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WITH THANKS TO JOHN K AT GENERAL MOTORS ARCHIVE FOR CONTRIBUTIONS 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 V72 - 94000 FE VICTOR VX4/90 & VENTORA BACKGROUND:

At the beginning of 1968 just about everything was rosy in the Vauxhall garden. The Viva HB was selling as fast as it could be made and there were still the OHC 1600, GT and 4 door models to come, the newly launched Victor FD had been well received by the motoring press & car buying public alike with strong initial sales and, like the Viva, Vauxhall still had the Ventora and Estate versions in the pipeline. Even the large Cresta PC models were still competitive in the market and selling in steady numbers. It seemed the Company couldn’t put a foot wrong and, with considerable optimism, forward plans were made by the Design & Engineering department for the Victor FD replacement with a projected launch date of October 1971. These plans would change drastically and by the time the new FE range was launched a very black cloud would be firmly in place over Luton. 

2. VAUXHALL V72 - 94000 FE VICTOR VX4/90 & VENTORA DESIGN &                                                                                                                            ENGINEERING:

The broad design parameters for the new FE Series were to update the styling in line with trends and themes established during the early life of the FD Series models, to increase the available passenger space without greatly affecting the overall exterior dimensions and to provide an improvement in safety, performance and driving dynamics. Unlike the previous FD there was deemed no need to investigate various mechanical layouts or discussions regarding front or rear wheel drive, the new FE would retain much of the chassis & major mechanical units from the FD, although updated or upgraded as required, and would continue to be a conventionally engineered car using front inline engine with rear wheel drive. The car would be sold in Britain and across European markets as well as in Canada where it would join the planned HC range scheduled for launch in 1971 and sold through Pontiac dealers.

Design work began in earnest during the early part of January 1968 under the GM Code of XP-886 and at this very early stage of development there were two issues that would affect the direction of the project. The first was styling; unfortunately, the FD was at the forefront of automotive style when launched only months earlier and it was becoming clear that the “coke bottle” window line used on the Vauxhall Viva HB, Victor FD & Cresta PC was being copied by competitors – especially Ford. Not unnaturally Vauxhalls Design team were a little reluctant to fully let go of the style trend that they themselves had set. Thus, much of the early design sketches included the “coke bottle” shape and concentrated on evolving new front & rear facia designs. The second issue was one of finance, or more precisely the amount of available capital investment. Despite healthy sales numbers the level of net profit made by Vauxhall was on a downward trend from 1965 onwards and would eventually result in a £2.1m loss in 1969 & a huge £9.4m loss for 1970. It was clear money needed to be saved and as so often happens in large companies in this situation the first cutbacks were to the forward model programme. The first casualty was the PD replacement for the Cresta & Viscount PC scheduled for launch in October 1969 was cancelled and this was despite trying to combine the programme with the new Opel Admiral & Diplomat developments. This meant the Cresta & Viscount PC would remain in production until the 1972MY which then meant the new top model in the new FE range, the Ventora, would become the top model for the whole Vauxhall range. It also meant that the established 3-year replacement cycle for the Victor would now be stretched to just under 5 years for the FD. 

