A tale of two half-sisters.
US multinational corporations are often caricatured as having a heavy-handed We Know Best approach to managing their overseas businesses. In the automotive industry, however, the opposite appears to have been the case, at least historically. Over the course of the twentieth century, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler all built up substantial European operations, either through acquisition or organic growth. Not only did these corporations allow their European businesses to operate with a high degree of autonomy from Detroit, they were also markedly reluctant to force them to cooperate or integrate across European borders and instead allowed them to continue as national fiefdoms for a long time.
The reasons for this were largely to do with historic enmities between European countries, particularly in the wake of the Second World War. It suited Ford well for its UK customers to regard the Cortina as a quintessentially British car while, across the Channel, the equivalent Taunus was perceived as wholly Germanic. It was only in 1976 when the Cortina Mk4 and Taunus TC2 were launched that the two finally became one in all respects other than their model names, and this final distinction was eliminated with the launch of the Sierra in 1982.
Chrysler was equally reluctant to walk Rootes Group and Simca up the aisle. When eventually it did so and rebranded the cars as Chryslers, neither British nor French customers were particularly impressed by the only vaguely familiar new marque name. When Peugeot took over the ailing operation in 1978, they rebranded it Talbot on the basis that this marque was supposedly perceived as British in the UK and French in mainland Europe. The venture was, of course, an abject failure.
General Motors faced a similar dilemma with Vauxhall and Opel, acquired in 1925 and 1931 respectively. There followed half a century of prevarication before the two companies’ model ranges were finally fully integrated with the launch in 1982 of the Opel Rekord E2 and facelifted Carlton Mk1(1).
That model’s predecessors were the 1971 Opel Rekord D and 1972 Vauxhall Victor FE. These two cars shared a considerable amount under the skin, including their floorpan, but were each given completely different styling and shared no external body panels.
The Rekord D styling was styled by Hideo Kodama, overseen by American Charles ‘Chuck’ Jordan, Opel’s Design Director from 1967 to 1970, and it stands as one of their finest pieces of work. It was a clean and handsome car, with unadorned flanks containing just a subtle horizontal crease between the elliptical wheel arches, which added visual length and a degree of tension to the bodysides. The front and rear light units were smoothly integrated into the surrounding bodywork, those at the front bookending a separate forward-canted grille. The rear quarter panel flowed seamlessly up into the C-pillar and roof, an elegant and expensive looking treatment.
The Rekord D was available in saloon, estate and coupé variants, all equally handsome and finely resolved, with slim pillars and a large glass area. In base form, the Rekord had minimal exterior brightwork and looked most striking in this guise, as it showed off the sculptural qualities of the design to best effect. The more upmarket Commodore variants actually looked rather fussy by comparison, with side rubbing strips, bright trims around the wheel arches, extra brightwork across the rear panel and a vinyl roof adding unnecessary visual clutter and distracting attention away from its beautiful detailing. One such detail is the manner in which a crease in the rear quarter panel is perfectly concentric with the radiused corner of the boot lid shut-line above the rear light unit. It is a delight to behold.
The interior treatment, while perhaps austere to some eyes, is an object lesson in simplicity and functionality. Three large dials sit under a deeply hooded cowl directly in front of the driver, below which are rotary switches for the lights and wipers on the left and slide controls for the heater on the right. The hazard light switch is an illuminated push-button on top of the steering column, while the remaining secondary controls are on a solitary column stalk.
The Rekord D has all the hallmarks of a clean-sheet design executed with great skill and confidence and without compromise. Jordan spent three highly successful years at Opel before returning to Detroit, ultimately to succeed Irvin Rybicki as GM’s Vice President of Design in 1986.
If the Rekord D was the product of an uncompromised and singular vision, the Victor FE was quite the opposite. Its predecessor, the 1966 Victor FD, had been rendered in the highly fashionable ‘coke-bottle’ style popularised in the mid to late-1960s by GM. This had been well received in the market, so the initial work on its successor, which began in early 1968, attempted to retain this styling trope and marry it to new front and rear-end treatments.
