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Vauxhall Cresta
Manufacturer Vauxhall
Production 1954-1972
Assembly United Kingdom
New Zealand (1966-on)
Successor Vauxhall Victor FE
Related Vauxhall Velox
Vauxhall Wyvern

The Vauxhall Cresta is a British car first introduced in 1954 by Vauxhall Motors as an upmarket version of the Vauxhall Velox (itself a six-cylinder version of the Vauxhall Wyvern). When the Wyvern was replaced in 1957 the new larger car took the Cresta name. This car, code named the PA version one, was one of the more elegant British cars of the late 1950s even though it was not sufficiently upmarket for it to be driven by those who considered themselves the elite of British society. Rock stars could drive them; barristers and doctors would not. This was ironic, because Queen Elizabeth II for many years used a bespoke Estate version as personal transport.

The Cresta models were the E (1954–1957), PA (1957–1962), PB (1962–1965) and PC (1965–1972). The Viscount (1966–1972) was an upmarket Cresta PC.

Cresta E

Vauxhall Cresta E
Production 1954-1957
166,504 produced.[2]
Body style(s) 4-door saloon
Engine(s) 2.3 L ohv I6
Transmission(s) 3 speed manual
Wheelbase 103 in (2,600 mm)[3]
Length 172 in (4,400 mm)[4]
Width 66.5 in (1,690 mm)[4]
Height 61.5 in (1,560 mm)[4]

The Vauxhall Velox had been introduced in 1948, with a new version in 1951 that looked very much like a Chevrolet of the era. The Cresta E version, launched in 1954, had the same 2262 cc six cylinder engine in the same state of tune but scored over the Velox in having a choice of leather or fabric upholstery, optional two tone paintwork, a heater as standard, a small electric fascia mounted clock, a cigar lighter, a lamp automatically illuminating the boot/trunk when opened and a vanity mirror on the inside of the front passenger's sun visor along with a special ornamental badge above the V (for Vauxhall) badge on the nose of the car. A radio was optional.

A Cresta tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1956 had a top speed of 82.2 mph (132.3 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 20.2 seconds. A fuel consumption of 23.5 miles per imperial gallon (12.0 L/100 km/19.6 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £931 including taxes.[4]

Cresta PA

Vauxhall Cresta PA
Production 1957-1962
81,841 made[2][5]
Body style(s) 4-door saloon
5-door estate car
Engine(s) 2,262 cc ohv I6] (1958-1960)
2,651 cc ohv I6 (1961-1962)
Transmission(s) 3 speed manual, Overdrive optional, Hydramatic Automatic available from 1961
Wheelbase 105 in (2,700 mm) [3]
Length 177 in (4,500 mm) Saloon
Width 68 in (1,700 mm)[6]
Height 59 in (1,500 mm)[6]

The PA Cresta is probably the most well-known version. It mimicked the American fashion for giant tailfins, wrap-around windows and whitewall tyres but in an understated way compared to the Cadillacs and Buicks of the time. It bears a strong resemblance to a 1955 Packard Caribbean. All factory-built PAs were four-door saloons: the estate cars were converted by Friary of Basingstoke, Hampshire, and are rare cars today.

The PA Cresta had independent front suspension using coil springs and an anti-roll bar with a rigid axle and semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The Lockheed brakes used 9 in (230 mm) drums all round. The 2,262 cc six-cylinder engine had pushrod-operated overhead valves and a compression ratio of 7.8:1 (a low compression 6.8:1 version was available); it produced 82.5 bhp (61.5 kW) at 4,400 rpm.[6] A single Zenith carburettor was used. The transmission had three forward speeds.

Of the various changes made during the PA Cresta's production life, the most significant was the replacement of its 2,262 cc engine with a 2,651 cc unit.[5] The new engine retained the straight-six format of the old one but claimed maximum power output increased very substantially from 72 PS at 4,400 rpm to 104 PS at 4,800 rpm.[5]

It was well equipped with leather and nylon upholstery for its bench front and rear seats and woven pile carpet. A heater was fitted as standard. The radio remained an option on the home market. Other options included fog lamps, reversing light, locking filler cap and external mirrors. In order to keep the front floor clear to seat six people the handbrake lever was mounted under the dashboard and the gearchange lever was column mounted. The car could be ordered painted in either single or two tone colours.