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Precious time was lost again when, to further cut development costs, the FD based project was changed by GM Senior Management. The new Vauxhall FE Series programme would change and be based on the GM V72 platform being developed by Opel as the basis for their Rekord D & Commodore B models. This meant the Luton Design Team were somewhat constrained in terms of length, width & seating arrangements, however the Rekord D and planned Vauxhall Victor FE were aimed at similar markets and in fact were remarkably similar in size. It was also something that GM had been trying to promote for some time and the whole Vauxhall & Opel V72 Car ranges scheduled for 1972 introduction were all evaluated at the same time at the GM Technical Centre in Detroit on 16 January 1969. As can be seen in the images below the number of common pressings between the Vauxhall and Opel versions was considerable and far more than was admitted to at either of the cars press launches. It also extended to door handles and wiper motors as well. The Vauxhall design looked more aggressive and substantial than the Opel Rekord D, it was displayed at the GM review with full Canadian specification lighting requirements including a unique idea for high level rear brake lights. The design was the last project for which David Jones was involved in prior to his retirement and maybe the reason for the nostalgic one off return of the once traditional Vauxhall bonnet flutes. One unexpected bonus of the Victor being incorporated into the V72 programme was it became the first Vauxhall to use bolt on front wings. After the design review in Detroit the were some changes made to the Victor FE design, the Estate car was modified to use a fastback style deign which gave the car distinctive appearance – especially for an Estate car – the only drawback was that it restricted the total carrying capacity but the Design team considered it was a worthwhile trade off. Another Victor deviation in design compared to Opel was the deletion of any quarter windows. Vauxhall were already going to do away with them in the upcoming HC Viva and wanted the same for the FE, this wasn’t just for the better aesthetics it gave but also the elimination of a source of wind noise. The drawback this time was that it meant that the rear windows only wound a third of the way down because of the rear wheel arch intrusion but again the Vauxhall Design team thought the benefits outweighed the negatives and it could be sold as a child passenger safety feature. Ultimately, high level brake lights would not be required in Canada and so were deleted as were the quarter pillar air extraction grilles, air was passed out through hidden grilles in the boot seem on the production versions. As with the FD all the new FE models would use the Canadian specification 4 headlight design but square instead of the previous round units. The front radiator grille & bumper designs were deliberately styled to blend in with upcoming Pontiac design themes, the provisional launch for Canada was to offer the “Victor by General Motors” in 2.3 Saloon & 2.3 Estate with one trim level, as with the upcoming Firenza no Vauxhall identification would be used. The planned models for all other markets were a 4 door Victor Saloon with 2 sizes of OHC engines and 2 trim levels (with a 3.3litre 6cylinder for some export markets), a 5 door Estate with the same trim & engine choice with the addition of an SL 6-cylinder variant as per the FD. A VX4/90 Saloon with a twin carburettor OHC engine and a Ventora Saloon with the 6-cylinder engine in 3.3 & 2.8litre (for some export markets) and possibly the option of a V8 supplied by Holden. The Rekord D was offered as a 2 door Saloon & a 2 door Commodore Coupe, Vauxhall looked at the idea of a 2 Coupe version of the FE body but this didn’t get past full size renderings. The cancellation of the PD Cresta & Viscount did give rise to several FE concepts using V8 engines and in some cases stretched bodywork, details of these are dealt with in separate sections of vauxpedia.


The exterior design at this point was attractive from most angles, only the front was a little out of place having a distinctly North American style but the 4 square headlamps were at least distinctive. Unfortunately, the interior and particularly the dashboard were less of a success in terms of design & style. The transatlantic influence was quite marked although the VX4/90 & Ventora did have good spread of instruments but overall it looked like a mildly updated version of the FD Series. Unfortunately, further cost cutting meant that the 4-headlamp configuration would only be used for Ventora & VX4/90 models and not used on the lower priced Victor models, instead a hastily designed fill in using Viva headlamp units and a cheap looking aluminium surround filled up the hole used by the 4-lamp system. 

