The cars : Vauxhall Senator B (1987-1993)

Mike Humble ponders the Vauxhall Senator – a car once beloved by the UK’s management classes.

However, what truly set this car apart from its rivals was the fear it struck in every drivers’ hearts if one loomed in your rear-view mirror.

Vauxhall Senator: chip-cutter magic

Being a true petrolhead, you get to understand that cars are not all simply thrash, power-on understeer and living on the edge handling. Sometimes it’s all about the journey rather than the involvement.

In this modern, sterile world we live in, the volume manufacturers seemed to have retrenched from that one time category of the ‘Executive Saloon’. Our own Rover is now worm food, Ford will sell you a Kuga and Vauxhall can sell you a Grandland, but neither can be called an executive car.

That lovely, cosy era of what we would call ‘Managers’ Cars’ is seemingly light years behind us now. Great motors such as the Ford Granada Mk2, Rover 3500, Vauxhall Carlton and Volvo 760 still linger in the minds of many as being the ideal transport for those who ran your local bank, but not costly enough to break it either. A different era…

Rewinding back to the future

Back in the 1980s, Vauxhall-Opel was going through a transformation in the UK. Once known for bland and rusty cars, it seemed to embrace modern technology with cars like the front-wheel-drive Astra and Cavalier.

At the top end of the line up, you had the Opel-engineered Carlton and Senator, offering conservative engineering,  proven drivelines and a seemingly rugged build quality.

When you think about executive saloons, many the Senator’s name is likely to be at the head of your list, but they were in fact, really great cars. The decision to drop the Opel name for its range-topper may have been a mistake.

Was dropping Opel a mistake?

The earlier Opel Senator went on sale in 1978, and was a genuine BMW and Mercedes-Benz challenger, but it was hamstrung by confused marketing. Why? Because in the UK, it completed with the badge-engineered Vauxhall Royale and Royale Coupé (above).

UK buyers simply did not view Vauxhall as a maker of high class executive cars, however capable they were, and the Royale was quietly dropped in 1983, leaving Opel alone to sell GM’s flagship in the UK. The situation wouldn’t last, though.

When the Senator was facelifted in 1984 (below) its Opel badging was dropped in favour of Vauxhall’s. And just to confuse things further, the Monza coupe retained its blitz badge rather than a Griffin.

A sleeker future awaits

The Senator A shuffled off this mortal coil in 1987 taking the Opel brand and the appealing Monza with it. That was a shame because it was a genuine cut-price long distance luxury coupe, offering an almost Jaguar-type ability to shrink journeys at a fraction of the cost. The Manta limped on until 1988, which was a sad end for this class-leading rally car that made the McRae family a household name.

GM replaced the Senator with a new model using similar drivelines in a sleek curved body that was easy on the eye. Its two engines were based on the long serving CIH (cam-in-head) straight six in 2.5- or 3.0-litre forms.

There was nothing too exiting about the driveline engineering, front engine rear drive continued, as did the long travel all round independent suspension – why ruin a proven formula?

A remarkable change in fortunes

GM originally planned to produce the new Senator in modest numbers, but rather quickly, the car became an instant hit with the buying public in both retail and fleet markets.

However, what made the Senator so special was the way it performed its tasks. Even though the antiquated engines may have seemed archaic compared to rivals such as the Honda-powered Rover 825, or as free spinning as Ford’s even older Cologne V6 – thanks to superb body engineering and over the top sound insulation, the Senator was remarkably refined.

That sleek aerodynamic shape with aggressive looking ‘chip cutter’ grille cut a clean dash through the air, giving the car credible fuel economy and impressive performance even in base 150bhp 2.5-litre form.

Great inside and out

Build quality was pretty impressive also, with close fitting panels and flush glazing all round contributing towards the cars excellent interior ambiance.

Plastics that felt good to the touch, huge armchair seats, a dash of walnut on the CD models, big chunky switches and an ultra smooth changing electronic auto gearbox option made the new Senator so easy to pilot you could almost drive it wearing boxing gloves.

It seemed that the lack of badge prestige no longer mattered as sales of the car took Vauxhall by surprise, with many older sleepy family dealers who relied on a sprinkling of Astra or Nova sales, now catering for a serious market with a seriously good car. Vauxhall continued to develop the Senator into a true driver’s car with capable road manners.

