was a specific design team for interiors and the PB was the first fruits of this. In order to facilitate the maximum efficient use of available space Vauxhall adopted the General Motors “Oscar” system. “Oscar” was a robot comprising 4 sections, the foot, leg, thighs and torso, it came in 2 versions – 2 dimensional for full size renderings and a 3 dimensional version for physical checks in full size seating bucks, in this form it could be altered in size & weight. Great care was taken to make the PB passenger compartment as tasteful and ambient as possible with colour co-ordination of trim colours & materials as well as real wood veneer for the dashboard. Another design goal was to move the Cresta further upmarket in specification and give a greater differentiation compared to the cheaper Velox. Finally, behind the rear wheel house a single panel now formed both the outer skin of the body and the side wall of the luggage compartment, this extended the stowage space to the full width of the car with the spare wheel was carried in a well beneath the boot floor and was accessible through a detachable panel on the luggage compartment floor.

The end result was something David Jones’ team could be proud of, the car looked good at the time, and is still well regarded today, in spite of the compromises made using the FB doors. Vauxhall made much of this new found elegance in the launch promotions for the cars. 

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Maurice Platt was Vauxhalls Chief Engineer in charge of the mechanical development of the PB Series. The primary principle behind the new car was a conventional layout using sound engineering, this had some fundamental advantages when used in a large 6cylinder model; good weight distribution, more than adequate provision for passenger & luggage space, a straight driveline for smoothness and no servicing or reliability problems associated with unorthodox arrangements such as rear engine or front wheel drive configurations which also tended to increase the overall cost of the car. The PB inherited many major mechanical units from the previous PA Series such as the proven and reliable 2651cc 6cylinder engine, the same gearbox choice of 3 speed column gear change as standard or optional overdrive on 2nd & 3rd gears or Hydramatic automatic transmission. The single front suspension assembly was the same design of long and short arm independent with coils with insulated mountings to the body. The recirculating ball steering retained for light wheel effort and the same floating rear axle but with a wider track than before. One of the most significant changes was the fitment of front disc brakes on Velox & Cresta modes as standard, an unusual feature on a family car at the time, although in certain export markets the Velox still retained the drum brakes all round. A mechanical operated Borg & Beck diaphragm spring clutch replaced the previous hydraulic helical coil design giving lighter pedal effort. With the reduction in overall weight a higher ratio 3.7:1 back axle was introduced apart from models with overdrive which retained the previous 3.9:1 ratio. Safety features included new parallel overlapping wipers with the motor and linkages rubber mounted for quiet operation, a zone toughened front windscreen, padded dashboard, centre steering wheel boss and sun visors. Also both front and rear seat belt anchorages were built in making seat belt fitment an easy job for dealers & owners alike. Engine accessibility was greatly improved by a new counter balanced bonnet which could be raised to an almost vertical position. Sealed beam headlights replaced the separate bulb units and the Cresta became the first Vauxhall, and one of the first European family cars, to have front fog lights fitted as standard. The steering knuckles, like the FB, were fitted with ball joints top & bottom whereas previously a trunnion was used for the lower. All steering joints & linkages as well as propshaft joints were sealed for life and chassis lubrication points reduced to 8 with a 30,000 mile or 30-month service interval all of which greatly reduced routine service and maintenance costs, an area where Vauxhall were leading the way compared to domestic rivals.

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The 2651cc engine was carried over from the previous PA Series but further developed with an increase in compression ratio from 8.0:1 to 8.5:1, although a 7.0:1 ratio was available in certain export markets, and slightly altered valve timing were primarily designed to improve economy although the reduction in weight improved performance and the higher axle ratio increased top and cruising speed. The specific power & torque output remained the same as the last of the PA Series engines.