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In terms of engineering the FD suspension & brakes were adapted to fit the new V72 floorpan which was relatively straight forward. To improve the ride quality softer springs were employed with stiffer anti-roll bars front & rear, the exception was the Deluxe model which used stiffer springs and only a front roll bar, a strange solution that could have only increased production costs. The FD rack & pinion steering was used in preference to the Opel recirculating ball system and the decision was made to fit a 4speed floor change gearbox (at last) on all models for the first time, Opel fitted a 4speed box as well but retained a naff column gearchange at the start of Rekord D production. Weight would increase by a minimum of 110lbs on all models compared to the equivalent FD and so Vauxhall started work on enlarged versions of the OHC Slant 4 engines. The same crankshaft was used for all sizes giving a stroke of exactly 3ins which increased the 1599cc engine to 1759cc with same bore as before. The larger engine used an increased bore, from 95.2mm to 97.5mm, taking the capacity from 1975cc to 2279cc. A higher lift camshaft was also used on the larger engine which was no much less over square than before specifically to improve emissions (for Canada). The 6cylinder 3294cc engine was deemed more than adequate for the new bodies. The 2279cc engine for the Canadian models was developed at a huge cost to meet impending emission regulations and was planned to replace the 2litre used in the HC Firenza models on sale from 1972 onwards. The engine gave 85bhp compared to 77.5bhp for the 2litre engine but with a big jump in torque which was in fact optimized on all versions of the new OHC engines sizes but was especially evident in the 2.3litre versions which all had a much flatter torque curve than before. The new enlarged engine range was designed to give a measurable performance improvement over the FD, but this was not wholly successful. With the planned options, such as heated rear windows alternator charging was made standard on all models. The new FE range was the first car to be fully developed and tested from scratch at the new Vauxhall Millbrook proving ground, a total of 20 prototypes, 15 pilot production & the first 30 production cars took part in the evaluation which involved, amongst a variety of other things, an accelerated 40,000mile test.  

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The new FE models gave the impression of a size greater than that of the previous FD range but in fact the new car was only 2.4ins longer, largely the result of bigger bumpers, the width was about the same and height increased by 0.5ins. The visual size was accentuated by a 20% increase in glass area due to the lower side window line and by the 3ins increase in wheelbase, 1.7ins increase in front track & 1.1ins rear. The Saloon luggage capacity was unchanged but the interior gave some useful improvement: front legroom increased by 1.5ins, rear by 4ins, shoulder room was up by 2.3ins front & 2.7ins rear with a 1ins gain in rear headroom. The Estate version shared the same external dimensions as the Saloons but gave a 4ins wider tailgate, a 7ins increase in width between the interior rear wheel arches and a 5.25ins increase in platform length. The FD was a particularly rigid body structure but the FE with all its increase in glass area did well to match the structural stiffness at 6800lb.ft per degree. To meet Canadian crash regulations a similar type of anti-bust door lock to that fitted to the upcoming HC was used for all FE models.

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By October 1971 the Canadian Firenza HC debacle was just getting into full swing, Pontiac dealers were being deluged with complaints about engine reliability & build quality issues, the lack of replacement parts and the car had only been on sale 10months. The 1972 model year included the new Firenza coupe (the Firenza as we knew it) and was already on sale but the “Tough Little Fun Car from General Motors” wasn’t fun anymore and GM Canada Executives, who never wanted the car anyway, pulled the plug on any further imports effective from March 1972, the timing was couldn’t have been worse. After that any remaining Firenza stock would be sold off and a block imposed on any further imports from Vauxhall to Canada. This was a killer blow to Vauxhall and the company’s future as a division within GM in Europe and certainly a massive setback for the FE Programme. 1972 was certainly one of the lowest points in Vauxhalls long history in terms of product, quality, competitiveness, reliability, pricing, marketing and management.

 

The Opel Rekord D was launched to the press in January 1972 and was generally well received, the Vauxhall Victor, VX4/90 & Ventora FE range was launched to the British & European press in Portugal a month later and was met with an almost universally underwhelming response. So much so that a Belgian motoring journalist attending the costly 3-day event left after 24hours because “he had better things to do with his time”.

The FE range was painstakingly designed to try and bridge a gap between European & transatlantic tastes which had it been sold in Canada probably would have worked but instead it was saddled with certain styling cues, particularly the Pontiac style front and the dashboard, that were not necessarily appealing to British & European tastes. There was another issue that would become more relevant especially in Britain’s fleet market. The FE sat on a 105ins wheelbase, the Viva HC on a 97ins, the Ford Cortina used a 101ins platform and although it was pretty crap it was a range that covered the whole middle sector of the market that was growing fast. Opel had the Ascona and below it the Kadett whist the Vauxhall Viva HC sat between the two in terms of perceived size. This trend continued further up market where the Ford Consul & Granada offered no more useable room inside than the FE but were perceived in the market & by car buyers to be one size up.

