Vauxhall Cavalier

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Not to be confused with Chevrolet Cavalier, AMC Cavalier, or Packard Cavalier.
Vauxhall Cavalier
1994 Vauxhall Cavalier LS
Manufacturer Vauxhall (General Motors)
Production 1975–1995
Body and chassis
Class Large family car
Predecessor Vauxhall Victor
Successor Vauxhall Vectra

The Vauxhall Cavalier is a large family car sold primarily in the UK by Vauxhall from 1975 to 1995. It was based on an succession of Opel designs throughout its production life, during which it was built in three incarnations. The first generation of Cavalier, launched in 1975 and produced until 1981, was based on the existing Opel Ascona with a few minor visual differences.

The second generation of Cavalier, launched in 1981 and produced until 1988, was launched simultaneously with the identical new generation of Opel Ascona, which was sold across the world in various guises on the General Motors "J-car". The third and final generation of Cavalier, launched in 1988 and produced until 1995, was based on the first generation of Opel Vectra with the same production span.

Mark I (1975–1981)[edit]

Cavalier Mark I
Vauxhall Cavalier first iteration Brecon.jpg
Also called Chevrolet Chevair (RSA)
Production November 1975 – September 1981
Assembly Luton, United Kingdom
Antwerp, Belgium
Bochum, West Germany
Port Elizabeth, South Africa (Chevrolet Chevair)
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
2/4-door saloon
3-door hatchback
Layout FR layout[1]
Related Opel Ascona B
Opel Manta B
Transmission 4-speed all-synchromeshmanual
3-speed automatic optional[1]
Length 175 in (4,445 mm)[1]
Width 65 in (1,651 mm)[1]
Height 54.5 in (1,384 mm)
Vauxhall Cavalier GLS Coupe rear

Launched with a 1,896 cc engine as a 1976 model in November 1975, the Cavalier was a restyled version of the second generation German Opel Ascona. The Ascona/Cavalier was built on what GM called the U-car platform, and the Cavalier was originally intended to have its own bodywork. It ended up with the front of an Opel Manta B model and the rearend of an Opel Ascona b model. In the end to keep costs down a different nose, designed by Wayne Cherry, was the only obvious styling feature to set the Vauxhall apart.[2]

Van, pick-up and estate versions were also on the drawing board, but in the event customers wishing to choose an estate version of the Vauxhall Cavalier would have to await the arrival in 1983 of a Cavalier estate based on the Cavalier Mark II. In the meantime, estate versions of the smaller Chevette and Astra, as well as the larger Carlton, would be launched.[3]

The Mark I Cavalier was produced principally alongside the Ascona at the newly refurbished Opel plant in Antwerp, Belgium.[4][5]

The first Vauxhall Cavalier to be assembled at Vauxhall's Luton plant was driven off the production line by Eric Fountain, Vauxhall's manufacturing director, on 26 August 1977,[6] after which the 1256 cc version, assembled at Luton and using engine and transmission already familiar to Viva 1300 owners,[7] broadened the range. At that stage the 1584 cc Cavalier and the 1897 cc which had joined it were still being imported from Belgium, but in due course these, too, started to emerge from the Luton production plant.[8]

In Vauxhall's line-up, the Cavalier initially complemented, and then replaced the Victor, which by this time was falling a long way behind the hugely successful Ford Cortina in the British car sales charts, and was even lagging a considerable distance behind the Morris Marina and Austin Maxi. However, the top-of-the-range versions of the Victor remained in production until 1978, as the VX1800/VX2000, before being replaced by the larger Carlton.

The timing of the Cavalier's United Kingdom launch was well judged. The United Kingdom tax system meant that sales to company car fleets comprised a larger proportion of the overall market - especially for middle-weight saloons - than elsewhere in Europe: the Ford Cortina Mk II had been replaced by the Ford Cortina Mk III in 1970, but in the eyes of the all important company car fleet managers the newer Cortina never quite matched the earlier car for reliability, notably in respect of problems with its cable clutch and with camshaft wear in the 1.6 and 2.0 litre ohc units.[9] The traditionally very conservative fleet market was therefore particularly receptive to Vauxhall's new Cortina challenger.

