Vauxhall Velox (1954) Review

By: Ben Dillon , Photography by: Nathan Duff

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1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox
1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox
1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox
1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox
1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox
1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox
1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox
1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox
1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox
1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox
1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox
1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox 1954 Vauxhall Velox

Vauxhall Velox down under. Before the Red Lion had a chance to roar, Vauxhall's Griffin logo ruled the roost in Australia.

Vauxhall Velox (1954) Review
1954 Vauxhall Velox

 

Vauxhall Velox

The history of Holden is one of mixed origins with both Vauxhall and GM North America heavily influencing local sales and assembly from the beginning of the 20th century. The importation of chassis' - many of which were draped with Holden bodies - and Completely Knocked Down kits (CKDs) introduced generations of Australian drivers to offerings from both the Motherland and Motor City.

It wasn't long, however, before these imports were being adapted to suit Australian conditions (both marketing and climatic), with local variants sprouting from seeds sent from overseas.

The Vauxhall Velox-based utility and Vagabond convertible are two such examples of gene splicing by early GM-H auto-geneticists keen to forge an Antipodean identity even before Australia's first car, the Holden 48-215 - or FX as it has become known - arrived in late 1948.

Holden's long history of coachbuilding meant it was well-equipped to take on this adaption of the Velox sedan into range-broadening convertible and ute models. From 1917 until the Great Depression hit, Holden Motor Body Builders had produced bodies for Austin, Fiat, Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge, to name a few.

In fact, so prodigious was Holden's output that by 1923, 50 percent of all bodies on Australian roads (65 different body styles were being produced at the time) were from the Holden plant.

As the biggest motor body building company in Australia, Holden was well placed to sign an agreement with GM to be the sole provider of bodies for GM cars - a huge step that both reduced the number of variants being made (thus reducing costs) and laid the foundation for what would become General Motors-Holden only a few years later.

GM's acquisition of Holden took place in 1931 after a period of uncertainty following the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929, during which Holden subsidised its falling order bank by manufacturing packing cases, filing cabinets and golf club heads.

Under new ownership, the way was clear for the newly formed GM-H to import and produce cars for the Australian market using the extensive range available from GM and its subsidiaries, which included Vauxhall (GM purchased the Luton outfit for US$2.5 million in 1925).

By the 1930s, Vauxhall was a familiar name in Australia, with a dedicated dealer network that sold other GM models alongside its Griffin-badged offerings. And Vauxhall continued here as a marque in its own right well into the 1960s.

Our feature cars come from the E-series Velox model family, which consisted of the 2.25-litre (138ci) six-cylinder Velox producing 65hp and 1.5-litre (92ci) four-cylinder Wyvern models (40hp), available in sedan, ute or Vagabond convertible guises.

All three body variants were available from 1952 with the Velox sedan priced at £1118, the Velox Vagabond at £1076 and the Velox ute around the £1000 mark.

The Wyvern name was first used for the four-cylinder Vauxhall H-series in Australia in 1938 but didn't appear on UK Vauxhalls until the L-series of 1948/49. The badge continued as the base E-series and was an average of £59 cheaper than the Velox for each variant in the range.

The Vagabond and utility were only ever produced in Australia, making them quite collectable here and abroad - especially in the UK where classic Vauxhalls enjoy a cult following like Holdens do in Australia.

The Vagabond convertible was created from a chopped Velox sedan and had lengthened doors, the B- and C-pillars removed, and an integral frame supporting the manually-operated soft-top.

Visually the Vagabond was a winner but sales were slow, possibly due to side curtains instead of wind-up windows being used, a legacy of Holden's rush to get the Vagabond into production.

The GM-H-crafted bodies for the Vagabond and ute variants were largely made possible by Vauxhall UK continuing to supply body-on-chassis cars to the colonies while the home market enjoyed monocoque construction for the E-series.

But the Vagabond wasn't the only Australian-made Vauxhall drop-top. A Caleche model, available in the L-series Vauxhall that ran from 1949 to 1952, was the first of what we would recognise today as a convertible.

While soft-topped Holden bodies had appeared on Vauxhall chassis' before, the Caleche differed in style from traditional roadster and tourer soft-tops with a fashionable swage-line dip where the B-pillar had been and a more modern look, in line with US convertibles of the time. Like the later Vagabond, the Caleche was only available in Australia and 3331 units were produced.

Production numbers for the Vagabond were approximately 1150, with only around 40 presently accounted for by the Vauxhall owners' club - 25 of which are currently on the road.

Interestingly, Holden production capacity was hindered by these new Vauxhall bodies and waiting lists for both Holden and Vauxhall models ran to several months during the early 1950s.

The E-series continued unchanged until 1955 when a facelift to greater differentiate the Velox from the lesser Wyvern model was performed. Changes included a new grille, indicators and bonnet emblem, painted rear lamp surrounds and chrome sill mouldings. Under this mid-life revision, the Vagabond convertible and four-cylinder Wyvern utility were deleted from the range due to poor sales.

Another stylistic revision in 1957 was to be the swansong for the E-series and marked the end of Velox six-cylinder ute production altogether, though by this time the FE ute was part of the Holden line-up - making the Vauxhall largely redundant.

From 1957, the F-series Victor took over as the four-cylinder model from the Wyvern while the Velox was demoted to a mid-range model for the new PA-series in which the Cresta nameplate debuted as the top model.

The PA Cresta quickly made its mark on the Australian racing scene by taking victory in the 1960 Armstrong 500 - the endurance race precursor to the Bathurst 1000 - at Phillip Island, driven by Frank Coad and John Roxburgh.

An exact replica of that history-making car can usually be seen at the annual Phillip Island Historic meeting.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

1954 Vauxhall Velox sedan, ute & Vagabond convertible

 

ENGINE: 2622cc 6cyl, OHV, 12v 

POWER: 48kW @ 4000rpm

TORQUE: 155Nm @ 1400rpm

GEARBOX: 3-speed manual with Laycock overdrive

0-97km/h: 21.4sec

TOP SPEED: 132 km/h

PRICE NEW: £1118 (sedan), £1076 (Vagabond), £1075 (ute in 1955)

PRICE NOW: $5000-$25,000

 

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