Vauxhall through the ages: The first car

By: Mark Higgins, Unique Cars magazine

Presented by

Vauxhall part 1 Vauxhall part 1

Best remembered in Aus for the inaugural Armstrong 500-winning Cresta, or the last Viva of 1967, the first Vauxhall actually dates back to 1903

Once sold in Australia as part of the General Motors portfolio, the Vauxhall brand disappeared from our shores in the 1967 when the Viva was replaced by the HB Torana.

However, Vauxhall is probably best remembered for the Cresta sedan capturing the inaugural Armstrong 500-mile race at Phillip Island in 1960, the precursor to the Bathurst endurance classic.

Just after the turn of the 20th century in 1903, Vauxhall’s first year of car production resulted in the ‘Light Car’ that featured a slow-revving, single-cylinder 978cc engine producing just five horsepower.

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Showing Vauxhall’s roots as a producer of marine engines, the Light Car was steered by a tiller with its speed regulated by a brass hand-wheel next to the driver. A two-speed epicyclic gearbox sent drive through a large chain to the rear wheels and if determined, the driver could probably squeeze around 25mph from it.

This model – like all others manufactured in 1903 and 1904 - was built in Vauxhall’s original South London factory, where around 84 of this type rolled off the production line.

The following year the Vauxhall factory moved to Luton where it has been ever since. 

The 5hp four-seater in the photographs is the oldest of its kind in the world, is part of Vauxhall’s Heritage Collection and is a regular entrant in the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.


Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part II - Britain's first racecar

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part III - Britain's fastest car

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part IV - The H-Type Ten-Four

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part V - The Cresta

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part VI - The XVR Concept

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part VII - The Firenza HP DroopSnoot

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part VIII - Vauxhall's first hot hatch

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part IX - The world's fastest sedan

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part X - The Australian finale



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