• VAUXHALL S CAR PROGRAMME
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BACKGROUND:

Vauxhalls Design Department, more than any other General Motors Division, devoted the most time during the 1960s investigating the feasibility of producing a small “mini” car. This was likely driven by the huge success of the BMC Mini in the UK, although it took Ford to tell BMC that they were losing money on every one they built and why Ford didn’t pursue the idea in any meaningful way until the Fiesta in the late 70s. The Rootes Group had introduced the Hillman Imp as a direct competitor to the Mini but, like the BMC car, it too was unconventionally engineered. The two cars differed wildly, either a sump mounted gearbox or the engine in the back, but cars suffered from the same very poor reliability although not all of this was due to engineering deficiencies – much was due to appalling build quality. Vauxhall had investigated FWD with a transverse engine during the development of the HA Viva and concluded that for reasons of cost & reliability conventional RWD with an inline engine was the preferred option. This didn’t deter Vauxhall from investigating the idea of a car smaller than the HB Viva but still using conventional engineering.

EARLY DESIGN DRAWINGS - MINI-X-1


& MINI-X-2:

 

The first evidence of post HA thinking was around 1965 and, as can be seen from one of the pictures, the BMC Mini was the target vehicle in terms of packaging but using RWD & an inline engine it was impossible to get a full 4 seat capacity close to that size without a transverse engine & FWD. The two full size drawings were coded Mini-X-1 & 2. From what can be gleaned from the pictures the Mini-X-1 would have had a longer bonnet to accommodate the inline engine and likely have been only a 2 seater. Mini-X-2 was longer still and would have had 4 seats. Interestingly to the left of the Mini-X-1 is a diagram showing the layout of the main competitors in the small car market - BMC Mini, Hillman Imp & Fiat 500. Unfortunately in both pictures the renderings are obscured by the full size Vauxhall GT Concept model being constructed at the time.

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THE FULL SIZE LINE DRAWING OF THE VAUXHALL MINI-X-1 WITH A BMC MINI SUPER IMPOSED OVER THE TOP, TO THE LEFT ARE 3 DETAILED DRAWINGS OF THE BMC MINI, HILLMAN IMP & FIAT 500. UNFORTUNATELY THE BOARD IS OBSCURED BY THE VAUXHALL GT CONCEPT FULL SIZE MOCK-UP. 04.65 © vauxpedia

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2 VIEWS OF THE FULL SIZE RENDERING OF THE VAUXHALL MINI-X-2, THE WAS LIKELY HAVE BEEN A 4 SEAT CAR OR AT LEASTA 2+2 BUT AGAIN THE BULK OF THE DESIGN IS OBSCURED BY THE GT CONCEPT MOCK-UP. 04.65 © vauxpedia

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THE VAUXHALL MINI-X-1 & 2 FULL SIZE REDERINGS IN THE ADVANCED DESIGN STUDIO AT LUTON. 04.65 © vauxpedia

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A VAUXHALL SMALL CAR RENDERING 14.12.65. D-66091 © GM ARCHIVE

THE VIVA BASED S CAR MULE:

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THE ADVANCED DESIGN STUDIO AT LUTON IN 1966, ON THE BACKGROUND WALL ARE NUMEROUS SMALL CAR DESIGN SKETCHES

Despite all the line drawings and scale models that were discussed in during 1965 and 1966 Vauxhall took the unusual step of jumping the normal design process and built a fully road-going prototype small car based on a suitably chopped, cut & shut, Viva HB. Given the programme name S Car work started in April 1967 on the car which was classified as an Engineering Department “mule” which meant the exterior & interior design was not a priority, the main aim was to evaluate the feasibility of a car significantly smaller in length than the Viva whilst still using most of the mechanical components. Completed & registered in September 1967 YLG682F used a shortened HB chassis with a wheelbase of 7ft 8ins, 3inches shorter than the standard Viva, along with the normal 1159cc engine and transmission. The front was cut by about 5ins forward of the front wheels giving a very short front overhang, this meant the bonnet & front wings were specially fabricated and featured humps above the wheel arches which were one of the few stylistic touches. This shortening also meant the radiator needed to be mounted at a forward angle that was matched to the line of the front end grille and, because of the lack of space, used an electric cooling fan.

