Features

evo Icons - Vauxhall Chevette 2300HS driven

A drive over the Route Napoleon in Southern France introduces us to one of Vauxhall's hidden historical gems

The proportions are faintly ludicrous. Approach from the front and, parked next to a modern Adam Grand Slam, the Vauxhall Chevette 2300HS looks impossibly tiny – low, with squinting rectangular headlights set deep in the nose and a square-edged bodykit at odds with the curvy bonnet.

Sitting down on a rock at the side of the road, I take a moment to study the side profile against the Alpine backdrop. From here, it’s also a car of two halves – nose-down stance, bulging tyres squeezed under blistered arches and blazing red stripes, contrasting with a dainty rump, flicked-up spoiler and pea-shooter exhaust.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to have every issue of evo delivered straight to you. You'll SAVE 39% on the shop price, and get evo for its original cover price for a whole year!

At the rear, it’s completely cartoonish. A full third of the car’s height is occupied by the tyres; no deep bumper or fake diffuser to hide the haphazardly-welded sheet metal, below the same slim chrome bumper that buyers of the poverty-spec ‘L’ also enjoyed. Tape-deck style 'Vauxhall' script between the oblong light units drags an otherwise 70s form screaming into the next decade.

Were it not for Dealer Team Vauxhall – an organisation formed by a group of London-based Vauxhall dealers in 1971 - the 2300HS wouldn’t have existed in any decade.

At the time, GM-owned Vauxhall had no official motorsport division, yet in 1976, chairman Bob Price wanted to increase the firm’s profile in international rallying. DTV, along with engineering firm Blydenstein Racing, selected the humble Chevette to compete against the dominant Ford Escorts.

Chief among the group’s concerns was to raise power. Vauxhall’s first sixteen-valve engine, based on its existing slant-four iron block four, was the unit of choice. At 2279cc, it certainly had the capacity to out-punch Ford’s best efforts of the time. A pair of Stromberg carburettors liberated 135bhp at 5500rpm and 134lb ft of torque from 4500rpm. Walk into a Ford dealership that year, and 109bhp is the best an RS2000 could offer you.

A five-speed Getrag gearbox sent drive to the live rear axle, with an 8.8-second 0-60mph sprint the result – a useful tenth quicker than the Ford. Dagenham would be embarrassed further by the Chevette’s top speed of 117mph – a full 7mph quicker than the slant-nosed Escort.

Just one colour scheme was offered – silver, with a splash of red along the car’s flanks and across the rear panel. Double wishbones suspend the front, and an Opel Kadett GT/E-sourced live axle props up the rear. A Chevrolet Vega 6j x 13in alloy wheel sits under each arch, wrapped in chunky 205-section tyres, their protrudance beyond the standard arches accommodated by subtle flaring. Those arches would of course grow further with the blistered Chevette HSR in 1981, but the purity of the silver car’s flanks remains appealing.

Most Popular

Visit/bmw/1-series/203095/bmw-128ti-revealed-as-direct-hot-hatch-rival-to-vw-golf-gti
BMW 1 Series

BMW 128ti revealed as direct hot hatch rival to VW Golf GTI

BMW has revealed a simplified front-wheel drive hot 1-series called 128ti that will sit below the M135i performance flagship
16 Sep 2020
Visit/nissan/370z/201879/nissan-z-proto-revealed-v6-twin-turbo-six-speed-manual-and-a-catch
Nissan 370Z

Nissan Z Proto revealed – V6 twin-turbo, six-speed manual, and a catch

It’s the Nissan sports car we’ve been waiting 11 years for, but don’t hold your breath for it in the UK
16 Sep 2020
Visit/mclaren/203105/five-mclaren-senna-gtr-lms-in-le-mans-liveries-revealed
McLaren Senna

Five McLaren Senna GTR LMs in Le Mans liveries revealed

Celebrating 25 years since McLaren’s domination of the 1995 Le Mans 24hr with the F1 GTR
18 Sep 2020
Visit/advice/19675/used-car-deals-of-the-week
Features

Used car deals of the week

We’ve perused the used car pages so you don’t have to. Here’s what caught evo’s fancy this week
16 Sep 2020