Vauxhall Firenza a

coupe cracker

Vauxhall Firenza

AT the start of the 1970s the coupe market was moving into the fast track.

Ford was making great gains with the Capri and waiting in the wings was a coupe version of the Morris Marina, though nobody considered this model much of a threat.

But Vauxhall was taking the matter seriously because of the astonishing success of the Capri.

The Griffin badge had nothing really new to compete so it carried out a drastic redesign of the popular HC Viva to add a neat little four-seat coupe called the Firenza to the range, sporting a 1,159cc engine.

With front engine, rear-wheel-drive it was available in deluxe and SL forms, with the latter sporting four headlights. This model finally resurrected the 2.0-litre twin-carburettor engine from the HB Viva GT.

The Firenza looked the part and I remember it to be an impressive drive. In standard form it was fast, but maybe not furious.

It was a definite step up in style from the bread and butter Vauxhall small saloon of the day and in my view a worthy competitor to the Capri.

The American influence was still obvious on the design, with a pronounced mid bonnet hump that was echoed in the front bumper.

The Firenza Sport SL did away with the letter-box speedometer and substituted an attractive seven-dial instrument pack. Firenza SLs had a two round-dial pack.

In 1973 Vauxhall split the pack with 1,256cc saloon models staying as Vivas with the option of a 1.8 automatic and 1.8 and 2.3-litre models being rebadged as Magnum.

It was at that time that the Firenza was given a massive makeover with an aerodynamic nose and beefed up 2.3-litre twin carb engine mated to a ZF five-speed gearbox, turning it into the HP (High Performance) Firenza.

This car, known as the ‘droop snoot' Firenza was the ultimate expression of the Vauxhall small car of the 70s.

Those lucky enough to drive this version experienced a car which was unforgettable. With 120mph a doddle and a 0-60mph sprint in eight seconds this car was a real hot property of its day.

But the end was in sight because in the mid 1970s the Vivas, Magnums and Firenzas gave way to the Chevette, a much more modern hatchback and herald of a new-look Vauxhall range.

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