Vauxhall Victor F Series
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The Original Victor
The original Victor, launched on 28 February 1957
, was dubbed the F series and saw a production run totalling over 390,000 units. The car was of unitary construction and featured a large glass area with heavily curved windscreen and rear window. Following the then current American styling trends, the windscreen pillars sloped backwards. In fact, the body
style was derived directly from the classic 1957 Chevrolet Belair, though this was not obvious unless the two cars were viewed side by side.
The Victor F Series not only looked good, it also had very good roadability. It offered ample accommodation for its modest overall size, it handled nicely on the road, had moderate performance, and cornered well. And what made it all the more appealing was that it offered good fuel economy and reasonably fast cruising speeds. The external appearance of the car was, as mentioned, distinctly American. It had a low, deck-type bonnet and boot, a high guard line and a wrap-around windscreen with forward-Ieaning pillars. The rear window was of a matching design and the bumpers were massively ornamental.
Bench seats were fitted front and rear trimmed in Rayon and "Elastofab", and two-colour interior trim was standard. The Super model had extra chrome trim, notably around the windows; remnants of the signature Vauxhall bonnet flutes ran along the front flanks and the exhaust
pipe exited through the rear bumper. The car was equipped with arm rests on the doors, door-operated courtesy lights, a two-spoke steering
wheel and twin sun visors.
In spite of its then modern exterior, there was nothing on the engineering side of the Victor which had not been proven. Its engine was normal, with a good power and torque output. The car structure was of the unitary type and suspension
was conventional. The only points warranting criticism were a whine from the transmission around 40 mph second gear, and pendent pedals which were set too high from the floor level. The instruments were conveniently housed in a dome projecting above the fascia line – but unfortunately it needed a non-reflecting surface on the top of this dome to prevent it becoming a bit of a mirror in bright sunlight.
On the Road
The Victor climbed moderately well in top gear due to a gearing which was slightly higher than normal. The drop down to second gear was considerable, but in that ratio the car would deal with difficult mountain passes. The power-weight ratio, with a load of 3cwt, was 47.7 horsepower per ton. Overall gearing yielded a road speed of 16.5 mph in top gear at 1,000 rpm. The Victor would cruise comfortably at 60 mph on average safe highways. Its good handling
and roadholding permitted it to maintain creditable average speeds on winding roads. Flexibility and response in top gear were maintained down to 30 mph. The response of the Victor to the throttle was only moderate.
The maximum pulling power (a torque of 84.5 lbs-ft) was developed at road speeds of 40 mph in top gear and 24 mph in second gear. Times for acceleration in second sear were: 20-40 m.p.h., 7.4 seconds; 30-50 m.p.h.. 9.6 seconds. In top sear the times were: 20-40 mph, 11.1 seconds; 30-50 mph. 12.7 seconds; 40-60 mph. 15.3 seconds. For prompt overtaking second gear could be used up to 30 mph, over which speed top gear would give sufficient response. The Victor was a pleasant car to drive. It held the road very well, and its most noticeable characteristic was the excellent manner of its cornering. It is unusually nimble and light. On bends taken really fast, the Victor showed good adhesion on dry bitumen, with neutral steering
characteristics. Roll is not absent, but neither was it troublesome. Tyre squeal was average. The actual riding characteristics of the Victor are quite good, if inclining to slight bounciness with a light load. The rear seat comfort is quite satisfactory.
Here the Victor had another pleasant characteristic. The extreme lightness of the recirculating-ball steering
contributed greatly to the nimbleness of the car. On paper, the steering
looked rather slow as it required three and a half turns from lock to lock (gearing ratio 13.5 to 1). According to road testers of the time, this was not so much the case in practice, the high ratio not being overly noticeable. There was some reaction felt in the hands over bad roads, but this did not reach the uncomfortable stage. The moderate turning circle of 34ft, coupled with good vision fore and aft. made manoeuvring quite easy.
The Lockheed hydraulic brakes
gave splendid results for average requirements. The weight of the foot on the pedal was sufficient down moderate hills. A very sudden stop would result from a determined jab on the pedal. The brakes
were somewhat on the small side, with a lining area of only 92 sq. ins. As a consequence, there was some noticeable, but not serious, fade when they were subjected to a little abuse – or down a long descent. The handbrake was of twist-and-pull type, along the left of the steering
column. During one road test, where the Victor averaged 44.5 mph over the test route, it yielded 34.4 miles per gallon. This figure was equivalent to 39.6 ton-miles per gallon (loaded), and a fuel-speed factor (ton-m.p.g. x average speed) of 1,760, both of which were above average for the era. At this rate of consumption, the fuel tank would have given a rather limited cruising range of about 275 miles.