The original Cavaliers were available as two and four-door saloons, and with a two-door booted (three-box) coupé body as used for the Opel Manta. The cars came with a choice of 1.6 and 1.9 L inline four cylinder Opel CIH engines in the saloon: only the 1.9 L engine was available in the coupé. Vauxhall engineers built Cavalier prototypes using the 2.3 L Vauxhall Slant-4 engine, for use in a future high performance variant, but the proposals did not get past GM Europe management, and as a result the larger engined Cavaliers were exclusively powered by the Opel CIH engine.

It was revised in 1978, as the 1.9 L became a 2.0 L engine and the 1.3 L OHV engine from the Vauxhall Viva and Vauxhall Chevette was used to create the entry level Cavalier 1.3 variant. At the same time, a three-door hatchback known as the Sports hatch (also seen on the Manta) was added to the range.

There were plans for a five-door hatchback version to be launched, but this bodystyle was never produced on the first generation Cavalier.[10]

Vauxhall Cavalier Sports hatch (Opel Manta B)

All Cavalier saloons shared most of their bodywork with the Opel Ascona but had the slanted nose of the Manta to give them the distinct "droop snoot" front end.[4] The coupé also had a front air dam.

Despite being the same car mechanically, the Opel Ascona was sold alongside the Cavalier in the United Kingdom until 24 July 1981, when GM decided to phase out duplicated models with the Opel brand in the United Kingdom, and merge remaining dealerships with those of Vauxhall. The Opel Manta (and Monza) remained available, giving the Opel brand a "sports" position in Britain until the Manta was finally discontinued in 1988.

That the Manta was sold alongside the Mark 2 Cavalier in the 1980s gave rise to the curiosity that the previous generation Ascona/Cavalier was effectively being sold concurrently with its successor, since a coupe/sports hatch version of the Ascona C/Cavalier Mark 2 was never engineered. However, the early to mid 1980s saw the decline of coupe models on the British market, with British Leyland not replacing the MG B when it closed the famous MG factory at Abingdon in 1980, and even sales of the Ford Capri (a top 10 seller in Britain as late as 1980) eventually slumped so low that Ford did not decide to replace it after production finished in 1986.

Vauxhall, from 1978 until 1979, offered the Cavalier coupé in convertible format called the Centaur. Only 118 of these were made and fewer than 30 were believed to have survived by 2007. The cars were developed by Magraw Engineering and sold through Vauxhall dealerships on behalf of Crayford. The Centaur is basically a Cavalier GLS coupé 2-litre with the hard roof replaced with a soft top leaving a T-bar for strength. The floor pan was also strengthened.

The ultimate Cavalier Mark I is the design concept by Wayne Cherry called Silver Aero. “Silver Aero” was a one off Prototype build in 1980 based on the Cavalier MK1 Sportshatch. The car was displayed at the International Car Show at the NEC in October 1980. The plan was to offer existing Sportshatch owners and buyers to upgrade their car to the Silver Aero spec. The car has a 2.4 litre turbocharged engine which produces 150 bhp (112 kW; 152 PS). Orders were taken but not enough to warrant production, and the car remains a one off.

The original Cavalier was a relatively strong seller in Britain, even though it never quite matched the runaway sales success of the Ford Cortina, or even the sales figures attained by British Leyland's Morris Marina (which sold well throughout the 1970s despite an adverse reputation) but it at least managed to help Vauxhall regain lost ground in a market sector where it had declined during the first half of the 1970s as Victor sales slumped. It also helped repair Vauxhall's image, which had been hit hard in the early 1970s by build quality issues surrounding cars like the Victor. Nearly 250,000 were sold, though by December 2009 just 373 remained.

The Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1 was also sold in LHD in some European countries, including Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Poland[citation needed], Italy, Sweden, and Switzerland. The Coupe was available with the 1.3 engine and in Scandinavia the car came with Manta-style headlight wipers. Vauxhalls were at one time sold alongside Opels in Europe but Vauxhall announced they were pulling out of the 11 other countries where they sold cars on 6 December 1979 and sales stopped in 1981.[11]

In RHD markets such as Ireland, Cyprus and Malta, the Vauxhall brand was also dropped, with Opel becoming the main GM marque. Holden also looked at taking the U-Car but they declined as they found that the prototypes they had tested were not suitable for the roads in the outback without extensive modifications.

Trim levels:

  • L
  • LS
  • GL
  • GLS

Special Edition:

  • Command Performance
  • Silver Special

The higher-end models of the range featured an upgraded dashboard with tachometer, four-spoke steering wheel and Rostyle wheels.

