・Optional cloth trim, vinyl roof and Rostyle wheels
・Boot full of rare spare parts
In the eyes of some enthusiasts, the FE Victor was the last of the ‘proper’ Vauxhalls, as it was the final model that the British firm designed and developed independently of its German sister brand Opel.
It did share the floorpan of the Opel Rekord, but the FE Victor was styled and engineered in Luton.
Vauxhall made bold claims about the car at its March 1972 debut, claiming it was designed with long-distance touring in mind. And with the UK about to join the new European Community, the car was known also as the Victor ‘Transcontinental’ – just the thing for hopping across the channel in and cruising across continents.
The car appeared substantially larger than its predecessor, the FD, but was actually no wider and only 5cm longer, with much of the extra length accounted for by larger bumpers.
The cabin was more spacious, though, with useful increases in headroom and shoulder space.
Three engines were offered – a 1759cc four badged as the 1800 FE, a 2279cc four badged 2200 FE and a 3,294cc model, which carried over the flagship ‘Ventora’ name from the FD.
All came with a four-speed manual gearbox as standard, with a three-speed auto option on later models.
This particular Transcontinental hasn’t traversed many (if any) continents in its life, having spent most of its time crossing the Fens of Cambridgeshire (where it was first registered) and neighbouring West Norfolk, where it has lived since it had just 6,000 miles on the clock. It was purchased by its most recent owner before the vendor in 1974 and he kept it until 2020, taking the total mileage up to 102,000.
The car is in original and unmolested condition and wears most of its original metallic red paint – an expensive option back in the day. It also has a number of other rather plush extras considering it is an 1800. Smart Rostyle wheels, a black vinyl roof and cloth instead of vinyl seat facings, all of which were quite expensive additions when the car was new.
The vendor acquired the car from a neighbour last year, who was its long-term owner and was no longer in a position to keep and maintain it. He has used it sparingly since, but with a collection of classics in his garage the Victor isn’t getting much use and is ready for a new home.
It was supplied new by Murketts – the main Vauxhall dealer in Cambridge – and was cherished by the long-term owner who was an enthusiastic member of the VX4/90 Driver’s Club and regularly took the car to shows. It also had the honour of being a cover car in a 2010 issue of Practical Classics magazine.
The previous owner did most of the repairs and servicing on the car himself so don’t expect a pile of bills and receipts – he loved and cherished the car and the maintenance was part of the fun for him.
It does, however, come with some papers from early in its life and a pile of old MOT certificates that back up its mileage, as well as a colourful array of old tax discs.
A copy of the December 2010 Practical Classics is included, featuring the car on the cover alongside a yellow Ford Cortina Mk 3 – the halcyon days of motorway driving!
This is a 1973 car wearing its 1973 paintwork, so to expect perfection would be unreasonable. It is, however, exceptionally smart and what imperfections there are can mostly be put right without removing the bulk of the original paint. A full respray might make it perfect, but to do that would arguably take away some of this car’s remarkable patina.
The worst part – though by no means horrid – is the nearside rear wheel arch, which has a few bubbles of rust sprouting out around the edges and is also slightly darker than the rest of the car, suggesting a previous repair.
There are also a couple of scabs on the other side, on the bottom of the boot lid edge and on the offside front corner, while the paint on the top of both front wings has worn thin from years of polishing. None of these areas leap out at you as the photos attest – it really is a smart and good-looking car and its originality means that it should be preserved ‘as is’ as much as possible.
The underside appears solid, the Rostyle wheels are very smart and the vinyl roof is also in good order, as are the lights and chrome. It also has a tow bar on the rear as the previous owner used to tow a small gardening trailer with it.
This is a very unusual specification for an 1800 FE as the car comes with an upgraded cloth interior, finished in stone beige with red piping – a much more luxurious environment than the stark vinyl seats normally fitted to 1800 FEs.
The seats are in excellent condition given their age, as is the brown carpet and caramel-coloured plastic dash. Yes – this car is most definitely a product of the 1970s!
Another option fitted to the car is a push-button MW/LW radio, which is still in good working order, while the toffee-coloured door cards are also in good shape.
The only thing that doesn’t work is the fuel gauge, but the good news is that there’s a spare one in the boot. Accompanying it is a pile of spares including hard-to-find trim items and spare lamp lenses and a selection of new-old-stock cables and filters, all of which will be of use to the car’s next owner and are included in the sale.
The Victor’s 1,759cc engine is hardly a powerhouse at 72bhp, but it punches above its weight largely thanks to the FE’s lightweight design. We were able to conduct a test drive of the car and can report that it runs beautifully smoothly with no excess smoke or untoward noises. The four-speed transmission has a long wand-shaped lever that’s at odds with its slick, short-shifting action – it’s a really pleasant car to drive, with much better performance than you’d expect, strong brakes and precise steering that’s pleasantly light to use despite having no power assistance. This is a classic that can still hold its own in modern traffic while still attracting lots of admiring glances.
This is a charming car and also a very rare one – according to DVLA data, there were only nine 1800 FEs still taxed in the UK in 2020 and of those there’s a fair bet that this is the only one to still be wearing its original paint. It’s a car that’s pretty much suspended in time – a tribute to a long-term owner who has kept it in fine fettle throughout its life. Its patina is part of its allure.
Whoever buys it will be the owner of a true timewarp and a really smart example of a classic Vauxhall that’s on the eve of its 50th birthday. It needs to be preserved this way and be given the same level of love that it has received throughout its life.
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