Vauxhall Cresta PA
Vauxhall Cresta PA Mick from Northamptonshire, England, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Vauxhall Cresta, now a very rare British classic, (thanks to the rust), enjoyed production from 1954 to 1972. Introduced as an upmarket version of the Vauxhall Velox, it was designed to provide a taste of luxury with its performance and space.

Over the years, the Cresta evolved through various models, including the E, PA, PB, and PC, each reflecting the changes in design and engineering of their respective times.

Throughout its production period, the Cresta garnered admiration from car enthusiasts. The early models with it’s distinctive design, reminiscent of American cars of the era, along with its powerful engine, appealed to a wide audience. The car’s legacy continues to be appreciated by classic car enthusiasts, preserving its place in British automotive history.

Key Takeaways

  • The Vauxhall Cresta was a luxury car produced from 1954 to 1972
  • The Cresta models evolved over several generations, reflecting its period’s design and engineering
  • Its enduring legacy is still recognised and appreciated by classic car enthusiasts today

History and Evolution

Origins and Early Years

The Vauxhall Cresta originated in the 1950s as an upmarket version of the Vauxhall Velox, which itself was a six-cylinder version of the Vauxhall Wyvern. The Cresta was first introduced as the “E” model in 1954 and was in production until 1957, catering to motorists who sought style akin to a Jaguar but at a more affordable price during that era.

Transition to the Cresta PA

The Cresta PA, a successor to the E model, ran from 1957 to 1962 and saw significant design changes. In 1958, a larger capacity engine was introduced, a 2.2-litre straight-six, improving the vehicle’s performance and hitting a top speed of 90 mph.

The PA model’s styling was heavily influenced by the American automobiles of the time and quickly gained popularity among British drivers during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The Cresta PB and PC

In 1962, the Cresta PB made its debut with a more refined and sleek design compared to the PA. The PB continued to be in production until 1965. The following year, the Cresta PC model was launched, which can be considered the pinnacle of Cresta’s production, with the addition of the Viscount as an upmarket variant in 1966.

Throughout the PB and PC models’ production, Vauxhall continued to improve the Cresta’s performance, including a larger 3.3-litre engine that produced 124 bhp at 4600 rpm. These innovations enabled the Cresta to maintain its status as a popular choice among motorists during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Decline and Discontinuation

Despite the Cresta’s success and popularity during the 1950s and 1960s, the model faced challenges as the automotive market evolved. By the early 1970s, the British motor industry experienced a shift in consumer preferences towards more fuel-efficient and smaller vehicles, leading to the Cresta’s eventual decline in popularity.

The Cresta PC was the last model in the series, witnessing its production end in 1972. Vauxhall decided to discontinue the Cresta line in favour of focusing on their other models, marking the end of an iconic British classic. Additionally, proposed European safety legislation meant the body would be unsuitable.

Footnotes

  1. Vauxhall Cresta – Wikipedia
  2. Unique Cars – Vauxhall through the Ages: The Cresta
  3. Auto Express – Vauxhall Cresta: Buying guide and review (1954-1972)
  4. Classics World – Vauxhall Cresta (PA) buyer’s guide

Design and Engineering

Styling and Bodywork

The Vauxhall Cresta was known for its distinctive styling and bodywork. The early cars featured lavish chrome detailing, fins, and a wrap-around windscreen, which showed American design influences from its General Motors parent company.

The Cresta went through several facelifts during its production run, with each new iteration showcasing an evolving design in line with current trends.

The PA series, for example, was known for its rear tail fins and two-tone paint scheme, (think, Grease!). When the PB Cresta was introduced, the design became more conservative, with the fins toned down and a more restrained use of chrome. To handle corrosion and rust issues, attention was given to the materials and paintwork to ensure at least some longevity. (no giggling at the back please!)

Engine and Performance

The Cresta was fitted with a robust straight-six engine, which provided not only a healthy torque delivery but also a smooth and comfortable ride. The engine utilised a single Zenith carburettor for efficient fuel delivery, which contributed to the car’s performance.

The Cresta’s torque ensured that the car had adequate power for everyday tasks, while the inclusion of coil springs and an anti-roll bar in its suspension system allowed for a somewhat stable driving experience – despite the aircraft carrier-sized bonnet rippling in crosswinds.

Chassis and Safety Features

The Vauxhall Cresta’s chassis was designed to provide a comfortable ride and good handling. Safety features in the car were gradually improved over the years. Early models came with drum brakes, but as the technology advanced, front disc brakes were introduced to provide better stopping power and safety.

As safety awareness increased, seat belts were fitted, (inertia reel on later models), making the Cresta a safer car for passengers. The inclusion of coil springs, in addition to the anti-roll bar, contributed to a more stable and secure driving experience for the occupants. The Cresta’s chassis and safety features continually improved over time, making it a car that was increasingly safer and more comfortable to drive.