Chevrolet Chevair[edit]

The Chevrolet Chevair in South Africa was a variant of the Cavalier/Ascona, featuring the grille of the Opel Manta and a four-door body. The engine choices were different, consisting of a 2.0 and a 2.3 litre pushrod four |(both versions of Chevrolet's 2.5 litre four). Outputs were 56.7 and 63.4 kW (77 and 86 PS; 76 and 85 hp) respectively, with the bigger engine being considered much smoother running.[12] later (1978) version with the Ascona front was sold as the "Chevrolet Ascona", with Vauxhall's 1.3 litre engine from the Viva. The Chevair was first introduced in November 1976.[13] The 2.0 was called De Luxe and the 2.3 received the GL moniker.[14] Both models were available with a four-speed manual or a three-speed automatic, with the better equipped GL being recognizable by having headrests, Rostyle wheels, and chrome trim bordering the wheelwells.[15] During 1978 a more luxurious Berlina version arrived, available only with the automatic transmission. It received new "mag-style" wheels, tinted windows, velour upholstery, and a twin exhaust tip. By July 1978 the outputs were quoted in ISO ratings; this meant that the stated power dropped from 77.5 to 63 kW (105 to 86 PS) for the 2.3,[16] while the 2.0 was no longer listed.

In early 1980 an updated variant was introduced. The De Luxe was dropped. The 1980 can be recognized by a new grille with somewhat larger openings, new wheels, and new wraparound bumpers in black plastic. Chevrolet badges were removed from the car, as GM South Africa were phasing out the Chevrolet name in the country. The Chevair was replaced by the front-wheel drive Opel Ascona in South Africa in 1983.

GM South Africa also rallied the Chevair in the South African championships. A Group 1 car with a tuned 2.5-litre version of the Chevrolet engine, as well as a Group 2 car with a Lotusesque DOHC 16-valve Vauxhall 2.3-litre engine were campaigned. They developed 90 and 175 kW (122 and 238 PS) respectively.[17] A Chevair driven by Tony Pond won the 1979 Duckhams Rally.[18] Despite a further victory in 1979 they could not threaten the Ford Escorts nor the Datsuns in the overall championship.

Mark II (1981–1988)[edit]

Cavalier Mark II
Vauxhall Cavalier.jpg
Production August 1981 – October 1988
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door convertible
2-door saloon
4-door saloon
5-door estate
5-door hatchback
Layout Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
Platform J-body
Related Chevrolet Cavalier
Daewoo Espero
Holden Camira
Isuzu Aska
Opel Ascona C
Cadillac Cimarron
Engine 1297cc Family I I4
1598cc Family II I4
1796cc Family III4
1998cc Family III4

A new front-wheel drive car was introduced on 26 August 1981,[19] this time using the same underpinnings as the Opel Ascona C. On its launch, it offered class-leading levels of fuel economy and performance which had previously been unseen in this size of car. Sales began the following month.[20]

This model was part of GM's family of compact "J-cars", along with the new Opel Ascona, the Australian Holden Camira, the Brazilian Chevrolet Monza, the Japanese Isuzu Aska, and the North American Chevrolet Cavalier, Pontiac Sunbird, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza (which made use of a Vauxhall nameplate from the 1970s), and Cadillac Cimarron. In the United Kingdom, the new Cavalier was a huge success and challenged the supremacy of the Ford Cortina as the company car of choice. Indeed, it went on sale only a year before the Cortina was discontinued.

By 1982, Ford and Vauxhall had an effective two-horse race at the top of this sector on the British market, as sales of the Talbot Alpine (previously a Chrysler until Peugeot took over the European operations of Chrysler) had tailed off by 1981, while British Leyland was winding down production of the Austin Ambassador hatchback and Morris Ital saloon and estate in preparation for the launch of all-new car (which would be sold as the Austin Montego) by 1984. Popular foreign competitors at the time included the Renault 18, which had arrived on the British market in December 1978. The MK2 Cavalier also debuted in the same year as the MK2 Volkswagen Passat.

Cavalier sales topped 100,000 in 1982, compared to less than 40,000 the previous year.

An early Mark II

Following the British public's reluctance to embrace the Ford Sierra's radical styling in 1982, the Cavalier overtook the Sierra in sales and outsold the Sierra in 1984 and again in 1985, although the Sierra had comfortably outsold it in 1983. The Sierra narrowly outsold it in 1986, and a facelift for the Sierra at the start of 1987 helped Ford maintain its regained place at the top of the large family car sector as nearly 140,000 Sierras were sold that year, while Cavalier sales fell below 100,000.

