Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ranting Stan's Sunday Drive: Vauxhall Firenza Droop Snoot

With Vauxhall teetering on the brink I thought it would be appropriate to feature one of their cars and what better than one of the rarest and most dramatic cars ever to bear the Griffin badge - the Firenza Droop Snoot Coupe.

I don't think the Droop Snoot was an official name - doesn't sound like the sort of thing that they'd come up with in the committees they use to decide these things - instead I think the actual name was Firenza HPC (High Performance Coupe) and that was exactly what it was.

With a 2.3 litre engine developing some 132bhp the Firenza wasn't just quick for it's time, it's quick even by today's standards, capable of reaching 60mph in under 8 seconds and going on to 125 mph or more. The Firenza coupe was Vauxhall's answer to the all-conquering Ford Capri, but never got anywhere near that in terms of numbers sold, but the introduction of the Droop Snoot would surely have ruffled a few Ford feathers had Vauxhall's timing not been so lousy.

The Droop Snoot was launched at the time of the seventies oil crisis and, consequently, never sold in the numbers hoped for with barely a couple of hundred finding owners. As a result, the Droop Snoot was a rare sight on British roads even in its heyday - while today what few remain rarely venture out of their heated, dehumidified garages except on perfect summer days to go to some show somewhere.

That's a real shame, because these cars were special. I never drove one, but saw at first hand one day in the mid-eighties just how quick they were. I was driving my company Ford Capri 2.8i along a country road in Berkshire one afternoon when a Droop Snoot cruised up behind me - that front end was a seriously intimidating sight in your rear view mirror!

Recognising the car for what it was and the fact that the driver fancied a bit of a run I decided to give him a shot and pushed the Capri's throttle to the floor. The Capri was no slouch, but that Firenza hung on to my tail all the way as we flicked through tight turns and growled around sweeping curves. Even on the few longish straights where I fancied the more modern and, on paper, quicker Capri would leave the Firenza behind he hung even when we topped 100mph.

The Firenza finally passed me with an outrageous (and rather dangerous) overtake on approach to a humped back bridge - I slowed down to go over it and he blasted past me with all four wheels lifting from the tarmac as he literally flew over the bridge.

I think that manoeuvre shook him up a bit, because he instantly slowed down after that and I soon got past him again - but he wasn't trying by now. Eventually, we came to a junction where I was turning right and he was going left - as we stood side by side he looked across at me and acknowledged our "duel" with a salute which I duly returned. It was terribly irresponsible, but terrific fun and the sight of that Firenza's nose looming in my rear view mirror remains with me to this day.


TheFatBigot said...

A very fine choice, Mr Stan.

It's interesting to look at the picture and see how much of modern design was foreshadowed all those years ago. In particular the headlight housings.

I'm not sure when I last saw one of these on the road, maybe 15 or more years ago. It's nice to see one again on my computer today. Thank you.

Dex said...

Funny you mention the dehumidified garages...

Only this spring I was driving mine to and from work in the snow. Foolish? Perhaps

Enormous fun? Definitely

Stan said...

Good for you, Dex!

Although it's great that people lavish such care and concern for these great classic cars the world would be a far better place if they were seen out on the roads more often.

I'm waiting for the insurance to cough up on my written off Alfa then I'm going to buy a Rover P6. Not only will it be my first classic car, it will be my everyday drive.

I've already cleared the garage ready for it - even though I haven't got the money, found the car I want yet and I'm not even sure if it will fit in our garage!