Sadly I have to report that tuning guru and cylinder head expert Bill Blydenstein, one of the legends of the Vauxhall marque, passed away on Wednesday September 12th.
Bill commenced his racing career in 1958. In 1966 he read a report in a motor magazine about the new HB Viva. Bored with shoehorning bigger and bigger engines into Minis he wrote to Vauxhall to suggest some assistance in preparing one of the new cars for racing. Fortunately Vauxhall men Colin Wood and Roy Cook of Engineering and Jeremy Lawrence from Marketing persuaded the management of the day to work a little “back door” magic.
The result was the 1967 Shaw & Kilburn Special Viva. A tuned, pushrod engined HB, it was developed and built by Blydenstein in the double garage at the side of his house and driven by him to a sensational debut class win at Snetterton. But capable driver that Bill was, he realised that if he was to concentrate on getting the best out of the car, they would need to get another driver.
Enter larger-than-life Gerry Marshall, to start a career that would take Vauxhall to the top of saloon car racing in the UK and earn Gerry the title “Mr Vauxhall”.
Following a very successful 1970 season, in January 1971 a group of London Region Vauxhall dealers decided to circumvent any opposition from General Motors or Vauxhall to racing by forming Dealer Team Vauxhall or DTV.
In 1971 the team switched to the new Firenza body style and a range of specialised racing engines were developed over the next few years with fuel injection and special heads with capacities between 2.0 and 2.6 litres. The final iteration used Lotus LV240 16-valve heads and with a capacity of 2.3 litres developed around 230bhp. The chassis was continually developed too, acquiring a five speed ZF gearbox and droop snoot in sympathy with the 1974 HP Firenza. The car became the stuff of legend, achieving 63 victories and many championships in its long career and earning the nickname “Old Nail”.
Bill was a quiet, self effacing engineering genius to whom the Vauxhall marque owes a huge debt of gratitude.
Rest in peace.
Many thanks to From Ian Coomber of the VBOA for providing the above text.