The Vauxhall Design department was headed by British Design Director David Jones. Designer Leo Pruneau, assisted by fellow American David North, was given responsibility for the FE before North returned to the US and was replaced by Wayne Cherry. Early design sketches for the FE looked like an FD with new front and rear end treatments reminiscent of contemporary US Pontiac models. They showed little worthwhile stylistic progression over the FD. The large number of different design treatments(2) proposed and rejected before the production design was settled upon is indicative of the lack of a clear vision for the FE.
As the work progressed, the coke-bottle waistline gradually evolved into a downward curving arc between the A and C-pillars, which was then flattened out to leave just an upward curve at either end. How much cross-pollination of ideas there was between the Opel and Vauxhall design teams is a moot point, but the Victor FE, by coincidence or intention, ended up looking broadly similar to its Russelsheim half-sister.
The devil is, as always, in the detail, and this is where the Victor compares poorly with the Rekord. At the front end, instead of the Rekord’s bespoke large headlamp units with integral indicators behind a single glass lens, the Victor had to make do with small rectangular headlights from the HC Viva and a separate plastic indicator unit, surrounded by a wide bright metal bezel in a futile attempt to make the assembly look more size-appropriate to the car.
The imbalance was exacerbated by a large and deep V-shaped (in plan view) front grille that was bisected by the bumper. The car’s bonnet had diagonal flutes either side of a raised centre section that were meant to invoke memories of much earlier Vauxhall models(3), a reference that was lost on almost all observers. These flutes accounted for the otherwise inexplicable ‘bites’ out of the upper corners of the grille surround.
The flanks were commendably clean, but there was an awkward junction at the base of the A-pillar, where a wide horizontal door shut-line failed to align with the downward sloping base of the DLO. The trailing-edge shut-line on the rear door also abutted the drip-rail on the C-pillar rather awkwardly. Unlike the Rekord, which had different rear doors on the estate version, the Victor had to make do with the saloon’s doors, so the rear side window was visually separated from the rest of the DLO. This was not a problem in itself, but the forward inclination of the C-pillar forced a much faster slope on the tailgate, which robbed the estate of load capacity and practicality.
Overall, the Victor FE had a somewhat brash and Americanised demeanour that did not sit well with European tastes. Vauxhall tacitly acknowledged the US influences by calling the new model the Transcontinental (although Transatlantic might have been a more accurate descriptor) in its advertising. It didn’t help that it was launched in January 1972, just a month after the Rekord D, which had been warmly received by the automotive press.
The Victor FE was not exactly ugly, but it was notably less well resolved than the Rekord and lacked that car’s understated elegance. Part of this, for example the use of off-the-shelf headlamps(4) and shared rear doors, might have been caused by budget constraints(5) but, if that were the case, why didn’t Vauxhall simply adopt the superior Record D design wholesale? Built in Luton, with Vauxhall badges and drivetrains, it would have made a perfectly acceptable Victor. Presumably, corporate pride prevented this at the time but, less than a decade later, all Vauxhalls would be designed in Russelsheim.
Author’s note: I am indebted to Christopher Butt for the detail photos of the Rekord D above. Further analysis of the qualities of the Rekord D may be found on Christopher’s own Auto Didakt automotive design website.
(1) The 1978 Carlton Mk1 with its Droop-Snoot front end was the last Vauxhall to have different sheet-metal to its Opel equivalent. Subsequent models differed only in trim and badging.
(2) The Vauxpedia website is a valuable resource for viewing these drawings and much more Vauxhall-related material.
(3) The front wings of the 1957 F-Series Victor featured similar flutes, the last Vauxhall previously to do so.
(4) The Victor finally received custom one-piece headlamp units in January 1976 when it was heavily revised and renamed the VX.
(5) Vauxhall’s financial condition was deteriorating during the development of the Victor FE. The company posted a £2.1 million loss in 1969, followed by a £9.4 million loss in 1970. The latter figure is equal to £155 million today.
58 thoughts on “Keeping Up Appearances”
I remember quite well the presentation of the Rekord D.
