A rare sight today, the PC-generation Vauxhall Cresta was the last to wear the nameplate. We sample a lesser-spotted base-spec example
Words: Jack Grover With thanks to: Trojan Cars
The ‘PB’ Velox/Cresta line had been disappointing in terms of sales, being criticised for their bland looks (just as the original ‘PA’ Cresta had been criticised for being too gaudy), soggy handling, rampant rust issues and ‘tinny’ overall feel. The ‘PC’ used a new bodyshell (slightly narrower and significantly longer) with the same drivetrain and running gear but with numerous detail improvements. The entire range was shifted upmarket starting with the fleet-orientated basic Cresta, then the better-appointed Cresta Deluxe and topping out with the sumptuous Viscount.
Generally regarded as a big improvement over the PB, the PC still suffered from being fundamentally old fashioned – the days of big saloons with six cylinders, two bench seats and leaf-sprung rear axles was over, and Luton still couldn’t get on top of its corrosion or build quality problems. The PC would be the last Cresta. Sale withered, the Fuel Crisis tanked values on the secondhand market, and rust and banger racing saw most of them off by the end of the decade.
Remaining examples of Vauxhall’s ‘PC’ Cresta are rare enough, but this one – for sale at Trojan Cars, Southsea at time of writing – is even rarer than most. The single headlamps mark this out as the basic Cresta (‘Standard’, in Vauxhall’s own words), which did not sell well back in period and survivors in the UK are now estimated to be in single figures. The exact history of this one is unknown, but with 66,000 miles on the clock, it’s still largely in original condition and has avoided the rust that ravaged so many of its Luton-built contemporaries.
It hasn’t escaped the rust bug entirely, though There is evidence of a small repair on the top of the inner near-side wing (a notorious PC Cresta rot spot), some surface rust at the back of the rear sill on the same side, and some bubbling in the paint on the rear of the sill and the lower corner of the door skin on the driver’s side. But there is nothing to trouble the MoT tester yet, and the rest of the sills and other potential trouble spots all appear to be good. The boot floor has either been replaced or at least repainted, since it is in red oxide primer. Otherwise the cherry red (‘Calypso’) paintwork is in fine condition all round. The basic Cresta didn’t come with much chrome but what is here is in excellent shape, and all the badges are present and correct.
The standard Cresta was not lavishly appointed, despite Luton placing an emphasis on luxury and a move upmarket for the PC model as a whole. The interior is trimmed in beige vinyl and plastic and the original buyer did not go wild with the options list. There are some broken seams and tears on the driver’s side of the front bench seat, and some discolouration on the trim in the driver’s footwell, but otherwise everything’s in good shape – allowing for the veneer panel around the modern radio unit being held on with electrical tape.
The big bonnet lifts to reveal an equally big straight-six engine. The carburettor is clearly either a recent fitment or has been recently overhauled, and there are new sections of fuel line and breather hose visible. The coolant is clean, there are no visible oil leaks, and no nasty deposits on the underside of the filler cap either.
Nothing moves a car, even a big one like the Cresta, with the same combination of urge and refinement as a big straight six. A key selling point of the car was its strong performance, and in the lower gears at least the PC has almost sports-car like acceleration. The column-shift gearbox isn’t the sharpest but you quickly learn the knack of navigating it, and the engine’s rich torque means that you’re not continually hunting up and down the gears anyway.
Despite being unassisted the steering is very light but also very numb. None the less the big Vauxhall is easy to pilot on narrow city streets. It takes speed humps with aplomb, although the suspension is very soft and it tends to wallow and roll – a character entirely in keeping with Vauxhall’s tendency of the time to offer scaled-down American cars.
This Cresta is probably one of the UK’s rarest cars. Its sheer size and decidedly American style will provoke interest even from those who have no idea what a Vauxhall Cresta is, while those that do will probably not remember when they last saw one with just two headlamps. While this car has room for improvement, it is in entirely useable and presentable condition ‘as is’.