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Sunday, January 2, 2011

1970 Envoy 2000 and Epic

The beautiful Envoy 2000 was not popular with Canadians in 1970.  The 2 590-m illimetre (102-inch) wheelbased
four-door sedan 
 tipped the scales at  1 068 kilos (2,355 pounds).

Envoy first presented its credentials for the 1960 selling season at Chev-Olds showroom floors throughout the Dominion. It was a unique product, straight from the highly creative marketing people at General Motors of Canada, who did their best to satisfy the nation's Chev-Olds dealer body’s demands for a popular captive import like the hot-selling British-built Vauxhall offered at the corporation's Pontiac-Buick dealers. 

General Motors' Vauxhall was well known to Canadians who served in the UK during World War Two.  A 1948 Vauxhall Velox model is shown. 

Vauxhall first appeared in this country in 1948. The British GM product, built in Luton, England, had earned just shy of 30,000 sales in calendar year 1959, outselling even the popular West German Volkswagen. To respond to the Chevrolet-Oldsmobile dealers’ demands for a small car, the GM team in Oshawa could choose to import the Opel

1960 Opel Kapitan was built in Russelsheim by Adam Opel AG, General Motors' West German subsidiary.

However, GM's Opel was built in West Germany and West Germany was not a Commonwealth country. Therefore Opel did not enjoy the preferential tariffs afforded to British Commonwealth member nations. Opel would not be duty free and thus the retail price tag would be considerably higher than that of its Vauxhall cousin. 

The British-built, badge-engineered Envoy appeared in Chev-Olds dealerships across Canada for the first time in 1960.
The solution  to GM Canada management's dilemma turned out to be very simple. The new vehicle would be a badge-engineered Vauxhall. With sleight of hand and a wave or two of GM's magic wand, the new brand would be christened Envoy. Shipped from the Vauxhall factory in Luton, England for exclusive export to Canada's fair domain, it was two birds with one stone for the boys in Oshawa. Envoy would earn its wings straightaway, hitting a home run for GM Canada by scoring an amazingly strong ninth place on the domestic sales chart with 13,089 calendar year sales in its maiden year.

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Envoy was a significant source of income for the Chev-Olds dealer body in 1961. While the profit per unit on the small car was lower, the well-crafted and stylish captive import outsold the venerable upscale Buick. Sales of Envoy were considerably less brisk the following year. Parliament slapped stiff tariffs on all imported cars, including those from the UK, in 1963 and sales of all imports shriveled considerably.  Envoy sales tumbled to 1,739 units. 
The 1964 Epic shared a shell and drive train with the Vauxhall Viva.

Although a pleasantly redesigned Envoy bounced back to record a healthy 5,890 sales total in 1964, it was only enough to move the marque from 26th to 25th place. A new British subcompact  arrived at Chev-Olds dealers with the badge-engineered moniker of Epic. As square as Volkswagen was curved, the design was referred to by the automotive press as 'Boxhall.'  The Viva and Epic were fielded to compete with the VW Beetle in size and price. 

The 1965 Envoy and Envoy Sherwood wagon moved along with a 70-horsepower four-cylinder engine. 

Envoy gained a tasteful station wagon in 1965. Along with the smaller brother, Epic, the pair would sit pat in 25th place in 1965--though sales increased to 7,209 units. Perhaps some of that upward swing was the result of the newly redesigned, larger Envoy Special. Only minor changes took place on the 1966 lineup and sales were off slightly to 6,339 units. 

The 1967 Epic could be ordered with automatic transmission.

A new Epic appeared during Centennial Year but sales dropped again to 5,177 units. To put this into perspective, Epic still bested GM’s home-grown Acadian marque with its 4,927 tally. Big brother Envoy was new from stem to stern for 1968 and the tiny Epic was now blessed with a station wagon as well as a posh SL model. Those were the kinds of exciting changes that captured consumers’ attention and they catapulted Envoy from 42nd place in sales all the way up to 25th as 8,620 units were sold. 

