Tag Archive | "General Motors"

Viva Vauxhall!

A very long time ago, in days when men wore hats and jackets with leather patches on the elbows, Vauxhall motors made a car called the Viva. That’s a version of the 1963 original in our image. It was designed to compete against the Ford Anglia and the Minor from Morris Motors and very popular it was too, right from the word go.

New car buyers were struck by its modern (for the time) looks which made the competition look dowdy and old fashioned. It was to mature in two new versions over the following sixteen years, following the design fashions of the time and influenced by the upstart imports from Japan.

Those who remember the car look back with fondness whilst viewing their memories through rose-tinted glasses. More down-to-earth folk don’t recall it being that good. It has to be remembered that the British car industry was in freefall at the time and nothing special was being produced anywhere so buyers took what they could get.

Vauxhall have clearly been thinking about this car from another age and have decided that enough time has passed to resurrect the name so let’s hear a hearty ‘viva!’ for the new Vauxhall Viva. After all, other companies have brought back iconic names like Mini or Fiat 500, so why not?

Vauxhall has long since been a part of the mighty General motors empire and the emphasis now is on the idea of ‘world cars’. Vehicles that can sell around the globe with little or no revision. The plan then is to make the new Viva a city car; an automotive  sector that is booming just now.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be a new car from the ground up but rather a rebadged version of something already in the company’s range – the Chevrolet Spark, perhaps. This is interesting because GM have already said they are withdrawing the Chevrolet brand from Europe owing to poor sales. So it would appear to be a plan to keep selling cars – in the UK at least – by revisiting an old British name.

GM/Vauxhall believe that the Viva name will work because it was a long time ago and ‘nobody will remember it’. Well, here’s the news – we do remember it and not especially fondly. This rebadged relaunch might not be as popular as they think.

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Top American Muscle Cars

The two drivers eye each other mockingly, each revving his engine as hard as it will go. The cacophonous noise of high octane fuel surrendering to internal combustion fills the air. The atmosphere is charged, electric, tensions running high. The light turns green, the monstrous torque developed by their engines leaves strips of rubber on the road as they get off to a wheel screeching start. Winding their motors up to eight thousand RPM each one is focused on beating his opponent, tunnel vision, victory the only thing on their minds…….

This is the world of the muscle car, a world where straight line speed and off the mark grunt are gods to be worshipped at the altar of high performance motoring. But what exactly is a muscle car? The commonly accepted definition is a two door, American, high performance road legal car packing a big V8 engine at the front that channels its considerable power to the rear wheels.

This is not to say that other countries haven’t tried their hand at muscle cars; Australia did quite a fine job with the Vauxhall Monaro, even though later incarnations have four doors as opposed to two, even the Germans tried to enter the fray with the Mercedes C63 AMG. None of them however managed to quite capture the true spirit of the muscle car.

The muscle car was first introduced to the world in 1949 when Oldsmobile; a car manufacturer acquired by General Motors in 1908 developed a new overhead V8 aptly named Rocket, which was then bolted onto the lighter Oldsmobile body. This gave birth to the Oldsmobile Rocket 88; largely regarded as the world’s very first muscle car. There have since been some quite iconic muscle cars produced, some of them transcending the world of motoring to become cult icons, pillar stones of modern culture. Let’s have a look at some of these master pieces.

Dodge Charger: This particular car is probably the best sounding V8 there is, producing a throaty roar that seems to shake the very ground it runs on. You probably know it as “General Lee” as featured in the Dukes of Hazard, where it performed some serious gymnastics, drifting round corners and even catching some air in a few scenes. A later model of the car was featured in the movie “Fast Five” where two of the cars dragged a safe from its wall mountings and pulled it through the streets of Rio De Janeiro, a testament to the massive torque (637 Nm) put out by the 6.4 liter Hemi V8 in the top of the range SRT-8 model.

Pontiac GTO: Originally created in defiance of a 1963 General Motor’s directive banning its divisions (including Pontiac) from involvement in auto racing, the Pontiac GTO is a shrine to defiance, to the refusal to follow rules set up by narrow minded authority figures, a fundamental tenet of the muscle car. The controversial car came complete with a controversial name, the “GTO” inspired by the sublime “Ferrari 250 GTO” caused quite a stir in the motoring world with Ferrari diehards stating that placing the “GTO” name on a muscle car from America amounted to sacrilege. Despite the troubled birth, the GTO went on to enjoy massive success, with its 1966 sales hitting 96, 946. It also had its fair share of film success, with its “Judge” model enjoying a healthy amount of on screen presence in the seventies and eighties.