3. VAUXHALL PB - VELOX & CRESTA LAUNCH & MODEL UPDATES:

The new Velox & Cresta were launched to the press early in October 1962 with the first public showing several weeks later at the London Motor Show at Earls Court. The cars were well received by both the press and public alike as being a major improvement in most aspects over the cars they replaced, although the impact was probably less than that of the PA in 1957 the new restrained clean cut styling did not garner any controversy. Although greatly lauded it was noted that the cars were now slightly larger than their direct competitors such as the Ford Zephyr, they did however represent good value by offering a lot of powerful, well-engineered and equipped car for the money. At launch the prices were: Velox £822.4.7 and Cresta £918.17.11 including taxes. The Cresta was particularly well appointed and had a far more upmarket appeal than previous models of the same name. Following the pattern set by the Victor FB the Velox & Cresta used the new acrylic paint. One novel feature that was carried over from the last of the PA Series but never used on any other Vauxhall since the PB was a strip speedometer that changed colour the faster you went, green up to 30mph then orange up to 60mph then red up to 110mph. All models featured bench seating front & rear in leather (Nylon suede was a no-cost option) with a centre armrest on both for the Cresta and in Vynide for the Velox where a front centre armrest was optional. Column gear change was standard regardless of which transmission was fitted, servo assisted front disc brakes and real wood veneer trimming for the dashboard was included in the basic price of both models. The Cresta added a heater, headlamp flasher, electric clock, screen washer, glove box lock, cigar lighter, courtesy switches on all doors, boot lamp, reversing lamps, twin matching front fog lamps, extra seat padding, woven pile carpets and special door trim. Laycock-de-Normanville overdrive and Hydramatic automatic transmission were optional on both models.

The only changes for the 1964 model year was a new range of colours available from October 1963 and in April 1964 the launch of the Velox & Cresta Estate which was a conversion by Martin Walter of Folkestone and sold through Vauxhall dealers right up until the end of PB production.

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The major change in the PB history came with the 1965 model year announced in August 1964 and available from October. The exterior was highlighted with a smart new full width front grille in anodised aluminium, a new range of colours and a twin exhaust system. On the Cresta there was a new chrome side strip and whitewall tyres with special wheel trims, however the previously standard front fog lamps were no longer fitted. Inside there was new seat & door trim designs with new seat options for the Cresta – individual fixed back front seats or fully reclining individual front seats were available as extra cost options. Both Velox & Cresta featured new variable speed windscreen wipers, 120mph speedometers and the extra cost option of a new 4 speed all synchromesh gearbox with floor change, the first 6cylinder Vauxhall since 1938 to be available with this type of gearbox. By far the biggest change was the engine, already quite large for a British family car it was increased in size still further to a huge 3294cc although the original 2651cc engine was retained for certain export markets where taxation penalized larger capacity engines. This 25% increase in capacity resulted in 26% more torque, 175lb.ft @ 2200rpm (net), and 21% more power, 114.8bhp (net) @ 4200rpm or 128bhp (gross) at 4800rpm. Combined with the new 4 speed manual gearbox the car could now out accelerate a Lotus Cortina or Rolls Silver Cloud to 50mph thereby making it one of the fastest family saloons in Europe at the price. This was achieved to some degree by rather low gearing, the 3.7:1 rear axle was fitted to all models, which meant the car could not quite manage 100mph on the flat, but it did make the car very attractive to several Police forces up and down the country. The last change for the PB Series fortunately came in the last 3 months before production ceased in July 1965, the excellent Hydramatic 3 speed automatic gearbox was replaced by the worst gearbox Vauxhall has ever sold before or since, the utter pile of horseshit Powerglide 2 speed automatic transmission. This useless contraption would blight Vauxhall 6 cylinder models for another 4 years before eventually being replaced by the excellent GM 3 speed Strasbourg unit.  

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Although in manual form the 3.3 litre PB would not quite achieve 100mph on the flat Vauxhall had experimented with higher geared versions that easily achieved the figure but were less driveable under normal conditions, people who bought these types of car would normally get into top gear and then just leave it there! The advent of the VX Four Ninety in October 1961 with twin carburettors and its sales success prompted work on a prototype PB which was internally nicknamed VX6/110. This used twin Zenith 42VNT carburettors and a reworked cylinder head with larger valves and a 6 into 4 in to 2 free flow exhaust manifold which boosted power to 140bhp (net) @ 4600rpm and would easily achieve 110mph (hence the name) but the fuel consumption was prodigious and prompted Vauxhalls engineering department to look towards more modern V8s for future top line models. Only one road going version was built and used personally for a time by John Alden Vauxhall’s chief engineer.

 

Despite a total production run of 87,047 the Velox & Cresta PB remains a bit of forgotten classic today and is largely ignored by the fraternity which is why so few remain today which is a shame because it really was a good car.