By the time the second generation Cavalier was discontinued to make way for the third generation model in October 1988, the Sierra was almost twice as popular.[21]

It was Britain's second best selling car (behind the Ford Escort) in 1984 and 1985, and at its peak, this version of the Cavalier came with the choice of 1.3 or 1.6 L engines derived from the smaller Vauxhall Astra (also sold as the Opel Kadett), while for 1983 a 1.8 L engine was launched, which had electronic fuel injection. A diesel of 1.6 L was added about the same time, while the 1.8 L was supplemented by a 2.0 L for the 1987 model year.

Perhaps surprisingly, it was narrowly beaten to the European Car of the Year award for 1982 by the Renault 9, with third place going to the Mark II Volkswagen Polo.

This model was produced as a two-door or four-door saloon and five-door hatchback. An estate version followed in October 1983, based on the Holden Camira wagon with rear body panels imported CKD from Australia.[22] This proved a slow seller. The two-door saloon was soon dropped from the Cavalier range, although it remained part of the Ascona range in other markets. A convertible, based on the two-door and converted by Hammond and Thiede in Germany, was subsequently offered.

1985 facelifted GLS model.
The estate version employed rear body panels supplied by Holden.
The Cavalier Cabriolet
The second generation Vauxhall Cavalier was a version of the third generation Opel Ascona C shown here.

The Thatcher government in the United Kingdom created a tax break at 1.8 L, with any company car having a larger engine than this attracting higher personal benefit taxes, thus effectively giving the Cavalier an advantage over its rivals soon after its launch.

Over the course of the model's lifetime, there were two facelifts mirroring changes made to the Ascona - firstly for the 1985 model year which saw revised grilles, modified rear lamp clusters, new steering wheels, upgraded equipment, new upholstery options and different instrument graphics - some of these changes came direct from the recently introduced Kadett E/Astra Mark 2.

Despite the launch of an all-new Cavalier being just a year away, a further update in 1987 saw the grilles and rear lamp clusters revised again in a style similar to the larger Senator model together with further improvements to equipment levels. A new 2.0L engine option became available on CD, SRi and GLS trim, whilst the availability of the fuel injected 1.8L unit was extended down to L trim.

By the end of its life cycle, the top of the range version was the powerful 2.0 SRi130, which had 130 hp (97 kW) and could exceed 120 mph (193 km/h). This had the same engine as the Astra GTE 8v (20SEH), though it was more powerful owing to a better exhaust route.

For the first time, Vauxhall began exporting cars in LHD to other European countries, badged as Opels, which was a boost to GM's confidence in its once-troubled British division. In November 1987, the then head of Vauxhall, John Bagshaw, told Car magazine that the Asconas built in the United Kingdom were considered of equivalent quality to those built elsewhere in Europe, adding that "they can't tell them from the German ones", welcome news for the British car industry after the quality issues which had affected many British cars during the 1970s. When the Cavalier was first introduced, the cars were built at Opel's plant in Belgium, but production quickly moved to Luton. The estate version's panels were built by Holden in Australia.

The last version of the Cavalier Mark II to be launched was the Cavalier Calibre. Based on the SRi130 with styling from Aston Martin/Tickford and the bodykit, sports suspension and exhaust being produced by Irmscher, it was a limited production run of only 500 cars. The car came with a very high specification including a trip computer, Recaro seats, power windows and power steering. It cost around £13,000 when released in 1987.

Vauxhall sold 807,624 examples of the second generation Cavalier between 1981 and 1988. By December 1989, it was the third most common model of car on British roads, although these government statistics mostly calculated each car by its generation rather than by different nameplate, with pre and post facelifted versions of an unchanged basic design (for example the Ford Sierra) being counted separately.[23]

In August 2006, Auto Express named it as the country's sixth most scrapped car of the last 30 years, with just 6,343 still in working order. The only car to cease production after the Cavalier Mark II, and which disappeared at a greater rate, was the Skoda Estelle (which was withdrawn from sale in 1990). By December 2009, that figure had fallen to a mere 1,289.[24] Factors resulting in demise included corrosion and premature camshaft wear.

