Tuesday August 22, 2017
This advert may be as naff as Alan Partridge, but it does give an idea of why the Vauxhall Chevette was the best-selling hatchback in the UK as it was very cleanly styled, reasonably priced, versatile and very enjoyable to drive. It was also instrumental in altering the image of the Vauxhall marque - this promotion fronted by Patrick Macnee shows just how different the Chevette and indeed the Cavalier looked in comparison with the early ‘70s quasi-Detroit appearance of the HC Viva and FE Victor.
Looking at the various brochures and print adverts for the Chevette is like being submerged in late 1970s nostalgia. William Woollard look-a-likes in chunky sweaters take their new GL on sporting trips and the sales copy for the GLS is a reminder of a distant time when a dipping rear view mirror was seen as a ‘luxury’. Sun-shaded chaps pose Lewis Collins-style by their yellow L estate, James Hunt, then a ‘Vauxhall Ambassador’, appeared in early publicity while the PR for the 2300HS brilliantly reflect the exclusive nature of this particular Chevette.
Naturally, the Chevette was sold in various special editions, from the ‘Sun Hatch’, so-named for its tilting sunroof to the incredible Black Magic of 1979. The latter was the creation of Luton’s design genius Wayne Cherry, and it both added lustre to the entire Chevette range and caused many an L or GL driver to aspire to own the Vauxhall with front seats ‘contoured in real leather’ and ‘individually tuneable speakers’ in the doors.
The Vauxhall Chevette was extensively advertised on television, becoming as much a part of ITV as Ronald Allen gloomily intoning ‘Hello. Meg’ in Crossroads or Fred Dineage presenting How. Here were have Larry ‘Sgt. Peters’ Dann from The Bill’ displaying the entire Chevette range and subtly reminding viewers that neither the Austin Allegro nor the Ford Escort Mk. II were available in hatchback form. 1980 saw the debut of the ES - ‘Economy Special’ – and Barry Took does his very best to make the Chevette Economy Special feel exciting – ‘punchy 1,250cc engine!’ There is no mention of the standard equipment; a wise decision given the vinyl upholstered splendour that was the ES interior. Further publicity for the Chevette was gained from a red L starring as Rodney Bewes’ car in the 1976 film of The Likely Lads – more of which next month – and a yellow two-door saloon was the first ever star prize on 3-2-1.
The 1981 merger between Vauxhall and Opel franchise was reflected in a series of adverts about the combined dealership. The reference to ‘a smart saloon with a real boot’ is somewhat ironic given how the Chevette was originally marketed, but this ad was aimed at motorists who wanted a conventional and RWD alternative to the Astra for the price of a Metro or Fiesta.
The ‘Harry The Cleaner’ themed Vauxhall-Opel adverts was one of the last major promotions for the Chevette before production ended in 1984. The dominant theme throughout all its PR over the years was one of justifiable pride, for it was a crucial car for Vauxhall and one that was instrumental in changing its fortunes. And my own favourite commercial had to be this offering, largely because the theme is so off the wall as to resemble an Eric Idle sketch…