Vauxhall Iron Works in London had long been a boat producer before its first chain-drive runabout left the plant in 1903.
Not much more than a motorized carriage with tiller steering and no reverse gear, Vauxhall continued to improve.
By 1922, the Vauxhall D-type was seen as a reliable vehicle and capable of a top speed near the 160 km/h mark. Financial ills in the mid-1920s resulted in Vauxhall being purchased by General Motors — and that opened up a whole new market for the cars.
By the late 1940s, the popularity of economical and inexpensive compact vehicles began to take a foothold in the North American market and the Vauxhall was a staple in GM showrooms.
For 1957, the General Motors styling influence could be seen in the new Victor model. A squarish profile aimed at international sales, the Vauxhall featured lower glass lines, liberal use of chrome trim, and column-shifted manual transmission.
Sales continued to climb through the 1959 model and GM felt it was time for its own compact and introduced the European-inspired rear-engine, air-cooled, Chevrolet Corvair. Sales were slow at first and it was noted a good many buyers still wanted the conventional front-engine, rear-drive layout.
Vauxhall adopted a wider grille in 1960 with minor styling changes, but for 1962, it would see a total restyling. Five inches longer, with a two-inch increase in wheelbase, the Victor received a new wider grille that incorporated the headlamps.
For Tom Dudych of Winnipeg, the Vauxhall experience came in 1975, when his father, Joe, purchased a used 1962 Vauxhall Victor Special.
Joe drove the car as a daily driver until 1982 and passed it on to Tom, who drove it until a collision in late 1984 resulted in the car being written off as a total loss by the insurance company. Dudych purchased the car as salvage, but, unable to find replacement parts, his brother Jim took it and stripped it in the Maples Collegiate auto shop, storing the usable parts and running gear, while sending the balance of the car to the shredder.
In the spring of 1992, Dudych was driving to Lockport and noticed a yellow-gold 1962 Vauxhall parked in a yard. Talking with the owner, the car was last driven in 1977 and was in pretty solid condition, with only 50,000 miles showing on the odometer.
“It was being used more as a garden shed, storing rakes and hoes than a car,” says Dudych. His interest in the car resulted in it being given to him, so he towed it home and got it running.
Next came new brakes, brake lines, fuel lines, a carburetor rebuild and the installation of newer whitewall radial tires. After a few minor rust issues were fixed, Dudych painted the car a bright baby blue.
Since then, the car has been an occasional summer daily driver. (“Occasional” because Dudych has an eclectic collection of 11 cars and he rotates summer usage on a regular basis. The Vauxhall now registers 61,000 miles.)
Originally sold by Winnipeg Motor Products, the Vauxhall Victor Special sedan rides on a 100-inch wheelbase, with an overall length of 173.2 inches.
Power comes from a 92-cubic-inch, overhead-valve, in-line, four-cylinder engine. With an 8.1:1 compression ratio, breathing through a Zenith one-barrel carburetor, it produces 56.3 horsepower at 4,600 r.p.m. and 85.6 lbs.-ft. of torque at 2,200 r.p.m. Backed by a three-speed manual transmission, the Vauxhall regularly records city fuel economy at 35 miles per gallon.
“Many people think fuel economy is a recent thing and don’t remember or know that there were cars that delivered that type of mileage in the 1960s,” Dudych says.
Options on the Vauxhall were sparse, with only a block heater and AM radio listed. Dudych’s car has a temporary radio installed while the original is being repaired.
One thing is sure, you’re not likely to see any Vauxhall Victors going down the street, other than this one.
As Dudych says, “I still have lots of spare parts available to keep it on the road.”
Vauxhall sales in the United States and Canada ended in 1962 with 85,000 sold, partly because General Motors was focusing on the introduction of its Chevy II and Pontiac Tempest compact lines. Inexpensive at $2,100, this sedan had plenty of room for a family of four or five and it could take you everywhere you needed to go in relative comfort.
Shopping trips, doctor appointments and hockey practice were all in reach of the Vauxhall. It was also a capable highway cruiser and could regularly shuttle the family to the beach or a weekend camping trip.
On Saturday, the beach can be yours at the first annual Falcon Lake Show & Shine. The sand and the sun promises a great day for all, supported by local merchants, Canadian Trucking Magazine, Vickar Chevrolet, and Piston Ring Service. With all proceeds going to support the St. Amant Centre, it’s well-worth the $5 per vehicle entry fee. Meet Steph (Hammer Down) Custance of Ice Road Truckers. Cars, trucks, bikes, big rigs and boats, all will be on hand to make it a great day at Falcon Lake.