Model Variants and Special Editions

Vauxhall Velox

Vauxhall Velox
Vauxhall Velox
Lars-Göran Lindgren Sweden, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Vauxhall Velox was a six-cylinder version of the Vauxhall Wyvern and served as the base from which the Cresta was developed. As an upmarket version, the Cresta featured additional features such as leather upholstery and an optional heater!

Vauxhall Cresta E

Vauxhall Cresta E
Vauxhall Cresta E
Charles01, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Cresta E (1954-1957) was the first model variant, powered by a 2262cc six-cylinder engine. This model has a design reminiscent of 1950’s American cars and was equipped with leather seats and a heater.

Vauxhall Cresta PA

Vauxhall Cresta PA
Vauxhall Cresta PA
Mick from Northamptonshire, England, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Cresta PA (1957-1962) replaced the E-series and featured the same 2262cc straight-six engine, now with a three-speed column change gearbox. The PA introduced white-wall tyres as standard, along with a more modern design. Optional extras included overdrive and Hydramatic automatic transmission.

Vauxhall Cresta PB

Vauxhall Cresta PB
Vauxhall Cresta PB
Vauxford, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Transitioning from the PA, the Cresta PB (1962-1965) came with design and mechanical upgrades, with the same engine size of 2651cc (on earlier PB’s), but an improved braking system. Power steering and electric windows were added to the optional extras list, further increasing the Cresta’s luxury appeal.

Vauxhall Cresta PC

Vauxhall Cresta PC DeLuxe
Vauxhall Cresta PC DeLuxe
Charles01, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The final Cresta model, the PC (1965-1972), was the largest in size at 3.3 litres and featured lavish interior appointments. The PC Cresta introduced optional features like leather seats and power steering, maintaining its luxury status. The deluxe version had the added distinction of twin headlamps.

Vauxhall Viscount

Vauxhall Viscount
Vauxhall Viscount
Charles01, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Positioned above the Cresta in Vauxhall’s model line-up, the Vauxhall Viscount was a more prestigious option with a range of standard features, including power steering, electric windows, and higher-quality interior materials. Viscounts were produced between 1966 and 1972. Yep, even HM The Queen even had a VIP version.

Vauxhall Ventora

Vauxhall Ventora FD Mark 2
Vauxhall Ventora FD Mark 2
Charles01, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
By Charles01 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42797337

The Ventora was a successor to the Cresta, introduced in 1968. The smaller-bodied Ventora used the same 3.3-litre straight six-cylinder engine as the Cresta PC models. This model continued the tradition of offering luxury and performance upgrades, such as power steering and electric windows.

Cresta Estates and the Viscount

Vauxhall Cresta PB estate
Vauxhall Cresta PB estate
Charles01, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Some Cresta models, including the PA, were available as estates produced by Friary, featuring an extended rear section for increased cargo space. Viscounts were not available as estates but remained a popular choice for those seeking luxury and performance.

Performance and Luxury Upgrades

Throughout the years, Cresta models were offered with various optional features to enhance performance and luxury. These included overdrive, Hydramatic automatic transmissions, white-wall tyres, upgraded braking systems, power steering, electric windows, and high-quality interior materials like leather upholstery.

Ownership and Enthusiasm

Buying a Classic Vauxhall Cresta

The Vauxhall Cresta is a quintessential British automobile from the 1950s and 1960s, showcasing an elegant combination of British engineering and American-inspired design. This classic car is a much sought-after model among enthusiasts.

When looking for a Cresta for sale, it is crucial to examine the vehicle for signs of the inevitable (and often serious), corrosion and rust. Due to the age of these vehicles, they rust particularly in locations with harsh climates or high humidity. It is also advisable to thoroughly research the car’s history, as well as previous owners, and maintenance records.

Restoration Projects and Clubs

Many Vauxhall Cresta owners embark on restoration projects to bring these classic cars back to their former glory. Restoring a classic car can be a challenging and rewarding endeavour, involving multiple aspects such as bodywork, paint, engine work, and electrics.

For those who are passionate about Crestas but do not yet own one, it is common to stumble upon wanted ads for project cars. These advertisements often detail the desired model and condition, as well as any specific requirements the potential buyer may have.

To support Cresta owners in their restoration efforts, there are clubs and organisations that bring enthusiasts together. One such example is the Vauxhall Cresta Club, which offers a wealth of information and resources for those seeking assistance or inspiration in their projects.

The club also welcomes non-owners who share the same passion for these classic vehicles. By joining clubs like the Vauxhall Cresta Club, members can share advice, collaborate on restoration work, and attend events such as car shows and weekend gatherings.

In addition to restoration projects, some Vauxhall Cresta enthusiasts used to take to the track for banger racing events, often alongside the old Jaguar Mark 10’s. Banger racing combines the excitement of racing with the nostalgic appeal of driving classic cars, resulting in a thrilling and unique experience.

Although this sport is not for everyone, it holds a special place in the hearts of many Cresta aficionados. I’ve often stood freezing to death on High Edge Raceway near Buxton, Derbyshire enjoying watching these big beasts destroying each other.

