Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Origins of the name and the logo
The griffin emblem, which is still in use, is derived from the coat of arms of Fulk le Breant , a mercenary soldier who was granted the Manor of Luton for services to King John in the thirteenth century. By marriage, he also gained the rights to an area near London, south of the Thames. The house he built, Fulk's Hall, became known in time as Vauxhall.
Alexander Wilson founded the company in Vauxhall, London in 1857. Orginally named the Vauxhall Iron Works, it built pumps and marine engines. In 1903 the company built its first car, a 5 hp (4 kW) model steered using a tiller, with only two forward gears and no reverse. This led to a better design which was made available for sale.
To expand production the company moved to Luton in 1905, and so the griffin emblem returned to its ancestral home. The company continued to trade under the name Vauxhall Iron Works until 1907, when the modern name of Vauxhall Motors Ltd. was adopted. The company was characterised by its sporting models, but after the First World War, designed more austere models.
In 1925 Vauxhall was bought by GM for 2.5 million US dollars. The influence of the American parent was pervasive, and together with Ford, Vauxhall's main competitor, led a wave of American-influenced styling in Europe that persisted through to the 1980s.
During World War II, car production was suspended to allow Vauxhall to work on the Churchill tank, which was designed at Luton in less than a year, and assembled there (as well as at other sites). Over 5,600 Churchill tanks were built.
After the war, car production resumed but models were designed as a more mass-market product, leading to expansion of the company. A manufacturing plant at Ellesmere Port was built in 1960. During the 1960s Vauxhall acquired a reputation for making rust-prone models, though in this respect most manufacturers were equally as bad. The corrosion protection built-in to models was tightened up significantly, but the reputation dogged the company until the early 1980s.
Its compact car, the Viva, formed the basis of the first Holden Torana in Australia in the 1960s. From the 1970s, most models were designed and built in partnership with Opel in Germany. The Chevette, Cavalier and Carlton were basically restyled versions of the Kadett, Ascona and Rekord, featuring a distinctive sloping front end, nicknamed the "droopsnoot", first prototyped on the HPF Firenza. The Viceroy and Royale were simply rebadged versions of Opel's Commodore and Senator, imported from Germany.
This was the starting point for the "Opelisation" of Vauxhall. With the 1979 demise of the Viva, GM policy was for future Vauxhall models to be, in effect, rebadged Opels, designed and developed in Rüsselsheim, with little engineering input from Luton. In the late '70s and early '80s, GM dealers in the UK and the Republic of Ireland sold otherwise identical Opel and Vauxhall models alongside each other. This policy of duplication was phased out, beginning with the demise of Opel dealerships in the UK in 1981. The last Opel car (the Manta coupe) to be "officially" sold in Britain was withdrawn in 1988.
Similarly, the Vauxhall brand was dropped by GM in Ireland in favour of Opel in 1982, with other right hand drive markets like Malta and Cyprus soon following suit. (In New Zealand, the brand was withdrawn after the demise of the Chevette.) Many new Opel-badged cars have been privately imported into the UK from Ireland, and other EU countries, while many Vauxhalls have been imported secondhand into the Republic.
GM Europe then began to standardise model names across both brands in the early 1990s - the Vauxhall Astra and Opel Kadett for example were both called Astra from 1991 onwards; the Vauxhall Cavalier and Opel Vectra were both called Vectra from 1995 etc. With the exception of the VX220, sold by Opel as the Speedster, all of Vauxhall's models now have the same names as those of Opel.
Since 1994, Vauxhall models differ from Opels in their distinctive grille featuring a 'V', incorporating the Vauxhall badge. This has also been used by Holden in New Zealand, and on the Indian version of the Opel Astra. The 'V' badging is an echo of the fluted V-shaped bonnets that have been used in some form on all Vauxhall cars since the very first.
A model unique to the Vauxhall range is the high performance Monaro coupe, which is sourced from Holden in Australia. Although this model is also produced in left hand drive (LHD) for markets like the US (known as the Pontiac GTO) and the Middle East (known as the Chevrolet Lumina), the model is not currently offered by Opel in the Europe. Imports of this vehicle are limited to 15,000 to avoid additional safety testing.
The Luton plant closed in 2000, but production still continues at the plant in Ellesmere Port. Many cars badged as Opels, even LHD models, are produced by Vauxhall for export. Vauxhall has built some Holdens for export, too, notably Vectra As to New Zealand and Astra Bs to both Australia and New Zealand.
List of Vehicles
- Equus design concept (1978)
- Prince Henry
- Manta (Vauxhall/Opel comarketed)
- Nova (see also Corsa)
- Silver Aero Styling prototype based on Cavalier (1983)
- Silver Bullet Styling prototype based on Magnum Sportshatch (1976)
- SRV Styling Research Vehicle - design concept (1970)
- VX 220
- VX Lightning
- Bedford Rascal
- Bedford CF Van
- Bedford Midi
- General Motors
- Wayne Cherry - Vauxhall's (and later GM's) head of design, responsible for most Vauxhall/Opel designs since 1970.
- Gerry Marshall (racing driver strongly associated with the marque)
- Slant Four (type of engine made by Vauxhall)
- Vauxhall Heritage
- Vauxhall Motors UK Website
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