Vauxhall is one of the oldest established automobile manufacturers in Britain. The Vauxhall name is the trading name for General Motors UK and has become and iconic British name. The company was founded in 1857 by Alexander Wilson. Initially, the company was a manufacturer of marine engines and began producing travelling cranes in 1863 when it was sold. Following the sale, the company was renamed Vauxhall Iron Works.
The company began producing vehicles in 1903, moving production to Luton in 1905. The first car ever produced by Vauxhall was a five-horse power single-cylinder model. This pioneer used a tiller and had two forward gears but no reverse gear. About 70 of these vehicles would be made in the first year. The following year, the vehicle was improved with the company adding a steering wheel and a reverse gear.
Vauxhall 1907- 1940
The company would continue to trade as Vauxhall Iron Work until 1907 when the name changed to Vauxhall Motors. At this time, the company became well-known for its sport models that include the Y-Type Y1 that saw massive success at the 1908 RAC. This same model was also massively successful at the Brooklands circuit, completing 200 miles at an average speed of 46mph.
In 1914, the company released the A09 car that would become the primary design for all Vauxhall’s A-Type models. This 1914 model would achieve a top speed of 100mph and was the most acclaimed 3-litre car of its day. As the First World War raged on, the company made numerous D-Type models. These began with a modification of the C-Type but quickly became popular. The D-Type would remain in production even after the war.
In 1925, General Motors Acquired Vauxhall for $2.5 million. The acquisition would bring massive changes to Vauxhall operations. The low cost 2-liter Vauxhall Cadet and Bedford Truck that were released in the late 1930s are a prime example of the changes General Motors brought to Vauxhall. The Cadet was particularly popular as the first British car to have a synchromesh gearbox.
The Vauxhall factory in Luton was bombed in 1940 and 39 employees of the company were killed. At the time, the company had stopped production to focus on the development of the new Churchill tank. A year later, the Churchill tank went into production with more than 5,600 tanks built during the war. The company also produced 250,000 Lorries during the war.
Production of passenger vehicles resumed after the World war although the company would not be able to produce vehicles in huge numbers until the completion of the Ellesmere Port Plant in Cheshire opened in 1962. The production of the Vauxhall Viva began in 1963. This small family car was meant to a major competitor for the Ford Anglia, the Morris Minor and the Opel Kadett. The model would make its debut in Australia in 1964. In 1966, the Slat Four went into production and the FD Victor was launched at the Earls Court Motor Show and is still considered one of Vauxhall’s finest cars.
In 1970, the Vauxhall HC Viva was launched and quickly became the company’s bestselling vehicle. It was quickly followed by the release of the Firenza in 1973. Vauxhall would struggle to maintain a foothold in a market dominated by the Ford Cortina until the company launched the Chevette in 1975. It was the first of its kind in Britain and would quickly become a very successful brand.
Vauxhall 1980- Present Day
In 1980, the company launched the Astra which was followed very quickly by the Mk2. These two models would fuel a sales boost for the company in the early years of the decade. A new Astra was launched in 1984, featuring a new more aerodynamic design. It became the European Car of the Year, the first Vauxhall car to achieve this award.
In the 90s Vauxhall introduced the Corsa line of vehicles. The Corsa C model in particular would become the second most popular car overall in the UK consecutively between 200 and 2004. In 2007, the Corsa D was awarded Car of the Year.
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