Despite battling this headwind Vauxhall did not do themselves any favours, the self-destruct button was well used in 1972. David Hegland was well liked and respected at Vauxhall but following some dreadful financial results in 1970 he was replaced by Alex Rhea who had proven he could screw up Holden in Australia and by 1972 was proving that he could also screw up Vauxhall just as well, the man was corporate moron that GM had an abundant supply of at the time. To compound the problem Vauxhall Director of Sales, H Dean, would have struggled to direct traffic let alone present any serious sales marketing initiatives. The new model range was branded “The Transcontinentals” which although accurate merely highlighted the transatlantic styling. The launch brochures & advertising were truly tragic. Instead of real photographs, where the car possibly could have been shown in the most favourable settings, prospective buyers were treated to a series of out of scale colour drawings that reminded them why paintings by numbers never get displayed in The Louvre.

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Vauxhalls Product Planning Department were still clinging to the past. Having finally consigned the 3speed column gearchange to history their bright idea for a new, modern Deluxe European car was to fit a bench front seat. The Victor 1800 Deluxe was not particularly good value when compared to competitive offerings so to have to sit on something that was not only very uncomfortable but, with a floor mounted gearlever, was of no practical use whatsoever didn’t endear the basic Victor to prospective buyers. Neither did the rubber floor covering. Overall the standard equipment levels were meagre across most of the range compared to the competition, all the "extras" could be had but only as extra cost options. The door trims were a one piece thick card moulding covered in glued on vinyl that cracked or broke in a very short time and looked cheap even when new. The whole FE range of models were priced and arranged in a way that did not make sense to buyers and was frequently commented on in road tests at the time. There was little incentive to buy the basic and underpowered 1800 Deluxe when for very little extra you could get a 2300SL which was probably the best value in the range. The VX4/90 added twin carburettors but the performance was only marginally improved with significantly worse fuel consumption even with overdrive. Reclining seats, 4 headlights & extra instruments hardly justified the additional cost. At the top of the range was the Ventora which offered no more performance than the VX4/90, used more fuel and was fitted with a vinyl roof but no overdrive & a standard heated rear window which wasn’t much of a deal for a considerable jump in price. This was even more pronounced in some export markets where because of local taxation the Ventora was sold with a 2.8litre version of the 6-cylinder engine giving just 105bhp (net)! On the road, the cars were no real improvement compared to the previous FD models apart from an improvement in room & ride quality. Things were dire and unsurprisingly sales got off to a slow start.

 

In amongst this quagmire of mismanagement there had been some glimmer of hope for the future, Ed Taylor transferred from the Opel design studios in Germany to take over from David Jones, who had retired early following a car accident, as Vauxhall Director of Design. Along with Wayne Cherry, Ed Taylor started to make plans for significant changes which would begin to bear fruits in September 1973 for the 1974 model year. The FE was a good car trying to get out and eventually it came good, by 1976 with the launch of the VX Series the FE was a superb car, if it had been launched in February 1972 it would have been unbeatable.

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3. VAUXHALL V72 - 94000 FE VICTOR VX4/90 & VENTORA MODEL HISTORY:

1973MY: From October 1972, the Victor 1800 Deluxe was fitted with the SL interior including individual front seats and full floor carpet, the 2300SL was fitted with 175SR X 13 radial tyres, the 3300SL Estate was fitted with power steering as standard and reclining front seats and overdrive were now available SL options. The 2300 engine, overdrive, reclining front seats & carpet were all deleted as options for Victor Deluxe models. All Victor & VX4/90 models came as standard with a heated rear window. The Ventora seating was upholstered in brushed nylon in place of Ambla and the option of Rostyle wheels was dropped. The clutch size on 1800 models was increased to 8.5ins from March 1973 onwards. Exterior colour choices for Deluxe models was reduced from 9 to 7, SL models from 13 to 9, VX4/90 & Ventora models from 12 to 9