4. VAUXHALL PB - VELOX & CRESTA PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS:

1963 MY:

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1964 MY:

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1965 MY:

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5. VAUXHALL PB - VELOX & CRESTA SPECIFICATIONS:

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6. VAUXHALL PB - VELOX & CRESTA PRESS LAUNCH ARTICLES:

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7. VAUXHALL PB - VELOX & CRESTA ESTATE

Martin Walter Ltd of Sandgate Road in Folkestone were originally founded in 1773 as horse harness manufacturers, this initial focus grew and the company expanded into related markets such as the building of complete horse drawn carriages and coaches. Some years later, at the dawn of the motoring age, the coachbuilding tradition was continued with the manufacture of bespoke coachwork based on Daimler, Bentley, Rolls Royce and Mercedes-Benz chassis. The company also designed and manufactured the famous Wingham Cabriolet, often featured on a Vauxhall chassis, but was also available on a Rolls-Royce as well. In September 1937 Martin Walter Ltd merged with Abbey Coachworks Ltd to form Wingham Martin Walter Ltd. This enabled the new company to manufacture seating for the fledgling commercial aircraft industry to any required design. During the early 1950's vehicle camping holidays became very popular in the UK and Martin Walter changed its focus from coach-building to motor-home conversions starting in 1954 with the Bedford CA Van and so starting a long association with Vauxhall & Bedford vehicles. The name for the motor-home was changed to Dormobile and was initially a huge success but a series of take-overs in the 60's, and with the later imposition of VAT all combined with the availability of new package holidays led to difficult times and the final company "Dormobile Ltd." (Folkestone) ended up concentrating on building Mini & Midi buses.

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Of the numerous conversions on Vauxhall Bedford models the Velox & Cresta PB Estate was one of the best, both in terms of practicality as well as design. It had the look of a factory produced vehicle which wasn’t surprising because much of the design was done by Vauxhall at Luton and the PB Series was the first 6 cylinder Vauxhall to be designed from scratch as an Estate that should they wish Vauxhall could build themselves, in the end the project was handed to Martin Walter to convert as had become custom & practice but Vauxhall were quite happy to sell the car as a regular model through any of their extensive dealer network complete with factory warranty which showed how much faith Vauxhall had in the high quality of the conversion which was always very high. The combination of six cylinder smoothness, effortless power combined with a huge load carrying capacity was an attractive proposition. Nearly 70cu-ft of load-space was available with the rear seats folded. The Estate conversion retained much of the PB production car, it used glass-fibre mouldings for the roof and tailgate which helped to save weight. With the rear seat up using the car as a full six-seater there was still 38cu-ft of luggage space at the rear. Both front and rear seats had folding centre armrests and with the rear seats folded forward there was a hefty 67cu-ft of cargo space on a floor that was 73ins long - big enough for two tall adults to sleep on comfortably. The flat load-space floor was fully carpeted and protected by metal rubbing strips and a zipped plastic cover was provided for the spare wheel. The large counterbalanced tailgate opened to a height that allowed easy access to the rear cargo area and heavy duty tyres and rear springs were fitted to cope with the additional weight pressures. Other mechanical components were the same as for the saloon versions of the Velox & Cresta. 

The Velox Estate was available in nine solid colours, the Cresta in 10 or 4 two-tone combinations with matching interior trim, leather for the Cresta and vynide for the Velox. At launch in May 1964 the standard Velox Estate Car cost £1202 with the Cresta at £1305, Overdrive was an extra £54 7s.6d while Hydra-Matic transmission added £114 15s.10d. This made them quite expensive compared to the direct competition and combined with some rather lack lustre advertising meant that sales were not huge but did not detract from the fact that they were a very well designed car more than capable of doing exactly what it was built for.

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8. VAUXHALL PB - RADFORD CRESTA

The Vauxhall Radford is a virtually unknown variation of the Cresta PB today, but at the time of the Radford launch it was a very luxurious, exclusive and expensive car aimed squarely at company directors, with or without a chauffeur, who would have normally considered purchasing a top of the range Jaguar, Daimler or Rover. As is often the case, the Vauxhall Radford came about due to a chance meeting at the 1962 London Motor Show between two motor industry executives, Vauxhall Design Director David Jones and Harold Radford, the owner of the coachbuilding company of the same name.

