The Canadian car market has always been dominated by US makes. But the “special relationship” has also resulted in some curious efforts to maintain a sense of unique identity, or respond to the distinctive characteristics of the market. We had our Plodges (mixed styling of the Dodge and Plymouth models), Beaumonts (sold at Pontiac dealerships with Chevrolet engines and Pontiac style trim), Meteors, Mercury trucks, Fargo trucks, etc. along with various European makes including Vauxhall. In addition to selling its models under the Vauxhall brand, GM’s British subsidiary also created the Envoy name just for Canada. The Vauxhalls where sold by Pontiac/Buick dealers, and so as not to be left out, the Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealers recieved the Envoy badged versions, like this Epic.
For a time Vauxhall was second in sales of imported sedans behind Volkswagen, as were their cousins Opel in the US. Sadly Vauxhalls of the 1960s were particularly enthusastic rusters even by the standards of the day, and that combined with limited parts supply after Vauxhall pulled out of Canada means there aren’t very many left in drivable condition. What examples do exist are various Vauxhalls and Envoys languishing in mostly rural settings. I’ve even come across a couple in scrapyards and storage yards but the more common finds seem to be the larger Victors.
What I’ve found here is a Envoy Epic, which is a badge engineered version of the Vauxhall Viva HA. But it’s more than that. While the normal Viva/Epic had to make do with a 44hp 1057cc four cylinder engine, this one has the name-worthy epic “hot” high compression engine with 60hp, as did the confusingly-named Viva 90. Less than 12,000 Viva SLs (in both Viva and Epic form) were produced, with an unspecified number (but undoubtly low) number of them the hot 90. That makes this one a rare survivor indeed, with both the 90 and SL equipment, plus being a Canadian variant. [You Yanks struggling to relate: think ’69 Pontiac GTO The Judge with Ram Air IV. PN]
As for the engineering of the Viva/Epic, it was a highly conventional and straight forward RWD machine, as its role in life was to compete against the likes of the Austin A35, Morris Minor and Ford Anglia. Some pieces where shared with the very similar Opel Kadett A, but the engine, styling and interior was unique. The front suspension used a front transverse leaf spring just like the Opel, and not totally unlike a modern day Corvette uses at the rear. The front cross member easily unbolted with the rack and pinion steering rack and suspension as an entire unit, which made it popular with hot rodders. The rear had a solid rear axle with more leaf springs, but not transverse this time. The basic car came with drum brakes all around while the upper trim levels featured front disc brakes.
I mentioned the 60 hp engine and brakes of the 90, but there were a few other changes over the basic model besides the engine, as the moniker SL stood for Super Luxury. Some assorted extra body trim was part of that lofty definition, and most noticeable was the grill and rear tail light cluster, which featured triple round lights that were considered quite sporty for the day. [Yanks: now think Impala. ED]
Back to this particular example: I actually spotted it a couple years at a tow company storage yard, but now its moved to a muffler shop giving me hope that someone is preparing to get it back on the road. And it may not be the most stellar car, but the world’s automotive diversity is better for its continued existence.
PN’s note: This car happens to be for sale, along with a supercharged Chevy 4.3 motor. Be the envy of your friends with this Epic find!
Curbside Classics will consider guest submissions for cars that are almost certainly not going to ever be found by myself, or are particular historical or cultural significance. Contact me at [email protected]