Thursday October 3, 2019
‘An extra gear would be nice’ remarks Ed Herridge of his 1963 Cresta but this is a minor cavil about one of the most handsome - and underrated of all Vauxhalls. When the PB made its bow on the 3rd October 1962, the press and public alike were highly taken with its understated looks.
Gone was the PA’s dog’s leg windshield and tailfins in favour of an elegant body which is best described as ‘mid-Atlantic’ as opposed to ‘pseudo-Detroit’.
The PB was longer and wider than its predecessor and took a second glance to realise that the doors were shared with the Victor FB. ‘Simple is the styling yet outstandingly eye-catching’ claimed Luton with a fair degree of accuracy.
The new Vauxhalls retained the 2.6-litre engine and three-speed transmission of the PA, but front disc brakes were now standard equipment.
An automatic choke was still a fairly unusual fitting in the early 1960s, and the PB came with such thoughtful touches as the fresh air vents in the footwells and a front bench that was adjustable for height via distance pieces.
The Velox was the entry-level version, and a snip at just £936 3d but all Ian Hendry look-a-likes in their Hepworth’s suits and square-bottomed ties naturally desired the Cresta.
The price tag may have been £1,046 3d, but you gained leather upholstery, fog and reversing lamps, “Screenclean” windscreen washers, pile carpeting, a heater, a cigarette lighter and a clock mounted above the driving mirror.
A 1963 Motor test of the flagship Vauxhall concluded that it was a ‘handsome and well-planned saloon with so many luxury features’ and ‘extremely good value for money’.
In the same year, Autocar praised the ‘clean and unpretentious styling’ – i.e. it was devoid of vulgar Teddy Boy overtones – and thought its appeal was in being ‘a comfortable true six-seater which requires little effort to drive’.
Motor Sport evaluated the Velox and though it ‘devoid of personality but otherwise a very useful, comfortable, roomy, well-equipped and unexpectedly "sure-footed" car.
However, ‘personality’, as any AA or RAC patrol might tell you, can often descend into ‘leaves you stranded on the A32 at midnight in mid-November’.
The PB also gained some additional, albeit dubious, publicity when a Cresta guest-starred in the hilariously inept 1964 B-film The Earth Dies Screaming.
The PB gained a facelift, and a 3.3-litre engine in August 1964 and production ceased 12 months later after 87, 047 units.
Ed observes that many Crestas fell to the fate of ‘bangers’. He came by ABV 852 A in July of this year - ‘it needed recommissioning; the brakes calipered etc.’, He finds that it more than lives up to his expectations, although as his Vauxhall lacks the optional overdrive ‘an extra gear would be nice when reaching the 60 mark!’.
Any reader who experienced the PB will recall how the ribbon on the speedometer would change colour as you accelerated, and Ed finds his Cresta to be ‘perkier than I imagined’.
Above all, there are the svelte looks, which Ed compares favourably to the Cresta’s principal rival.
Anyone who was considering the PB was unlikely to have looked at the Standard Vanguard Six, then coming towards the end of its life, the four-cylinder Humber Hawk or the imposing Austin A110 Westminster as an alternative to the PB, but the Zodiac Mk .III was directly pitched against the big Vauxhall.
Mr. Herridge finds the appearance of the Ford to be ‘awkward; if I had a choice of car back in 1963, it would always be the Cresta’.
It was a car that captured the zeitgeist as much as That Was The Week That Was on BBC TV or the Please Please Me LP by that beat combo from Liverpool. And it more than fulfilled Vauxhall’s boasts of providing ‘the clean line of good design’.
With Thanks To: Ed Herridge: https://www.herridgeandsons.com/