David Jones’ Design Department were frequently called upon to produce special versions of Vauxhall top of the range models that were either engineering experiments with engines giving increased performance or trimmed to an extremely high standard with the most Avant guard gadgets available at the time or a combination of both. These cars would then be used by the very senior Vauxhall management as personal transport. In October 1962 David Jones owned a Corvette himself but his “company car” was a special Black Cresta PB prototype, one of the first of a series known within the Vauxhall Design Department as "Black Prince" or "Top Hat" cars. This was leather trimmed to a very high level of luxury and incorporated many extras such as all electric windows, real wood dashboard, centre console and door cappings, top end radio with electric aerial, fabric sliding sun roof and huge amounts of thick pile carpet. Harold Radford Coachworks meanwhile had already built up a small, but profitable, business creating super luxury versions of the BMC Mini for well-heeled customers who wanted something a little bit different (and a lot more expensive). At the London Motor Show Radford struck up a discussion with Jones about the possibility of doing the same sort of project based on a Vauxhall, possibly the VX4/90 or the new Cresta that was launched at the show. After telling Harold Radford about his own ideas, and following a viewing at the Luton Design studios, Radford decided to go ahead with an ultra-luxurious version of the Cresta. Vauxhall worked closely with Radford Coachworks on the project and the car was launched in October 1963, the Vauxhall Radford was also marketed by Vauxhall through a select number of Vauxhall dealers located in “wealthy” areas were likely prospects would reside. Vauxhall even produced a rather unimpressive 2-page brochure for the car.

The Vauxhall Radford was externally distinguished by twin headlamps in a modified front grille with built in fog lamps, special bumper over-riders, side marker lights on the top side of the rear quarter pillars & red warning lights on the front inner doors, a ribbed aluminium panel with V motif at the rear with additional brake lights & built in reversing lamps, a distinctive bonnet emblem, under bonnet illumination and unique wheel trims. The interior was completely re-upholstered in finest quality hide, as long as the optional removable central division was not in place the individual front seats were fully reclining and adjustable for height, rake and legroom. Each seat had an individual armrest and the central rear armrest incorporated a large built in glove box. Carpeting throughout, including the illuminated boot and lid, was in luxurious lamb’s wool and headlining in West of England cloth. The doors were re-trimmed to match the seats and featured wide padded armrests, polished door-pulls and walnut cappings to match the centre of the instrument panel. Full width map pockets were provided in both front doors along with large ashtrays and flush fitting picnic trays in the backs of the front seats. Looped assist straps and adjustable reading lamps were provided for rear passengers. The instrument panel was fitted with a large padded roll top finished in matt black, an oil pressure gauge and ammeter were added. A high quality radio with twin speakers, balance control and an electrically operated aerial - controlled by a switch under the dashboard. An additional lockable glove compartment was fitted beneath the facia panel. Options included a sun roof and the interior division but surprisingly electric windows were not, there were also the Vauxhall transmission options of overdrive on the 3 speed gearbox or Hydramatic automatic transmission. The basic cost of all this was £466 10s on top of the purchase price of the Cresta. It is not known how many were actually produced but was probably around 25 and none are known to survive today but all was not lost, well not on David Jones anyway - the whole concept of the Radford would be revived in the next generation of the Cresta, the PC, and its super luxury variation - the Vauxhall Viscount.

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9. VAUXHALL PB - VELOX & CRESTA BROCHURES:

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10. VAUXHALL PB - VELOX & CRESTA ADVERTISING:

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11. VAUXHALL PB - VELOX & CRESTA ROAD TESTS:

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12. VAUXHALL PB - CRESTA OWNERS CLUB

www.vauxhallcrestaclub.co.uk

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The Vauxhall Cresta Club is organized by a small but dedicated group of volunteer's determined to ensure the survival of a unique range of cars from Britain's Illustrious motoring history. The club caters for all Wyvern, Velox. Cresta & Viscount models in the series E. PA, PB & PC produced between 1951 and 1972, and also welcomes non owning enthusiasts.

There is an ever increasing spares department, whereby members are able to purchase vital spare parts to ensure their vehicles are kept on the road. In addition to the usual routine service items a broad spectrum of mechanical, electrical, trim and body parts are obtained from various sources as new / old stock, good second hand and re-manufactured items.

The club offers a quarterly magazine "The Griffin Gazette"which includes members' articles. technical advice, valuations for insurance proposes and advertisements from private individuals and traders, of interest to the membership. Members are encouraged to submit ideas and articles for publication in the magazine and are offered free classified advertising in each issue. Various items of club regalia are offered through the magazine and at certain events that the club attends.

There are various events organized by the club throughout the year, in various parts of the country, which all members and friends are encouraged to attend. Additionally, the club attends various national and smaller regional shows, with stands organized by enthusiastic members.

Annual membership renewal costs £23.00. (Overseas £28)
New UK membership £25.00 (Overseas £30) for a full year, £12.50 for half year (£17.50 overseas). All memberships run from January to December. Renewals are invited in the following January for the coming year and must be paid by the end of February.