Vauxhall Viva HB 4 Door
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
TWO more doors were added to Vauxhall's various Vivas (excluding station wagon (estate) cars and GTs) in October 1968. The extra two doors added roughly £48 to the 2-door Viva prices, which were themselves increased in all cases by £8 to pay for the General Motors collapsing steering column which was fitted as standard.
To fit a reasonably sized rear door in the space available without major and therefore expensive structural alterations, the designers made the front door a little narrower. As the original door was a big one in the first place, the reduction was not noticed when you got in. Entering the back seat was, of course, much easier, especially for a tall adult.
But as before, a 6ft driver needed the seat slid right back to be comfortable and in this position back seat passengers found their knees in contact with the seat back. Rear headroom, as on the bigger Victor, was a little limited too.
Vauxhall fitted ashtrays to the armrests, and the delightfully described "sill pip" rear door locks told you whether or not you had locked up at a glance (and not that someone had been eating grapes in the back). In front the flat-fingered new door releases were not quite as easy to use as the previous ones which were not so flush, though you got used to this. It was common that these would require you to push them right to the very end of their movement before they would release.
The other big change was to the switches which were moved up from the highly criticized position just below the facia to directly underneath the long strip style speedometer. This was a great improvement: you could now get at them relatively easily even when wearing seat belts. Flattened blades were used for each one with symbols to identify its job. Drivers unfamiliar with the car would still struggle at night, at a time when illuminated switches were becoming the norm.
The heater controls still required a bit of a stretch and at night it required you to find the right one by "feel". There were at last two speeds for the blower, half-speed providing enough air movement for most occasions, which was just as well because full-speed was very noisy and pretty much irritating.
The heater temperature control could not be varied progressively at all. A switch labelled "Fully On/Fully Off" would have been no different in effect from the sliding lever which gave the impression, at least in the showroom, that a degree of variation could be achieved. What was so suprising was that the Vauxhall engineers had obviously been aware of the invariability of the water-valve method, providing a thermostatically controlled type on previous iterations of the Vauxhall Victor. As before, the Viva driver would need to open one window a bit to achieve proper ventilation.
In all other respects the 4 Door Viva remained the same. It seems to revel in being driven fast. Roadholding was first class and the lack of much roll encouraged drivers to use the excellent cornering to the full. The slight increase in weight (40lb.) made no noticeable difference to the performance. Every driving control - steering, brakes
(with servo on 90s and optional otherwise), clutch and gearchange - remained an object lesson to other manufacturers in their lightness.
The ride was pleasant enough on fairly smooth roads, but the car bounced harshly on poorer ones. There was still considerable wind noise at speed from the front quarter-lights and you were certainly aware of the car's engine working hard at 70 m.p.h. All in all, the 4 door Viva remained a pleasant and enjoyable car to drive, and for some peculiar reason (to our minds anyway), was made even better-looking by the extra doors.
Prices at introduction in the UK were:
- Vauxhall Viva de luxe 90 4-door Basic £622 0s 0d (+ Purchase Tax £174 17s 3d)
- Heated rear window and alternator £17 17s 9d
- Rear seat belts £4 15s Od
- Radio with Aerial £ 18 7s 1d
- Wing Mirrors £3
- Fog and spot lights £9 18s 6d
- Reversing light £3 2s 6d
- Cigar lighter £1 15s 5d
- Total, includise of front seat belts £796 17s 3d