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Vauxhall Victor 101

Vauxhall Victor 101 Published: 26th Nov 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Vauxhall Victor 101
Vauxhall Victor 101
Vauxhall Victor 101
Vauxhall Victor 101
Vauxhall Victor 101
Vauxhall Victor 101
Vauxhall Victor 101
Vauxhall Victor 101
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It’s Deja Vu all over again as the editor goes back to short trousers CAR: Vauxhall Victor 101 YEAR: 1965 OWNER: Alan Anderson

Do you smell? Best let me rephrase that – do you smell the interiors of old cars at shows and, if you do, is it to bring back fond memories? I must fess up and admit to being a hopeless addict, especially old 70’s Fords where that pvc aroma takes me back to Capris and Cortinas that I owned some 40 years ago.

However, there’s one smell – a mix of wool and pvc I think – that holds a special memory for me as it takes me way back to July 1965 when, aged six and in shorts, I went with my dad to pick up his ‘new’ (second-hand) FB Vauxhall Victor.

As a motoring journalist of 30 years’ standing, holding one of the best jobs around, I’ve driven most things worth driving, and on the best roads across Europe, and yet I can still recall 21st July 1965 quite vividly and that trip from Hornsey, North London back home in Victor BMK 475A. How stupid is that?

Before you all nod in agreement and cause the Earth to alter its axis… you have to remember that car ownership was somewhat of a luxury half a century ago let alone buying a car barely two years old.

It cost £465, a sum people thought you had won the pools and not just be an ordinary dock worker on less than £30 a week. It was probably then that I experienced what I now know as pride of ownership – something sorely lacking in today’s motorists.

BMK 475A was chiefly bought so my sister could learn to drive in it as dad’s trusty and not that rusty 1954 Velox was deemed too big and heavy for the task. My sister Mary, for the first time in 50 years, told me that she gave my father £1 per week for driving tuition which never came and she didn’t learn to drive properly for another decade…


I don’t recall how dad got wind of BMK 475A on sale at H.B. Motors on Hornsey High Street, but I do remember going with him on the preceding Saturday when he went to inspect it. Whether or not he did a good job of it I still don’t know because I remember it constantly stalling and being a bugger to restart… but he bought this fleetspec maroon coloured saloon known as ‘standard’ with rubber mats and no passenger sun visor!

The smell? Well, that was due to the seat covers dad negotiated as part of the deal because I remember him asking for them, naturally the dealer instantly agreed to it just to get the darn thing away from the premises…

It’s not that BMK 475A proved unreliable in the three years he owned it. The Victor never broke down, although did demand a fair bit of spannerwork. I can always remember wondering why the bonnet didn’t fit as neatly as the one on my uncle’s FB, which he bought soon after seeing dad’s car. Uncle Bert’s one was much nicer being a two-tone green Deluxe with leather seats. It also didn’t have a choke knob sticking out an inch more then it should and a gear lever nicely painted and not rusty like ‘ours’.

Talking of rust, I think it fair to say that my father was ‘done’ as it later transpired that when the Victor’s rusty sills were being replaced (a very common rot spot on most cars), it transpired that one side fell short by 1/8in so obviously BMK 475A had been in a bad smash in a previous life. And there were grave doubts about the ultra low mileage that attracted it to my father in the first place! But such antics were par for the course when buying a second-hand car back then. And the trader seemed such a nice bloke too because I recall him offering to buy me an ice cream…

My dad was always critical of the cars and brand new bikes he bought – and cars I subsequently purchased a decade later – but appeared to have slipped up on this one. Don’t we all at some point?

The reason that I can recall the exact date of sale and where the car came from wasn’t due to a brilliant memory or anorak-like detective work, but finding the sales invoice among some old papers at the start of 2015. Suddenly I had the urge to recreate the journey exactly 50 years on to see what I still remembered of the trip. Supplying the right car was essential and Vauxhall Heritage came up with either an FB estate or a later FC 101 Super saloon. I opted for the latter as my father eventually traded in the FB for a 1966 101 Super. Also the Heritage car was a 1965 model and a 50 year old journey carried out in a 50 year old car seemed right somehow.

The journey from Canning Town to High Street, Hornsey was largely guesswork on my part; I figured he’d go Leytonstone, Leyton, Walthamstow, Tottenham – today you’d probably travel on the A406 for much of the way.

ROOM 101 – NO WAY!

Vauxhall Heritage’s Victor 101 performed faultlessly on the hot July day (it must have been our one day of summer!), not faltering once on its unleaded petrol in 2015 traffic. Rebuilt before it joined Vauxhall’s ever expanding classic fleet that it regularly shows off during special open days, the bench front seat (just like dad’s) allowed six-seater travel if need be as I remember our Victors did far too many times to be safe.

I doubt whether there’s now a better 101 around than FRJ 69C and it was a pleasure to drive as well as a trip down memory lane. I can see why dad liked his Vauxhalls as this Victor’s engine pulled like a train in top gear and handled quite predictably on period crossply tyres although the lack of seat belts (not needed by law) did lead to a distinct feeling of vulnerability – give me a set of modern radials and belts any day!

FRJ 69C certainly did bring back memories – if not the smell. Sadly, the dealer’s site had been taken over a few years ago and was now a cosmetic dental shop in a high street which is a lot more cosmopolitan and prettier since the last time I travelled down it 15 years back. London’s roads have changed beyond recognition and I couldn’t recreate the exact drive home but it was fun trying.

Another trip down memory lane, and one that was far more successful, was taking the Heritage 101 to Dovercourt, near Harwich, in East Anglia because my parents had a static caravan there for more than a decade. The usual route back then was Canning Town, Wanstead A12 to Marks Tey, although there was always traffic jams and it took hours. Dad was reasonably happy with his 101 (KYM 6D), although always said it didn’t run as well as his old FB and was certainly far less economical. However, as any 101 owner will tell you, they weren’t the most frugal of family cars.

If I ever saw BMK 475A or KYN 6D I’d buy one to restore for old times’ sake. Reliving old memories is what owning a classic car is all about for many of us which is why we can get as much pleasure driving an old Victor as another enthusiast does their DB6 – no honestly!

So if you see me sticking my nose in where it isn’t wanted at a show – it may be even in your car – it’s just me simply trying to capture a whiff of nostalgia…


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