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Vauxhall XVR: The Little Vette that Wasn’t

Chris Haining March 24, 2017 All Things Hoon 12 Comments

This is a Vauxhall. You know, the famous French British arm of General Motors. Though it’s cars have been – badges and steering wheel side aside – virtually identical since the early ‘Eighties, there was a time when the the Griffin-badged company was fiercely independent.

Its cars may not always have been the most exciting on the road, but every now and again the Luton company would let its hair down and come up with something other than the humdrum family saloons that made  its bread and butter. And there’s no better example of this than the XVR concept of 1966. Remind you of anything?

The XVR, or eXperimental Vauxhall Research prototype, was just what was needed to blow the cobwebs away at a time when the square-rigged Vauxhall Viva  Victor and Cresta were the most interesting Griffin-badged machines tooling around Luton suburban streets in 1965.

The XVR was designed and built in just five months. A functional car, built in steel by Motor Panels of Coventry was ready in time for the March 1966 Geneva motor show. And this isn’t it.

The show car was, sadly, destroyed at the end of its public facing career. This is one of two glassfibre mock-ups that were also created, the other one of which is also presumed lost. This one only survived as it had been stashed away in a void above the Vauxhall styling studio.

Design director David Jones had persuaded Vauxhall of the image-building potential that such a show-car could have, and he put a team together to make it happen. Among that team was one Wayne Cherry, whose name would soon be forever associated with the Camaro, Firebird and Toronado. Design work progressed quickly, from paper, through clay and then into fibreglass, which would later provide measurements for the metal car’s panels.

The lines were deliberately similar to the Mako Shark II concept – albeit considerably smaller – and you can definitely see C3 Corvette in the bonnet profile, plan view and proportions. The engine fitted was actually a pre-production, but fully-functional, 1,975cc four which was seen in the XVR before it came to be fitted to the Victor-based VX4/90.  It would have been enough to push this diminutive car along at some pace.

There are some design touches that were really quite out-there – and still are – for a company like Vauxhall. The windscreen is split down the middle, with both halves independently hinging as part of a pair of butterfly doors. Pop-up headlamps are fitted, and the gills by the front wheel arches looked fantastic. But there would be no production model.

There was, of course, the independently developed Opel GT, but that would never be sold in the UK. In fact, only the slim rear lights, a similar design to which would later appear on the third-generation Vauxhall Viva, and the inset dials on the dashboard would have a strong resemblance to those used in the upgunned Viva GT, Victor VX 4/90 and Ventora.

But there would be no Vauxhall Mini-Vette.

(All images Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2017)