Its styling was a pleasant surprise with its distinctly European looks which signalled the end for US inspired looks that increasingly and fast became out of fashion. The family of Rekord D, later Kadett C and to a smaller extent Ascona A made Ford’s range of Taunus TC, Granada Mk1 and ‘dog bone’ Escort Mk1 look distinctly brash and out of fashion which showed in the sales numbers.
A Rekord D could be specced up to levels that made it very expensive – the father of a friend bought an early 1900 L with automatic gearbox and metallic brown paint that cost the same money as a BMW or Audi 100, something barely imaginable today.
The D’s engines produced a bit more power than in the C thanks to higher compression ratios. When TEL content was broght down by regulations engines developed nasty habits for pining and running with ignition switched off. Compression ratios were lowered and power fell to the old levels from 97 PS to 90 PS (1900) and 81 PS to 75 PS (1700).
Opel must have felt that their insistence on ox cart rear suspensions must have met some resistance in the market. Mercedes had ditched their Fritz Nallinger memorial suspensions for semi trailing arms only very shortly before but German cars of comparable size increasingly featured IRS like K70, Neue Klasse and Benz /8, raising customers’ expedtations. Opel then invented all kinds of marketing blurb to describe the axle design as ‘Tri Stabil’ and avoided to mention or show that it was a live axle.
Rekord D and Ascona A shared a strange styling feature with a metal strip in front of the bonnet where the welded in front valence was reaching up between the bolt on front wings, making repair work complicated and expensive.
In the early Eighties I visited a customer and was invited to their canteen for lunch. A line worker was sitting at our table and told me that he had bought a very beautiful Rekord D with an engine that didn’t run cleanly and he asked me whether I would mind a quick look at it in the afternoon. I agreed and bought some spares like contact breakers and spark plugs before visiting him. In the end the engine didn’t run properly because the screws holding together the carburettor had rattled loose, allowing the upper half of the carb (together with air cleaner) to move around freely for about half a centimetre. Screws were tightened and ignition was set using my stroboscope. When he blipped the throttle the engine was running fine but moved around quite freely because the car had developed the typical stress crack between (right hand in this case) inner wing and A post. The inner wing had ripped free down to the chassis rail and the front was held to the rest of the car only by the bolt on wing.
My recommendation was to get rid of the car as quickly as possible…
Good morning Dave. Yikes! Was that stress fracture a known weakness with the Rekord D? I hadn’t heard of it before.
It was a well known weakness of the body structure that afflicted the Rekord D to Omega A (and I guess even the Omega B) and everything based on them. Six cylinder versions suffered even worse because of the heavier engines.
The result was that the inner wings had a tendency to part company with the lower A post/bulkhead.
Australian versions with larger engines had additional brackets between scuttle panel and inner wings that prevented these cracks but seemingly were too expensive for Opel.
I remember smaller Opels of the 80s and 90s always having stress cracks in interesting places – didn’t realise it was common in the 70s.
Buyers guides for older Rekords like P1 already told potential owners where to look for stress cracks around steering box mounting points.
Yes, the Opel Rekord D ranks among the best looking cars of the seventies in my book as well- be it the sedan, the coupé or even the wagon- and the more basic the trim level the better it looks.
The Vauxhall Victor FE was decidedly less clean and timeless in its appearance, and one thing about the car always stuck out to me: its headlights resembled those of the Ford Capri MK1 quite closely:
Good morning Bruno. Yes, indeed. I suspect those headlamps were a standard industry size. They seemed to feature on a range of British cars of the 1970s, including the Hillman Avenger and Hunter, the Chrysler Sunbeam as well as the two Vauxhalls.
The facelifted Capri Mk1 featured larger custom headlamps and indicators relocated to the front bumper:
Here are the custom headlamp/indicator units fitted to Vauxhall’s VX replacement for the Victor FE:
Neater, certainly, but the car was looking quite dated by then.
I’ve always thought the Victor FE looks cross-eyed, because the indicators are so wide relative to the headlamps but within the same surround. The revised units on the VX, with much slimmer indicators, solve this problem.
Notabene: The Rekord D’s exterior was styled by Hideo Kodama, who’s Opel’s historically most significant extetrior designer (alongside Erhard Schnell).
Good afternoon Christopher and thanks for the additional information. Text amended accordingly.
