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Vauxhall Sportshatch

By raccars Published

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Only serious Vauxhall fans are likely to be familiar with this curio from 1976, but the Vauxhall Sportshatch has become one of the most collectable cars from the brand. The Sportshatch was the happy result of making a virtue out of necessity, created to use up a load of spare parts, after the failure of another model, the HP Firenza. However, it was never destined for mainstream success, with only 197 examples ever made.

In the early Seventies, Vauxhall's model range was lacking in glamour. The Firenza two door coupe, itself based upon the Viva, was chosen as the donor model in an experimental attempt to liven things up in Luton. The result was the HP Firenza, standing for high performance, although it became more famous for its radical styling rather than its admittedly impressive driving performance. The attention was all focused on the bold, aerodynamically styled nose cone, which became known as the 'droop snoot.' The sharply angled front end featured toughened glass headlight covers and gave the car a super modern look at the time.

As part of its launch campaign for the HP model, Vauxhall changed the original Firenza's name to the Magnum and began a marketing blitz. The HP Firenza should have been successful - its dramatic styling and punchy performance made it a hit, but at that time the fuel crisis was putting the bite on gas guzzlers, while problems on the production line meant that Vauxhall also suffered some complications in actually getting the car built. Ultimately, only 204 HP Firenzas made if off the production line, and Vauxhall got stuck with a load of spare droop snoots. What could it do with them?

Creatively, the solution was the Sportshatch. This was a development of the Magnum Estate, given a distinctive, sharklike front end. This was pretty exciting stuff in the Seventies, when estates were used to transport families and their gear and performance was not a consideration. While the Sportshatch wasn't given the HP Firenza's high performance, it was capable of 110bhp and improvements to handling made it a far racier prospect than the standard Magnum.

Along with the nose cone, it also used the donor car's Avon Alloys and seven dial dash, and all 197 models came with a funky dark red wine paint job and red 'go faster' stripes down the side. The athletic looking Sportshatch ended up being an early crossover, fitting both estate and hatchback segments.

Its interesting genesis, rakish appearance, entertaining drive and scarcity now make the Sportshatch a valuable addition to any collector's haul.

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