Trim levels

  • Base (1.3 petrol, 1.6 petrol)
  • L (1.3 petrol, 1.6 petrol, 1.6 diesel)
  • Li (1.8i petrol)
  • LX (1.6 petrol)
  • LXi (1.8i petrol)
  • GL (1.3 petrol, 1.6 petrol, 1.6 diesel)
  • GLi (1.8i petrol)
  • GLS (1.6 petrol)
  • GLSi (1.8i petrol, 2.0i 114 bhp (85 kW; 116 PS) petrol)
  • SR (1.6 petrol)
  • SRi (1.8i petrol, 2.0i petrol 114 bhp (85 kW; 116 PS))
  • SRi 130 (2.0i 128 bhp (95 kW; 130 PS) petrol)
  • CDi (1.8i petrol, 2.0i 114 bhp (85 kW; 116 PS) petrol)
  • Convertible (1.8i petrol)
  • Estate (1.6 petrol)
  • Estate L (1.6 petrol, 1.6 Diesel)
  • Estate GL (1.6 petrol, 1.6 Diesel)

The "i" suffix stands for Fuel Injection.

Special editions

  • Commander (1.6 petrol)
  • Antibes (1.6 petrol)
  • Club (1.6 petrol)
  • Calibre (Same 2.0 fuel injection engine of the SRi 130)

Mark III (1988–1995)[edit]

Cavalier Mark III
1990 Vauxhall Cavalier GL 1.8 (11712369055).jpg
Production October 1988 – October 1995 (Pre 1992 facelift)
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
5-door hatchback
Layout FF layout/AWD
Platform GM2900
Related Opel Calibra
Opel Vectra
Saab 900
Saab 9-5 (YS3E)
Saab 9-3
Pre-facelift Vauxhall Cavalier GL 1.8
Post-facelift Vauxhall Cavalier Classic

The final generation Cavalier was introduced on 14 October 1988, being Vauxhall's version of the Opel Vectra "A", again available as a saloon and hatchback. There was no estate version in the Opel line-up, and as this design was not going to be sold in Australia, there was no prospect of Vauxhall turning to Holden for a replacement. Early plans for an estate model exclusive to Europe to be developed never materialised.

The Vectra name was not adopted at this model change as Vauxhall feared reviving memories of the much-maligned Vauxhall Victor, whereas the Cavalier was a generally well received product and had helped boost Vauxhall's sales and reputation. Early Victors had been viewed in some quarters as excessively corrosion prone, but the Victor was becoming a very distant memory by this stage: the Vectra name would eventually appear on a Vauxhall in 1995, with the Cavalier Mark III's replacement.

In place of the Mark II Cavalier's angular exterior was a more rounded appearance. There was also a new economical 1.4 L petrol engine. The biggest changes to the range were the addition of 2.0 L sixteen valve engines, better known as the "red top" or XE. This was fitted to the GSi 2000 and later SRis. Also made available was a four-wheel drive system, fitted to a 2.0iL model (8 valve SRi spec) and on a version of the GSi 2000.

There were two diesels available: a 1.7 L, 60 hp (45 kW) from launch, and a 82 hp (61 kW) 1.7 Isuzu-engined turbodiesel from 1992. The early SRis were fitted with the 2.0 8-valve engine from the previous Cavalier model, which produced 130 hp (97 kW).

Despite the lack of an estate body style, the Cavalier topped the large medium family car sales charts in Britain in 1990, ahead of its three key rivals – the Ford Sierra, Rover 400, and Rover Montego. It also faced competition from an new generation of rivals, including the Peugeot 405, Volkswagen Passat, and Renault 21.

In 1992, it was Britain's second best selling car behind the Ford Escort. It did not lose top spot in its sector until it was overtaken by the Ford Mondeo in 1994.

In 1989, Vauxhall released a new coupé, the Calibra, developed from the Cavalier Mark III, to replace the discontinued Opel Manta. There had been no coupe equivalent of the MK2 Cavalier, although the MK1 had been sold as a coupe (booted or with a hatchback). Indeed, there was no coupe offering by Vauxhall at all between the demise of the MK1 Cavalier and the launch of the Calibra nearly a decade later.

The Calibra was well received, notably for its sporty although cramped interior (largely based on the interior of the Cavalier) and its streamlined styling which in turn enabled the Calibra to have the lowest drag coefficient of the period at 0.26 for the 8v model (0.29 for the rest) - a record it held for the next 10 years.[25][26][27]

A few variants were made: the 2.0 litre eight valve, 2.0 L sixteen valve (the same engine found in the proven Cavalier GSi 2000), the turbo version (again, the same engine used in the very successful Cavalier Turbo), the 2.5 L V6 and finally the 2.0 L 16-valve "Ecotec".

