Just a quick addition to the site, and one that I hope will back up my recent assertion in a blog that, in many ways, the affordable motor car reached its peak in the late-1980s/early-1990s. The Vauxhall Calibra might be looked down upon by keen wheelmen, as it’s based very closely on the Cavalier MkIII, but as an item of desire in 1990, few cars come close.
My recollections are that it seemed like everyone wanted one – I was 20 when the Calibra was launched, and the excitement that it aroused was immense. Hard to believe now, isn’t it? Its arrival on the market certainly kickstarted the rebirth of the coupe, with buyers turning their backs on hot hatches, which were so popular during the 1980s.
Today, it’s almost forgotten. You can pick them up cheap. Very cheap… Too cheap… Perhaps it’s a victim of Vauxhall’s subsequent fall from coolness following the death of traditional company car – a change in culture that followed the rise in mass sales of the premium German manufacturers. Maybe, just maybe, they should have called it the Opel Manta MkII…
Anyway, that is why I found myself behind the wheel of this Calibra, which belongs to the Cavalier and Chevette Club’s webmaster, Kev Bricknell, and heading to work in it. It’s for sale, and seriously well priced – and I’m at a bit of a loss to understand why as I drive it home. It reminds me of the Cavalier MkIII I owned and loved in 2014 – quiet efficient, quick and unobtrusive. However, unlike its five-door cousin, it turns heads wherever I go; a fact that constantly reminds me of how rare they’ve become in a relatively short period of time.
This one is an SE4 special edition, powered by the 130bhp eight-valve 2.0-litre GM Family II engine. This, I guess, is why it’s survived. No Corsa wants its engine for a transplant – and, unlike the V6, it’s simple to work on and cheap to repair. It cruises at 70mph with ease, sips fuel and, from what I can ascertain from my initial motorway and A-road run, it steers a whole lot more sharply than the Cavalier it’s based on.
And you know what? After one drive in it, I am quietly impressed. Cars like this one still cut it on the roads today, and this one – on my brief first impression – seems like a very agreeably inexpensive way into the classic car club.
Is it a keeper? I’d be mad not to consider it. I’ll let you know what I decide. I’d be interested to hear what you think about it. One thing I do know – I’m very glad it’s not a Ford Probe!
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.
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