1974MY: From September 1973, the Victor range was badged either 1800 or 2300, the Deluxe & SL designations were dropped, all models now featured a colour keyed interior with reclining front seats, new soft padded door trims & arm rests, passenger sun visor vanity mirror, low pressure brake warning light, electric screen washers, twin horns and matt black wiper arms. Victor 1800 models were fitted with 175SR X 13 radial tyres; the rear panel was now body colour on all Victors with a Griffin badge mounted in the centre and new style engine badges on the boot lid. A new exterior colour range was introduced with a choice of 10 for 1800 and 12 for 2300 models. The Victor 3300 Estate was discontinued – replaced by the Ventora Estate. A new thermostatically controlled air intake system was fitted to all engines, a new viscous coupling cooling fan, a revised gearbox with slightly lower intermediate ratios, the final drive ratio for the Victor 1800 Estate was raised from 4.1:1 to 3.9:1, new emissions compliant carburettors – Stromberg 175CD-2SE (SET for automatic transmission) for 2300, and Zenith 36IVE for 1800 models. Power & torque outputs remained the same. The VX4/90 models included the Victor revisions plus perforated Ambla seat trim, continental style front door armrests, a new gear lever centre console, a matt black rear panel, overdrive transmission was deleted, the rear axle ratio was raised from 3.7:1 to 3.455:1 and from engine number 3138265 a new cylinder head was introduced with the areas around the valves machined away, this change raised power output from 110bhp @ 5200rpm to 116bhp @ 5000rpm & torque from 140ft.lb @ 3000rpm to 145lb.ft @ 3000rpm. Inertia reel seat belts were fitted in place of the manual versions. Colour choice was increased from 9 to 13 and the lower chrome body moulding was deleted, at the same time rubber inserts were fitted to both front & rear bumpers and chrome wheel arch mouldings. The Ventora Saloon was joined by a new Estate version which replaced the Victor 3300SL Estate, the lower part of the new door trim were carpet covered and fitted with map pockets. The front grille was now black with a smaller centrally mounted Griffin badge in red instead of black, a brushed aluminium rear panel used a small centrally mounted Griffin badge as per other models, the carburettor was revised to a Zenith 42WIAET (ETD with automatic transmission) and the option of overdrive was deleted. The choice of colours increased from 9 to 13.

1975MY: Apart from minor colour changes there no updates to the specification of any models

1976MY: Only produced for 4 months with no changes to specifications.

4. VAUXHALL V72 - 94000 FE VICTOR VX4/90 & VENTORA PRESS RELEASES:

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5. VAUXHALL V72 - 94000 FE VICTOR VX4/90 & VENTORA PRESS                                                                                                                               PHOTOGRAPHS:

1972 MODEL YEAR:

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1973 MODEL YEAR:

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1974 MODEL YEAR:

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1975 MODEL YEAR:

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1976 MODEL YEAR:

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6. VAUXHALL V72 - 94000 FE VICTOR & VENTORA SPECIAL EDITIONS

When the Vauxhall Transcontinental range was launched the level of standard equipment was generally meagre across the whole Victor range, almost anything a customer would want was available but only as an extra cost option. Vauxhalls stated policy at the time was, supposedly, if an optional extra was specified by more than 50% of buyers then it should be made standard fitment, this was bit hit and miss but it did mean from October 1972, for the 1973 model year, all Victor Deluxe models came with the SL interior with individual front seats.

In November 1971 Vauxhall produced its first “white sale” car – the Viva Gold Riband, followed in 1972 with the Viva X14. The formula was simple, take a standard model and then add in some popular extras and offer the car at a special discounted price. Both the Viva models were extremely successful and sold out quickly so with FE sales hardly setting the world alight Vauxhall decided to try the same thing with the Victor & Ventora.