Vauxhall Senator

Powering-up with 24 valves

Following the launch of a new 207bhp 24v 3.0-litre model, still based on the outgoing engines pedigree, the 24v Senator became one of the finest traffic division Police cars available.

Officers appreciated the stable chassis, blistering straight-line speed and comfortable cabin. In a similar situation to forces stockpiling the SD1 3500 upon notice of the model’s demise, various constabularies also stockpiled the Senator – forces of note being Leicester and Durham. Both continued to operate the model for some years after the deletion and subsequent introduction of the Omega range in 1993.

It was quite an impressive sight to witness one of these in your rear view mirror, appearing out of nowhere akin to the shopkeeper in the cartoon Mr Benn.

A Police-spec Senator 24v slumbers at Durham Constabulary HQ alongside an 827 Fastback

Technical updates

The entry-level model 2.5-litre engine was phased out in favour of a new 2.6-litre power unit sharing some technical attributes of the 3.0-litre, but with more power and, importantly, better fuel economy.

The dual ram system used in the 3.0-litre car was clever. It re-routed the intake airflow at lower engine speeds resulting in a more even torque curve while, at the same time, improving the engine’s high-speed flexibility – a problem with more traditional in-line sixes.

Top-spec models also featured new generation in LCD dashboard technology with a circular style rev counter which looked less of a gimmick than previous types, though traditional dials could be ordered if required. Even the entry-level model was lavishly equipped with sumptuous upholstery and plenty of buttons.

Opel Senator

How good was the Senator?

On the whole, the Senator was a fine car offering a solid build quality, decent visual appeal and a talented chassis.

But maybe the car’s mass-market appeal was the model’s ultimate downfall – all going back to that one stigma, brand value. Being a Vauxhall, the Senator was not exactly known for holding its value and quickly became regarded as a cut-price luxury banger on the used market.

Good examples fell into the hands of people who just wanted bells and whistles rather than kudos or image, resulting in many models being run into the ground. Later Dual Ram plants were not quite as bomb proof as the earlier 12v engines so, as they gave problems, tight-fisted owners would either blow them up or simply scrap them off.

Conclusions – a great car, poorly replaced

In summary, the Senator was a class act with no class and was killed off in 1993 following the launch of the Omega, which never quite had the same feeling to it.

The Omega has also gone the same way, being very much another cut-price bargain barge with plenty of talent but no kudos or image – such a shame as both the Senator and its successor, the Omega, were truly capable cars in almost every sense!

Mike Humble


  1. My strongest Senator memory is brought to you via Dave Smart. It’s Staples2Naples 2004, and Alexander, Declan and I are stood in a quiet car park in an unfeasibly gorgeous Italian mountain-top village.

    Three teams turn up, headed by Dave’s fantastic Senator 24V. And they proceed to do a balletic display in the gravel. I managed to get a snap, too…

    Good times

  2. The Managing Director of my former company had a Senator (G reg in platinum silver). I never got to drive it or ride in it but it looked impressive on the exterior. The Senator always conveyed to me the impression of a luxury big exec saloon (+Granada) at a more affordable price than a Jag.

    I guess the current Insignia has taken over the Vectra/Senator/Omega role in one swoop.

  3. Funnily enough I saw one of these (and a Carlton) recently. Used to love the Senator, just couldn’t get on with the grille – though it was nowhere near as bad as the Scorpio!

    I recall Quentin Willson waxing lyrical about the 3.0 24v on Top Gear many years ago.

  4. Quote –

    “…when Vauxhall introduced the Signum and Antara 4×4 – the public pretty much ignored them, and in the case of the aforementioned Signum, slightly unfairly perhaps.”

    Sorry – Personally I think the Signum deserved to be ignored, maybe as a hatchback with sliding rear seats yes it was practical, but when a (ordinary, at least) car is kind of ugly as the Signum was, it has got to be more practical and functional than it is ugly. One example springs to mind – the Mk1 Fiat Multipla. Horrible as sin and quirky but owners loved them.
    I’m afraid this wasn’t the case with the Signum which did not sell even as an Opel – I recall seeing perhaps one or two in the flesh.
    The Vectra saloon it was based on was much better if you ask me. Give me a 5-dr fastback Vectra anytime.

