Vauxhall Ventora FD Mark 2
Vauxhall Ventora FD Mark 2 Charles01, CC 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 Vauxhall Ventora, a classic from the 1970s, is fondly remembered for its elegant design and performance.

The Ventora stood out with its torquey inline six-cylinder petrol engine and spacious interior. With a top speed of around 106 mph, the Ventora positioned itself as a comfortable yet powerful alternative for buyers seeking a mid-range family car of that era.

One of the most appealing aspects of the Ventora was its distinctive appearance, which reflected the trends of the time. Featuring a large glass area and optional overdrive, the car symbolised luxury and status in its heyday.

Alongside its sibling models, the VX4/90 and the Viva GT, the Ventora completed Vauxhall’s line-up of high-performance vehicles that aimed to satisfy the up and coming executives, who didn’t want the old man image of the Cresta .

Key Takeaways

  • Vauxhall Ventora was a luxurious and powerful family car in the 1970s
  • The car featured a distinctive design with a large glass area
  • Ventora was part of Vauxhall’s high-performance line-up alongside the VX4/90 and Viva GT

History and Development

Origins and Evolution

The Vauxhall Ventora, launched in 1968, was a development from the Vauxhall Victor FD model. Vauxhall aimed to position the  model above the rest of the FD range by fitting it with the 3.3 litre six-cylinder engine that had previously been used in the Cresta and Viscount models.

This effortless performance and smooth engine were one of the unique selling points. Apart from the engine, the Ventora also adopted some styling cues and features from the Victor and VX4/90 models source.

Relationship with Victor and VX4/90

The Ventora shared the same bodyshell as the FD Vauxhall Victor and VX4/90 models. The VX4/90 had a twin carburettor, sporty variant of the Victor with overdrive and trendy Rostyle wheels. With the introduction of the Ventora, Vauxhall decided to re-introduce the VX/490 ‘Victor GT’ featuring the Viva GT’s engine, costing £132 less.

Vauxhall Victor FD saloon 1
Vauxhall Victor FD saloon
Charles01, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Ventora 2

To further distinguish the Ventora, Vauxhall introduced the Ventora mark 2 and added a swanky new dashboard with the four supplementary gauges now in the middle of the dash, a ‘proper’ glove box and reclining front seats (at last).

Ventora FE Introduction

The squarer Ventora FE ‘Transcontinental’ was introduced in 1972 as a further development in the line. Both the Ventora and Victor models were part of General Motors’ efforts to produce cars with strong similarities to their Opel, Hindustan Motors, Pontiac, and Chevrolet models.

At that time, with the impact of the 1973 Fuel Crisis, many owners found the Ventora to be a more fuel-efficient and economical option, making it a popular choice for long-distance cruising – according to the Telegraph.

In summary, the Ventora line has an interesting history and development, with various evolutions in design, features, and engine performance. Throughout its production run, it maintained a distinct identity and close relationship with the Vauxhall Victor and VX4/90 models.

Design and Features

Exterior Styling

The Ventora had had the classic ‘coke bottle’ styling. It features a black vinyl roof and ornate front grill, which set it apart from other models of the time. In addition, it comes with distinctive wheel trims to complete the look. The full instrumentation and clever design made the Ventora a popular choice among motorists during its production years.

Interior Appointments

Inside, the Ventora is equipped with comfortable and spacious seating. In the later Ventora 2, the vehicle boasts an improved interior trim, reclining front seats, and a new rear seat design, adding to its overall appeal. The car also provides sun visors (whoo hoo) and other practical amenities to enhance the driving experience for its occupants.

Saloon and Estate Versions

The Ventora was available in both saloon and estate versions, catering to various needs and preferences. With a length of 449cm and a width of 170.2cm, the car has ample space for passengers and luggage alike.

The estate version offers an even greater boot capacity, ensuring practicality for those in need of extra storage. Both versions exhibit the same level of appealing design and functionality, ensuring that buyers could find the perfect car to suit their requirements.

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

Mechanical Specifications

Engine and Power Output

The Ventora was equipped with a 6-cylinder, single Zenith carburettor, overhead valve naturally aspirated engine that has 2 valves per cylinder and a capacity of 3.3 litres. This powerplant develops between 122 and 126 horsepower, which varies slightly between model years. The Ventora boasts a healthy torque output of 239 N·m (176 lb·ft) that enables smooth power delivery but tends to get out of breath at higher revs.

