Concepts : Vauxhall Silver Aero

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Shown at the 1980 Birmingham Motor Show, the Vauxhall Silver Aero was a design study to show both the capabilities of the Luton-based styling team and also to demonstrate that there was plenty of life left in the old Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1.

It was an exciting, turbocharged coupe, which had potential – but only one was made, which remains in the hands of an enthusiast to this day.


Go faster Cavalier

Silver_Aero

By 1980, the public perception of Vauxhall and its design and manufacturing facilities in Luton were changing rapidly. Despite being safely ensconced in the bosom of General Motors since 1925, it had been seen – rightly – as a British company touting British designs.

However, the creeping Opelisation of the range during the 1970s was eroding that view rather quickly. Projects like the Silver Aero were instigated to show-off Luton’s design capabilities, as well as demonstrate the potential of existing models, such as the Cavalier Mk1.

This situation wasn’t helped by the fact that General Motors had made the decision to integrate Vauxhall’s Design Studios with Opel’s in Russelsheim, in 1978 – meaning that all future Vauxhalls would end up being re-badged Opels.

Change in Vauxhall design strategy

This move must have been a gut-punch for the Luton Design Team. Doubly so, as it had already started work on the UK facelift of the Kadett D/Astra Mk1, and was conceptualising Ascona C/Cavalier Mk2 for UK consumption.

According to the brilliant Vauxpedia website, the first Silver Aero design sketches were completed in March 1980 by a team headed up by John Taylor, Assistant Design Director. The thinking behind the Silver Aero was that the modifications shown on the concept car would be offered as accessories for existing owners.

The idea was that anyone who wanted to customise their own cars could do so with the blessing of the dealer network. This was a very prescient idea, perhaps ahead of its time by at least five years, given the proliferation of such accessories by the late-1980s.

The Silver Aero takes shape

The car, which was based on the existing Cavalier Sportshatch, featured an all-new nosecone, which improved the standard car’s aerodyamic efficiency, dropping the drag coefficient to 0.32. Other changes included side gills for the purpose of air extraction, a bonnet NACA duct, side skirts, rear spoiler and wraparound bumper assembly.

In many ways these changes previewed what would happen with Opel’s own facelift of the Manta in 1982. According to Vauxpedia, one problem with the aerodynamics stemmed from the Compomotive wheels, so new flush trims were added.

Silver Aero being made (1) Silver Aero being made (2) Silver Aero being made
The Silver Aero modifications being attached in Luton (Pictures: Vauxhall Heritage)

To give the Silver Aero suitably sporting performance, it was treated to an upgraded 150bhp 2.4-litre turbocharged engine by WBB Racing and Turbo Tork Limited. Bill Blydenstein took the standard 100bhp 2.0-litre cam-in-head, and fitted its off-the-shelf 2.4-litre conversion (widely regarded as a brilliant conversion that not only improved performance and driveability, but also fuel consumption).

Next, he added a Rajay turbo and associated engine management system for the big power increase. Inside, there was a new steering wheel, centre console and Recaro seats, trimmed tastefully in black leather with contrasting grey carpeting.

A star of the 1980 British motor show in Birmingham

The Silver Aero – so-named to evoke memories of the wonderful 1974 Silver Bullet concept – was shown at the 1980 British Motor Show at the NEC, publicly at least to showcase the potential new bodykit and accessories package, and to gauge demand. It attracted attention, and lifted the glamour factor on the Vauxhall stand, but the Silver Aero ended up proving to be an interesting one-off.

The options that had been spoken of as potentially being offered to existing Vauxhall owners never subsequently appeared (we were months away from the Mk2’s launch anyway), and that probably tells you all you need to know.


Gallery

Dave Boon’s Silver Aero photographed at the Luton Transport Festival in 2012.

Thanks to: Dave Boon, Vauxhall Heritage, written with reference to Autocar magazine and Vauxpedia website.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

34 Comments

  1. Maybe it was good technically, but the outside appearance looks like a brilliant example of a boy-racer using every available tasteless add-on plastic body panel.

  2. Not dead struck on the body/interior mods at all,but i have done a couple of conversions with the Straight six into the Manta and Ascona,also bored and stroked a Frontera 2.4 CIH to 2.7-very costly Again that went into a Ascona.

