Vauxhall Chevette Profile

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Vauxhall Chevette General Information

This rally car is a fantastic example how things can go wrong when a rally project is not done in house and the manufacturer takes things too easy or not serious enough. It was embarrassment and a wasted opportunity.

But first to explain this model for younger or non-British fans. For model frame, I don't need an "A" or "Mk1" generation tag for this Vauxhall/Opel, as the Chevette name only lasted 1 generation. Yet it became a classic, showing how famous it was. Maybe also for this, 'there is only one Chevette'! The frame is interesting, as the Chevette was the successor of the Vauxhall Viva and the predecessor of the Vauxhall Astra (Astra Mk1 = Kadett D). This is to put it simply, for more detail on Viva vs Chevette, see the Vauxhall main story or the Viva model story. Curious anyway, the Viva was not simply Vauxhall's version of the Kadett B as there were design similarities with the Kadett C too and the Viva was sold alongside the Chevette for some time. Only the Viva had a proper front grill instead of the classic aerodynamic Vauxhall front as famously known from Chevette, Cavalier Mk1, etc..

The Chevette was Vauxhall's UK equivalent to the Opel Kadett C, but versions were slightly different, the Chevette had this typical aerodynamic, closed nose and a much larger dashboard. But also for a long time the Kadett C was not available as a short, light hatchback and the Chevette was even never available as a Coupé. The hatchback version was even Vauxhall's own creation and the later Opel Kadett (C) City hatchback was created from body panels Vauxhall sent them to Germany. Apparently Vauxhall hoped Opel would send C-Coupé body panels in return for a Chevette Coupé, and when Opel didn't Vauxhall was thinking of divorce!

But now the rally car:

This car (not the only time for a GM rally project) could be a perfect example for the 2 different ways of running a competition team. The French manufacturers and - more importantly for the Vauxhall Chevette - Ford at that time believe in running their sport programs in house. The competitions department can be stronger with the forceful support of the road car research and development department, in return the road car research and development can learn and profit from discoveries in tough competition. The easier way however is to hand the project to an outside independent tuner, so there is a fixed budget and no further worries and considerations. But this can be at a price with a lack of communication or even bother between inhouse departments and independent tuner, less bother for the manufacturer but also less feed back for the road product, etc..

The Vauxhall Chevette HS/HSR is a classic example of exactly these potential disadvantages of running your motorsport program through an independent tuner rather than by yourself. The basic ingredients to the car were fantastic. If it was meant to compete with the likes of Ford Escort RS and Opel Kadett (C) GT/E, it shared the same platform with the Kadett (C) GT/E but was a hatchback version of it, hence smaller and lighter. Further, while its declared opposition was running 2.0 engines, Vauxhall found a 2.3.

It still wasn't as serious competition to Escort RS, Kadett GT/E and the likes as Vauxhall would have wanted it to be, and curiously it wasn't speed that hampered it. The problem was that the car was designed and run by an independent tuner, Bill Blydenstein. Nothing wrong with Bill Blydenstein, he kept his part of the job straight and designed a car that from its first rallies was promising in performance and reliability. But Vauxhall itself didn't take things overly serious it seems, or at least there was a severe communication problem or lack of in-house interest. Vauxhall relied on the independent preparation business and somehow, as required by every homologation, Vauxhall never built the correct according road cars. This means for Blydenstein to go ahead turning a 2.3 litre Chevette into a rally car, there had to be a minimum number of (in group4) 400 Chevette 2.3 road cars and these Vauxhall had never turned into reality. As far as Vauxhall was concerned, they handed the project to someone else and are done with it. For Bill Blydenstein it seemed obvious a small, independent tuner like him could not be responsible to built 400 road cars for Vauxhall. But this was only half of the story, as so far it only meant the homologation special road version was heavily delayed. What is harder to understand are the differences between road version and rally version. As the road version was delayed and only came after Blydenstein had the rally version long ready and waiting, this lifts the blame from Bill Blydenstein's shoulders by some degree. Especially Blydenstein's finished cars combined the Vauxhall 2300 engine with a Lotus 16v cylinder head, but even though the rally cars were ready developed, Vauxhall was unwilling to fit a cylinder head of a different manufacturer to their cars, hence the road versions never were in the correct specification. It is a curiosity, how could a small company like Blydenstein be quicker with development than the manufacturer, why did Blydenstein not talk more to Vauxhall what they wanted, or how much free hand did he have, why did big Vauxhall not copy their 400 base cars from the already ready developed rally car? I rate both, Blydenstein and Vauxhall, as very capable companies, still it somehow was a massive communication mess.