Handling and Steering

The vehicle’s handling is composed and provides a comfortable ride. The Ventora uses a power steering system that manages to retain a reasonably competent feel.

The vehicle benefits from its rear-wheel-drive layout, which transfers power to the rear wheels and ensures acceptable traction in various driving conditions. However, the heavy cast iron six pot can sometimes present some underwear-threatening understeer to the unwary.

Transmission and Overdrive

The Ventora came with a 4-speed manual transmission system that ensures a responsive driving experience and reasonable fuel efficiency. The earlier Vauxhall Ventora automatic had the lazy, Powerglide 2 speed auto box, which was later replaced with the improved 3 – speed GM Strasbourg box.

Additionally, the vehicle is equipped with an overdrive feature that helps in reducing engine wear and improving fuel economy during high-speed driving. This overdrive function can be engaged or disengaged via a slide switch on top of the gearstick, in both 3rd and 4th gear, depending on the driver’s preference, to enhance the overall driving experience.

Performance and Road Tests

The Ventora was known for its appeal as a comfortable and spacious family car, but its performance also played a crucial role in gaining attention during its time. The following subsections delve into the acceleration and top speed, as well as addressing its fuel efficiency amid the fuel crisis of the 1970s.

Acceleration and Top Speed

The Ventora was powered by a 3.3-litre straight 6 engine which, although it was considered less powerful than other similar-sized engines of the time, still managed to provide adequate performance. For example, the Triumph 2.5 unit in the 2500PI saloon produced 9 bhp more, as reported by a 1971 road test conducted by Motor.

Despite this, the Ventora was able to achieve a top speed of around 106 mph, making it an impressive choice for its time, considering it’s cost.

In terms of acceleration, the Ventora’s robust motor allowed it to reach 0-60 mph in just over 12 seconds. Although the car’s acceleration was somewhat slower than others in its class, it was still regarded as satisfactory for a family saloon car of the era.

Fuel Efficiency amid Fuel Crisis

The 1970s experienced a significant fuel crisis, which affected car manufacturers and consumers alike. During this period, achieving good fuel efficiency became a priority for many drivers. The Ventora, with its 3.3-litre engine, had an average fuel consumption of around 18-20 mpg, which was not considered ideal in the age of increasing fuel prices.

However, the Ventora offered a smooth and comfortable ride, regardless of fuel efficiency concerns. According to a review by Autocar, the car showcased its ‘Coke bottle’ look first used with great success on the Viva HB, which contributed to its overall appeal, and emulated by Ford some years later.

Considering the fuel crisis and the BBC’s focus on motoring issues during this time, the Ventora still managed to remain a popular choice for those looking for a decent balance between performance and comfort amid the challenges posed by increased fuel costs.

Dimensions and Capacities

In terms of its external size, the Ventora measures 176.77 inches (449 cm) in length, 67.01 inches (170.2 cm) in width, and 52.76 inches (134 cm) in height. Its wheelbase, which contributes to the vehicle’s stability and handling, spans 101.97 inches (259 cm).

Considering its dimensions and configuration, the Ventora competes well with other models in the saloon car class.

As a 4-door car, the Ventora has adequate space and accessibility for its passengers. Offering reclining front seats, the Ventora provides comfortable seating for both front and rear passengers. Its interior design and layout cater well to families and individuals who value convenience and style.

Interestingly, the Ventora was also available in an estate car version, badged as the Victor 3300 initially. Estate cars are useful for their increased cargo capacity.

Though detailed specifications for the Ventora estate car are limited, it can be assumed that it offered similar dimensions with added practicality in terms of storage and overall functionality.

In summary, the Ventora showcases a range of well-designed dimensions and capacities. Its exterior dimensions, 4-door configuration, and availability as an estate car make it a versatile option for buyers seeking both style and practicality.

Footnotes

  1. Ultimate Specs – Vauxhall Ventora specs, dimensions
  2. Vauxhall Ventora | Technical Specs, Fuel consumption, Dimensions
  3. 1970 Vauxhall Ventora specifications, technical data, performance
  4. Standard Dimensions of Vauxhall Ventora and Weight – CarAraC.com

Durability and Maintenance

Rust Prevention and Body Longevity

One of the main concerns associated with the Ventora, like many classic cars from this era, is rust. The Ventora’s body, manufactured in Luton, experienced issues with rusting, especially in body areas that trapped water and moisture and salt.

Luckily, the Ventora shares some body components with other Vauxhall models such as the Victor, making it somewhat easier to find replacement parts.