The first of the special edition FE models was the “Transcontinental ES”. Although it was badged as a Victor it was marketed without mentioning the Victor name directly and was, launched in March 1973. The ES was based on the Vauxhall Victor 1800 Deluxe Saloon with the addition of 10 extras to the package, these were: brushed nylon seating with reclining front seats & head restraints, a cigarette lighter, hazard warning lights, side repeater flashers, a vinyl roof covering, electric screen-wash, reversing lights, SL wheel trims and 175SR x 13 radial tyres. It was also offered as an ES 2300 Automatic even though the standard Victor 1800 was available with automatic transmission as an option, perhaps this was because Vauxhall knew the Victor 1800 automatic was painfully slow as well as being very thirsty. The ES was available in a choice of two colours, the rather gaudy Sunspot (yellow) or Garnet Starmist metallic (at no extra cost).

The Ventora V.I.P. was launched in May 1973 and was limited to a production run of only 250 cars with each one having a specific numbered plaque on the dashboard. It was only available in black and came as standard with black wheels with chrome wheel trim rings with standard Ventora hub caps, front fog lamps, brushed nylon trim with reclining front seats & head restraints, special fabric headlining, map reading light, locking fuel cap, factory fitted mudflaps and a factory fitted radio with electric aerial and drivers & passenger side door mirrors. Only one press advert was published and the brochure was a not very high class 2-page folder (if anyone has a copy and can scan it I will upload it). The VIP Ventora today is very rare indeed, only 6 are known to have survived.

Neither of these limited-edition versions of the FE were as successful as the Viva Gold Riband or the X14 but they were considerably more expensive and the market for any large cars was depressed because of the prevailing economic conditions. The last few VIP Ventora models were registered by Vauxhall and then sold off through trade auctions in December 1973.

There was, however, a television commercial which included the Transcontinental ES and the VIP Ventora, the problem was it was Vauxhalls first television advert and was quite possibly the worst commercial ever - for anything - have a look for yourself! 

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The final limited edition FE was the Vauxhall 2300S which was launched at the London Motor Show in October 1974. It was marketed as a separate model and had no Victor badging anywhere on the car. It was based around the standard Victor 2300 but was offered in a choice of Light Blue Metallic or Bright Green Metallic, both unique colours at the time, with contrasting twin coach-lines, black wheels with chrome trim rings and hub caps, chrome wheel arch mouldings, passenger & driver’s door mirrors, Ventora style seats with fabric seat facings, a vinyl roof, manual or optional automatic transmission and a radio cassette player with 2 foot well mounted speakers. Endorsed by James Hunt in the brochure & advertising the car was one of the best looking of the FE models up to this time and sold out much quicker than the earlier special editions. It was also the first Vauxhall to be factory fitted with a Radio / Cassette player. Inflation in Britain was getting out of control at the time, so much so that the special price list for the 2300S issued in October 1974 had to be reprinted in December.

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7. VAUXHALL V72 - 94000 FE VICTOR VX4/90 & VENTORA MODEL                                                                                          IDENTIFICATION & SPECIFICATIONS:

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Vauxhall Victor, VX4/90 & Ventora engine power & torque output:

 

1759cc = 77bhp (net) @ 5200rpm / 97lb-ft @ 3000rpm (Comp Ratio = 8.5:1)

1759cc = 90bhp (gross) @ 5500rpm / 104lb-ft @ 3000rpm (Comp Ratio = 8.5:1)

1759cc = 73bhp (net) @ 5200rpm / 94lb-ft @ 3000rpm (Comp Ratio = 7.3:1) Export model option
1759cc = 86bhp (gross) @ 5500rpm / 101lb-ft @ 3000rpm (Comp Ratio = 7.3:1) Export model option

2279cc = 100bhp (net) @ 5200rpm / 138lb-ft @ 3000rpm (Comp Ratio = 8.5:1)

2279cc = 114bhp (gross) @ 5500rpm / 148lb-ft @ 3000rpm (Comp Ratio = 8.5:1)
2279cc = 89bhp (net) @ 5200rpm / 130lb-ft @ 2900rpm (Comp Ratio = 7.3:1) Export model option
2279cc = 101bhp (gross) @ 4800rpm / 138lb-ft @ 2900rpm (Comp Ratio = 7.3:1) Export model option