The Victor´s grille with its bisecting vertical line, chamferred corners and scale clearly inspired some recent BMW shapes. I notice the rather sloppy way the extra sideglass is incorporated into the estate version. It is likely the market scale fell below an important threshold for making a cleaner solution viable. The Rekord D is an interesting mix of Pasadena and Ulm. Or is it even German at all? If we imagine Ulm Design School sensibilities in operation it´s in the restraint and ordering of the details. The Pasadena part is in the overall surfacing and sculpting. The car is an 80% scaled American sedan with European refinements.
After a long time thinking about this I realise the notion of “German design” is a construct. If we look at other German-designed car their aesthetic is incredibly diverse, much more than Britain´s or America´s. A gathering of similar priced cars from W. Germany in the 1970s would reveal little in common. A BMW 518 isn´t exactly a master-class in aesthetic rigour, nice as it is. The Benzs are richly formed, the BMWs are austere, Audis are quite be-chromed. And so on. The idea of a typical German design style was only chrystalised in the late 70s or early 80s. It´s almost a circular argument. Evidence for “German design” is the best Sacco work and BMW´s 80s cars and these cars make us devise a concept called “German design”. That said, there are tendencies in cultures – they often don´t add up to more than that. Ford´s 70s work is as German as BMWs but is not often cited as an example but you could almost say it´s even more locally-situated than the examples from Munich. A Granada is such a Cologne car.
The blue saloon’s glasshouse reminded me of something – which turned out to be a Maserati Quattroporte. No wonder the Rekord is handsome if it was thus influenced.
Do you mean the Mk1 QP?
The image in the first photo manages to suggest no other cars are parked in the vicinity. These days peoples´ preference seems to be to pave the front garden and get the car off the street. That´s the less obvious way in which the image is now historic.
Hi Daniel, that’s a very lucid write up, coupled with some homework, thank you. I’ve always liked the Rekord D and most of Opel’s contemporary line up (like the Ascona A and B) as fluid, restrained but substantial and nicely judged designs. Further to Richard’s point from the previous article and the resulting discussion: maybe things went downhill for Opel’s reputation after this generation?
I don’t think there were that many Victors around when I started noticing cars, thus it carries a bit of exoticism for me. I’ve only come across them much later. I like it, but your explanation of its design faults makes perfect sense and certainly establishes the Rekord as the superior design. The post-facelift version (certainly the one with double round headlamps) looks quite nice, though.
It strikes me how much the generation of Opels, Vauxhalls and some other GM products before this one reminds me of Fords, to the point where I frequently misidentify them. Here’s the Victor FD you also mention in the article:
and here’s the Rekord C:
The Coke bottle line helps, but there must be more to it.
The Victor FD and Mk.3 Cortina are two of the most extreme examples of the ‘Coke bottle’ styling on British vehicles, though the FD predates the Mk.3 by three years (Autumns of 1967 & 1970 respectively).
The 4 headlight arrangement on the FD was originally developed for the Canadian market and adopted on the home market too, though single rectangular lights had been used on some full-size clays. Had the original intention to sell the FE in Canada gone ahead then it is more likely that the four rectangular headlights used on the VX4/90 and Ventora models would have been used on Victors too.
Thanks for your kind words, Tom. Glad you enjoyed the piece. The Victor FE / VX lived on in India as the Hindustan Contessa until 2002:
One odd change over the Vauxhall was made: the Contessa had fixed quarter-windows in the rear doors, which never featured on the Vauxhall. Perhaps they reduced wind noise or buffeting when the windows were open, otherwise it seems hard to explain why Hindustan bothered.
The fixed quarter windows allow part of the rear door´s side glass to wind all the way down whereas the other version had all the rear door´s side glass wind part the way down. My XM has a rear door side glass in two bits. One bit goes entirely down which I suppose is nicer than a whole pane that never fully opens. I think my 406 also does the same thing.
That must be it. One can imagine the ability to wind the side window down fully making a difference in India, assuming that air conditioning would be out of reach financially. I’m not sure about that, though.