  5. Drove two Carltons back in 1990, both virtually new at the time. Both had an auto box and both were 2.0 litre (?). One was in CD spec the other a GL.

    I can remember several thousand enjoyable miles of pretty hard driving (they were not mine but company vehicles!!).

    You’ll have to remind me, Mike. Wasn’t the ‘cheese cutter grille’ Senator derived from the ninties ‘aero’ Carlton? Looks like it was.

  6. The Mk2 Vectra and Signum were in my view half baked designs, much like the Fiat Stilo was, looked like they hadn’t bothered to finish it off. The signum in particular was just a badly hacked up Vectra and not the executive car they so liked people to think. Those awful early 00’s slabby horrible dashboards were disgusting dull too! Anyone remember feeling somewhat alarmed when MGR peddled out an RD60 that had suspicously Vectra-ish headlights!!!!

  7. The decline of the non-premium brands tends to coincide with the introduction of PCP type finance schemes in the mid 90s. These effectively finance the whole life cost of the car taking account of residuals rather than the up front cost. “Premium” cars tend to have far better residuals than the mainstream brands so it ends up costing a similar amount, or often less to finance a BMW or Audi. Ironically it was Ford who introduced the PCP concept to the UK in 1993 with its Options product.

  8. The Mk 2 ‘egg shell’ Senator design was inspired by the 4 door Ferrari Pini concept if i recall correctly.

  9. Excellent stuff here.

    There’s a marked similarity between these and the Australian Holden Commodore/Toyota Lexcen of the same era. Anyone shed any light on this?

  10. My very first speeding ticket was in a 1.6 Montego comapny car and the police car was a Senator, just saying!

  11. I drove a 24v version when I was 18, quite an experience as I was mainly used to a Rover 100 and needless to say it went like the Starship Enterprise !!

  12. goes to show.. Wanna make a good looking executive car.. just steal some design language from a Ferrari 😉

    I was looking at the rear of the Senator thinking “looks like that saloon SD1 I photoshopped.. then I scroll down and see the Ferrari post.. and it makes sense, seeing as I nicked the 400’s c pillar for my photoshop..

    Does this make the Senator the 4 door SD1 in spirit?

  13. The Met to this day say this was the best police car ever,even endorsed by a driver of “gunships”for the flying squad.I love mine too,an absolute slingshot!

  14. Never driven one but seemed to spend a fair bit of time in the back seat of them- answering questions such as “What do you think the speed limit is on this stretch of road?” Generally I got the answer wrong! I do remember them being spacious and (in light of the situation) comfortable and must have had a fair turn of speed!

  15. They handled tidily as wellfor a big car,mine has the electrically adjustable shocks,but i dont think they make much of a difference!

  16. Many moons ago, I was minding my own business in a Rover 827 on a very long straight road in South Wales, when a Vauxhall Senator whistled past me. I noted from the August registration that it was barely two weeks old, and thought, “by heck, he’s soaking that before it’s run in! Wonder how fast he’s actually going?”
    Well, I thought, both cars have six pots, 24 valves and variable inlet manifold tracts, we ought to compare them. So off I went – my car was very nicely run in and pretty quick, so I was soon holding station with the Senator. He didn’t like that, and went even quicker, but I managed to hold on. Can’t say what the maximum reading was, except that it was virtually a full scale deflection.Go figure…

  17. I spent a fair bit of time in the early 90s on works trips in the back of a Senator 3.0i. It had lots of acceleration and was also very refined. Nice leather seats and loads of room in the back too. Strange digital dashboard though.

  18. The Vauxhal Senator and also the Omega were great cars in their respective days, especially in 3-litre 24-valve form. As you say, well packaged interiors, high levels of specification and rear-wheel drive were the hallmark traits of these two big Vauxhalls.

    A real shame that Vauxhall never brought out a replacement for the Omega which, incidentally, looked even better after they facelifted it.

    • My German colleagues (who mostly had Omegas as company cars) referred to the facelift models as “Russelheimer baroque”. When the Caddy Catera failed to appeal to US customers, many were leased to Opel managers who fancied having all the kit on a cheap lease deal (similar to the “internal consumption” of Pontiac Azteks in the US – the lease deals for employees were as low as $50 a month!). I can remember looking out of a window in the Russelheim office block at railway car carriers full of Omega saloons with nice alloys and metallic paint – great looking cars.