2279cc = 85bhp (net) @ 4800rpm / 115lb-ft @ 2800rpm (Comp Ratio = 7.3:1) Canadian version – not produced
2279cc = 100bhp (gross) @ 4800rpm / 126lb-ft @ 2700rpm (Comp Ratio = 7.3:1) Canadian version – not produced
2279cc = 110bhp (net) @ 5200rpm / 140lb-ft @ 3000rpm (Comp Ratio = 8.5:1) Twin carburettors >08.73
2279cc = 122bhp (gross) @ 5500rpm / 150lb-ft @ 3200rpm (Comp Ratio = 8.5:1) Twin carburettors>08.73
2279cc = 116bhp (net) @ 5000rpm / 145lb-ft @ 3000rpm (Comp Ratio = 8.5:1) Twin carburettors 09.73>

2794cc = 105bhp (net) @ 4600rpm / 162lb-ft @ 2600rpm (Comp Ratio = 8.5:1) Export model option
2794cc = 121bhp (gross) @ 4800rpm / 171lb-ft @ 2600rpm (Comp Ratio = 8.5:1) Export model option

3294cc = 123bhp (net) @ 4600rpm / 176.1lb-ft @ 2400rpm (Comp Ratio = 8.5:1)
3294cc = 140.2bhp (gross) @ 4800rpm / 185.7lb-ft @ 2400rpm (Comp Ratio = 8.5:1) 
 

7. VAUXHALL V72 - 94000 FE VENTORA IN SALOON CAR RACING - BIG                                                                                                                                   BERTHA:

Vauxhall had planned for some time an even more luxurious top flight version of the FE Series to sit above the 3.3litre Ventora, these plans included the use of a Holden 4.2litre V8 engine in place of the Vauxhall inline 6-cylinder power unit. The concept was the Vauxhall Viscount V8 Show Car and the completed, roadgoing, vehicle was scheduled to be the star attraction on the Vauxhall stand at the October 1973 Earls Court Motor Show and to gauge public reaction to the concept. However, the looming fuel crisis and Britain’s dire economic situation persuaded Vauxhall Management to withdraw the car at the last moment and it was the very last moment, the car was in the back of a truck parked in a compound at the back of Earls Court. Unfortunately, the Viscount FE was never publicly shown at all, a great shame, and not knowing how long the fuel crisis would last or what the long-term effects would have on car buying habits the idea for the V8 car was dropped. Hastily arranged to take the place of the Viscount concept was a V8 racing version of the Ventora. The idea for the race car had been to use the concept for a “Super Saloon” car to raise the profile of the proposed V8 production car. John Taylor, Vauxhall Assistant Director of Design, had drafted some sketches of a proposed race car and these were passed to an outside designer and aerodynamic expert, as well as a friend of Bill Blydenstein, Frank Costin. He progressed the Taylor sketches into an almost wholly glass fibre replica of the Ventora body shell but one that was 10 inches wider. Bill Blydenstein then engineered the car with a 5 litre Repco Holden V8 producing just under 500bhp driving through a Borg-Warner T10 gearbox to a 3.5:1 Salisbury Powrlok differential. Suspension was double wishbone at the front, with a De Dion axle at the rear; brakes were from AP racing, and wheels were 12 x 15 front, 15 x 15 rear. The finished silver car looked sensational and was indeed a major attraction on the Vauxhall stand at the 1973 Motor Show. It had been christened “Big Bertha” by the car’s driver, the late great Gerry Marshall. On the track the car was a real handful to drive even for an ace driver like Marshall, it did however convincingly win three out of the six races it entered but a near fateful 140mph accident due to brake failure wrote the car off and the parts were then used to build what would be nicknamed “Baby Bertha” which was a smaller car based around the Firenza body shell. 

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