Looking back: Autocar writers on their very first cars

Its linear speedometer is familiar. I don’t think Prosser has seen anything other than a traditional round instrument before and neither has he seen an instrument that goes only as far as 100mph. Neither did he grow up with cars that didn’t have power steering. 

The roads around Luton where we’re driving today are dry but I think it’s more the quality of tyres fitted that is responsible for the feeling that this Viva is a lot more secure than mine felt. Mine would have had crossplies or possibly even remoulds on it, even more likely, bald ones. And then there’s the difference between having a 19-year-old and a 56-year-old behind the wheel. 

Actually, I don’t remember ever crashing the Viva. Apart from when a friend reached forward from the back seat and yanked on the handbrake. We didn’t technically crash but we were in Putney High Street so it was alarming enough for me and the shoppers on the pavement. 

Soon after the Vauxhall, I had a run of Mk1 Ford Escorts. I can’t recall if they were superior or not. Perhaps our friends at Classic & Sports Car have driven both back to back and can answer that question. Vauxhall also owns a 1970 HB but it’s a GT with a 2.0-litre motor and that certainly feels like an equal to the Ford. Good job I didn’t have one of those in 1982 because I certainly would have got into trouble with 104bhp instead of my car’s 69bhp. 

The HB is a good-looking car. Nicer than an Escort, I reckon. It was penned by long-time Vauxhall design boss David Jones but legendary GM design chief Bill Mitchell gave it the thumbs down when Jones took a model and drawings to Detroit. Mitchell took Jones out to lunch and asked junior designer Wayne Cherry to have a go. Three hours later, the HB had its final shape. None of which I would have known in 1982. I would, however, have known that Cherry worked on the Pontiac Firebird. 

I can’t remember my Viva’s fate, whether I sold it or it went to the scrapman. Whatever, it no longer exists: I checked on the DVLA’s website. And no, I have no desire to attempt to recreate a time before grey hair and buy myself a Viva. Not that I haven’t looked to see if any are for sale. 

Autocar’s first cars

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