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THE VAUXHALL VIVA HB BASED S CAR MULE WAS COMPLETED & REGISTERED IN SEPTEMBER 1967. © vauxpedia

The rear end was shortened by 14inches and again featured a very short rear overhang, the whole rear end was specifically fabricated and had a very homespun look about it. By chopping off the normal Viva luggage compartment it meant the car had very little space behind the rear passenger seat and this was where Vauxhall played their ace card by fitting a hatchback door and folding rear seat to increase luggage capacity when only 2 people were carried. This was also the reason why the car featured very large rear pillars which were needed to achieve the required torsional strength.

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THE VAUXHALL VIVA HB BASED S CAR MULE IN PROFILE 09.67. © vauxpedia

The rear end was shortened by 14inches and again featured a very short rear overhang, the whole rear end was specifically fabricated and had a very homespun look about it. By chopping off the normal Viva luggage compartment it meant the car had very little space behind the rear passenger seat and this was where Vauxhall played their ace card for the first time by fitting a hatchback door and folding rear seat to increase luggage capacity when only 2 people were carried. This was also the reason why the car featured very large rear pillars which were needed to achieve the required torsional strength.

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THE VAUXHALL VIVA HB BASED S CAR MULE INTERIOR, NOTE THE LACK OF DOOR TRIMS & SIMPLE SLIDING DOOR WINDOWS. 09.67. © vauxpedia

Inside the car was pretty much standard Viva HB, the dashboard was the same although the steering wheel angle was slightly different and in the back there was a slight reduction in legroom because of the shorter wheelbase but the car could still accommodate 4 people, the headroom in the rear was actually better than the HB Saloon. As an engineering prototype the interior did not feature proper door trims, the doors themselves were heavily modified HB items and used simple sliding windows, wind down arrangements would have taken time & money to incorporate. 

The car was evaluated on public roads as well as at the Vauxhall Chaul End test facility. The performance from the standard 1159cc engine was excellent and was more than a match for the Viva “90”, fuel consumption was also better than the Viva. The handling & road holding was better than the HB even though no specific suspension and shock absorber tuning had been done. Testing continued through the rest of 1967 and early 1968 proving the concept was possible and a real production possibility, at the same time fresh design drawings were being drafted in the Design Department on how the car could look incorporating the latest styling cues and trends.

SCV 9A:

Small Car Vehicle (SVC) 9A was the design code for the small car project and started in January 1968. By this time work had started on the HB replacement HC and was both longer & wider which meant the length of the SVC 9A could be increased slightly but would still use a modified HB floorpan using the standard cars wheelbase. It would also be designed from the start to incorporate the hatchback rear design and fold down rear seats of the S Car test “mule”. Consideration was given at this stage to the reintroduction of the 1057cc “90”engine to further differentiate the car from the upcoming Viva replacement which would still have given the small car more than adequate performance compared to the proposed competition.

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IN THE ADVANCED DESIGN STUDIO AT LUTON FULL SIZE LINE DRAWINGS SHOWING TWO ALTERNATIVE FRONT END DESIGNS FOR THE SVC 9A. 01.68. © vauxpedia

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IN THE DESIGN STUDIO WOODSHOP WORK BEGINS ON A FULL SIZE MOCK-UP OF THE SVC 9A. 03.68. © vauxpedia

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BACK IN THE STYLING STUDIO THE WOOD MOCK-UP IS COVERED WITH CLAY AND THE MODELLING BEGINS TO COMPLETE THE FULL SIZE MOCK-UP OF THE SVC 9A. 04.68. © vauxpedia

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IN THE ADVANCED DESIGN STUDIO THE SVC 9A MOCK-UP TAKES SHAPE & SHOWS THE CARS PROPOSED LARGE GLASS AREA AS WELL AN UPRIGHT FRONT PANEL WITH THE RADIATOR GRILLE MOUNTED VERY LOW DOWN, THE QUARTER BUMPERS WOULD NOT HAVE MADE PRODUCTION, THE THICK LINE DOWN THE SIDE SHOW THE POSSIBLE DOOR SHUT LINE. 05.68. © vauxpedia

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STILL IN THE ADVANCED DESIGN STUDIO THE SVC 9A MOCK-UP VIEWED FROM THE REAR SHOWS A NEAT DESIGN WITH A LARGE TAILGATE WINDOW. IN THE BACKGROUND CAN BE SEEN THE BACK OF AN SVC 9A SEATING BUCK. 05.68. © vauxpedia