      • The styling was distinctive and gave the Senator real presence, as the previous one looked more like a bigger Carlton from the front( still a nice car, though). If you bought the CD, it waa completely loaded with kit and even had an air conditioned glove box, apparently to keep soft drinks and sandwiches cool. Quite a car and the Omega that replaced it and the Carlton was a decent enough car for the manager in a hurry. Then came the weirdness of the Signum, enough said.

  19. Yet another superb article! I always liked the Vauxhall Royale, and was disappointed when GM decided that Vauxhall wasn’t worthy of being a prestige brand (did they not remember that Vauxhalls were once revered as the sporting gentleman’s car of choice in the 1920s??). I’ve never driven a Senator, but I have driven Carltons – the first company I worked for had 2 on the fleet – nice cars to drive IIRC, especially the later J-reg CD model we had. First car I ever drove with Air-con!

  20. I always admired big Vauxhalls the earlier Senator a preference over the Monza for example. I thought the later Senator a bit dull then I read the roadtests and warmed to it significantly! Reading a piece like this (another good piece Mike) just makes me think Vauxhall have lost the plot. The Corsa seems ok but anything bigger doesnt seem to cut it…pity

  21. @Dylan – I can’t stand modern Vauxhalls I’m afraid. The last Vauxhall I had any time for was the Mk4 Astra – a nice drive, especially in 1.8litre automatic form (no honestly!)

  22. My MD had a 24V Senator back in the day and he really used to push it hard. I got to drive it a couple of times, lovely old bus. My brother law had a 2.5 too and that was a car to just waft about in with a very Jag like air to the driving experience.

    My favourite Vauxhall of the period, other than the iconic Lotus Carlton, was the GSi3000 24V, they were a fantastic peice of kit

  23. One of my favourite cars. A banger and the adjustable suspension still worked, handled brilliantly, balanced, quick… a real surprise to anyone following it.

    And enough of the V8 Viscount prototype in the looks to keep an FE fan happy, even if it was just an Opel.

    Top Gear used Senator seats for a while, that’s how good they are. I preferred my Senator to my Carlton GSi 3000, despite the more aggressive character of the latter.

  24. Brings back memories of my (A version?) Senator, the three litre.

    It was old when I had it and went like hell but the steering column fixing had gone on the inside which meant the wheel would not only be turned (good thing) but also moved up and down at will (bad thing) but also the whole wheel moved left and right by about 6 inches each way (really bad thing).

    Picked up a hitch-hiker once and, blatting along the motorway, said “watch this”….

    Ungrateful b*gger couldn’t get out fast enough !!!!!

  25. rover 800 out classed a vauxhall senator what planet are you on.
    rovers 800 were hated by the police there ride for a luxury car was rubbish they were slower and uglier and less reliable .
    read some reveiws .

  26. Rovamota clearly has been sniffing unleaded again. The 800 was crap, and really despised by plod. Nearly every force had Senators as their motorway car. They were fast, comfortable, and almost bomb proof mechanically, and had a decent sized boot to fill with all the required gubbins plod required. Many had quite long and hard lives, and racked up inter stellar miles, and could knock on the door of 150 when really spanked. I bet plod would have loved it if they had shoe horned the Lotus twin turbo from the Carlton in.

  27. @Aussie Tom – Yes, the second generation Holden Commodore and its badge-engineered counterpart Toyota Lexcen were derived from the Opel/Vauxhall Senator B, though with a widened body.

  28. @29 no way outclassed,the 800 was a flimsey car and the handling was rubbish compared to a senator,a 3litre 24V would piss rings round a 827 in its sleep,police forces didnt over order the last batch of 24v senators for nothing!i still know a H reg senator with 400k still with red auto trans fluid!

  29. My Dad had 2 Carltons of the same generation & thought the 2nd one (a 2.0 J Reg CDi) to be the best company car he had.

    After those he had 2 Omegas, the first was a let-down, but the 2nd was better but he didn’t have it long before changing jobs.