The grille on the Contessa looks slightly better resolved. The wheel covers don’t though, although they do remind me a little of Mercedes wheels, or maybe just generic wheels from the nineteen-eighties.
Yes, that must be it. The Audi 80 B2 had the same quirk, rear door windows that only wound two-thirds the way down.
The Contessa, with its shallow grille and one-piece headlamps with integrated indicators from the VX, looks a lot like the Rekord D!
It does, but the more I look at it, the more I like the curved lower edge of the Victor’s DLO. Of course, that of the Rekord kinks upward just a little at the front as well. There’s something curiously satisfying to me about the Victor’s ratio of DLO height vs. underbody height. I’m not sure that it’s different from that of the Rekord, so it might just be the curve itself.
It might also have to do with the window frames, which are fully chromed as opposed to the sheet metal/chrome combination on the Opel. On these pictures at least, it makes the side windows of the Vauxhall look cleaner and better defined than those on the Opel. Seeing it in the flesh might be another matter again, though. Overall, the Opel is the stronger design, particularly in the details you highlight. The Suzuki Ignis that Richard featured a few days ago has the same highly satisfying attention to detail.
Interestingly there was a version of the Rekord C that came with the FD grille and headlight arrangements. The Ranger was made and sold in South Africa, and made and sold in Belgium, and made and sold in Switzerland by the GM divisions in each country. Apparently because the Vauxhalls the dealer networks had used to sell were no longer available, (or weren’t good enough?)
The Ranger version of the Rekord D followed, distinguished by the quad headlights and relocated indicators from Mr Jordan’s masterpiece. Given what I’ve read on this site about Opel’s structural shortcomings with these models, I wonder how GM SA coped with designing for the heavy weight of their iron Chevrolet ohv motors, let alone some of the rough roads found in southern Africa.
Hi David. That’s interesting, seeing the Record C body with a Victor FD grille. I suppose the cars were sufficiently in dimensions for it to fit snugly. I rather like the Ranger with the quad headlamps and ‘power bulge’ in the bonnet, although your concerns about structural integrity are worth noting!
The Brazilian Chevrolet Opala featured the same Chevrolet ohv as the South African Ranger.
Here’s a Rekord D with bulge but without power.
Rekord 2100 D with hot 66 PS diesel. The diesel was a true OHC engine and didn’t fit under the standard bonnet.
Thanks for posting the diesel Rekord image. They might have taken the car to the Black Forest in late spring. It´s a hugely evocative image. And the car is not black or white or metallic grey.
The Rekord Diesel at least was faster than a /8 200 D which fought with 2CVs in terms of acceleration and top speed.
66PS from 2.100 cc was quite good compared to a 240D which only had 65 PS. The Opel also had the much more modern diesel management with an electro magnetically switched injection pump in place of the old pneumatic Benz system with the pull-out button for pre-glow and start and a wing nut for adjusting its idle speed.
The Rekord D always had a column gear shift and was not available with what was called ‘sport shift’ which initially could be ordered at extra cost and later became standard fitment – except for the D.
Ah, international variants… those Rangers look very nice, the Rekord wears the macho nose well. South Africa used to be a well of automotive hybrids (no, not that kind), I suppose China has that now, with a bewildering variety of (for instance) VWs with just ever so slightly tweaked exteriors. South America has its local specials as well, of course, though if I intepret it correctly, Fiat is planning to replace the whole (quite extensive, certainly compared to Europe) range there with teh same five models that it plans to sell globally. Presumably most of those will have a name that starts with 5 and ends with 0 (zero), what’s in between is anybody’s guess…
Diesels were just a different category then, performance diesels only came about later, more or less concurrently with direct ignition diesels, which allow for higher performance. There is something to be said, though for a company that markets a premium car with a more than 20 second 0-100/0-60 time. “It moves, doesn’t it? Well then.” Compare that to the horsepower races of recent years (cheerfully continued in EV’s).
A Mercedes 200 D with automatic gearbox was the car to teach you modesty and humility and drive the ones following you nuts.
Zero to 60 in about a minute but only after you spent more than a minute watching a glow filament in a dashboard mounted salt shaker before starting the engine. This phenomenal acceleration was accompanied by thick brown clouds of sweet smelling soot that over time irreversibly discoloured the left side of the car’s rear end.