There are several things an owner can do to prolong the body’s longevity and prevent rust:

  • Dry storage: Storing your Ventora in a dry environment, such as a garage, can reduce exposure to moisture and minimize the risk of rust development.
  • Rustproofing: Applying rustproofing treatments to the Ventora’s body and chassis can go a long way in helping to preserve the vehicle over time. Be careful of the old undersealing trapping water and moisture in!
  • Regular inspections: Checking your Ventora for signs of rust at least once a year can help you catch and address any rust-related issues before they worsen.
  • Timely repairs: If you notice any rust spots, address them promptly to prevent rust from spreading and causing further damage.

Common Repairs and Parts Availability

The Ventora shares some components with other Vauxhall models, like the Cresta, which can make finding replacement parts a bit easier, especially for the engine and drivetrain. However, certain parts might be more difficult to come by, as they are specific to the Ventora model.

Some dedicated enthusiasts even go as far as buying a car for spares, or maintaining a stock of spare parts for added convenience.

Common repairs encountered by Ventora owners include:

  • Brake system: The brake components will require regular maintenance and occasional replacement to ensure safe operation.
  • Suspension: As with any classic car, the Ventora’s suspension may require occasional attention to keep the vehicle driving comfortably and safely. Remember, rubber bushes naturally deteriorate.
  • Electrical system: The electrical system can develop issues such as corroded connections or frayed wiring, which will need to be addressed in a timely manner.

In summary, the Ventora is an engaging classic car that offers a driving experience rich in character. However, like any classic, its durability and maintenance requirements necessitate ongoing care and attention. With proper care and a focus on rust prevention, Ventora owners can enjoy their vehicles for many years to come.

Competitive Analysis

Market Position and Rivals

The Ventora was introduced in 1968 with the aim of tempting middle-class buyers away from rival cars like the Rover and Triumph 2.5 PI . It was positioned as a more affordable option compared to the higher-end vehicles in the market.

To compete with other cars, the Ventora featured a Victor FD body and a powerful 3.3-litre, six-cylinder engine that had been previously offered in the Cresta and Viscount models.

Other notable competitors in the market included the Opel Rekord and the Ford Corsair 2000E. The Ventora stood out with its superior engine performance and target audience – despite the stiff competition from other brands.

The Ventora’s larger engine offered effortless performance and clearly set it apart from the rest of the FD range. The Ventora was marketed as a top-of-the-range model with additional features such as nylon cloth upholstery, extra instrumentation, twin headlights, extra brightwork, and power steering.

The Ventora managed to offer a combination of performance and features that distinguished it from its rivals at the time, such as the Triumph 2000, Opel Rekord, and Ford Corsair 2000E.

As a result, it carved out a unique place for itself in the market, attracting a particular demographic of buyers looking for performance, style, and comfort.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.classicandsportscar.com/features/vauxhall-ventora-2-underrated-and-ready-adventure
  2. https://www.fdfeownersclub.co.uk/the-fd-ventora/
  3. https://www.fdfeownersclub.co.uk/the-fe-ventora/

Cultural and Media Impact

The Ventora, also made its mark in various aspects of media and culture. Throughout its production, the Ventora gained a reputation for its performance, distinctive styling, and status as a luxurious long-distance cruiser.

Its impact in popular culture has also been notable, drawing attention from both car enthusiasts and media outlets. Remember Stewart Sullivan’s ride in Department S

In television, the BBC played a significant role in showcasing the Ventora’s unique appeal. What about Carter Brandon’s wheels in BBC’s I Didn’t Know You Cared

For instance, the car has been featured in various episodes of popular car-related shows, highlighting its design elements, performance, and place in automotive history. These appearances have further solidified the Ventora’s status as a prominent figure in British car culture.

The Ventora has also been referred to and admired in print media as well. Publications such as Lancaster Insurance reminisce on its design, referring to it as “the Vauxhall for people of perception” and discussing the allure of its “vaguely Pontiac-style lines” and “3.3-litre straight-six engine.”

The Ventora is remembered fondly by those familiar with its unique charm, and its presence in various publications emphasizes its lasting cultural relevance.

In terms of motorsports, the Ventora played a part in the heritage of racing with the creation of “Big Bertha”. “Big Bertha was a racing car developed by Dealer Team Vauxhall (DTV).

Driven by the heroic Gerry Marshall, this powerful racing car went on to compete in some of the most prestigious racing events of the time, showcasing not only the performance capabilities of the Ventora’s engine but also the innovative spirit within the brand.

