Vauxhall Viva HB, a ‘sportissimo’ sixties classic 

Vauxhall Viva HB, a 'sportissimo' sixties classic 

The last-named was for anyone who wished to cut a dash at the local Golden Egg every Saturday night in their Viva with a faux-wood veneer on the glove box lid. Plus, “rich Ambla upholstery” to complement the “sophisticated design”.  

Autocar thought the new Viva “a stylish little car, very popular with the ladies because it is so easy to drive”. In June 1967 Luton introduced the HB Estate with a load bay capable of accommodating over 50 cu ft. of luggage, but the major selling point was the looks described by Vauxhall as “sportissimo”.

The brochures also made a not so veiled reference to certain competitors with “Estates were once the ugly sisters of saloons, but look at the Viva Estate”.

Production of the HB ceased in 1970, after 566, 391 units. Canadian Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealers also sold the Viva as the Envoy Epic, and it was manufactured in Australia as the Holden Torana. 

The Viva was notorious for suffering from tin-worm, despite its ‘Magic Mirror’ acrylic paint finish, and Meldrum’s last-of-the-line Viva is one of just 23 of the 1,159cc engine models that are still on the road.

The £851 price tag did not include front disc brakes, and he finds that the all-drum set-up means “you do have to anticipate what is going on ahead”.

Meldrum came by his example in 2010 when “it was in a very poor condition”. Over the next 12 months, the HB required “an overhaul of the engine and the gearbox”, but the principal challenge was the bodywork.

“It needed a completely new front end, sills and rear arches, while the floor on the driver’s side had to be remade,” said Meldrum. The seats were at least in their original state, and Meldrum had the ‘Peacock Blue’ body re-sprayed in ‘Monaco White’. “I’d owned an estate in a similar colour years ago”.

The standard reactions to the Meldrum Vauxhall vary from “I learned to drive in one of those”, surprise to see one that is still on the road and the comment “my dad had one, but it was the saloon”.

“Another remark I often hear is ‘Wasn’t there a Viva like that in The Likely Lads?’”

And the Viva estate with the so-called aerodynamic fastback looks just as suave as the HB in this cinema commercial where Patrick Allen, King of The Voice-Overs, promised “Jet smooth…whisper quiet” motoring.

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