I tried to get my own children involved but I think I’ve put them off classic cars for life (sorry kids!)

Overall, owning a Vauxhall Cresta allows enthusiasts to engage with a unique piece of British motoring history. Whether purchasing a well-preserved model for leisurely drives or taking on a challenging restoration project, Cresta owners contribute to the legacy of these timeless vehicles.

Cultural Impact and Legacy

The Vauxhall Cresta has left a lasting impact on the British automobile scene, becoming a cultural icon for its distinctive design and features. Its popularity has led to its presence at classic car shows and its association with the golden era of British cars.

Here’s The Specials singing ‘Ghost Town’, driving a PA Cresta

The Cresta in Media and Motorsport

The Vauxhall Cresta’s influence extended beyond the automotive world and into various forms of media, including film and television.

Its classic design and status as a symbol of British automobile history have made it a popular choice for period pieces and productions seeking an authentic representation of the past.

In addition to its presence in media, the Cresta also made an impact in motorsport. The car’s performance capabilities and stylish appearance made it a competitive choice for drivers and teams participating in various racing events. This involvement in the sport has only served to bolster the Cresta’s reputation as a classic and iconic British car.

Throughout the years, the Vauxhall Cresta has transitioned from a popular family car to a beloved classic in the automotive world. Its design, performance, and presence within media and motorsport have solidified its status as a cultural icon, cherished by automobile enthusiasts and collectors alike.

Technical Specifications

Dimensions and Capacities

The Vauxhall Cresta PC has a length of 475.2 cm (187.09 inches), a width of 177.2 cm (69.76 inches), and a height of 141.7 cm (55.79 inches). The wheelbase of this car provides stability and contributes to its overall performance.

Engine Specs and Performance

Under the  of the bonnet of the Vauxhall Cresta lies a powerful 3.3-litre engine, which ensured optimal performance. This engine operates with pushrod-operated overhead valves and has a compression ratio of 7.8:1. The engine is capable of producing 124 bhp at 4,400 rpm.

Drivers will appreciate the Vauxhall Cresta’s top speed, which could reach up to 110 mph (177 km/h) with a following wind. Fuel consumption is a vital consideration for most vehicle owners, and the Cresta delivers average fuel economy for a car in its class.

The car’s suspension components, including bushes and dampers, have been designed to withstand the rigours of daily driving and provide a comfortable ride. This, coupled with the sturdy construction of the car itself, ensures the Vauxhall Cresta is a reliable and high-performing vehicle.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are common mechanical issues with the Vauxhall Cresta?

The Vauxhall Cresta, being an older vehicle, is expected to have some common mechanical issues. These may include wear and tear on suspension components, outdated braking systems, electrical gremlins, and serious rust problems in the bodywork. Regular maintenance and timely inspections can help minimize these issues.

Cresta’s also had serious problems with the Bendix spring breaking on the starter motor. You could always hear a cresta cranking over from many yards away!

Which engines were available in the Vauxhall Cresta models?

Throughout its production run, the Vauxhall Cresta was offered with several different engines. The earliest Cresta E models featured a 2.3-litre in-line six-cylinder engine. Later models, such as the Cresta PC, offered a 3.3-litre six-cylinder engine.

How can one find a Vauxhall Cresta for sale in the UK?

Finding a Vauxhall Cresta for sale in the UK might be challenging, given their age and rarity. Your best bet is to search for classic car dealers, online car sales platforms, and classic car enthusiasts’ forums where sellers may list their vehicles. Always research the vehicle history and inspect the car thoroughly before purchase.

What are the distinguishing features of the Vauxhall Cresta PA series?

The Vauxhall Cresta PA series was a notable departure from its predecessor in terms of design and features. Introduced in 1957, it was characterised by its American-inspired styling, panoramic windscreen, wraparound rear window, and distinctive tail fins.

The PA series also received an updated six-cylinder engine and improved suspension. They are very sought after as wedding cars.

Are there any estate versions of the Vauxhall Cresta?

Yes, the Vauxhall Cresta was available in an estate version, particularly during the PA series production run. The estate models offered increased cargo capacity and versatility, making them an attractive option for families and commercial uses.

What would be a reasonable price range for a used Vauxhall Cresta from the 1970s?

The price range for a used Vauxhall Cresta from the 1970s may vary significantly based on factors such as the vehicle’s condition, rarity, originality, and documented history. Prices can range from a few thousand pounds for a restoration project to tens of thousands for a pristine, well-maintained example.

Always research the market and consult with classic car experts when determining the value of a specific vehicle.

Conclusion

My dad owned two PC Cresta Delux’s. His first was a 1966 powder blue version with column-change Powerglide automatic. I remember it seemed to take ages before it reached top gear. I also remember kickdown was good fun!

The second was a 1971 with gold bodywork (just like the image above), and four on the floor. They were both lovely cars but you needed muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger to move the steering wheel.

I particularly remember the friendly schoolkid rivalry I had with my friend, who’s dad had a Mark 4 Zodiac.

Good times…