A PA tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1958 had a top speed of 89.8 mph (144.5 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 16.8 seconds. A fuel consumption of 25.2 miles per imperial gallon (11.2 L/100 km/21.0 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1073 including taxes of £358.[6] They tested the 2.6 Litre version with overdrive in 1960 and found the top speed had increased to 94.7 mph (152.4 km/h), acceleration from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) to 15.2 seconds and fuel consumption improved to 26.8 miles per imperial gallon (10.5 L/100 km/22.3 mpg-US). The test car cost £1077 including taxes of £317. The car without overdrive cost £1014.[7]

During the 1970s many PA Crestas were modified and customised. The model was very popular with fifties revivalists; many were driven by teddy boys and were very much seen as part of the rock 'n' roll image. A 1960 PA Cresta features in the 1981 video for "Ghost Town" by The Specials, in which the band are wearing '50s-style clothing.

Today the PA Cresta is a recognised classic, with the other variants perhaps less appreciated but gaining recognition. One famous PA owner in the late 1950s was Don Lang.

Cresta PB

Vauxhall Cresta PB
Production 1962-1965
87,047 made[2]
Assembly United Kingdom
Australia [8]
Body style(s) 4-door saloon
5-door estate car
Engine(s) 2,651 cc ohv I6
3,294 cc ohv I6
Transmission(s) 3 or 4 speed manual
2 or 3 speed automatic
Wheelbase 107 in (2,700 mm)[3]
Length 182 in (4,600 mm)
Width 70 in (1,800 mm)

The PB was a major styling revision, completely eliminating the tail fins, with a flat bonnet and generally more conservative styling. It initially featured a 2.65 litre straight-six engine, with a 3.3 litre in its last year of production though the 2.65 continued in some export markets for tax reasons. The gearbox was still three speed with column change but an overdrive was available. As standard the 3.3 litre cars had a three-speed column-change gearbox, with a four-speed floor-change unit as an option. Three-speed hydramatic automatic transmission was available with both engines but this was changed to the two-speed Powerglide unit towards the end of the 3.3-litre PB run. Servo assisted brakes, with discs at the front, were fitted.

Cresta PC

Vauxhall Cresta PC
Production 1965-1972
53,912 made[2]
Body style(s) 4-door saloon
5-door estate car
Engine(s) 3,294 cc ohv I6
Transmission(s) 3 or 4-speed manual
2 or 3-speed automatic
Wheelbase 107.5 in (2,730 mm)[3]
Length 185.5 in (4,710 mm)
187 in (4,700 mm)
Width 69.8 in (1,770 mm)
Height 55.6 in (1,410 mm)
59 in (1,500 mm)
Curb weight 2,796 lb (1,268 kg) (standard)

The last of the series, the PC, was introduced for the London Motor Show in October 1965.[10] No longer offered as a lower spec. Velox version, it was designated PCS (standard), PCD (Deluxe) and PCE (Executive), this last having its own name, 'Viscount'. It was a different car, larger and styled with the coke-bottle look that would also be seen in the FD Victor series: it was now, quite clearly, a slightly smaller Chevrolet Impala. It was similar to the Australian Holden HR, but larger and better trimmed, and featured the 123 hp 3.3 litre straight-six engine for its entire seven-year production run. Though a small-block V8 would have dropped straight in, this option was never offered in Europe. Initially, the three-speed column-shift manual transmission was standard with optional overdrive; four-speed manual and two-speed Powerglide were also optional. Later cars, from about 1971, came with four-speed manual or three-speed automatic, both having floor shift and bucket seats. The De-Luxe version had four headlamps instead of the two fitted on the (much rarer) base models.

General Motors New Zealand ran its own assembly line in Trentham, near Wellington, from 1966 to 1971. The one 'base' Cresta model built changed very little during that time and did not receive the facelift that appeared on the UK market around 1970. However, at some point in production the brake system was upgraded to a tandem master cylinder to improve the braking, and this upgrade became a standard fitment on the New Zealand models. A few twin-headlamp Cresta Deluxe, Viscount and estate car versions were also imported, built-up, from the UK.

The facelifted model, never offered in New Zealand, had twin headlamps as standard and a more integrated dash panel. Floor shift, rather than column change, was also standard.

