History of the 1966 - 1970 Vauxhall Viva
The Vauxhall Viva evolved through three distinct designs during its production run from 1963 to 1979. The Viva HA was built from 1963 to 1966, the HB from 1966 to 1970, and the HC from 1970 to 1979. All of these models were styled in-house under the direction of David Jones. Body choices included a 2-door saloon, 4-door saloon, 2-door estate, and a van at various points in the car’s life. All have a front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels and are full four-seaters.
The Vauxhall Viva HA has strong ties with the Opel Kadett, helping to lead towards a similarly boxy styling. It was the first 'compact' Vauxhall produced post-war and built as either a 2-door saloon or Bedford badged van and 'Beagle' estate. It sports a double wishbone front suspension mounted with its transverse leaf spring on a cross member with a solid axle on a pair of leaf springs at the rear. The brakes are drum all round. The Viva HA was offered in basic, de luxe and SL trims, externally the de luxe can be identified by its chrome side flash and the SL by its twin side flashes with colour in fill and more elaborate grille.
In 1966 the Viva HB was launched bringing a much cleaner style that aped the General Motors cars produced in America. The HB features a kick up in the waistline leading to this style of body being known as the 'Coke Bottle'. It was launched as a 2-door saloon with a 2-door estate joining the range in 1967 and a 4-door saloon in 1968. The trim levels mimicked those of the HA with the SL being the highest spec. A slightly larger version of the HA's engine was fitted at the start with other engines later being introduced. The HB has a redesigned front and rear suspension, moving to trailing arms at the rear and featuring coil springs front and back. Front disc brakes were fitted to some cars with the GT and Vauxhall sanctioned 'Brabham' being high performance versions.
The Viva HC looks similar to the HB but it lost the 'Coke Bottle; kick up and gained a bonnet bulge along with a pointed prow. It also had an updated interior and a larger glass area. After 1973 the larger engined Viva was badged as the Magnum. The HC in particular proved to be a very popular car and was again available as a 2-door saloon, 2-door estate or 4-door saloon. The HC estate provided the basis for the high performance Sports Hatch with alloy wheels and 'droop snoot'.
The Vauxhall Viva HA was launched with a 1057cc straight-4 engine which was available in two states of tune. The basic engine in 1159cc form was carried over to the Viva HB where it was joined by the 1599cc and 1975cc 'slant 4' in 1968. The 1971 model year saw the smallest engine expanded again to 1256cc whilst a 1759cc engine replaced the 1.6 and a 2279cc engine replaced the 2 litre in 1972. All versions of the car had a 4 speed manual gearbox fitted as standard with an automatic gearbox introduced as an option from 1967.
All Vauxhall Vivas are noted for their light controls, making them an easy car to drive with the HA being targeted at women drivers for this reason. However the handling of the HA is rather poor. The redesign of the Viva HB means that by contrast this handles rather well with the heavier Viva HC tending to wallow but at least being reasonable in getting around corners. The HB suffered from poor brakes and quality control issues when new but all Vivas are blessed with willing and robust engines.
The HA Viva suffers from rust more than its younger siblings and is especially prone to rotting around the boot area. The Viva HB and HC tend to rust at the front wings and sill, rotten bulkheads and floor are particular indicators of deeper corrosion problems. Most parts are available but front wings are scarce and expensive. The Viva HB GT and Brabham are ultra rare and sought after with the HC Sports Hatch slightly more accessible. The larger engined HBs and HCs are also desirable with the rest of the variants following on from these in popularity.
For alternatives, look to the Mark 2 and Mark 3 Ford Cortina, the Datsun 120Y, or the Fiat 131.