In conclusion, the Ventora has left a lasting mark on British car culture, media, and popular imagination. Its distinctive design, powerful performance, and place in motoring history continue to captivate enthusiasts and casual observers alike.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.lancasterinsurance.co.uk/news/2020/july/31/do-you-remember-the-vauxhall-ventora-fe/
  2. https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/cc-capsule/curbside-capsule-1969-vauxhall-ventora-fd-series-trying-to-adapt-with-difficulty/

Chassis and Suspension

The Ventora FE was designed with a focus on providing improved handling and comfort. This section discusses the details of the Ventora FE’s front and rear suspension, as well as its braking system and anti-roll bar integration.

Front Suspension and Brakes

The Ventora FE features a MacPherson strut front suspension system, which provides a good balance between stability and comfort. This type of suspension is known for its simplicity and cost-effective design, making it a popular choice among car manufacturers.

The struts are accompanied by coil springs and hydraulic dampers, which help to reduce body roll and improve handling.

The Ventora’s front brakes are made up of disc brakes, which offer better performance compared to drum brakes, especially under heavy braking or during wet weather conditions. Disc brakes are an essential component of any vehicle that aims for improved handling and safety.

Rear Axle and Suspension

For the rear suspension, the Ventora FE utilises a live axle with leaf springs, providing a comfortable ride with good load-carrying capacity. The rear axle design is generally dependable, contributing to the overall reliability of the car.

This arrangement, combined with the front suspension system, ensures that the Ventora maintains its composure on various road surfaces and under different driving conditions. That said, the FD series was notorious for eating rear axle half-shafts.

Anti-Roll Bar Integration

An important aspect of the FE’s handling is the integration of anti-roll bars. Anti-roll bars, also known as sway bars, are designed to improve the vehicle’s stability and reduce body roll during cornering.

By connecting the suspension components on both sides of the car, they help maintain consistent contact with the road surface, which translates to more predictable handling behaviour.

The FE chassis and suspension design come together to create a vehicle that offers a balance between comfort, stability, and performance. Its combination of MacPherson strut front suspension, live rear axle, and integrated anti-roll bars contributes to the car’s acceptable road manners.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the typical specifications for the engine power of the Ventora model?

The Ventora was powered by a smooth 3294cc six-cylinder 123bhp engine, offering strong performance and a comfortable driving experience.

Which interior features are standard in the classic Ventora vehicles?

The classic Ventora vehicles came with a range of features, including additional instrumentation, nylon cloth upholstery (vinyl on early models), and power steering. These elements, including the VIP version, contributed to the Ventora’s status as a top-of-the-range model.

How does the Vauxhall Ventora FD differ from the FE model?

Whilst both the FD and FE models shared the same 3.3-litre straight-six engine, the squarer FE Ventora was considered the final development of this series. It featured twin headlights and extra brightwork, further distinguishing it from its predecessor, the FD.

What are the distinguishing characteristics of a 1972 Ventora?

A 1972 Vauxhall Ventora stood out for its unique design elements, which included a blue riband exterior and other stylistic features that set it apart from contemporary vehicles. The Ventora cost £1,768 when it debuted many years ago, reflecting its higher status compared to other models in the Vauxhall line-up.

Are there many units of the Vauxhall Ventora still in existence today?

Nowadays, the Ventora is considered a rare classic car. According to reports, only about 30 units are thought to remain on British roads, making it a highly sought-after collector’s item for enthusiasts and marques alike.

Conclusion

I confess to having fond memories of the Ventora, (hence the website main image). One of my first cars was a 1969 Mark 1. Although it was reasonably solid. the paintwork was awful, so I spent many hours rubbing it down (and quite a few tins of Plastic Padding – Type Elastic).

Respraying with an Apollo airless spray, in tobacco brown with a white pinstripe should have been the icing on the cake but my spraying technique wasn’t great and I spent ages rubbing down with T-cut to elicit some sort of shine.

My friends loved it – especially as I was a bit tardy getting a hole in the exhaust fixed. Oh the sound of that straight six. (sorry officer).

The reason I bought the Ventora is because my brother already owned a 1971 mark 2 Ventora which I’d always admired and I wanted something a bit more sporty than my Dad’s Cresta Deluxe.

So while the automotive landscape has evolved over the decades, the Vauxhall Ventora remains a cherished classic, embodying a unique blend of style, power, and reliability. Whether reminiscing about its historic roots or appreciating its enduring charm on the roads today, the Ventora continues to command admiration and respect.