Friday November 16, 2018
To look at this 1955 cinema commercial is to witness a world that is akin to an Enid Blyton story -
The setting and the announcer’s jovial tones were to reassure viewers that an E-Series Vauxhall was eminently suited to the most respectable of suburban driveways – despite its trans-Atlantic appearance. Yet, for many enthusiasts, including myself, those ’49 Chevrolet lines are an essential aspect of the appeal of any 1951 – 1957 Wyvern, Velox or Cresta.
General Motors acquired Vauxhall in 1925, and 26 years later most car buyers would have expected their latest models to sport Detroit-inspired coachwork. The Wyvern at £740 7s 6d was powered by a venerable 1,442cc engine, which meant for a not entirely inspiring top speed of 62 mph, and many customers thought the 75 mph 2.3 litre Velox well worth the price of £803 12s 3d, especially if you specified the “Metallichrome” green paint finish.
Naturally, your friendly local dealer offered a range of fashionable accessories, from “Screenclean” windscreen washers (just £2 5s) to a heater (a snip for a mere £10 10s). ‘The specification is really worth studying’ advised Vauxhall, so pay attention as the salesman might be asking questions later.
As compared with the outgoing L-series, the Wyvern and Velox E looked highly contemporary, which proved a major selling tool when competing against the Ford Consul and Zephyr-Six - ‘With the new Vauxhalls it is love at first sight’ claimed a somewhat overwrought copywriter. One feature that some readers may remember is how the bonnet could be opened from either side, and another is the engine driven wipers.
By early 1952 the Wyvern gained a new 1,508cc engine that boosted the maximum speed to a slightly more responsive 72 mph and the Velox was now powered by a 2,262 unit making the Vauxhall that was ‘good to look at and fascinating to drive’ now capable of 80 mph. It was also the cheapest new six-cylinder car in the UK – ‘a feat of production and policy which is just as remarkable as the engineering skill’ thought Motor.
Just to reassure potential customers that the E-Series was not just for pipe-smoking chaps, Luton also issued an advertisement claiming that ‘More often than not, it’s the woman’s word that buys the Wyvern and the Velox...And how simple to handle. New steering makes these spacious machines almost as easy to park as baby cars’. No comment.
Vauxhall constantly upgraded the E-Series throughout its run and in late 1954 they unveiled their rival to the Ford Zephyr-Zodiac. The Cresta featured a heater, windscreen washers, leather or fabric trim, a cigarette lighter, clock, two-tone paint and, of course, whitewall tyres amongst its array of standard fittings.
Here was ‘a car to be really proud of on the smartest occasions’ – i.e. we can almost guarantee that your neighbours will not think you a complete spiv on taking delivery -
Towards the end of production, Luton asked motorists ‘Have you seen the 1957 Vauxhalls? Have you reclined in their luxury? Have you taken one out on the road?’ – car advertisements could be fairly dictatorial in the late 1950s. By that time the Wyvern was on the verge of being replaced by the Victor F-Type while the Velox and Cresta were succeeded in the autumn of that year by the PA-Series.
However, no devotee of 1950s British saloons could ever forget the E-Series Vauxhall as they have a quasi-American charm all their own. Even if carrying passengers in the boot was never a good idea -