  30. I think Rovamota was trying to troll and failed big time. The Senator outsold the 800 too, especially in Europe. Many traffic cops would just love a big, rear drive barge of a plodmobile like the Senator now, but there is nothing that comes within a million miles nowadays. Perhaps GM & Ford should look at bringing the Commodore & Falcon to the UK for plod. I know you can get Falcon limos in this country. Plod fleet management would no doubt love a simple straight 6 saloon with rear drive again. Simple to maintain….

  31. I was talking about the general public in the UK, not the Police. 800 outsold the Granada and Senator 3 to 1.

    I have read most of the road tests from the time the Senator was on sale and the 800 always beat the Senator and Granada as a package. It’s the law.

    The 800 had class, nothing else from the UK in that sector did.

  32. My Dad did wonder why GM hasn’t tried selling the Chevrolet Impala through Vauxhall dealers.

    I guess there isn’t the demand.

  33. The last great Vauxhall from the decade when Vauxhall used to beat Ford hands down. Compared with the Sierra on steroids Mark 3 Granada, the Senator looked the part as it was a big, aggressive looking saloon with enough luxury trim to compete with a Jaguar. Also Germanic build quality allied to typical Vauxhall servicing costs impressed a lot of people at the time. However, the Omega arrived and then Vauxhall went down the drain.

  34. The trouble is Rova, getting a reliable 800, was a bit like gambling. Odds on getting a good one were very slim. Every now and again they would actually screw one together properly, but that was rare. The police are the best judges of any motorist, simply because how hard the cars have to work. They are thrashed hard, and are in use almost 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Sadly the 800 was too troublesome, and the cars would eat abs sensors, the dash electrics would die, and the V6 just didn’t have the power, and the chassis dynamics were sloppy. The 800 was known by several forces as ‘The General Belgrano’, because of it’s really sloppy handling at speed. The Senator however seemed to be very, very well put together, and I have a sneaky feeling the handling was sorted by Lotus. And Rova, the 800 was the only British car in its class. The Granada/Scorp & Senator were all German! The ‘Its the law’ comment does make you look silly and very ill informed by the way

  35. Yes, very silly and ill informed. I have obviously contributed far too much to this website over the last 11 years and now I don’t know WTF I am on about.

  36. No Francis, but I would love to see a Senator again, of either generation, as they were such a bargain compared with the large BMWs and Mercedes they were competing against and wiped the floor with the Granada and Rover 800. Imagine the same performance and refinement of a BMW 7 series for the same price and servicing costs of a Granada, this was where the Senator stepped in. It’s a shame Vauxhall never made another car like this.

  37. @28 I’m sure Keith would be horrified if I were mistaken for him. OTOH, I’d be pretty chuffed if I’d made this site 😉

    As a contributor, I would LOVE to do something on the FE – I had a website about them a long time ago, I love FEs, the only reason I don’t own one is the rampant rot and my inability to weld. Sadly, I think I know very little about the real history of them, and my memory is a bit patchy.

    I think that V8 Viscount still exists somewhere.

  38. @45 A good friend and myself set about restoring a FE victor 2.3,it had been given to us because we spent every waking hour renovating maxi’s and cortinas etc(dont laugh) it was unbelievably rust free but had no interior or fascia,but boy,did that think wind on with that torque!we talked about putting a rover V8 and autobox in but thats all we did,we primed and prepped the body prior to painting but our girlfriends reigned us in an sadly became an unfinished project,a friend took it on and painted it signal orange(we wanted rosso red)and it was immaculate when finished only to see a stolen car absolutely smash it to the size of an hillman imp.Personally,i do much prefer the FD and especially the ventora.

  39. @7 i liked the vectra c i think the dahboard reminded me of the MK 1 cavalier in its uncluttered simplicity,i have to agree the signum was a pointless waste of time and underpinned the later fiat croma which i could’nt fathom where the signums longer wheelbase and size had gone,to be honest,if was to have a vecra c now it would be a 3.2 or 2.8T-which are very,very fast or perhaps the isuzu engined 3.0 DV6.

