Vehicles manufactured by the “oldest surviving British car brand” have gone on public display for the first time in the town where they were made.
The Vauxhall: Made in Luton exhibition at Stockwood Discovery Centre displays models from the last 115 years.
It includes a 7/9hp, the first model to be produced at the Kimpton Road factory in 1905, and a 2002 Vectra, the last passenger car to roll off the line.
“Many will conjure ‘my-dad-had-one-of-those’ memories,” the company said.
Originally based in the south London suburb from which it takes its name, Vauxhall became a car manufacturer in 1903.
After two years it needed larger premises and moved to Luton where the council was providing subsidies to attract new industries.
It became the town’s largest employer and the birthplace of household names such as the Cavalier and the Bedford van.
Since 2002, it has exclusively produced vans, namely the Vauxhall Vivaro, and since becoming part of the PSA group in 2017, Peugeots and Citroens as well.
The free exhibition showcases some of the 80-strong collection from the Vauxhall Heritage Centre, including the 1910 Prince Henry, which, according to Vauxhall, is “acknowledged by historians as Britain’s first production sports car”.
Eleven vehicles are on display until Easter 2021 plus an extra “hero car” each month, starting with the 1959 PA Velox.
Simon Hucknall, from Vauxhall, said it showed the “sheer breadth” of the company and “paints a wonderful social picture of Vauxhall’s importance to the Luton community”.
“There are some extremely rare and valuable cars on display, but many that will conjure ‘my-dad-had-one-of-those’ memories, too,” he said.
The vehicles have not been on public display before as the collection is usually “really busy” with about 100 press loans a year for images in print and on television.
“We really haven’t had time to actually put them on display, but we just felt it was the right time to open it up to the public,” Mr Hucknall said.
The exhibition was due to take place in April, but was put on hold due to the coronavirus lockdown. It will be open from Thursdays to Sundays with ticketed entry aiming to help social distancing.
Karen Perkins, from The Culture Trust, which owns the exhibition space, said it was “proud and excited to host such a unique and rarely seen exhibition”.