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Vauxhall Chevette 2300 HS/HSR

Published: 7th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Vauxhall Chevette 2300 HS/HSR
Trendy tartan cloth lifted plain Chevette cabin although car generally thought too rough and ready for the price Trendy tartan cloth lifted plain Chevette cabin although car generally thought too rough and ready for the price
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Fancy owning a motorsport legend for road and track use? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their names on stages and circuits, and still provide fine drives today

It was one of those seminal moments in motorsport. Vauxhall Motors chairman Bob Price, in 1975 seeing Ford win the RAC Rally yet again, asked of Dealer Team Vauxhall’s tuning wizard Bill Bydenstein what was needed to emulate the Escort’s continued success. Ever-cautious Blydenstein said victory on the event in 1976 would not be possible, but he knew what sort of car might make it happen in 1977. For a major manufacturer buttons were pressed remarkably quickly, and 12 months later the Chevette 2300HS rolled over the start line of Britain’s premier rally. Will Sparrow and Rodney Spokes got no further than the Forest of Dean before the rear axle torque tube failed, but the new car had shown potential. In the following six years DTV cars would provide consistent quality opposition to the rally Escort, win the British Open Championship and a total of 14 international rallies, but never that elusive RAC event. The cracking Chevette HS was Vauxhall’s ‘homologation’ special, 400 cars built with the same engine, gearbox and running gear, as the competition car to qualify for Group 4 international motorsport. Only it didn’t happen quite like that with the rally car appearing 12 months before production vehicles, and with a different specification. Vauxhall’s plan was to fit the 2.3-litre engine of the Magnum into General Motors world-wide ‘T car’ ( Chevette in the UK and USA, but Opel Kadett in Europe), add a twincam, 16-valve, cylinder head, and a five speed-gearbox. With 135bhp the Chevette 2300 HS offered 120mph performance in a chassis that, when tweaked, was superior to the Escort. What went wrong? DTV moved faster than Vauxhall that’s what, and money was always short. The first rally cars used a Lotus cylinder head (as used on racing Firenza) because the factory version was not ready, and a ZF gearbox instead of the production Getrag. Eighteen months afterits debut, the rally Chevette was banned, and Blydenstein had to start work again with the correct components. In a minor miracle, the new car was rallying only a month later! Under engineer Gerry Johnstone, with drivers Pentti Airikkala and Jimmy McRae, and then former Chrysler man Wynne Mitchell, with Tony Pond, the Chevette HS improved and morphed into the evolution (50 cars required) HSR, with improved clutch, wide wheel arches, revised rear axle, brakes and suspension. The HSR was almost untouchable on tarmac, and faster in the forests, but lack of cash put a stop to further development after ‘81. Russell Brookes successfully replaced Tony Pond for 1982-83, the car was transferred into Group B, but by then any DTV rally programme had lost out to Opel. And the all-conquering Audi Quattro was on the scene. It’s accepted that both Chevette HS and HSR fell short of their stated build totals. Hence this front engine, rear drive, hot hatch is thin on the ground nowadays, the Droop Snoot Group the centre of activity for most surviving models, one which recently sold for eight grand! As a road car it’s a great alternative to an Escort and, with a classic (1975-81) division now in the British Historic Rally Championship, there’s a chance we’ll see more on special stages.

Vauxhall Chevette 2300 HS/HSR Summary


(1976-81) HS: 400 (stated); HSR: 50 (try 32!)


Engine: Four-cylinder, in-line, 2279cc, twin overhead camshafts, 16-valve, 2 x Stromberg CD carbs (HS), 2 x Dell’Orto carbs (optional HSR).
Power: 135bhp (HS), 150bhp (HSR).
Gearbox: Five-speed Getrag (production). ZF on some rally cars.
Drive: Rear wheels.
Suspension: Front independent with coil springs and wishbones; Rear rigid axle with coil springs (rear torque tube on road car).
Brakes: Disc front, drum rear (production), rear discs on rally car and HSR.

Claim to fame

The most competitive rally Vauxhall ever! Winner British Open Championship 1979 (Pentti Airikkala); Irish Tarmac Championship 1980 (Jim McRae); British National Championship 1980 (Terry Kaby), 14 International victories with DTV.

Famous names

Will Sparrow, Chris Sclater, Pentti Airikkala, Jim McRae, Tony Pond, Russell Brookes, Terry Kaby, George Hill, Dessie McCartney, Ger Buckley, Ron Douglas, Drew Gallacher.

Where to buy

Crops up occasionally in specialist press adverts and at auctions, otherwise try the Droop Snoot Group web site for best buys.

What to look for

Usual rust for a 20-plus year old car. Vauxhall mechanics are fairly bullet-proof, but those alloy heads can get porous. Check it’s original and not cobbled up from a 1256cc Chevette with single cam 2300cc engine (been known). Glass fibre panels (bonnet, rear hatch, wheel extensions) of HSR should be a close fit if original car.

What to pay

A genuine HSR one can go from £8000 into five figures, bit less for an HS. What’s it worth to you?

Competitive Rating: 6

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