Behind the Wheel
Things were quite comfortably arranged for the driver. The bench seat gave average comfort, and vision was really good. The wheel was of conveniently small size, with two spokes and a horn ring. It was well placed for comfort and pedal reach, but its rim was sufficiently high to interfere with some drivers' view of the road. The pedals were well spaced, with small pads, but as mentioned above they were too high above the floor. The gearshift was mounted on the column, three-on-the-tree style, and was positive, with a short movement. The synchromesh was satisfactory, and was provided on first gear. The instruments were put high before the driver, in a dome. They comprised speedometer
, and gauges for engine temperature and fuel. Large warning lights were provided for generator, oil pressure and the turn indicators.
The engine compartment was not crowded, and access to ancillaries was good. However, the front of the bonnet swept down so extensively that it did restrict your freedom of movement when working from the front of the engine. Bore and stroke were 79.3 x 76.2mm, and with a compression ratio of 7.8 to 1, maximum b.m.e.p. was 138 Ib/sq. in, and specific power output was 36.5 bhp. per litre. Individual inlet ports were used from the Zenith carburettor. The gear ratios were: Top 4.1 to 1, and second gear 6.75 to 1. The unitary hull structure was suspended at front on coils and wishbones, and at rear on three-leaf semi-elliptic springs. Telescopic spring dampers were used all round, with an anti-roll bar
Although the engine was of similar size to that of the outgoing Wyvern it was in critical respects new. Fitted with a single Zenith carburettor it had an output of 55 bhp (41 kW) at 4200 rpm and gained a reputation of giving a long trouble free life. This was also the year when Vauxhall standardized on "premium" grade petrol/gasoline, permitting an increase in the compression ratio from the Wyvern's 6.8:1 to 7.8:1. Premium grade petrol had become available in the UK at the end of 1953
, following an end to post-war fuel rationing, and at that time offered average octane level of 93, but in the ensuing four years this had crept up to 95 (RON). The Victor's three-speed gearbox had synchromesh on all forward ratios and was operated by a column-mounted lever. In early 1958
Newtondrive two pedal control was available as an option.
was independent at the front by coil springs and with an anti-roll bar
was fitted on a rubber mounted cross member. The rear suspension
used a live axle and semi elliptic leaf springs. Steering
was of the recirculating ball type. Lockheed hydraulic 8 in (203 mm) drum brakes
were used. A "Super" version tested by The Motor magazine in 1957
had a top speed of 74.4 mph (119.7 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 28.1 seconds. A fuel consumption of 31.0 miles per imperial gallon (9.11 litres/100 km; 25.8 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £758 including taxes. The estate car cost £931. A Series II model was announced in 1959
with simplified styling. The new car was available in three versions with a De-Luxe as the top model featuring leather trim and separate front seats.
The Victor appears to be quite a small car when viewed from outside. However, the accommodation inside was greater than expected. The bench seats accommodated four in comfort, but a third passenger could be accepted in rear. Side arm rests were fitted on all doors. Ventilation panels were provided in the front windows, in addition to which a scuttle ventilator gave a powerful blast of fresh air to the front floor. The gearbox hump was moderate, and leg room was good in front, and fair in rear. Headroom was sufficient in both seats, in spite of a very modest height of 4ft 10in. The boot had a flat floor, a good shape (with the spare upright) and a luggage capacity of about 101 cub. ft.
An estate variant was launched in 1958
. When re-styled, as the series II, the car lost all its '57 Chevy styling detail and the teardrop shaped 'Vauxhall' flutes were replaced by a single chrome side-stripe running nose to tail. The sculpted 'porthole' rear bumper tips, which rusted badly due to exhaust
residue, were replaced by plain, straight ones. Interestingly, the old bumper ends continued to be used for many years on a variety of motor coaches and ice-cream vans.
The Vauxhall Victor was a worthy successor to the Wyvern, offering accommodation for four in comfort, and five if required. The outstanding characteristic of the Victor was its nimbleness and good handling
qualities. It held the road well and was pleasant to drive, especially on winding highways. The road performance was only moderate, more particularly on hill climbing and acceleration. However, it offered very good fuel mileage. As a general purpose car, it was for the time a good example of modern British engineering which resulted in light weight coupled with ample strength. It was strong enough for permanent country use here in Australia, but a clearance of only 6.6 inches probably required careful handling
on country roads.