Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!
By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, 3 March 2023 / Loading comments
As we all know from the outrage caused by the latest BMW front ends, the popularity of a car is greatly influenced by its grille design. Sometimes manufacturers put their foot right in it without even realising what they’ve done. Older PHers will remember the national scandal whipped up by the controversial grille of Ford US’s Edsel. Alfa Romeo has skirted close to the wind too with its distinctive front-end look. But cars that were generally perceived as boring, like the Vauxhall Vectra, were often treated by their owners to the home-brewed equivalent of facial Botoxing to make them stand out. Blank DTM-style grilles like the one you see here were especially popular as they aped the look of Touring Car racers, a look everybody wanted at the time.
The 3.2-litre GSi version of the Vectra C that’s made it onto our liberated-to-£2k Shed of the Week podium was the largest-engined production Vectra (straps on tin helmet in readiness for a shock revelation about a DTM V8-powered prototype). Its Ellesmere-built 54-degree V6 developed 208hp/221lb ft, enough in the 1,500kg GSi for a 0-60 time of seven seconds, give or take, and a top whack of 154mph.
In 2005, a year after our shed came off the line, the 3.2 was replaced by a turbocharged 2.8-litre V6 that had been developed in partnership with Saab. In 252hp/262lb ft format this engine gave birth to the Vectra VXR, a quick car with a 0-60 time in the mid-sixes and a 161mph top speed. It was quick, sure, but it was also unruly, which in the eyes of many made it a perfect VXR.
The GSi was generally more liveable. The Mondeo ST220 was probably a sweeter steer but the Vectra GSi was solid in the cabin, well behaved around the bends with its UK-bespoke 25 per cent stiffer front springs and 15mm lower ride height, and refined at speed – although the stainless pipe might alter that a nubbin, in a good way if you like a little extra excitement in your Vectra life. This one is a manual too, which is definitely preferable to the jerky auto. Shed thinks that the road tax or whatever they call it these days is £360 a year, which is bearable. The sub-25mpg fuel consumption might not be though. You might also experience some electrical glitches hither and yon.
100,000-mile Vectra VXRs are going for about £4,000 on the used market. Our shed is a lot less than that, which is interesting as the GSi was a limited edition car when new and it’s now rarer on UK roads than the VXR. For non-megacorp manufacturers ‘limited edition’ means just that, i.e. usually three figures or less. For Vauxhall and the Vectra GSi it meant 3,900. Of those, just over 300 were estates. You’ll do well to find one of them for sale though, especially if they’ve been hit by the same attrition rate as the hatches, of which apparently there are now fewer than 350 still registered here.
By 2008 the Vectra had been axed in the UK, another victim of the trend away from saloons and large hatches and towards SUVs. The GSi became nothing more than a blip in history so Shed hopes that this one will bring back nice memories for some PHers. It’s in Arden Blue, which sounds like the name of a mucky video star but which in reality is a very good colour for one of these.
Shed’s investigations reveal that the previous private owner sold it to the current trade owner last month (February) via a well-known auction site, oddly enough because they needed an estate. The space under the GSI’s hatch will be more than big enough for most. In their ad, they described it as ‘a lovely car to drive’. Being a range-topper it came with goodies like heated mirrors and headlamp washers and half-leather seats. At the time of sale to the dealer the 18-inch Penta alloys and tyres (17s were standard) were described as new. In addition the next owner will get a full stainless steel exhaust, EBC Red Stuff brake pads, a spare set of front brake calipers and a pair of rear light lenses.
The boot trim strip is a bit scabby but overall the car looks good. Last June’s MOT highlighted some slop in the front ball joints and some light misting from one front shock, neither unusual in a big-motored motor. Otherwise the MOT history is hearteningly straightforward, the testers’ comments being almost entirely confined to the usual stuff like tired suspension and steering, corroded brake pipes and worn rubber.
Shed likes this car. He could only find one other 3.2 GSi for sale in the UK at the time of writing, a 2005 example in silver with 97,000 on the clock, a long-expired MOT certificate in the glovebox and a £2,995 ticket on the window. Against that our £1,950 shed looks like good value, and with only 80,000 miles recorded maybe even an appreciator – if you appreciate this sort of thing.
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