Small Car Vehicle (SVC) 9A was the design code for the small car project and started in January 1968. By this time work had started on the HB replacement HC and was both longer & wider which meant the length of the SVC 9A could be increased slightly but would still use a modified HB floorpan using the standard cars wheelbase. It would also be designed from the start to incorporate the hatchback rear design and fold down rear seats of the S Car test “mule”. Consideration was given at this stage to the reintroduction of the 1057cc “90”engine to further differentiate the car from the upcoming Viva replacement which would still have given the small car more than adequate performance compared to the proposed competition.

As can be seen from the never before published pictures the SCV 9A would have had a very large glass area for such a small car, the slanted front of the previous “mule” was moved upright but the front grille moved very low down on the front facia. The quarter bumpers so often used on Vauxhall concepts at the time would not have made production as they would have been illegal. The headlights are standard Viva units and the wheels are straight from the HB. The line down the side shows there were options about how long the doors would be. Had the car gone ahead as it was the SVC 9A would have developed a new design direction for Vauxhall with softer curves than the company’s previous models but would have fitted in with the style of the HC Viva to be launched in October 1970.   

Once completed the SCV 9A was evaluated by the Vauxhall Product Planning Committee and whilst they were impressed by the concept they concluded that the market for small cars in the UK especially, not Europe, was still relatively small and with all the additional tooling required vs the likely sale price would mean that any profit would be small. In Europe the market was much bigger but Vauxhall would need to include export transportation costs which would reduce the profit margin further. The answer lay in a different direction, the General Motors XP-949 Programme.

GM XP-949 PROGRAMME & S CAR:

In the US General Motors were putting together a comprehensive small car programme at the start of 1969 that already included Chevrolet, with Pontiac a possible inclusion later, this was known as the H Car. Opel were also starting to plan their replacement for the Kadett B, this was known within Opel as the T Car. GM saw the opportunity to include both the Opel T car and Vauxhalls small car project into the programme therefore spreading development costs and making the financial case for a car smaller than the Viva a financially viable proposition. The dimension parameters for the XP-949 programme were now applied to the Opel T Car to bring it into line with the Chevrolet H Car, Vauxhall were tasked with coming up quickly with a small car proposition, coded as S Car again, that fitted into the overall programme. The first mock-up was a rather ungainly looking vehicle that was rejected by GM before it got any further in June 1969. After further work a clay mock-up was sent to the US, along with the 3 Opel T car variations, to join the efforts from Chevrolet for review by General Motors Senior Management in January 1970.  

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THE FIRST VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP FROM JUNE 1969 REJECTED BY GM

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THE SECOND VAUXHALL S CAR CLAY MOCK-UP - FRONT VIEW. 10.69. D-S225 © GM ARCHIVE

THE SECOND VAUXHALL S CAR CLAY MOCK-UP - SIDE VIEW. 10.69. D-S228 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE SECOND VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP - REAR VIEW.10.69. D-S229 © GM ARCHIVE

THE SAME VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP WITH CHROME HIGHLIGHTS ADDED TO THE WINDOW SURROUNDS & DOOR HANDLE. D-S90 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE SAME VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP WITH SMALLER REAR LIGHT UNITS PLUS CHROME HIGHLIGHTS ADDED TO THE REAR WINDOW SURROUND. NOTE GRIFFIN BADGE & BUMPER RUBBER INSERTS. D-S92 © GM ARCHIVE

THE SAME VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP FRONT END WITH GRILLE AND GRIFFIN BADGE ADDED AS WELL AS BUMPER RUBBER INSERTS. D-S94 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP, THIS TIME WITH A REVISED FRONT END, NOTE THE DIFFERENT BONNET LINE, SINGLE PIECE FRONT PANEL WITH UNCHROMED GRILLE BUT ADDED CHROME WHELLARCH MOULDINGS. D-S314 © GM ARCHIVE

THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP IN THE VIEWING AUDITORIUM, THIS TIME WITH A LARGER REAR LIGHTS INCORPORATING REVERSING LIGHTS. D-S692 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP IN THE VIEWING AUDITORIUM, NOTE THE CHROME SILL MOULDING AND THE BMC MINI IN THE BACKGROUND FOR COMPARISON. D-S694 © GM ARCHIVE

THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP IN THE VIEWING AUDITORIUM. D-S694 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP SIDE VIEW IN THE VIEWING AUDITORIUM. D-S696 © GM ARCHIVE

THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP OUTSIDE ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S724 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP OUTSIDE ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S732 © GM ARCHIVE

THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP OUTSIDE ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S733 © GM ARCHIVE

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ANOTHER REVISED VERSION OF THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP ON THE VIEWING TERRACE, NOTE THE CHROME WINDOW TRIM & SILL MOULDING HAS BEEN DELETED & NEW FRONT PANEL. D-S1123 © GM ARCHIVE

THE REVISED VERSION OF THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP ON THE VIEWING TERRACE, NOTE THE NEW FRONT PANEL WITH THE INDICATORS NOW MOUNTED BELOW THE BUMPER & THE GRIFFIN BADGE MOUNTED ON THE GRILLE. D-S1127 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE REVISED VERSION OF THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S1128 © GM ARCHIVE

THE REVISED VERSION OF THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP ON THE VIEWING TERRACE, NOTE THE ADDITION OF WHEELARCH & SILL MOULDINGS ALONG A REVERSION TO THE SMALLER REAR LIGHT UNITS. D-S1131 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP BACK IN THE DESIGN STUDIO WITH YET ANOTHER FRONT END REDESIGN WITHOUT A GRIFFIN BADGE. D-S1600 © GM ARCHIVE

THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP IN THE DESIGN STUDIO, THE NEW FRONT END NOW FEATURED A SMALLER GRILLE & INDICATORS. D-S1601 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP IN THE DESIGN STUDIO VIEWED FROM THE REAR WHICH LIKE THE FRONT HAD NO GRIFFIN BADGE. D-S1602 © GM ARCHIVE

THE VAUXHALL S CAR MOCK-UP IN THE DESIGN STUDIO. D-S1603 © GM ARCHIVE

As was normal during the design reviews in Detroit the GM Management, which included their senior design staff, various changes would be recommended and changed then reviewed again. This process on a large project like the XP-949 could & would last for weeks not just days. Vauxhall’s S Car was subject to numerous detail changes, not all for the better either, as were Opel’s T Car and the Chevrolet H Car. The result of the review was radically different to the start of proceedings, the whole XP-949 programme would become a “World Car” project to be called T Car which would involve Opel designing the inner architecture for the 2 & 4 door Saloon, 3 Door Estate and Coupe with the first introduction in Brazil in 1973 and 1974 for European markets, Holden & Isuzu would adapt the basic T Car design for the Asia Pacific region with a target intro date of late 1975. Vauxhall would be solely responsible for the development of the 3 Door Hatchback design for European markets with a launch date of October 1974, including a version for Opel. Chevrolet was at this point dropped from the new programme as the US market for small cars had dropped, as we know now Chevrolet would be bought back into the initiative at short notice in 1974 and introduce a 3 door Vauxhall Chevette clone in 1975 as a result of the 1973 oil crisis. As can be seen from the pictures the planned Pick-Up did not make it through the review but was a concept that would be fully explored by Vauxhall at a later date.     

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THE CHEVROLET H CAR WHICH WAS PART OF THE XP-949 PROGRAMME, NOTE THE MOCK-UP IS A 2 DOOR ONE SIDE & A 4 DOOR THE OTHER. D-C5458 © GM ARCHIVE

 THE CHEVROLET H CAR HAD DISTINCT VEGA STYLING OVERTONES. D-C5459 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE CHEVROLET H CAR FRONT VIEW IN THE DESIGN AUDITORIUM. D-C5462 © GM ARCHIVE

THE CHEVROLET H CAR REAR VIEW IN THE DESIGN AUDITORIUM, DESPITE THE SHAPE THERE WERE NO PLANS FOR A REAR HATCH. D-C5463 © GM ARCHIVE

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A FULL SIZE FRONT END REDERING OF THE PONTIAC VERSION OF THE XP-949 WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN BASED ON THE VAUXHALL S CAR. D-S2337 © GM ARCHIVE

