Video : Three generations of Vauxhall Cavalier

Between 1975 and 1995, the Vauxhall Cavalier was one of the UK’s favourite family cars. Watch three generations of TV advertising to see just how the Cavalier moved with the times.

Enjoy the changing styles through 20 years of Vauxhall, and let us know which is your favourite of the three…

1975 Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1


1981 Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2


1988 Vauxhall Cavalier Mk3

Keith Adams


  1. The Mark 1 advert was very much of its time i.e. naff & the Mark 3 one, Layla aside, was very tedious which leaves the Mark 2 as the best advert & even that was mediocre.

    Vauxhalls marketing guys had a lagged terribly behind Ford & even BL/AR’s. Therefore the success of the Cavalier is therefore testament to the car rather than its advertising.

  2. The Mk1 and Mk2 adverts were seriously dull. The Mk3 advert was marginally better, but still rubbish! Very unimaginative when compared with, say the ‘Take your breath away’ campaign for the 405, for example

  3. My first car was a mk3 Cavalier, so naturally I’m going to go for that. I’d love to come across a gold CD like the one in the advert. In fairness, my car was a later post-93 facelift model, so the relevant ad would be the ‘Sledgehammer’ one, with various crash test Cavs all smashing into each other.

    Some of Vauxhall’s late 70s & early 80s advertising was utterly dreadful. There was a series of them where a young lad would come in and pore over the various models on offer, and the salesman would retort with some pithy and witty comment. Wonderful stuff… not. The first half decent ad I remember was the great Nova GTE building site ad. Inspired stuff.

  4. I despise the Mk3 Cavalier, it’s looks awful with a hideous droopy face and completely devoid of style – bloated almost. The Mk2 for me was the one that turned around Vauxhall’s image in the 80’s and alongside the Nova and Astra made them my favourite over Ford at the time. When they launched the Mk3 and latterly the Vectra that was the end and I haven’t like a Vauxhall since. As for the adverts, they are all pretty naff especially the Mk2, which as someone else said, is a testament to how good the car was that it sold so well in spite of such horrendously dull marketing.

  5. Vauxhall’s advertising may have been dull, but I cannot forget “Get your stupid face off that expression!”

  6. It may be hard to comprehend for some, but the first of the FWD Cavaliers and Astras,launched in 81 or was it 82, really were a revelation to drive compared to the Mk 2 RWD Ford Escorts and Mk 5 Cortinas, the fleet manager at the computer company where I worked, reported an extra 10 mpg from the Cavalier over the Cortina, there was quite a bit of envy, company car drivers stuck with three year leases counting down the weeks to lose the Cortina for a Cavalier

  7. Should the mk3 Cavalier have been rebadged as a Vectra?

    Some designs for the eventual Vauxhall Vectra / Opel Vectra B

    Note comparison with the mk3 in the bottom middle pic, that Vectra design looks top heavy with a large glasshouse.

  8. Vauxhall’s engine range in the late 1980s seemed to be well developed, curing the camshaft problems that caused problems in the Mk2 Cavalier.

    Another bugbear for the Mk2 was rust forming around the rear wheel arches.

    I certainly see more Mk3’s around now than I did Mk2’s 7-8 years ago.

    In 1995 it was really easy to spot a Mk2 in good nick, but by 2000 all the ones I could see out & about seemed very run down.

  9. Sadly the Mk2’s are like hen’s teeth. I saw one on ebay recently with virtually no miles, in gold with a beige tweed interior!! You couldn’t get a more 80’s combination – they were asking £3k though, although I’d pay that for a mint one that i’d use as a daily car (cheaper than a Dacia Sandero!)

  10. @8 – The Mk3 Cavalier was badged as the Opel Vectra everywhere else. Our Mk1 Vectra was really a Mk2! Think in 1988 the Cavalier name still had plenty of mileage left so doubt calling Vectra than would have helped.

  11. The mark 1 GLS coupe was a fantastic car to drive. My dad had one with a combination lock on the handbrake! The coupe was a much better balanced car than the standard four door, which we also had a few of, even though this was also a good car to drive. I do however remember some compromises, with me having to fit the driving position of the car rather than the other way around!

  12. I agree these adverts are mundane compared to today’s offerings but the nostalgia is still nice to see. My favourite Cavaliers are the MK1, particularly that Pastel Beige GL Coupe – my dream car when I was 20 years old!

  13. The Mk2 Cavalier had been suhc a success, that changing the name would have been silly. I think there were also worries that Vauxhall Vectra sounded too much like Vauxhall Victor!