    Trouble is, you run out of road,very fast sorted cars.

  3. The Cavalier MK1 Coupe & Sportshatch are among my favourite cars of all time. I vaguely remember hearing about this Silver Aero project and it looks interesting, though I have to say the latter model production Manta’s of the mid 80’s looked better (toned down).

  4. The front nosecone looks great, better than it does on chinless base model mk1 Cavaliers. Almost 80s-Porsche-like.

    From GMs perspective, it made sense to at least rationalise their European brands.
    It would be like the US car market in the 80s being served by Chevrolet, but a single state selling different cars in the same sector as a totally different GM brand. It wouldn’t be feasible for too long.

    Ford by this stage had merged Ford Britain and Ford Germany. It was the start of the globalisation, unsuccessfully tried with the Escort, mk3 Granada/Scorpio and Mondeo/Contour but perfected with the Focus, Mondeo/Fusion and Fiesta.

    (Similarly, Opel/Vauxhalls were recently sold as Saturns, now sold as Buicks)

  5. And the nice thing about this is, I work with Dave Boon daily at our “home” at Millbrook Proving Ground and he’s got all sorts of things like this car lurking about his “person”.

  6. While it was understandable of GM to be rationalising and merging their Vauxhall and Opel brands at the time, given that the (RWD) Opel Manta B2 (82-88) was being sold alongside the (FWD) Opel Ascona D / Vauxhall Cavalier mk2 (81-88) before the appearance of the Calibra, the UK should have at least received a RHD Vauxhall-badged Manta with the 150 hp 2.4 Turbo from the Silver Aero topping the range instead of having to make do with the LHD Opel Manta.

  7. For some reason GM used Opel as a “prestige” brand for a couple of years in the 1980s, badging the Senator & Monza as such (replacing the Vauhall Royle) for a time.

    The Senator was changed to being a Vauxhall, but the Monza & Manta stayed as Opels.

      • That was the earlier model which was available as both Opel Monza and Vauxhall Royale Coupé in the UK. The facelift about coincided with the consolidation of the Opel and Vauxhall dealer networks in the UK, at which time the Royale Coupé was discontinued in favour of the Monza (and the Royale saloon in favour of the Senator, but that one got re-branded as a Vauxhall two years later).

  8. Silver Aero was displayed at the Classic Car show at NEC over the weekend. Having had the lower half resprayed a slightly darker colour – as per Vauxhall’s original design – and the rubber side skirts and front spoiler remade, I thought it looked absolutely stunning (and I don’t think it was only me). It has made such a difference to the overall appearance of the car. I think many people were surprised by the difference. You’ll need some new pictures now Keith!!

    Dave B

  9. Good to see your car continuing to motivate people to comment Dave. The whole point of this car was to gauge the public reaction of its design whilst being driven on the public roads by the man himself, Wayne Cherry, and it’s still being driven on the road to this day! Great stuff!

  10. At various times I owned two Opel Manta Coupes, so I was a fan of the clean, classy styling (along with the Cavalier Coupe) and they were great driver’s cars for the mid-1980s.

    I’d never seen this Vauxhall Silver Aero until today and in a way I hope I never see it again. Hideous and tasteless, even by the standards of the day. It looks like the end result of an explosion in a Halfords body section.

  11. I have very fond memories of this car from the late ’80s. As a fledgling member of the DSG I remember seeing it on its first outing just after the Lindsay twins had bought it from Vauxhall.

    It looks better “in the metal” but as a concept it was nowhere near as cohesive as the glorious Silver Bullet, a car I also remember well and absolutely adore.

  12. I can see the point of all the aero but one piece part defeats me. The rear bumper seems very peculiar, with the cutout and then the huge splodge of plastic behind the wheelarch.
    Other thing that would concern me is the rather oily valve cover..
    It’s an interesting idea and it would be interesting to see how that Daytona esque front clip would have improved the Mantas Aero.

  13. An interesting effort…

    While the loss of the Luton design centre was sad, it made little sense to have a team just being employed to tweak existing Opel designs for the UK market, as if the UK buyer in 1983 needed his FWD Cavalier to look different different from the Ascona on the continent!