Chevrolet Corvette: Probably the most instantly recognizable American muscle car, the Corvette introduced in 1953 as a concept car, was named after a type of small, very maneuverable warship. The concept generated enough interest to cause General Motors to produce one for the mass market. Later incarnations were to introduce the sting ray styling to the Corvette giving it that signature Corvette look of a long hood and short trunk. The latest model, the ZR1 boasts a supercharged 6.2 Liter engine producing 638 BHP; it is the most powerful General Motors engine to be put in a production car. Read more about the Chevrolet legacy at Compare the Market, where you can also compare insurance policies on your own vehicle.

Pontiac Firebird: Nicknamed Bandit from the movie that catapulted it to fame “Smokey and the Bandit”, the Pontiac firebird with its signature black paint, orange decals and conspicuous hood scoops, is truly a pop culture icon. A fact further cemented by its appearance alongside David Hasslehoff in “Knight Rider”. In the early years, it drew in people from various niches largely due to its varied array of engines available from the same V8 used in the GTO to a smaller but still powerful inline six cylinder geared towards the fuel conscious demographic. Reduced sales however eventually saw Pontiac pull the plug on this icon in 2002, laying to rest a quite outstanding legacy.

Ford Mustang: This list would not be complete without mentioning the most successful muscle car of all time, originally based on the Ford Falcon; the mustang has grown into the most sought after muscle car ever. An instant classic, it surpassed its projected first year sales in only three months, this demand has continued since and even to this day there is typically a waiting list at most dealers. Ford’s involvement with Carroll Shelby, an American auto entrepreneur who gave the world the AC cobra, gave birth to the “Shelby Mustang”; a line of modified high performance mustangs. The 1966 Shelby GT Mustang 350 fastback is hands down the best looking muscle car ever produced.

The muscle car is, and will no doubt continue to be, a corner stone of American and indeed world pop culture for many years to come.

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Bucking The Trend

These days the trend is increasingly toward cars with small engines and low emissions and they have become the primary considerations when it comes to buying a new car. We, the drivers, are encouraged and cajoled to put our personal preferences to one side and buy the cars we are meant to buy. It has become almost a form of green bullying.

Thankfully there is a small but determined band of enthusiasts out there who still passionately pursue power for power’s sake and require their drive to a bit special and, hopefully, unique. This means that there is still a market for cars that stick their tongues out at accepted thinking and slap the thighs of EU politically biased green-o-crats. One such car is the Vauxhall VXR8 GTS.

This mighty vehicle has been with us for a while but has now undergone a bit of a makeover. In a manly way, obviously. Not content with the addition of a bit more horsepower the company have coaxed an extra 150bhp from the supercharged 6.2L V8 which now delivers an adequate 576 horses and 0-60 in under five seconds. This is essentially the same engine as is found in the recently launched Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

The rear-wheel drive VXR8 GTS is the most powerful car to ever have emerged from the Australian continent; it is made by General Motors and sold under the Holden Special Vehicles badge down under as the Gen-F GTS. The car can be ordered now for delivery at the end of the year and will set the buyer back around £55K. This is peanuts compared to the price of similarly powerful cars from European manufacturers.

At the heart of the engine is an Eaton supercharger rather than a turbo. This apparently provides stronger and more linear performance right across the rev-range and works in conjunction with an array of improvements to the power plant. The new front end of the car is designed to emphasise aggression, width and stance, like a pugnacious boxer. There is, it seems, some 130,000 square millimetres of open frontal surface, which is needed to cool down the beast within.VXR2 Bucking The Trend

The VXR8 sits on twenty inch ‘Blade’ forged alloy wheels and sports a performance spoiler at the back to augment the other aero body parts. Inside, the cabin has undergone changes to make the incumbents as comfy as possible and offer a premium feel that belies the brutal nature hidden beneath. All the expected and latest safety features and gadgetry come almost completely as standard. The bad news is that this is rumoured to be the last of the line. GM are considering – the horror – front wheel drive for the next version. Not the same thing at all.

Technically, this is a car for the outback. The Thunder from Down Under. It is likely to be a bit of a handful on our crowded third world roads but don’t let that stop you though. If you want to buck the trend and go for power, you go right ahead – you little ripper!

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