When the original Victor (the F Type) burst onto the scene in 1957, it heralded a new era for Vauxhall. One where it could seemingly do no wrong, with buyers queuing round the block. Sadly, by the time the final iteration of the Victor (the FE) was introduced, buyers’ enthusiasm had waned to the point where the car was little short of a sales disaster.
In four years of production, Vauxhall sold almost 400,000 Victor F Types – the Victor FE was built for the same period of time and a mere 44,000 found buyers. It didn’t help that the FE was the biggest Victor yet, and it was introduced at a time when buyers were downsizing to models such as the Cortina MkIII and BMC 1100/1300.
Nowadays you can buy a Victor FE (if you can find one worth buying) for peanuts, and it makes an interesting alternative to the more obvious Ford or BL alternatives. Large and comfortable, the Victor FE is a slice of pure seventies heaven – but buy a bad one and it’ll seem more like hell.
Which one to buy?
It’s the last-of-the-line five-speed VX4/90 that most people want, but the reality is that if you can track down a decent Victor FE of any flavour, buy it before somebody else does. Having said that though, if you’ve got a hankering for a Victor FE you probably won’t be beating off a mob of other eager buyers.
Unsurprisingly, the 1800 is largely unloved while the 2300 has more of a following. None of these cars is worth much though, so it really is a case of buying the best you can find; in the real world, the 2300 is no thirstier than the 1800 alternative. Alternatively, you could try seeking out the 3.3-litre six-cylinder version, sold as the Ventora.
Because the Victor FE has been going through a banger phase for most of its life, there are plenty of neglected examples about, with many cars having been run on a shoestring. It doesn’t help that Vauxhall doesn’t care much for its heritage, so parts supply is a real issue, with parts availability potentially being quite a problem.
Predictably, replacement panels are all but unobtainable and the same goes for interior trim, brightwork and a multitude of small parts. So don’t buy a project too readily – because reviving it will be tricky, if not impossible.
Performance and specs
Vauxhall Victor FE VX4/90
Engine 2279cc, four-cylinder
Power 100bhp @ 5200rpm
Torque 140lb ft @ 3000rpm
Top speed 102mph
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
• While earlier Victors rotted before they’d even left the factory, by the time the FE was built things had improved – but an FE can still corrode pretty much anywhere. The sills, wheelarches, valances and door bottoms are the obvious places to check, but don’t overlook the top and trailing edges of the front wings along with the boot lid and bonnet seams.
• The overhead cam engine was known for being incontinent ever since it was launched. Expect oil leaks from the cam cover gasket, distributor/waterpump/oil pump joints and even the head gasket. Oil can also get into the distributor and cause problems.
• Engine wear will become apparent by the time 100,000 miles have been clocked up – check for the usual signs of wear and budget for a decent used engine if you don’t fancy the expense of a rebuild.
• The automatic choke (if still fitted) has a tendency to play up, leading to poor hot starting and heavy fuel consumption.
• The manual gearbox isn’t very tough; its synchromesh can start to wear out in as little as 30,000 miles. Even when in good condition the gear selection isn’t very sweet, as the selector linkages tend to have a sticky action.
• If you find a car equipped with overdrive, check that it works, as the system wasn’t very reliable in period. As a result Vauxhall dropped it fairly quickly; it’s the electrical side that tends to play up.
• The Victor FE initially came with a single-piece propshaft, which goes out of balance when its universal joints wear out. Vauxhall moved over to a two-piece propshaft in 1975, which is more reliable; check for vibrations when cruising, which gives the game away.
• The original exhausts were poorly made and tended to rot out very quickly. By now any factory-fitted systems will have been replaced, but it’s still worth checking the state of the pipes as they can still fail prematurely.
1972: In March, the Victor FE is introduced in 1800 and 2300 forms, while there’s also a VX4/90 option with twin carbs and standard overdrive. There’s a choice of saloon or estate for the 1800 and 2300 editions with overdrive or automatic transmissions being optional. From September there are individual front seats and a floor-mounted handbrake; these were previously optional, with standard fare being a bench seat and dash-mounted handbrake.
1973: In March the 1800 ES and 2300 ES special editions arrive with an automatic gearbox, vinyl roof, front wing indicator repeaters plus reversing lamps and reclining front seats. The latter two are standard from September, when overdrive ceases to be offered as an option on the 1800 and 2300.
1974: The 2300 S limited edition saloon debuts, with a black vinyl roof, chrome wheelarch trims, cloth trim and a choice of manual or automatic transmissions.
1976: The Victor 1800 and 2300 are discontinued, but the VX4/90 is reintroduced in August 1977 as the five-speed GLS, with an automatic gearbox optional. Just 900 are built.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
Summary and prices
It can be difficult to put a value on the Victor, as owners of cherished examples rarely put them up for sale on the open market. Numbers of project cars continues to thin out, but if you look hard enough, you can still pick them up from around £600. Reasonably solid examples start from around £2000, while the very best might be found for around £5000. Your best bet is to join up to the owners clubs and keep an eye out in the back of the club magazines. This will also pay dividends when you need to source spares.
Words: Richard Dredge