A facelift in the autumn of 1992 saw the Cavalier's 1.4 L engine dropped and the 167 bhp (125 kW) 2.5 L V6 added to the range. At this time the GSi 2000 was replaced by an new four wheel drive version badged simply "Cavalier Turbo", with a turbocharged version of the sixteen valve engine producing over 200 hp (150 kW). Most of the range now had airbags and anti-lock brakes as standard (the first car in its class to do so) and all models were fitted with side impact beams (providing additional longitudinal load paths) and front seatbelt pretensioners.

The exterior design was also freshened up, with an new look grille, headlights, rear lights and bumper mouldings. There was an increase in the amount of sound insulation, especially in GLS and higher models making the Cavalier an enviably quiet place to do business. In late 1994, the new 2.0L Ecotec engine was launched replacing the previous sixteen valve "redtop" engine, with a reduced power output down to 136 hp (101 kW), compared to the 150 hp (112 kW) of the previous engine.

After twenty years and three generations, the Cavalier came to an end in October 1995 when it was replaced by the Vectra, though sales continued for about one year afterwards and several P registered versions (August 1996 to July 1997 period) were sold.

The third and final incarnation of the Cavalier was a big improvement over its predecessors (and most earlier Vauxhalls) in terms of durability, with the rust problems that had plagued Vauxhall for years finally being conquered. This was reflected by the fact that Mark III Cavaliers were a common sight on British roads for well over a decade after the end of production.

The demise of the Cavalier marked a significant moment for Vauxhall, as it was the last car to be completely named by the Luton-based company. All future Vauxhalls would be simply rebadged Opels, or in the case of the 2004 Vauxhall Monaro, a rebadged Holden. However, the Astra nameplate was chosen by Vauxhall at the beginning of 1980 for its version of the first front-wheel drive Opel Kadett, and from 1991 General Motors decided to sell the Opel version of the car as the Astra.

This version of the Cavalier shared its chassis with the Saab 900 that was produced from 1993 until 1998, and continued until 2002 as the Saab 9-3, due to Saab also being within the General Motors combine at the time.

The last Cavalier to be produced, registered N54UWK, was first registered on Saturday, 21 October 1995 and is now SORN. However, it was not the last Cavalier to be sold, as stocks lasted for around a year afterwards, with at least one P registered version (August 1996 onwards) being registered.

Trim levels were:

1988–1992 range
  • Base (1.4, 1.6 petrol)
  • L (1.4, 1.6, 1.6i, 1.8, 1.8i, 2.0i 8v petrol, 1.7 diesel, 1.7 turbodiesel)
  • GL (1.6, 1.6i, 1.8, 1.8i, 2.0i 8v petrol, 1.7 diesel, 1.7 turbodiesel)
  • CD (2.0i 8v petrol)
  • Diplomat (2.0i 8v petrol)
  • 4x4 (2.0i 8v petrol 130 bhp)
  • SRi (2.0i 8v petrol 130 bhp)
  • GSi (2.0i 16v petrol)
  • Concept (1.8i petrol)
1992-1995 range
  • Envoy (1.6i petrol, 1.7 diesel, 1.7 turbodiesel)
  • LS (1.6i, 1.8i, 2.0i 8v, 2.0 16v (X20XEV) petrol, 1.7 diesel, 1.7 turbodiesel)
  • Colorado (1.8i Petrol)
  • GLS (1.6i, 1.8i, 2.0i 8v 2.0i 16v 2.5 V6 petrol, 1.7 turbodiesel)
  • V6 (2.5i V6 (C25XE) petrol)
  • CD (2.0i (C20NE) petrol, 1.7 Turbodiesel)
  • CDX (2.0i (X20XEV), 2.5 V6 petrol (C25XE), 1.7 turbodiesel)
  • Diplomat (2.0 8v (C20NE), 2.5 V6 (C25XE) Petrol)
  • SRi (2.0i (C20NE 1992-1994, C20XE 1992-1994, X20XEV 1994-1995) petrol)
  • Cesaro (1.8i & 2.5 V6 (C25XE) petrol)
  • Turbo (2.0 16v 4x4 petrol 6 speed Turbocharged (C20LET))
  • Ethos (1.6i E-Drive & 1.7Turbo diesel)
  • Expression (1.8i)
  • Concept (1.6i)


A total of more than 1,800,000 Cavaliers were sold in three generations, and a 20-year production run, making it the fifth most popular car ever sold in Britain.[28]

Following its launch in October 1975, the original Cavalier took time to gain ground on the British market, with just under 30,000 sales placing it as the 13th best selling car for 1976. It climbed to eighth place the following year with more than 41,000 sales, peaking at seventh place in 1978 with over 55,000 sales. It was still the seventh best seller in 1980, though sales for that year had dipped back to just over 41,000 as the economy entered recession.

