Curbside Classic Canadian Visitor Edition: 1966 (Vauxhall) Envoy Epic

David Saunders
by David Saunders
curbside classic canadian visitor edition 1966 vauxhall envoy epic

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 curbsideclassics@gmail.com

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  • SparVarnish SparVarnish on Jan 06, 2013

    My Dad had one of these when I was 18. I used to fishtail (drift) it, and smoked the tires in 1st & 2nd even with the crappy 44 hp. engine. I got a ticket for Dangerous Driving in it - drifted around a corner and hit 70 mph (flat out top speed) in a 45 zone. The cop claimed he had to do 100 to catch me. When I blew a gear in the trans, Dad made me fix it. The trans wouldn't come out with the engine in place so I stood on the shock towers and dead lifted the engine out by the intake manifold. Sorry I didn't see this when the original post went up - fun car.

  • Bill mcgee Bill mcgee on Aug 10, 2013

    My main awareness of the Vauxhall is thru Matchbox cars I had as a kid in the fifties . Also , my uncle was a small town Pontiac dealer who actually stocked a few of the Vauxhall Victors . I remember riding with him a time or two in a Victor wagon they used as a demo , and we used it for tailgating at a beach cook-out .The later versions I don't remember ever seeing , tho I bought a Matchbox version of one at a garage sale recently . The later versions didn't sell very well in the U.S. Opels seemed to sell well from the beginning , by contrast even tho it really is practically the same car but styled a bit better .

  • Jeff S Corey--We know but we still want to give our support to you and let TTAC know that your articles are excellent and better than what the typical articles are.
  • Jeff S A sport utility vehicle or SUV is a car classification that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles, such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive.There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of an SUV and usage of the term varies between countries. Thus, it is "a loose term that traditionally covers a broad range of vehicles with four-wheel drive." Some definitions claim that an SUV must be built on a light truck chassis; however, broader definitions consider any vehicle with off-road design features to be an SUV. A [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossover_(automobile)]crossover SUV[/url] is often defined as an SUV built with a unibody construction (as with passenger cars), however, the designations are increasingly blurred because of the capabilities of the vehicles, the labelling by marketers, and electrification of new models.The predecessors to SUVs date back to military and low-volume models from the late 1930s, and the four-wheel drive station wagons and carryalls that began to be introduced in 1949. The 1984 [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Cherokee_(XJ)]Jeep Cherokee (XJ)[/url] is considered to be the first SUV in the modern style. Some SUVs produced today use unibody construction; however, in the past, more SUVs used body-on-frame construction. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the popularity of SUVs greatly increased, often at the expense of the popularity of large [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedan_(automobile)]sedans[/url] and station wagons.More recently, smaller SUVs, mid-size, and crossovers have become increasingly popular. SUVs are currently the world's largest automotive segment and accounted for 45.9% of the world's passenger car market in 2021. SUVs have been criticized for a variety of environmental and safety-related reasons. They generally have poorer fuel efficiency and require more resources to manufacture than smaller vehicles, contributing more to climate change and environmental degradation. Between 2010 and 2018 SUVs were the second largest contributor to the global increase in carbon emissions worldwide. Their higher center of gravity increases their risk of rollovers. Their larger mass increases their stopping distance, reduces visibility, and increases damage to other road users in collisions. Their higher front-end profile makes them at least twice as likely to kill pedestrians they hit. Additionally, the psychological sense of security they provide influences drivers to drive less cautiously. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_utility_vehicleWith the above definition of SUV any vehicle that is not a pickup truck if it is enclosed, doesn't have a trunk, and is jacked up with bigger tires. If the green activists adhere to this definition of what an SUV is there will be millions of vehicles with flat tires which include HRVs, Rav4s, CRVs, Ford Escapes, Buick Encores, and many of compact and subcompact vehicles. The green movement is going to have to recruit millions of new followers and will be busy flattening millions of tires in the US and across the globe. Might be easier to protest.
  • Sckid213 I actually do agree that most Nissans are ultimately junk. (I also think many BMWs are also). I was talking challenging the 3 in terms of driving dynamics. Agree all were failures in sales.
  • THX1136 More accurately said, we are seeing exponential growth in the manufacturing capabilities in this market. Unless, of course, all those vehicles are sold with customers waiting until more a produced so they can buy. Indeed, there are certainly more EVs being purchased now than back in 2016. Is demand outstripping manufacturing? Maybe or maybe not. I sincerely don't know which is why I ask.
  • ToolGuy The page here (linked in the writeup) is ridiculously stupid https://www.tyreextinguishers.com/how-to-spot-an-suvLike, seriously stupid, e.g., A) Not sure that particular Volvo is killing the planet as quickly as some other vehicles we might choose. B) A Juke is "huge"??? C) The last picture shows a RAV4 Hybrid?
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