The 1969 Envoy was offered with an optional 1.9-litre (120.5-cubic inch) engine mated to a three-speed, column-mounted manual or an floor-mounted automatic transmission.

Despite the addition of Deluxe and SL four-door sedans in the Epic line, sales of Envoys slid to 6,542 units in 1969, giving it 35th place in the national sales chart. 

The 1970 season brought a slightly revised Envoy 2000, now available only as a four-door sedan. Vauxhall execs had deleted the station wagon from the world market and Canadians would have to get along without it, as well.  

The Envoy flagship was loaded with standard equipment such as power brakes, the front ones in disc format. The synchronized four-speed manual transmission was floor mounted. A centre console was standard as were whitewall tires, two-speed electric wipers, a heater and defroster.

Instrument panel of the Envoy 2000 was pure understated elegance, GM style.

Epic models consisted of the GT, the SL, and a Deluxe Estate Wagon in addition to Deluxe and Standard offerings in two and four-door models. 

The GT sported a beefy, 2-litre overhead camshaft mill with twin carbs parked atop a free-flow intake manifold. Rack and pinion steering, front and rear stabilizer bars added to the thrill of the drive.

The 1970 Epic GT was a serious pocket  rocket. The 2-litre mill was mated to a mean four-on-the-floor manual transmission.

Dressed with a sharp black matte hood topped with dual simulated hood scoops, a unique blacked-out grille, special strips and emblems, the GT ripped down the Number One Highway on 33-centimetre (13-inch) Rally-Sport wheels shod with 165/HT radial tires. Interestingly enough, the Epic’s GT wheel centres carried the Vauxhall crest.

Inside, the GT’s cabin was appointed in black vinyl, boasted bucket seats, a centre console that housed a short-throw gearshift lever and a black, leather-covered alloy steering wheel. Full gauge instrumentation centred around an oversized 195-kilometre (120-mph) speedometer. 

Epic GT’s  instrument panel appealed  
to sport purists. Like all other 1970 offerings  
in the Epic family, the fuel tank  held 36 litres (eight  
Imperial  gallons) 
of gasoline.

The SL was as fancy as the GT was fast. Vinyl top contour bucket seats up front and twin bucket-type bench seat in the back were finished in “glove-soft, leather-like vinyl.” Simulated woodgrain appeared on the instrument panel and the steering wheel. Carpeting was rich and the four-on-the-floor gearbox could be swapped for GM’s automatic transmission. Once again, the Epic SL’s full wheel covers carried the Vauxhall Victor name. 

The Epic Estate wagon offered 1.5 cubic metres (53.8 cubic feet) of cargo space with the seat folded down. An extra cost, Special Feature Group package upgraded the base model to the larger 1600-cc (66-horsepower) engine, a roof rack, a cigar lighter and other goodies.

The four-door 1970 Epic Deluxe weighed in at a trim 903 kilos (1,992 pounds).
The Deluxe was available in two- and four-door sedan configurations and still offered carpeting, front and rear arm rests, ashtrays front and rear, too. Upgrades included the 1600-cc engine, white walls, full wheel covers and automatic transmission. 

The no-frills Epic Standard was offered  only as  a two-door sedan, shorn of chrome  and brightwork. Dog dish hubcaps replaced  full wheel covers. 

Inside, the cabin was most Spartan; seats were upholstered in durable vinyl or cloth. Fortunately the heater and defroster were still standard equipment. A Special Feature Group upgrade included front armrests.

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All Envoys and Epics could be dressed up with an anti-theft Ignition system, a key warning buzzer, a GM push-button AM radio, a locking gas cap, a most useful engine block heater, fender guards and bumper guards.

1970 would be Envoy and Epic's last year on the Canadian market. After an incredible 11-year run, the unique badge-engineered brand from Luton would not return for 1971. It was slated to be replaced by the Chevrolet Vega. Envoy retired with honour. For its swan song, Envoy and Epic earned 39th place in the national sales chart, chalking up a respectable 3,640 units to its credit. 

The 1600-cc engine was optional on Epic Deluxe models and Estate Wagons.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2004
All rights reserved.

1 comment:

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