Well over 200,000 were sold in total over a six-year production run, but by the end of 2009 just 373 remained, and it had been a rare sight on British roads even by the mid 1990s.[29] The Mark II Cavalier was a much bigger success. In 1982, its first full year on sale, just over 100,000 were sold in Britain. This placed it as Britain's fourth best selling car, putting it just 35,000 sales short of its key rival, the Ford Cortina, which was replaced that autumn by the all-new Sierra. 1983 saw Cavalier sales in Britain exceed 127,000 as it retained fourth place, but it was outsold by the Sierra which occupied second place with almost 160,000 sales.

The next two years, however, saw the Cavalier top the large family car sector in Britain in terms of sales, and overall it was the nation's second best selling car behind the Ford Escort, breaking the 130,000 barrier on both occasions while the Sierra only just made it into six figures. Despite falling popularity towards the end of production which saw the Ford Sierra comfortably outsell it, a total of 807,624 Mark II Cavaliers were sold in Britain during its seven-year production run. The Mark II Cavalier remained a popular second hand buy and common sight on British road for a decade or so afterwards, and proved to be more resistant to rust than its predecessor as well as earlier Vauxhalls.[30]

The Mark III Cavalier enjoyed similar popularity to its predecessor. Launched in October 1988, Cavalier sales for 1989 stood at 130,000 (including some Mark II's) as it was Britain's fourth best selling car overall, while the Ford Sierra stood second with more than 175,000 sales, but in 1990, it edged ahead of the Sierra into third place, and by 1992, it was Britain's second best selling car with nearly 110,000 sales (the lower figures being the result of the recession at the time) while sales of the ageing Sierra had slumped to less than 80,000.

The Sierra's successor, the Mondeo, overtook it in 1994 but even in the Cavalier's last year in production, 1995, it still managed nearly 74,000 sales, despite being replaced by the Vectra in October 1995.

Airey Neave, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and advisor to Margaret Thatcher, was assassinated in a Mk.I Cavalier on 30 March 1979, when a car bomb was detonated beneath it while driving away from the Palace of Westminster. A red Mark III Cavalier was used in the 1998 Omagh bombing.

By February 2016, just over 4,500 Cavaliers across all three generations were still in use on Britain's roads, with most remaining examples being MK3 models.[31]


Richard Kaye 1996 BTCC

The Cavalier was used in the British Touring Car Championship from 1990 to 1995. The Cavalier was always competitive, but the strength of the competition, and bad luck, conspired to deny John Cleland the victory in both the 1991 and 1992 seasons (although Vauxhall Motorsport did win the Manufacturer's Championship in 1992[32]), finishing 2nd in 1991 and 3rd in 1992 - the latter a result of a dramatic final-race showdown, culminating in a collision between Cleland and rival Steve Soper.[33]

1993 and 1994 both saw Cleland finish 4th in the championship; however the Cavalier finally won the title in 1995, with John Cleland winning the Driver's championship, and Vauxhall Sport the Manufacturer's title.[34]

The Cavalier was replaced by the Vectra in 1996,[35] although privateers such as Richard Kaye[35] and Jamie Wall[36] would continue to use them until the end of the 1997 season.