Mercedes diesels of that era were famous for having the same fuel consumption of ten litres/100 km or roughly 28 mpg irrespective of engine size or the ‘speed’ at which they were driven.
There was yet another variant of the Rekord D, this time from South Korea. The Saehan Rekord Royale.
Saehan started out as GM Korea, which started out as Shinjin, making Toyotas. In 1978 Saehan was taken over by Daewoo to become Daewoo so later Royales appeared as Daewoos.
Indeed, QP Mk 1
Intersesting. The similarity is not so clear to me.
Nor me, John, I’m afraid to say. Here’s the Quattroporte Mk1:
The Record D is certainly a very good looking car. The Victor FE a baffling throw together. My parents had FB and FD estates. The FB seems to have been one of those cars which people liked whereas the FD, although very attractive, was not a great drive. There’s a very nice dark blue Record C estate just down the road.
It makes a nice Mercedes…
In defence of the Victor FE, it suffered from an uncertain perception of its position in its domestic market. The FD was a bigger car than the Mark 2 and Mark 3 Cortina, but was sold for only about 5% more. With the demise of the Cresta, the FE (only 2.25″ longer with a 3.0″ longer wheelbase than its predecessor), was pitched into competition with the Granada, also launched in March 1972.
The new Ford was more compact than the gross Zephyr / Zodiac Mark IV, and also the Taunus P7, which took up as much roadspace as its big British Ford contemporaries. The FE and Rekord D closely matched the Granada’s footprint, but fell around 100mm short of the Ford’s 1537mm (5′ 0.5″) tracks which played their part in its dynamic superiority.
In Germany and Opel’s traditional northern European markets, the Rekord’s dimensions and market standing were better established – the D iteration’s dimensions were little-changed from its predecessor, and engines were carried over with unaltered capacities.
I’m rather fond of the FE’s ‘transatlantic’ styling, with its elements of Pontiac, Cadillac, and Holden. Neat continuity with the Ventora and VX4/90 too, and “those flutes”. Trouble was it was done cheaply, and there was no disguising that. The FE’s woeful sales performance was not so much down to its inherent weakness, more to the desirability of the mighty Granada, and Ford of Britain’s ruthless exploitation of their advantage.
The FE’s indicators always intrigued me as a child in the 70s, being translucent and a “softer” orange than anything else around then. Or was there ever another car with similar lights?
Hi Andy, this one perhaps?
Ah, good call, Gooddog, though from looking at a close-up I think the lenses are very heavily grooved rather than being translucent themselves, or am I just being too picky?
Well, it’s your criteria… I have another for you though.
That is a good call, though of course such is the dazzling brilliance of all that chrome that anything else would look softer and dimmer in comparison.
Many French cars from that era had white indicator lenses because in their home country white indicators were mandatory. For export markets demanding amber indicators they simply put in an orange fresnel lens behind the clear cover.
You got this at Peugeot 204, first series 504, early GS and many more.
Thanks Dave. After all these years of being aware of the yellow lenses on the main headlights I don’t think I’d ever noticed the clear indicators.
No idea were Vauxhall were going with the FE’s styling, in comparison the Rekord D’s styling looks like something that could have easily transitioned into the VX Prestige prototype. A symptom of Vauxhall’s problems perhaps? Even though was under the impression that massive post-war investment by GM into Opel more or less put Vauxhall at a disadvantage, not helped of course by Vauxhall’s own internal issues.
Rather fond of the V-platform cars though was not aware of the stress fracture issues. Vauxhall/Opel could have certainly benefited from the changes and other ideas Holden were making down under, particularly with the issues the Omega V8 prototypes were said to have suffered against the equivalent Commodore and Monaro.
The Victor sedan always makes me think of how a 4-door Chevy Vega would’ve looked, while the wagon looks more like an AMC Hornet Sportabout than it does any other contemporary GM product.
On rear windows not going all the down, it think it is a safety feature adopted almost industry-wide later…..