A FULL SIZE REDERING OF THE PONTIAC VERSION OF THE XP-949 WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN BASED ON THE VAUXHALL S CAR INCLUDING THE REAR HATCH. D-S2338 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE OPEL KADETT 2 DOOR SALOON PROPOSAL. D-S11 © GM ARCHIVE

THE PROPOSED KADETT 2 DOOR ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S15 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE 2 DOOR OPEL KADETT PROPOSAL. D-S16 © GM ARCHIVE

THE OPEL KADETT 4 DOOR PROPOSAL. D-S17 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE OPEL KADETT 4 DOOR MOCK-UP ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S18 © GM ARCHIVE

 THE REVISED CLAY MOCK-UP OPEL KADETT 4 DOOR PROPOSAL. D-S222 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE REVISED CLAY MOCK-UP KADETT PROPOSAL ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S224 © GM ARCHIVE

THE REVISED CLAY MOCK-UP KADETT PROPOSAL ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S226 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE REVISED CLAY MOCK-UP KADETT PROPOSAL ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S227 © GM ARCHIVE

THE PICK-UP CLAY MOCK-UP WHICH WAS DROPPED. D-S382 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE CLAY MOCK-UP OF THE PICK-UP VERSION ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S384 © GM ARCHIVE

THE CLAY MOCK-UP OF THE PICK-UP VERSION ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S385 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE REAR OF THE  CLAY MOCK-UP OF THE PICK-UP VERSION ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S386 © GM ARCHIVE

THE REAR OF THE FINISHED PICK-UP VERSION IN THE VIEWING AUDITORIUM. D-S704 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE REAR OF THE FINISHED PICK-UP VERSION IN THE VIEWING AUDITORIUM. D-S706 © GM ARCHIVE

THE OPEL KADETT 3 DOOR ESTATE PROPOSAL IN THE VIEWING AUDITORIUM. D-S707 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE OPEL KADETT 3 DOOR ESTATE PROPOSAL IN THE VIEWING AUDITORIUM. D-S709 © GM ARCHIVE

THE OPEL KADETT 2 DOOR COUPE PROPOSAL IN THE VIEWING AUDITORIUM. D-S712 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE OPEL KADETT 2 DOOR COUPE PROPOSAL IN THE VIEWING AUDITORIUM. D-S714 © GM ARCHIVE

THE FINISHED 4 DOOR KADETT PROPOSAL ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S716 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE FINISHED 4 DOOR KADETT PROPOSAL  ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S717 © GM ARCHIVE

THE FINISHED 4 DOOR KADETT PROPOSAL ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S722 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE FINISHED 4 DOOR KADETT PROPOSAL ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S723 © GM ARCHIVE

THE FINISHED 2 DOOR KADETT COUPE  PROPOSAL ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S755 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE FINISHED 2 DOOR KADETT COUPE PROPOSAL ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S758 © GM ARCHIVE

THE FINISHED 3 DOOR KADETT ESTATE PROPOSAL ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S759 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE FINISHED 3 DOOR KADETT ESTATE PROPOSAL ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S762 © GM ARCHIVE.

THE FINISHED 3 DOOR KADETT ESTATE PROPOSAL ON THE VIEWING TERRACE. D-S763 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE 2 DOOR KADETT COUPE PROPOSAL IN THE DESIGN STUDIO. D-S1627 © GM ARCHIVE

THE 2 DOOR KADETT COUPE PROPOSAL IN THE DESIGN STUDIO. D-S1628 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE 2 DOOR KADETT COUPE PROPOSAL IN THE DESIGN STUDIO. D-S1629 © GM ARCHIVE

THE 2 DOOR KADETT COUPE PROPOSAL IN THE DESIGN STUDIO. D-S1631 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE 3 DOOR KADETT ESTATE PROPOSAL IN THE DESIGN STUDIO. D-S1673 © GM ARCHIVE

THE 3 DOOR KADETT ESTATE PROPOSAL IN THE DESIGN STUDIO. D-S1674 © GM ARCHIVE

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THE 3 DOOR KADETT ESTATE PROPOSAL IN THE DESIGN STUDIO. D-S1676 © GM ARCHIVE

THE 3 DOOR KADETT ESTATE PROPOSAL IN THE DESIGN STUDIO. D-S1677 © GM ARCHIVE.