However questions could be asked to a 3rd party too: How did the car get its homologation from the FI(S)A in the first place? Fact is that at a time the Chevette should have been raking in the wins, the opposition kept complaining, event organisers kept disqualifying it, the FIA (or according institution of the time) came to re-inspect and eventually the homologation was withdrawn.

This of course was the Chevette HS. So now Blydenstein and Vauxhall came out with an evolution version, the HSR, this time with a correct homologation. The HSR is easily identified from the troubled HS by the addition of a huge glassfibre body kit with gorgeous, wide wheel arches. These very wide wheel arches are connected through some kind of "step boards" along the door sills. According to Vauxhall this improved the aerodynamics. Well, I don't know of any other rally car to feature "step boards" to anywhere near such extend except the last groupB Quattro S1. Together with the bulky wheel arches this gave the Chevette an amazing presence! Further a mild Chevette facelift was incorporated with headlights put onto the aerodynamic angled front in Manta style rather than sitting upright inside ducts. But 3 years were basically wasted and by now the opposition caught up again. In other words, for politics the Chevette never became the success story it so easily could and should have been.

That it took until early 1978 to finally clamp down on the Chevette homologation may also be because until the end of 1977 you were allowed to change the number of valves. This rule was not really within the spirit of group4 and did allow for questions how much to the base configuration did your engine need to be. For 1978 this strange freedom was cancelled, as you see i.e. that the Lancia Stratos in its last, widest version returned from a 24v to a 12v because the Ferrari V6 base engine only had 12v, while until then the Stratos used an entirely different head. So why shouldn't the Chevette use a different head? But than a Lotus head is still not a Vauxhall one....

Either way, the time frame of this all did not help the Chevette one bit. Debuted on the RAC 1976, uncomfortable questions were asked throughout 1977, but the real drama happened only on Rally Portugal 1978, when at pre-event scrutineering the FI(S)A eventually withdrew its homologation for good and Pentti Airikkala & Chris Sclater were refused to start. However it took until the start of the 1980 season to develop the HSR version. In the mean time Vauxhall got special permission to run the HS with minor changes on a selection of events. What happened in Portugal 1978 was that the FI(S)A examined the cylinder head, started to search deeper and found that only 200 Chevette HS road cars were made and these had a Vauxhall developed 16v head rather than the Lotus one. The resulting deal was that Vauxhall could carry on rallying once the remaining road cars were built and the Lotus heads removed from the rally cars.

A shame really. The Chevette was a gorgeous car. It was shorter and 300cc & 40BHP up compared to its sister, the already very neatly built group4 Opel Kadett C Coupé and the Chevette was clearly the faster and also more reliable car. It could even at times beat the Escort BDA. But with Blydenstein having developed and fine tuned the engine from the beginning with the Lotus cylinder head, the post Portugal 78 interim version seemed not to gel quite so well.

Incredibly it was with this interim version in which Pentti Airikkala managed to win the BRC title 1979, quite likely the Chevette's biggest success in the end. While the 1980 HSR also had no Lotus head, the 1979 HS was pretty much an emergency solution. So the properly homologated HSR version should have been even much more competitive but only debuted in 1980, when the opposition was more competitive also. Then it appeared more regularly at WRC level too, but 1980 clearly times had moved on. Indeed in UK official Chevettes with Russell Brookes and Terry Kaby were rallied until 1983, when it was long up against Quattro A2 and Manta 400 and it was still good enough for 5th place on that year's RAC. Still, it is easy to see that the basic idea has been brilliant. And it was often said that the Chevette, and not an Opel model, was the spiritual mother to the Ascona/Manta 400 projects, which also combined a big displacement 4-cylinder to a RWD car.
 

Vauxhall Chevette Related Content


Vauxhall Chevette Evolutions

 
 
Model & Evo. (Activity)
 
BHP@
RPM
Torque
(Nm)@
RPM
Length
Width
Height
Weight
(Kg/BPM
Ratio)
 
Trans.
(W'base)
Vauxhall Chevette HS (76-79) 240/8200 249/6000 3940.1571.1371 1000 (4.2) RWD (2395)
Vauxhall Chevette HSR (80-83) 246/8400 263/5500 3969.1673.1362 980 (4) RWD (2395)