  • Oswald, Werner (2003). Deutsche Autos 1945-1990, Band (vol) 3 (in German). Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-613-02116-1. 
  1. ^ a b c d "Giant Test: Chrysler Hunter, Leyland Marina, Vauxhall Cavalier". Car: 42–49. July 1976. 
  2. ^ "Vauxhall Cavalier Information". Cavalier and Chevette Club. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  3. ^ "Vauxhall Cavalier Information". Cavalier and Chevette Club. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Quiet Cavalier in the top ten, The Glasgow Herald, 24 June 1977
  5. ^ Oswald, pp 271 & 272: Vauxhall Cavalier production at Antwerp between 1975 and 1981 consisted of 19,972 two door cars and 196,512 four door cars. 161,540 of these 216,484 Belgian built Cavaliers were fitted with the manufacturer's "1.6 S" 1584cc 75 PS (55 kW; 74 hp) engine.
  6. ^ "News: First UK built Cavalier". Autocar. Vol. 147 no. 4217. 3 September 1977. p. 16. 
  7. ^ "News: Luton Cavaliers". Autocar. Vol. 147 no. 4223. 15 October 1977. p. 17. 
  8. ^ "Long Term Report: Vauxhall Cavalier 1600 GL (36,000 miles)". Autocar. Vol. 147 no. 4225. 29 October 1977. pp. 28–32. 
  9. ^ "The toughest test: Fleet managers have the chance to review several - sometimes hundred [of cars]. How are they finding recent models?". Autocar. Vol. 145 no. 4172. 23 October 1976. pp. 97–98. 
  10. ^ "The cars : Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1". AROnline. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1 in Continental Europe". Cavalier and Chevette Club. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Howard, Tony (December 1976). "The Best South African Chev yet?". SA Motor. Cape Town, South Africa: Scott Publications: 67. 
  13. ^ Büschi, Hans-Ulrich, ed. (3 March 1982). "Automobil Revue '82" (in German and French). 77. Berne, Switzerland: Hallwag, AG: 249. ISBN 3-444-06062-9. 
  14. ^ Freund, Klaus, ed. (August 1979). Auto Katalog 1980 (in German). 23. Stuttgart: Vereinigte Motor-Verlage GmbH & Co. KG. pp. 128, 226–227. 
  15. ^ Gesins-ekonomie in 'n pragvorm: Chevrolet Chevair [Family thrift in a splendid shape] (brochure) (in Afrikaans), p. 15 
  16. ^ Wright, Cedric, ed. (August 1978). "Chevair Berlina 2300 Automatic". CAR (South Africa). Vol. 22 no. 7. Ramsay, Son & Parker (Pty) ltd. pp. 66–67. 
  17. ^ Joubert, Leon (September 1978). "The Super Chevvies". CAR (South Africa). Vol. 22 no. 78. Ramsay, Son & Parker (Pty) ltd. pp. 94–97. 
  18. ^ Oxley, John (July 1979). "Duckhams gives Pond his hat-trick". SA Motor. Randburg, South Africa: SA Motor (Pty) Ltd. 17 (7): 49. 
  19. ^ New Cavalier leads the General's charge, The Glasgow Herald, 26 August 1981
  20. ^ "Auto Test: Vauxhall Cavalier". Evening Times. 25 September 1981. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  21. ^ "big two ready for trial of strength — Motor Trader". 9 October 1995. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  22. ^ The Effect of Different State Aid Measures on Intra-Community Competition: Exemplified by the Case of the Automotive Industry, Krish N. Bhaskar, University of East Anglia. Motor Industry Research Unit, Commission of the European Communities, 1990, page 37
  23. ^ "Car theft in England and Wales: the Home Office car theft index" (PDF). Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  24. ^ "Survival Rate". Retrieved 4 August 2011. 
  25. ^ [1] "It was, however, the most aerodynamically efficient Opel ever with a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.26. It remained the most aerodynamic mass production car for the next 10 years, until the Honda Insight was launched in 1999 with a Cd of 0.25"
  26. ^ [2] Autoevolution "The Calibra holds the title of having been the most aerodynamic car in the world at its 1990 launch, with a drag coefficient of just 0.26."
  27. ^ [3] "Despite a slippery record breaking drag coefficient of 0.26cd, it's a true four-seater, unlike its two-plus-kids counterparts."
  28. ^ "icLiverpool - Recession-proof wise-buys revealed". 17 March 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  29. ^ "Classic Vauxhall challenge - Vauxhall Insignia meets its ancestor, the Mk1 Cavalier - Best cars - Choosing a car - Which? Car". Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  30. ^ "Print Friendly Page". Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  31. ^ [4]
  32. ^ "Results » BTCC » 1992". 8 March 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  33. ^ Johan Meissner (17 February 2007). "History: BTCC 1992 – A controversial ending". TouringCarTimes. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  34. ^ "Results » 1995". 8 March 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  35. ^ a b (5 April 2009). "1996 BTCC Entry List". Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  36. ^ (5 April 2009). "1997 BTCC Entry List". Retrieved 3 June 2013. 

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