Vauxhall Chevette HS at the Brightwells Affordable Classics sale
A homologation special that struggled to find love and fix Vauxhall's finances as planned, the Chevette HS is an unsung hot hatch – and there's one coming up for auction at Bicester Heritage
Win on Sunday, sell on Monday. That’s the approach Vauxhall took with the Chevette 2300 HS. It wanted to attract a younger buyer and return to profitability after chalking a £14 million loss in 1976.
A new chairman, Bob Price, took charge of the marque and he decided the way forward was to raise the profile of Vauxhall through competition in international rallying. The basis was the Chevette ‘T-car’ from the company’s selection of family cars.
But in order to comply with Group 4 rallying regulations, 400 homologated roads cars had to be produced. That meant a Vauxhall-designed 2.3-litre slant-four engine with a 16-valve head trickled down into the Chevette’s engine bay.
With two Stromberg carburettors, approximately 135bhp resulted and was mated to a Getrag gearbox. The brakes, suspension and rear axle were borrowed from the Opel Kadett C GT/E and a pared-back but fast and fun-to-drive hot hatchback emerged.
However, General Motors policy at the time did not support factory-backed motorsport entries and so 600 Vauxhall dealers set up Dealer Team Vauxhall as, in effect, private backers to navigate the restrictions.
Back on the rally stages and in the hands of 1989 RAC Rally winner Pentti Arikkala, the HS achieved notable success, beating the Ford Escort RS2000. In a car equipped with a ZF transmission and Lotus heads, Arikkala won the 1979 British Rally Championship with Vauxhall taking the manufacturers’ crown two years later.
Price’s plan had yielded results on the gravel stages of the British Isles and in Belgium, but the HS struggled to attract buyers. Originally, the road-going HS was available in silver only with red decals and black and tartan interior. Some were repainted, though, in order to shift the 400 cars.
Nearly 40 years later, an 8000-mile example sold at auction for £28,000 in 2017. By comparison, the HS featuring in Brightwells Affordable Classics sale at Bicester Heritage on March 21 has covered 51,000 miles.
It was bought by Jaguar Land Rover Classic and is far from the best example of an HS, with visible exterior paint damage and split seats. According to the DVLA, this car has been untaxed since March 1992. It will head to auction next month without reserve and as one of 100 cars featured in the sale.
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