The HA Viva, announced in September 1963, and replaced in September 1966, was Vauxhall's first serious step into the compact car market after the Second World War. It was also the first new small car produced by Vauxhall since 1936. The HA Viva was powered by a 1,057 cc (64.5 cu in), overhead valve, four cylinder, front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels. It was comparable in size and mechanical specifications with the new Opel Kadett released a year earlier in continental Europe, being a result of the same project. The Viva and Kadett were sold alongside each other in many markets. The HA Viva was just an inch longer than the Ford Anglia which dated back to 1959.

It was offered only as a two-door saloon, and competed with the Anglia as well as BMC's hugely successful and highly regarded new 1100 range.

The HA set new standards in its day for lightweight, easy to operate controls, a slick short gearchange, lightweight steering and clutch pedal, good all-round visibility and relatively nippy performance. It was one of the first cars to be actively marketed towards women, perhaps as a result of these perceived benefits for them.

The front crossmember (steering, suspension and engine mounting) assembly from the HA became a very popular item for DIY hot rod builders in the UK, due to its simple self-contained mechanics, similar to older designs such as those from the 1930s, and ability to accommodate much larger engines within its span. The assembly featured a double wishbone/vertical telescopic dampers suspension design in combination with a transverse leaf spring attached to the front crossmember at its centre position and the entire unit could be removed and adapted to another vehicle. (For similar reasons the Jaguar IRS assembly was often used at the rear of these custom cars). The Viva's rear suspension made do with conventional longitudinal semi-elliptic leaf springs and telescopic dampers. The progressive suspension including a very clever mounting design for the rear axle and the transverse leaf system of the front suspension led to a soft ride on small bumps but with very acceptable roll characteristics on corners along with its precise steering and small turning circle.

In Canada, the HA was sold as the Vauxhall Viva by Pontiac/Buick dealers and also as the Envoy Epic by Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealers, and was second in sales to the Volkswagen Beetle amongst imported compact cars. In France (and Algeria and Tunisia), the car was marketed as the Vauxhall Epic.

The Viva was initially launched in Standard and Deluxe versions, identifiable by their simple horizontal slatted metal grilles. Minor changes in September 1964 included improved seats and more highly geared steering.[4] A more luxurious SL (for Super Luxury) variant appeared in June 1965. The SL differed from the base models by a relatively elaborate grille and, normally, by a painted strip along the side of the car. Unlike the base model with its unique tail lamp design, the SL featured a horizontal row of three plain, round Lucas parts-bin lamps, not unlike the vertical arrangement employed on Singer Gazelle cars of that era. Engines were available in two states of tune: entry level models came with a power output of 44 brake horsepower (33 kW), while the Viva 90, introduced in October 1965, had a higher 9:1 compression ratio and produced 54 brake horsepower (40 kW). The availability of two engines and three trim options enabled Vauxhall to offer six Viva variants in some markets. 90 models came with front disc brakes, while SLs featured contrasting bodyside flashes, a criss-cross chrome plated front grille, full wheel covers, three-element round tail lights and better interior trim.

During its first ten months, over 100,000 HA Vivas were made, and by 1966 the HA had chalked up over 306,000 sales, proving that Vauxhall had made a successful return to the small-car market, which they had abandoned following the Second World War. One measure of the success is the fact that a budget was made available to design the car's successor with a virtually clean sheet. The Viva HB inherited engines, but little else, from the HA. 309,538 Viva HAs were produced.

The HA, however, suffered severely from corrosion problems[citation needed] along with other Vauxhall models of the time and very few of this model remain – one of the main problem areas being the cappings along the top side edges of the luggage compartment badly corroding and allowing water to enter, consequently leading to severe structural corrosion in the luggage-compartment floor area. As with a lot of other British cars of that period, many Vivas failed to survive long term.

The HA Viva was assembled in Australia by General Motors-Holden's commencing in 1964, and in New Zealand by General Motors at Petone. New Zealand built only the Deluxe model and a few base versions for government fleet contracts.



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