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Vauxhall Chevette Results

This is an unofficial Car Results list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego hh:mm:ss
10th. 1984 WRC Rallye de Portugal R. Gooding R. Jenkins #20 [UNKNOWN] 9:34:37
29th. 1984 WRC Rally of Finland R. Gooding R. Jenkins #30 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
5th. 1983 WRC Rally of Great Britain R. Brookes M. Broad #14 [UNKNOWN] 9:19:01
24th. 1983 WRC Rally of Great Britain R. Gooding R. Jenkins #64 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
6th. 1982 WRC Rally of Finland R. Brookes R. Morgan #15 [UNKNOWN] 4:37:10
6th. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain R. Brookes M. Broad #18 [UNKNOWN] 8:14:42
26th. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain R. Gooding R. Jenkins #53 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
19th. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Hill R. Varley #42 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
6th. 1980 WRC Swedish Rally P. Airikkala R. Virtanen #3 [UNKNOWN] 4:25:44
6th. 1980 WRC Rally New Zealand P. Adams J. Scott #9 [UNKNOWN] 12:49:20
18th. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Elsmore . UNKNOWN #34 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
10th. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Hill R. Varley #41 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
3rd. 1979 WRC Swedish Rally P. Airikkala R. Virtanen #5 [UNKNOWN] 6:39:31
5th. 1979 WRC Rally New Zealand S. Murland . Parnell #29 [UNKNOWN] 9:04:47
7th. 1979 WRC Rally of Great Britain P. Airikkala R. Virtanen #7 [UNKNOWN] 8:25:57
12th. 1979 WRC Rally of Great Britain J. McRae M. Nicholson #30 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
3rd. 1978 WRC Rally of Finland P. Airikkala R. Virtanen #5 [UNKNOWN] 3:32:50
16th. 1977 WRC Rally of Great Britain P. Airikkala R. Virtanen #4 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
18th. 1977 WRC Rally of Great Britain C. Sclater M. Holmes #25 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00

Vauxhall Chevette Retirements

This is an unofficial Car Model Retirements list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego Reason
Ret. 1984 WRC Rally of Great Britain R. Gooding . UNKNOWN #50 [UNKNOWN] SS5 engine
Ret. 1983 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Kaby M. Nicholson #17 [UNKNOWN] SS41 crash
Ret. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Pond R. Arthur #9 [UNKNOWN] SS9 crash
Ret. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Kaby M. Nicholson #19 [UNKNOWN] SS58 crash
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Pond M. Nicholson #6 [UNKNOWN] SS30 driveshaft
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Hill R. Varley #37 [UNKNOWN] SS11 suspension
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain P. Airikkala R. Virtanen #9 [UNKNOWN] SS13 driveshaft
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain J. McRae M. Nicholson #18 [UNKNOWN] SS32 crash
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Kaby D. Whittock #35 [UNKNOWN] SS49 engine
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally New Zealand S. Murland . UNKNOWN #12 [UNKNOWN] SS29 crash
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Finland P. Airikkala R. Virtanen #5 [UNKNOWN] SS2 engine
Ret. 1979 WRC Rally of Great Britain C. Lord R. Palmer #45 [UNKNOWN] SS7 engine
Ret. 1979 WRC Rally of Finland P. Airikkala R. Virtanen #3 [UNKNOWN] SS3 engine
Ret. 1979 WRC Rally New Zealand P. Airikkala R. Freeth #2 [UNKNOWN] SS18 electrics
Ret. 1979 WRC Rallye de Portugal . "Méqépé" M. Villar #8 [UNKNOWN] SS10 electrics
Ret. 1978 WRC Swedish Rally P. Airikkala R. Virtanen #4 [UNKNOWN] SS6 engine
Ret. 1978 WRC Rally of Great Britain P. Airikkala M. Nicholson #11 [UNKNOWN] SS29 engine
Ret. 1978 WRC Rally of Great Britain J. McRae I. Muir #26 [UNKNOWN] SS32 crash
Ret. 1978 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Hill . UNKNOWN #40 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?
Ret. 1978 WRC Rally of Great Britain C. Lord R. Varley #42 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?
Ret. 1978 WRC Rally of Great Britain C. Sclater M. Holmes #18 [UNKNOWN] SS29 electrics
Ret. 1978 WRC Rallye San Remo C. Sclater M. Holmes #11 [UNKNOWN] SS40 engine
Ret. 1978 WRC Rallye de Portugal P. Airikkala R. Virtanen #7 [UNKNOWN] SS0 not permitted to start - homologation issues
Ret. 1978 WRC Rallye de Portugal C. Sclater M. Holmes #16 [UNKNOWN] SS0 not permitted to start - homologation issues
Ret. 1977 WRC Rally of Finland P. Airikkala R. Virtanen #2 [UNKNOWN] SS16 gearbox
Ret. 1976 WRC Rally of Great Britain W. Sparrow R. Spokes #28 [UNKNOWN] SS99 suspension