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Vauxhall Firenza

The Firenza was a model of car produced by Vauxhall Motors between 1970 and 1976. It was a development of the Viva, but had a distinctive coupé[?] body style (fastback) and only two doors.

The initial Firenza was available in 1159cc and 1598cc OHC variants, later enlarged to 1256cc and 1798cc. All models had a front mounted four cylinder engine driving the rear wheels. Suspension was double wishbone and coilsprings at the front, and a live rear axle with trailing arms and coils at the rear.

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Droopsnoot Firenza

In 1973, Vauxhall decided that their rather dull model range needed a makeover, and developed a radical version of the Firenza, known officially as the High Performance (HP) Firenza, but known colloquially as the droopsnoot" after its dramatically styled aerodynamic nose. The nose was moulded from GRP, and featured two pairs of Cibié headlamps behind toughened glass covers. At that time, the original flat-fronted Firenza model was rebadged as the Magnum coupe, and the name Firenza was used exclusively for the HP version. This car was an exciting styling departure for Vauxhall, and certainly created something of a buzz. The engine was the 2.3 litre variant of the OHC Slant Four engine, uprated to a very torquey 131bhp using a variety of parts developed by Blydenstein racing[?]. The car was styled by American designer Wayne Cherry[?] and the result was an exceptionally low drag coefficient for its time. Suspension was uprated and lowered, brakes uprated, and a 5-speed ZF[?] gearbox was installed. Another unusual and unique feature of the car was the alloy Avon Safety Wheels[?], which were designed to retain the tyre safely in the event of a puncture. This was the first car to use these wheels in production. All production cars were painted in the same colour - Silver Starfire.

The car was a design triumph for Vauxhall, but a marketing failure. The car was launched to much publicity in a special one-off race at Thruxton[?] circuit in Hampshire, with top drivers of the day taking part including Gerry Marshall[?] and Barry "Whizzo" Williams[?], who won the race. However, the fuel crisis[?] of the time meant that suddenly it became very hard to sell gas guzzling cars like this (even though the aerodynamics benefitted fuel economy greatly), and coupled with some production line difficulties in actually building the car meant that sales and delivery was slow, and eventually just 204 examples were built, far short of the 30,000 projected. This very low volume was obviously a disaster for Vauxhall, but ironically it has led to the car becoming a very collectable classic, thus ensuring its survival - some of the much more common production cars produced alongside it are now harder to find! The design was also influential in improving the awareness of aerodynamics in car design, and was widely copied, for example in the Ford Escort RS-2000, even though it was itself inspired by American designs such as the Pontiac Trans-Am[?].

The Firenza was also very successful in saloon car racing in the 1970s, especially in its Old Nail[?] and Baby Bertha[?] versions, piloted to great effect by Gerry Marshall[?].

Performance:

  • Top Speed: 120 mph
  • 0-60mph: 8 seconds
  • Economy: 25 miles per gallon

Comparable Contemporaries

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