  40. My son has a Holden Commodore (Senator on steroids) with a 5 litre V8. Nice ride. Actually, bloody scary!

  41. I’ve had a senator and a few 800’s.. Finding a good 800 is very very easy.. look for ‘PGMFI’ on the top of the engine. I have also known a few traffic officers, and they said the 800 did handle, however it requiered a certain style of driving. The senator was just easy. I have to say my experinces with both says much the same. Although for me the seantor has to have the LCD instruments, and I prefer the ‘Phase A’

  42. rovamota like you i am mad on a certain type of car , mine being senator b so we can be biased as far as a particular car is conerned .
    You my have contributed a lot the rover 800 my of out sold the senator in its own country.
    but that doesnt make it a better car which it certainly wasnt and that not just what i think.
    The last good car rover made was the p5 when it first came out with the 3.5 v8 the sdi i liked but was unreliable mainly electrics .
    The 800 was a compromise and was never a good luxury car senator was in a higher league altogether

  43. I love my 24valve CD Senny. Air con, cruise and adjustable suspesion all work, it will cruise at twice the national speed limit and do Nottingham to Inverness in 7 hours on one tankfull. Do your own maths. It replaced a newer 300 turbo diesel Mercedes shed. It was rubbish compared to the Senator.

  44. Quote “Sales of the earlier Senator took a bomb-dive as they became branded a Vauxhall product.”
    Sales of the Senator actually DOUBLED when changed from an Opel badge to a Vauxhall badge.
    This was because the Vauxhall badge was more familiar to UK buyers.

  45. ….I remember reading it in an article once. That is why they dropped the Opel badged Senator. Just think, how many Opel Senators used to be on the road? And how many Vauxhall Senators did you used to see?
    Sales of the Senator massively increased when they put a Vauxhall badge on it. A far cry from “took a bomb-dive.”
    On a further note: It was not at all sad that the Manta was discontinued in 1987. By then it was dated and old fashioned and sales were very low. A bit like the last days of the Capri.
    And also: “the Manta was a class leading rally car making the McRae family a household name.” I was not aware that Colin McRae ever drove any Opel.
    Poor article. Badly researched. Full of New Labour style sound bites.

    • Sorry, I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but the McRae who rallied Opel Manta’s was Jimmy McRae, Colin (and Alistair’s) Dad!

  46. tunnel vision and blind nature go well together when you own a peice of crap like a rover 800

  47. I dont think the 800 was a bad car especially the original non Roverised car,trouble was, they didnt last two minutes if neglected and became bangers sooner than they should.

    The Senator was/is a brilliant car in handling, poise and power- old school when 204 BHP feels like 204 BHP, i own one and intend sorting it next year or buying a concours one.
    I dont know how many Senator C models sold here, but from ’77 to’87 29,695 Viceroy,Royale,Royale Coupe,Commodore C,Monza and Opel/VX senators was registered in the UK.
    I fell out with a good friend for breaking perfectly good models of the above because the fuel tanks were unobtainable and there would be less of them to better his own car if purchasedand restored.

  48. As a teenager working in a small Vauxhall dealership, I used to drive the MD’s quite often – we rarely sold a new one but ex Vauxhall head office cars used to pass through our doors regularly.

  49. I had a 1990 Senator 2.5 for a number of years until I was persuaded to “upgrade” to a 3-litre Omega. That turned out not to be the smartest move I had ever made. The Omega went for scrap after two head gasket dramas which cost me an arm and a leg as by then I had given up crawling about under cars and car bonnets. So I got a 1999 BMW 523i, which is satisfactory but really does not match up to my old Senator in any way. I am now looking seriously at ditching it if I can find a good, well-maintained 24-valve manual Senator. Yes, I know it will be at least 6 years older than the BMW but I am confident that it will be better in every respect. Even thinking about it is beginning to bring on an adrenalin rush.

  50. I think the 24V is better in every way to a 5 series,i only wish mine had the LCD instruments!

  51. When are we going to get a feature on another nearly forgotten Vauxhall product that was popular in its day, the VX 4/90, the sporting version of three generations of Victors? In FE form with its Americanised styling and luxury trim, not to mention well over a ton from its powerful 2.3 litre engine, this was quite a desirable car. Also by then, the rust problem wasn’t so bad.

