Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Car Of The Day: October 11, 2011

Today's car of the day is Oxford's 1958 Vauxhall Cresta Friary Estate.

The Vauxhall Cresta is a British car first introduced in 1954 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.

For more information and pictures of the real car please visit: Vauxhall Cresta Friary Estate

Oxfords are very hard to come by on this side of the pond, but the Hershey Matchbox show provided this example.  Kevin (from the former Go-Velo-City) had a table filled with 1/43s (Oxfords and many others including a number of race cars up the alleys of both jedimario and 69Stang) and a few 1/76s as well.  Since I don't collect 1/43s, I limited myself to the 1/76s.  Which are too small for my liking, but it's very doubtful we'll ever get most of these models in true 1/64 scale.

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 4-Door Saloons, the Estate cars were converted by Friary of Basingstoke, Hampshire and are rare cars today.

The car 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 2262 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) and produced 82.5 bhp (61.5 kW) at 4400 rpm. 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 2262 cc engine with a 2651 cc unit. The new engine retained the straight-six format of the old one, but claimed maximum power output increased increased very substantially from 72 PS at 4400 rpm to 104 ps at 4800 rpm.

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. 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.

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. The band are also wearing 50s style clothing in the video.

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.

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