I’ve been perusing the Vauxpedia website you linked, and from the indeed bewildering array of stylin proposals I rather like this one, which has much better shutlines than the final product:
Hi Tom. Vauxpedia is indeed a treasure trove of photos and drawings of prototypes and concepts that never saw production. The only downside of the site is the lack of a proper index for the extensive content, just a haphazard list of models very roughly in date order.
That also shows the more effective quad headlights and the vents in the rear pillar which were eliminated (which, unlike the headlights, I think was an improvement).
The door shutline was a case of working within the limits of the underlying structure. On the Opel the top edge of the door is in line with the wing, but that wing line finishes just below the leading edge of the upswing of the side window line. Vauxhall wanted to bring the rear of the wing edge up so it was level with the upswing which comes up a little more than it does on the Opel so that it aligns with the bright surround of the front screen. On the styling model the underlying inconsistency was effectively glossed over, but on the actual car the top edge of the door could not be moved up to match.
No kidding, Daniel, I downloaded what I thought was the above picture, but turned out to be a klarge part of the web page (and it’s a long one) in one jpeg. Citroenet looks just as chaotic, but is much better organised underneath. Still, I shouldn’t criticise: it’s a great resource; much credit to them for unlocking all this information.
Bernard: that’s a really neat detail, on a par with the radiused crease and boot shut line on the Opel that Daniel highlights in the article. It makes that part of the Opel look a little clumsy in comparison. It may, however betray the lack of focus that the many different styling studies for the Victor also hint at: have a good idea, but lack the time, focus or money – or all three – to execute it properly.
The Holden Torana LH from 1974 was also based on the Rekord D or more closely the Victor FE I suppose. It had a 1.9 Opel engine or Holden’s 2.8 & 3.3 inline sixes and 4.2 & 5.0 V8 from their larger car. Holden built a prototype wagon and hatchback – the latter would be introduced 2 years later with the LX facelift. Note that the car pictured below is photographed in Indonesia – Holden exported to various countries in the region then.
One interesting thing is the rear door quarter window is different to that of the Hindustan Contessa as posted by Daniel above!
Here is the later hatchback version – now worth very good money, with the homologation models up to $AUD200k.
The Torana LH is an oddity, which doesn’t quite fit in with any other GM product line. It was promoted at the time as the most Australian car ever, in terms of design and local content. Despite looking very Victor FE-like, it has an 81mm shorter wheelbase and narrower tracks. Length apart, it’s closer to the size of the Mk.3 Cortina, also made in Australia with locally produced in-line sixes.
Quite why it needed to be – by Australian standards – so small is puzzling, as there was a substantial size gap between it and the full-size HQ series.
Is it possible the Torana LH’s platform was essentially the remains of Vauxhall’s Cerian proposal to what became the mk1 Cavalier / Ascona B or was at least influenced by the latter (minus the advanced styling), since it was to make use of a modified LE platform shortened to around 100-inches (the Torana LH has a 101.8-inch wheelbase)?
Does somebody is aware of how the traditional Mercedes Benz handbrake, that is actually a footbrake in a 4th pedal, operates? And what was the reason for such a technical solution? How can the driver adjust it like the clicks of the well known hand-handbrake all the other car manufacturers use?
You can feel ‘the clicks’ through your feet, and the disengagement lever works just like a handbrake lever button. Foot operated parking brakes are more an American invention than European, they are much easier to use with automatic transmissions which are quite ubiquitous in the USA. Most of the larger Mercedes Benzes are similarly equipped.
The mechanism works as described above.
Like many things at Mercedes its development was driven by safety (and by Bela Barenyi).
In case of a hydraulic failure of the brakes you can step on a foot operated handbrake with much more power than you can pull at a lever. Mercedes also used separate brake drums for the handbrake in addition to the hydraulically operated discs because a mechanically operated drum has more power.
David and Dave, thank you for your help!
Shannon’s, the Australian insurance and auction people, are doing a series on designers, starting with GM’s Leo Pruneau. It looks like it’s going to be an interesting series and Pruneau comes across as a great character.
Two stories stood out for me; how the influence of the Solaris concept influenced GM’s design globally in the ‘60s, and Pruneau’s recounting of the HB Viva’s development.