Vauxhall PA Cresta – 1957

Few cars are so evocative of Britain’s late 50s obsession with American culture as the PA range. The introduction of the PA Cresta was the culmination of several years’ gradual Americanization of the Vauxhal marque and the drift away from the small-car market with which it had been associated in the prewar years.

General Motors (Vauxhall’s parent company) had given the first subtle signs that the marque was evolving in a new direction with the introduction of the Wyvern family saloon in 1948, and by 1954 understated echoes of American styling had become apparent in Vauxhall’s Velox and Cresta saloon range, indicating the start of a new era in design that paved the way for the 1957 launch of the PA Cresta, a deluxe version of the PA Velox.

The PAs flashy taints, clustered rear lights, whitewall tires and wrap-around windows were blatantly transatlantic, emulating the brash good looks of the Buicks and Cadillacs rolling off General Motors’ Detroit assembly line. Its paintwork came in bright (optional two-tone) colors with plenty of gleaming chrome trim while the plush interior was fitted with leather upholstery and pile carpet, and included the luxury of a fitted heater as standard.

Three people could easily sit together along the front bench seat, with the handbrake neatly stowed under the dashboard and the gearshift mounted on the steering column, leaving the floor completely clear for feet. A beautifully designed tri-sectioned rear screen gave panoramic visibility  while the all-sync three-speed gearbox and independent front suspension ensured a smooth ride.

If the starchier members of the establishment considered the PA too outr√© for words, it was certainly the prestige statement car that every hip ’50s glamour-seeker aspired to. More than 81,000 PA Crestas were built and today it is a highly sought-after classic.




1957 (until 1962)


2,262 cc Straight Six (‘pushrod’ 04N until 1960)


Top speed of 90 mph (144 km/h) with acceleration of 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 16.8 secs


Ironically, despite (or maybe because of the PA Cresta’s rock ‘n’ roll image, the Queen of England had a rare estate version for her own personal use.


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