In January 1967 domestic market deliveries began of the Vauxhall Cresta estate car.[9] This vehicle resulted from a conversion by Martin Walter of Folkestone, a firm better known for their (primarily Bedford based) Dormobile motorhome conversions.[9] The estate version was 2+1/2 inches (201 cm) higher than the saloon due to a combination of heavy-duty rear suspension, an increase in the outer diameter of the tyres (to 7.00-14 in from 5.90-14in) and the modified roof line.[9] The Cresta estate was initially offered in the UK at £1,507, which represented a price premium of around 40% over the equivalent saloon.[9] The long established Humber Hawk estate and recently introduced Ford Zephyr estate carried UK sales prices of £1,342 and £1,379 respectively. The Cresta estate offered a load platform length of 47 inches (120 cm) which increased to an impressive 76 inches (190 cm) when the back seat was folded down,[9] but Vauxhall's contender was never priced to be a big seller and the last estate cars were made in 1968.


Vauxhall Viscount
Production 1966-1972
7,025 made[2]
Body style(s) 4-door saloon
Engine(s) 3.3 L straight-6 ohv
5.2 L (318 cu) Chrysler V8 (South Africa)
Transmission(s) 4 speed manual
3 speed automatic
Wheelbase 107.5 in (2,730 mm)
Length 187.1 in (4,750 mm)
Width 69.8 in (1,770 mm)
Height 55.6 in (1,410 mm)

Introduced early in June 1966,[10] with the same engine and mechanical components as the Cresta PC, the Viscount was the super de-luxe version of it. It was supplied as standard with power steering, electric windows, reclining seats, a vinyl roof, walnut dashboard, inertia reel seat belts front and back, and even a heated rear window. Areas of the grille and headlamp surrounds were blacked out to give a classier look and the tail-lights had a chrome overlay. The dark green, blue or maroon paintwork featured simulated, hand painted coachlines, along each flank, to give the car a coachpainted appearance. The outer pair of the quad, five inch, sealed beam headlamps were twin filament, giving the car four main beams.[10] The Viscount also came with wider tyres than the Cresta (7.00-14in rather than 5.90-14in).[10] Some PC 3.3 had twin tail-pipes as this was a performance option of the time. The standard transmission option was GM's Powerglide 2-speed automatic system, but a four speed manual gearbox was available, initially on the UK market at a saving of £85:[10] elsewhere the manual gear box was a no-cost option. In the third quarter of 1970 the two-speed Powerglide automatic was replaced with a GM 3-speed automatic transmission.[10]

Some South African versions were fitted with a Chrysler V8 as an option - one of the rare times a General Motors product used a direct rival's engine.


A few examples survive of the various versions in preservation in the UK;

Cresta E
  • VX 1957+ - A Cresta E model in the midlands.
  • 479 BPE+ - Imageabove - seen in East Anglia
  • FVV 141+ - From Northamptonshire - photo on commons
  • VBP 916+ - In the Northwest - photo on commons
  • PCA 108+ - In the Northwest - photo on Commons
  • add others
Cresta PA
  • XDL 474+ - Witha colour co ordinated caravan - on commons
  • JAS 977+ - In Oxfordshire - photo on commons
  • add here
Cresta PB
  • add here
Cresta PC
  • add here


Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
  1. 1959 CHEVROLET & PONTIAC IN AUSTRALIA Retrieved on 3 September 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Sedgwick, M.; Gillies.M (1986). A-Z of Cars 1945-1970. Devon, UK: Bay View Books. ISBN 1-870979-39-7. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Culshaw; Horrobin (1974). Complete Catalogue of British Cars. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-16689-2. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "The Vauxhall Cresta", The Motor. June 6, 1956. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Oldtimer Katalog. Nr. 23. Königswinter: HEEL Verlag GmbH. 2009. pp. Seite 42. ISBN 978-3-86852-067-52009. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "The Vauxhall Cresta Model PA", The Motor. April 23, 1958. 
  7. "The Vauxhall Cresta", The Motor. September 21, 1960. 
  8. The Chevy II Race on Sales and Track, Retrieved on 22 November 2012
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 "Martin Walter Cresta Estate Car", Autocar 126 (nbr 3699): page 13. January 5, 1967. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 "Used Car Test: Vauxhall Viscount", Autocar 134 (nbr 3920): pages 25–26. date 13 May 1971. 
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