  14. I never understood why the ditched the Nova badge, Cavalier I can understand, it was a rather old fashioned name even then, but Nova, Astra and Vectra all share a space-age feel. Quite what Corsa is supposed to say I don’t know… I also feel GM missed an opportunity by not calling the new Adam – Nova. I certainly think it will harm it’s potential in the UK (one of GM Europe’s largest markets)

  15. The Adam is named after Opel’s founder. By that token they should have named the Vauxhall version the Alex 🙂

    There’s also the long standing urban rumour that Nova in spanish means “Doesn’t Go”. Maybe it really does i don’t know but it would put me off using the name by that alone.

  16. @Maffc

    I think it was Portugal actually – and the Nova was always a Corsa on the continent besides.

    But that aside, yes… No Va certainly means No Go in Portuguese.

  17. So because Nova meant something else in Spain, the UK lost out to Corsa, which in the UK (whilst now familiar) at the time sounded horrible. It’s the same with almost everything these days, Jif became Cif (STD), Marathon became Snickers?, When will this madness end? 😉

  18. Back to my 1980s Computer days.

    The main car makers companies all used the products, Ford were in fact the biggest UK customer.

    The car makers would not allow “foreigners” cars around the plants.

    All our employees who visited Ford plants had to take Fords as company cars.

    Austin Rover were similar but less authoritarian, Arrive in something elas and you had to leave the car in an outer car park, and you were allocated a driver to ferry you arround the plant, often in MG Metro Turbos.

    I cannot remember the Vauxhall policy.

    It was quite handy if there was a problem with yout Ford, just mention it on a visit and they would have it apart in no time, changing the bad bits for free, there was something of an air of resigned apology at the Ford for their cars when they were not running properly, we had the same feeling about our computers, the new computers were often rushed out to sale, still in a state of development.

  19. @12 Steve… Yes I remember the Cavalier GLS Coupe that was an upgrade of the original GL, initially with the same 1900cc/90bhp engine and later uprated to a 2 litre 100bhp. Looking back now, when seeing photos of them, I still think they were a great looking car. Pity the gearstick was that long “spoon stirrer design”, but I gather Opel replaced those with a shorter vertical one in the final Manta’s.

  20. Corsa means ‘racing’ or something similar in Italian, perfect for a car raced around one way systems…

  21. Who could forget the latter Vauxhall adds with Griff Rhys Jones as some technical wiz explaining the cars practicality and useful manual/automatic box modes of the Corsa.

    And that’s not all in the showrooms of the time there was life size cut outs of him and half the England rugby squad next to the cars that make you jump if you unexpected them like real people at the big glass areas of the place.

    They even freaked the staff too and I remember say to john the salesman there should have a cut out of you in here keeping them company. His answer cheeky sod.

  22. Ah, but we need to remember that all these adverts are very much of their time. I’m sure we’ll look at today’s ‘sophisticated’ offerings in a few years and snigger at how old fashioned they are.

    I like the Mk1 advert best, but I’d have the Mk3 Cavalier. I have fond memories of a certain H reg Cavalier GSi owned by my father in the early 90s. Seemed fast at the time, but was very unreliable too unfortunately.

  23. There is a Cavalier Mk2 saloon still running round regularly living just 100m away from where I sit now. It is a daily driver for one of our neighbours and has been for many years.

  24. I was always taught in my degree marketing class that car adverts were mainly aimed at customers who had already purchased a certain brand and to reaasure them that they had made the right purchase……cognitive disonance – that horrible feeling you get after shelling out lots of cash on something and you think you might have made the wrong choice.

  25. I can’t argue with the TV advert comments but the printed ads in the glossy magazines for the introduction of the FD ‘coke bottle’ Victor were the best ever,

  26. I took my test in a mk1 cavalier, a T reg 2000 gl. I used to own a mk2 1.6 gl, then years later a mk 3 1.8 gl, i found them all good cars. The mk1 was not as popular, but a lot nicer to drive than the cortina, and the mk2 was streets ahead of the sierra, I think ford probably got it right again when they launched the first mondeo, which left vauxhall behind, as the vectra was’nt very good in any department .

  27. Dad had Mk1, 3 and 3 Cavaliers. In context the MK1 and 2 were great, whereas the competition had the left Mk3’s chassis behind.

  28. We just had rock solid bulletproof reliability out of ours (MK2 & MK3), for hundreds and hundreds of thousands of miles. Great performance as well. Too bad they can’t make cars as good as that today.

  29. The best MK2 Cavalier TV advert is the fuel injected one leaping over the rivals even the Sierra and Montego show face.

    It was a time in advertising of people and things jumping or leaping over stuff to get noted and Sir Clive Sinclair got in this act too.

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