Former Vauxhall flagship more big barge than transport of delight

1971 Vauxhall PC Viscount.

1971 Vauxhall PC Viscount. - Credit: Andy Russell

Motoring editor Andy Russell gets behind the very big wheel of a 45-year-old Vauxhall PC Viscount, once considered the height of luxury, which started its life in Norwich.

What attracted me to the 1971 PC Viscount from the Vauxhall Heritage Centre was the registration number – AAH 120J – which was a Norwich number.

Driving out of Luton in the 4.75m long saloon, with a big slab of bonnet that seemed to go on forever, was daunting. To be honest, quite scary with steering that needed constant correction and, with five turns from lock to lock, a good workout for the arm muscles.

I've sailed boats that respond quicker to the rudder than the Viscount did to its huge, thin-framed steering wheel. And the floaty, rolling suspension added to the nautical feel of a boat on a choppy sea.

Despite its 120hp, 3.3-litre straight six-cylinder engine you could never describe progress as brisk – thankfully – although I was never sure what speed I was doing as the speedo needle swung up and down through 20mph so I had to work on midway guesswork!

This automotive antiquity was the height of luxury as Vauxhall's flagship model when launched in 1966. Its generous dimensions showed a clear influence from Vauxhall's American parent General Motors. The upside was what was considered at the time a salubrious and well-appointed cabin that rivalled the likes of top-spec Ford Zodiacs, Rover P6s and Triumph 2000s.

Based on the Cresta, the Viscount gained 100kg of extras, such as a fabric-covered roof, walnut veneer dash, electric windows, picnic tables and four headlights, which did nothing to help performance.

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With a three-speed GM automatic transmission on later models like the heritage centre example, the Viscount only managed a 0-60mph time of 15.5 seconds – almost five seconds slower than the lighter Cresta – and thanks to its relatively short gearing couldn't quite manage the magic ton.

Accept the Viscount for what it is and you soon find yourself enjoying the driving experience – once used to the ponderous steering and, by modern standards, feeble brakes. It wafts along, softly sailing over bumps and lumps on its 14in wheels, and is really quiet and cosseting for a car of this age.

The Viscount was £400 more expensive than the Cresta at £1,482 so no surprise that it accounted for just one in eight of all PC models with just over 7,000 sales by the time production ceased in 1972.

Were you the Norfolk owner of Vauxhall PC Viscount AAH 120J or do you know more about its history? Email motoring@archant.co.uk

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