    Maybe they could have kept the UK team, and got them to work alongside the German one – Ford kept their development teams in the UK and Germany – but I guess the Vauxhall team wasn’t important enough

  14. This car was shown less than a year before the Mark 2 Cavalier came out, so would have had a very limited lifespan, but it does show that Vauxhall was becoming more confident in the wake of the Chevette and the Cavalier, which had arrested the company’s decline and were liked by owners and the motoring press. I’d think had the Silver Aero been shown in 1978 and gone into production, it could have been a success as the Magnum 2300 had died the previous year and this would have been the replacement.

  15. As far as I know, the most powerful of the MK1 Cavalier Coupe’s & Sportshatch was the 2.0 OHC 100bhp… all 4 speed manual, or auto. The Manta also came in 110bhp form. Yes, it’s a pity the Cavalier wasn’t available with more power back then, (i.e. the 2.4 litre) but the launch of the MK2 Cav range addressed that.

    At the risk of repeating myself, I still think the Cavalier MK1 was nicer looking than the MK2

    • Not remembered much now, but there was a highly desirable run out Victor/ VX model called the 2300 GLS with five speed transmission, fog lights, alloys, sports seats and full instrumentation. This was adopted by a few police forces as it was a big, powerful car and more practical for traffic work than a Cavalier.

      • Glenn – yes the last VX’s were quite desirable, but it was the VX490 (no slash by then) that had the Getrag 5 speed, sports seats, and extra instrumentation. They also had twin headlamps, a bib front spoiler, and 116bhp with twin carbs. But rostyles, not alloys. Anorak overload.

        The 2300GLS was standard VX2300 mechanically but more luxurious. Both are extremely rare today.

        • Martin, I believe the final run-out VX490 in 1977 reverted to single headlamps again, while the VX2300GLS had square twins. I still have a 1976 Vauxhall catalogue featuring the VX range (excluding the 490).

          I guess the VX2300GLS was a replacement for the Ventora, but with less power.

  16. KC you say this is the first time you’ve seen Aero, but you were the first to comment back in 2013.
    Any how, no matter what you think of it, it is a piece of Vauxhall and worth preserving for that reason alone. All three of Wayne Cherry’s ‘Road Going Concepts’ should really have been scrapped, but luckily they survive.

  17. I owned the sister car to this. It was called the Silver Mist. It once belonged to Gerry Marshall of rally car fame. It had the 2 litre engine but the interior had been fitted out by Recaro and was much nicer than the Aero. I think the whole car looked better than the Aero as there was less clutter around the body but it did have the same nose cone. The car was lowered and had a LSD which made it fun to drive but it ate rear tyres.
    The rear spoiler was very effective and you could see it clearly in wet weather as it made a large plume behind the car when travelling at speed. I sold it to a young guy in the Watford area in about 1988.
    Haven’t seen it since.

  18. “Siver Mist” Ho-HO!! Rolls-Royce were going to call the Silver Spirit this, until someone ( fortunately ) pointed out to them what “Mist” means in German!!

    • I’ve heard that story before, also some perfume with mist in the name was renamed for the German speaking market.

      • There are a lot of interesting stories like this, how the Chevy Nova wasn’t called so for Latin American markets (or, indeed, when GM Europe names were being rationalised, ‘Corsa’ was chosen over ‘Nova’).

        Citroen renamed the ‘Evasion’ the ‘Synergie’, as rather than the original intention of ‘getting away from it all’, we tend to think of the word as ‘getting away *with* it all’…

        The mid engined Toyota became the MRS in France, as MR2 almost sounds like a French expletive…

        Other times other manufacturers stand in the way. Volvo wanted to replace the 440/460 with an S4/F4 saloon and estate. Audi said no to S4, so they added a ‘0’ – S40 fine, but the estate became a V40 to not step on Ferrari’s toes. You can still see it referred to as S4 in this pre-release press release – https://www.volvoclub.org.uk/press/pdf/presskits/1996MY-PressKit.pdf

  19. The company Jack Brabham set up to build he racing cars was called Motor Racing Developments.

    He was originally going to call the team MRD until someone pointed out this wouldn’t sound good in French, just like the Toyota MR2.

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