  52. Of the most beautiful cars installed,,, Opel Senator is characterized by the speed, durability and security, which is also the family car .. and bear the long-haul. Today, in my grief, because of the lack of proprietary that car … in my country do not have a market, only for those wishing to that car, and I hope to get on one of the brand, on the whole I am thankful, for that manufacturer and working on them,,, you accept all due respect. . Jassim

  53. I spotted a good looking one a week or 2 ago, can’t remember when but it was the 1st one I had seen for a while.

  54. I have driven literally hundreds of thousands of miles in the Senator during my time as a Traffic Officer in Surrey.

    The Senator was by far the best car we ever had.

    The 3.0 12v engine with bar light fitted was good for 144MPH slightly higher at 149MPH without, but an outstanding 168MPH in 24v guise with bar light, on a calibrated speedo and also on the calibrated VASCAR speedo mode… Yes that IS ONE SIX EIGHT! It might have gone on to do more but we had to exit the motorway at the next junction otherwise I would have been interested to see exactly what she would do.

    I purchased a 24vCDi for personal use and that was exceptional!

    26.5mpg was the average for the 24v manual, but in ‘civvy’ use, my 24v would see 38mpg if driven sensibly!

    I drove the Rover 825 and 827 and they were crap… the 827 was so badly made and so tinny that at 110mph, the roof would deform because of the fitment of the bar light and the tops of the doors would bow outwards, making it impossible to use the radio or hear your crew mate.

    Rovamotor… well what a Plonker…. the last rover to have class was the P6 series… (some might say the SD1 but I personally would disagree) How can you say the 827 had class?? GLASS yes, but not class.

    Maybe you should take more water with it…. or did you make your post on the 1st of the 4th before 12pm??

    The Senator was the most successful traffic car we ever had and was miles ahead of the Omega…

    Happy Motoring!

    • I concur totally. I owned a 93 ex police L reg Senator which had been refurbished to CD spec leather seats the lot. A top mechanic at Savilles Vauxhall said when the Sennys are flat out at 160 on the clock add another 20 mph to it. Especially the manual ex polic e which had the chip and enlarged throttle bodies

  55. According to an-ex patrol officer the rear suspension could take a hammering when driving at high speeds & his force decided against buying them for that reason.

  56. 38mpg in a 24v senator ??? Maybe you should take more water with it…. or did you make your post on the 1st of the 4th before 12pm ( sic – presumably with a police constable’s precision you meant noon )

  57. Currently own a 3.0 H plate with goldseal engine and no cats – joy! Goes like stink when you slip into 2nd in auto box about 40 and stamp on it. Used to own a senator A, which was in great nick but I wanted senator B and had no space for both, so A had to go (to someone that looked after it).

    The goldseal is way faster than the inline 6 in the senator A but my gripe on the newer senator is the build quality seems much less impressive. The A felt more solid with less creaking and flexing sounds, and less rust as well. Although I know VX were never noted for their aversion to rusting I think side by side the senator B would be a brown pile of dust before the A would.

    Next step is implementation of a 5 speeder and fix the various bits of rust, like near the brake pedal mount(!) – got an advisory for at MOT. Also want to get rear wings replaced and rear arches done right as it’s a bit of a bodge job at the moment.

  58. My Dad has owned a 1992 Vauxhall Senator 3.0 24v for over seven years now and he loves the car to bits “possibly even more than me ;)”. The car is his pride and joy and since 2012 it has been off the road and only now are we getting the parts for it to get it back on the road, which to be perfectly honest is actually extremely hard as the parts for a Vauxhall Senator are becoming few and far between. I have ASD and travelling is very very hard for me but the Vauxhall Senator is the only car that I will travel in. I don’t know why but I just feel safe and comfortable inside that car, be it whether its the leather seats or the wooden effect on the inside of the doors or the glove compartment…

    The Vauxhall Senator is by far the best car I have rode in and it is certainly the most luxurious, though I haven’t been in a lot of cars in my time! My Dad says that the Senator is incredibly quick and that it is also a silent car, he loves it and would never ever get rid of it, and I can’t blame him for that – it is one heck of a car!



  59. I recall from somewhere that the Senator wasn’t directly replaced, because while sales in the UK were strong, they weren’t elsewhere in Europe so the numbers didn’t stack up.

