1949 Zimmerli-Vauxhall Roadster
Chassis no. LIP 1454
Vauxhall raced, both before and after World War I, its 30/98 being one of the finest and fastest touring cars of its day. Late in 1925, however, GM bought Vauxhall, and over the next few years changed the company from an upscale manufacturer of sporting and touring cars to a mass producer of motors for the millions. There wouldnt be a new sporting Vauxhall model for nearly a quarter century.
Werner and Fritz Zimmerli were Vauxhall and Chevrolet dealers in Reiden, Switzerland. In the aftermath of World War II, all cars were in short supply, particularly in their country where all of them had to be imported. Fritzs son, Fritz, Jr., was apprenticed to the business, Gebrüder Zimmerli (Zimmerli Brothers). He convinced his father and uncle that while they waited for new Chevrolets and Vauxhalls to become available both he and the company would benefit from the construction of a two-seat sports car based on standard Vauxhall parts.
The car was powered by a 2,275cc overhead valve six from the Vauxhall Velox, essentially a small Chevrolet engine, developing 54bhp. The transmission was Vauxhalls three-speed column-shift unit, and a live rear axle with high speed gears was used. The Zimmerlis constructed a double tube frame and adapted the front suspension of the Velox, a Dubonnet independent setup that used torsion bars in addition to Dubonnets usual oil-filled spring-shock absorber units.
The body design was inspired by contemporaneous sports car practice, hammered out by the Zimmerlis panel beater Enrico Basetti. Basetti used aluminum, except for the doors, which were made of steel for greater rigidity. The cars lines are gently flowing, accented nicely with an eyebrow-shaped split windshield. The grille is reminiscent of Allard and OSCA, and the overall effect blends the best of the British and Italian schools of sports car design. The stark steel disk wheels and baby moon-style hubcaps highlight the effect.
From its completion in 1950 until 1968, the car remained on display at Gebrüder Zimmerli in Reiden. It was then acquired by the Swiss collector Zavier Heller, who kept it until 1999. Passing through the showrooms of Christophe Grohe in Buchillon, Switzerland, it has since come to the United States. Original, but for part of the exhaust system and a repaint while in the Heller collection, it has been carefully maintained and sympathetically used. The odometer shows but 2,600 kilometers. Invited to the Greenwich Concours dElegance in Connecticut in 2006, and to Amelia Island in 2007, it drew many admiring onlookers. Although it has been fitted with new tires for safety reasons, the original Swiss-made Firestones come with the car. It has a FIVA historic vehicle passport, issued by the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens, the international body promoting the interests of historic vehicles. The FIVA passport establishes its eligibility for FIVA sanctioned events such as European vintage rallies.
Truly unique and highly original, this Zimmerli Vauxhall is attractive, impressive and always draws a crowd. It will be an ideal addition to any collection that has more than its fill of the more common keepsakes.