Rounding out what looks set to be a bumper year of significant milestones and anniversaries, Rallyday 2018 will celebrate the 40th birthday of the Vauxhall Chevette HS. Europe's premier celebration of all things rally is working in tandem with the Droop Snoot Group (the club dedicated to Dealer Team Vauxhalls) to gather together as many of these iconic homologation specials as possible, with a parade lap around the circuit and a number of drivers who competed in the HS in period.
Ford's all-consuming success in British rallying encouraged GM to create a 'better Escort,' and the Vauxhall Chevette HS was the result. The Blydenstein-tuned 2.3 'slant four' engine, (complete with a Lotus devised 16v head) was selected for propulsion duties, with a ZF gearbox and live-axle out back. It was a formidable looking car and one which undoubtedly benefitted from being launched later than the Mk2 Escort, as it meant DTV could learn from Ford's mistakes and effectively beat Boreham at its own game.
The only fly in the ointment? Homologation. DTV managed to convince the CSI inspectors that the required 400 road cars required had been produced and the HS was cleared to take part in the 1976 RAC rally, with approval finally granted in November of that year. The issue was that, despite Vauxhall's best intentions, the required number of road going cars had yet to be built! Rival teams (helped along by queries from motoring journalists) had also begun to question the car's cylinder head, noting that it was of the Lotus design and not Vauxhall. The Chevette's homologation was unceremoniously withdrawn partway through the season and the team, which had a pair of cars on route to Rally Portugal at the time, had to return home to make the required changes.
Homologation fallout resolved, the Chevette HS grew to become a potent Group 4 rally car. The 2.3 engine was developed to give an Escort-rivaling 240bhp, while DTV signed up a crop of talented young drivers including Chris Sclater and Pentti Airikkala. The latter took to the HS like a duck to water and the pairing of flying Finn and Chevette became force to be reckoned with, with the undoubted highlight being overall victory on the 1979 British Rally Championship.
The Droop Snoot Group is working to amass as many as of these exclusive homologation specials as possible (an impressive number when you realise that the required 400 cars were never actually built), with a number of works rally cars thrown in for good measure. The club will also be delving into its big book of rally contacts to unearth some of the drivers who drove the HS in period, including the likes of Russell Brookes, Jimmy McRae, Will Sparrow and Terry Kaby, as well as some of the all important DTV personnel including the one and only Garry Johnstone. Last but not least, DTV will also endeavor to bring a smattering of Chevette HSRs along, primarily as, as an evolution model, a number of HS Chevettes were converted at the dawn of the '80s.
“The Chevette HS occupies a very special place in the hearts of British rallying fans, with the sound of 2.3 'slant four' barking its way through the forests being every bit as evocative as a Ford BDA,” explains Tom Davis, Events Manager at Castle Combe. “It's therefore only fitting that Rallyday pays tribute to this amazing car by amassing as many examples as possible, and we're delighted to have the Droop Snoot Group on side to help us celebrate the HS and its myriad achievements.”
Chevette aside, Rallyday will still be a must-attend event for all British rally fans. The show will also mark the 50th anniversary of one of the car's which inspired the HS, the Mk1 Escort! It means that show-goers will get perhaps the best chance since the late '70s to see these classic Group 4 rivals side by side, and that's before we get to the usual assortment of Group B, A and WRC metal.