    One good things about its Omega B replacement, was that it’s new V6 engine was made in Ellesmere Port, the only GM engine made in the UK since the end of the Chevette

  60. I remember one Christmas mornin g driving from Poole to Sheffield i just over ” hours in a 3Litre Senator A in the 1980s. Suoperb machines. Nothing like them nowadays

  61. The Senator reminds of the era when Vauxhall made great cars, everything from the Nova to the Senator was a success and so much better than what Ford sold at the time. Even in the lesser E trim, the Senator had most of the electric toys a buyer demanded, had a really good sound system and those luxurious velour seats. I have been a passenger in a 3.0 E and the comfort, almost complete absence of road and engine noise and space were excellent, it was like a poor man’s Jaguar.

  62. I agree… I liked the Senator, even in the original 1979 Vaux Royale saloon & coupe version. The last Senators were probably as good as it got for Executive cars in those days.

  63. @ Hilton D, the big Vauxhalls from the Royale to the last Senator were always nice cars, the straight sixes being reliable, refined and powerful engines and the interiors containing plenty of velour. ( I always preferred velour to leather as it was less slippery.)

    • Ruched velour, wood, chrome, a stereo system with four speakers, this was the way to travel if you could afford a car like a Senator or a Granada Ghia. Put your Dire Straits album in the cassette deck, put the car into Drive, and set out on the motorway with no fear of being caught out by a camera, although you still had to watch out for the odd motorway car. Driving 35 years ago was a lot simpler.

  64. As mentioned on a previous post (2012), my MD had a Senator B for a while, in silver and it looked exactly the right image for a company Executive in those days.

  65. Have no doubt the Senator was a good car back in the day based on its reputation, yet looking back did it really need to adopt a Ferrari Pinin inspired “chip cutter/cheese grater” front grille in an attempt to stand out from the opposition (a similar approach being embraced years later by Ford with the Scorpio)?

    It was poorly replaced, except in Australia where it was indirectly succeeded in a sense by the Holden Statesman VQ and later models. There was also a missed opportunity to develop a coupe variant to replace the Monza and precede the Monaro.

      • Wasn’t there a Ferrari from the ’50s that wore the chip-cutter grill? I’m reasonably sure I remember it from the days when I spent hours perusing classic car mags. Anyway, I don’t see why it should be an issue. It looked great. I’m not sure we’d remember the Senator so vividly if it had sported a less distinctive(and intimidating) face. And the SD1 was filched wholesale from the Daytona wasn’t it? Re-proportioned as a 5door and the exquisite detailing replaced with the Playmobile version.

  66. My first car was a Vauxhall Nova and after 5 years of being a good boy and building up a nice no-claims bonus, I went straight to the other end of the Vauxhall range and bought an F-reg Senator ‘C’ 2.5i.

    I absolutely loved it and still vividly remember taking it onto a motorway for the first time – I joined the motorway and took a few minutes to adjust to the road at 70mph, then flexed my foot slightly and moved out to overtake. As I swept past the car in question, i glanced down at the speedo and was mildly surprised to find it pointing at 115mph!

    I kept it a few years and loved every mile I drove in it, especially as it was white and had wheel trims and many other road users thought i was plod. I even overtook a genuine white undercover Senator once and the gents inside it looked at me as if even they weren’t sure if I was one of them or not!

    A full-on 3.0 24v CD model is still on my “one day…” list.

  67. Vauxhall/Opel had really tidied their range up during this period – with the exception of its large saloon range. This was a dogs breakfast of BL proportions with the similarly sized Carlton/Senator/Royal/Viceroy etc, all with different styling and single capacity engines, to compound the issue some where badged Vauxhall and some Opel. It made marketing against even the SD1, let alone the perfectly aligned Granada range complex and expensive. They didnt properly sort this until everything rationalised around the Omega B in 1994.

  68. Had a senator B with the 2.5 and auto. Nice but slow – acceleration best described as ” glacial.” Also had a royale saloon that was as rotten as a pear at 10 years old.

  69. Best car I ever drove and feel lucky to have owned a top spec Senator 24 valve auto from new. Phenomenal 50 to 70 acceleration with kickdown. Nothing else like it in my 60 years on the road.

    • That shows why they were popular with the police as motorway patrol cars, though I assume they were fitted with manual gearboxes.

  70. What a lovely article I have owned 4 x 12 valve Senators and still own a 24 valve ex police car which is very fast and a pleasure to drive as they have all been, there is just something about these cars which gives so much pure pleasure in driving. Peter.

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