While the Vauxhall Vectra was never considered a best-seller, it’s a name with which many motorists are familiar. Over its 20 years of production, first as the Opel Vectra/Vauxhall Cavalier, the Vectra became a common sight in the UK until production ceased in 2008. Over a decade later, how long will it be until the Vectra is a thing of the past on British roads?
Using car registration data from the Department for Transport, Adrian Flux has produced the Classic Car Extinction report to identify which famous models could be disappearing and how soon. By these estimates it has been predicted that the Vectra will reach its ‘date of extinction’ in Q3 2022. From there it will be down to classic car clubs and collectors to keep the range alive.
Why is the Vauxhall Vectra likely to become extinct?
While its presence on British roads was consistent during its production cycles, the Vauxhall Vectra has been unable to shake the air of un-remarkability.
Originally a replacement for the popular Cavalier, the Vectra was unable to step outside its predecessor’s shadow in terms of build and design. Worse still, it was always going to struggle with public perception when one of its most notable moments was being fodder for what could be Jeremy Clarkson’s most famous scathing Top Gear review, which labelled the Vectra as, among other things, “a box on wheels”.
Unable to stand out among its contemporaries in its prime, declining registrations suggest it is not finding its feet as a second-hand purchase either.
The Vauxhall Vectra A, B, C and D
Over the course of 20 years, the Vectra took on a number of forms, from the original Opel Vectra to the improved spec of the Vectra VXR sports variants of 2004. Here we look at each of the Vauxhall models, their specs and identify the major differences between each generation.
While the name lived on beyond 2008, the Chevrolet Vectra D has not been included on this list. As a rebadged Opel Insignia for Chile, the model had a short shelf life and was itself rebadged in 2013.
Vectra A (1988-1995)
While it was 1988 when the first model in the Vectra range was unveiled, it was some time before the Vectra name was used in the UK. For many years Opel and Vauxhall shared models but sometimes chose to rebadge for different markets. The final version of the Cavalier (Mk 3) was released as a saloon and hatchback in 1988, but Vauxhall were reluctant to keep the Opel Vectra A name that was used in Europe. While the Cavalier brand had been popular, there was concern that Vectra sounded too close to Victor – a poorly received model from a few years before. It took until 1995 for the first Vectra-badged Vauxhall to appear on British roads.
A modest 1.4L petrol engine was available at launch alongside a 1.7L 60bhp diesel option. Over the years, a range of 2.0L engines were produced for the GSi and SRi models, including the 16 valve ‘red top’ and a four-wheel drive version of the GSi 2000.
With a more rounded design, Vauxhall aimed for the car to be more modern than the angular Cavalier Mk 2 that it replaced. More importantly, the rust issues that had plagued previous Vauxhalls were no longer apparent. Coupled with the Cavalier name, this combination proved very popular, selling 110,000 in 1992 despite a recession. Even in the final year of production sales were strong, breaking 70,000 in the UK.
Vectra B (1995-2002)
The Vectra B model first arrived in the UK in the summer of 1995 as the replacement for the Cavalier Mk 3 range. The first major makeover for the Vectra B came in 1999 with single piece headlamps – a feature that has been adjusted in every model since, and colour-matched bumpers. Slight improvements to handling could also be noticed compared to older models. The update for the Vauxhall Vectra 2001 was a look to the future with a new 2.2L petrol engine which would continue to be used in the updated 2002 C range.
The early Vectra Mk 2 models were fitted with a 75bhp 1.6L engine. Increased power came in the following years as 16-valve engines became standard. Touring car improvements continued throughout the life of the Vectra B, resulting in a 170bhp 2.5L V6 engine being the most powerful to be fitted in a Vectra B.
A number of sporty limited editions were produced based on touring cars including the Super Touring, i500 and GSi. Just 317 estate variants of the GSi were ever produced, ensuring they would become one of Vauxhall’s rarest productions. Another claim to fame for the Vectra B is that it was the final Vauxhall to be produced at the company’s manufacturing plant in Luton. The plant closed to non-commercial production in 2001.
Vectra C (2002-2008)
The Vectra C was introduced as a saloon model at the Geneva Motor Show in 2002. Hatchback and estate versions followed a year later. While the front-end design remained similar to the Vectra B, this model, also known as the Opel Signum outside the UK, took inspiration from the Vauxhall Carlton and had a significantly higher curb weight as a result.
While the base model was sold with a 1.8L, the main engine used was the 2001 Ecotech 2.2L, providing 145bhp. The increased popularity of diesel engines in Europe resulted in the production of the 3.0L DMAX V6 in collaboration with Isuzu.
The mid-cycle upgrade came in 2004 alongside increasingly strict carbon emissions rules. In response, the diesel engine was replaced with a 1.9L Ecotech CDTI, providing 148bhp in the 16-valve version and a marked improvement in handling.
A high-performance trim specification was introduced across the Vauxhall range in 2004. The Vectra VXR launched in late 2005 and enjoyed a boost in 2007 when the V6 turbo engine’s output increased from 252bhp to 276bhp.
Despite efforts to add more style and power, the Vectra C never caught the public’s imagination and only once managed to break into the UK’s top 10 for sales – in 2007.
Across the ranges, the Vectra was consistently popular but remained unremarkable for over a decade before production ended in 2008.
Modifying Vauxhall Vectras
Thanks to the extensive range of engines available, there is a lot of opportunity to breathe new life into a Vectra through modifications. Most engines are of a similar size which means it is easy to swap out a 2.0L for a 2.0L Turbo and enjoy an instant jump in output.
Tuning is a good first step when looking to modify – fitting a fast road cam and uprating the fuelling are the obvious places to start. Increased fuelling may require a larger fuel pump and pressure boost valve, but the resulting improvements to response will be worth the investment.
Improving the handling is also a fairly simple task. Adding stiffer dampers and dropping the car by 35mm is all it will take to make another marked increase in performance.
Exterior improvements tend to provide aesthetic rather than performance-based boosts, but alloy wheels are the exception. Not only will they look great and remove some weight, they will also help the brakes to remain cool. Note that to avoid negatively impacting the final drive ratio, it is not recommended to go above a 17-inch wheel on a Vectra.
Be aware that making changes can affect insurance, so be sure to discuss modified car insurance with specialist broker Adrian Flux before leaping into a new project.
Is it the end for the Vauxhall Vectra?
In the decade since the end of production in 2008, the number of Vauxhall Vectra models registered in Great Britain had fallen from over half a million to an estimated 80,036 at the end of 2019. While increased scarcity and retro appeal may encourage an increase in interest in years to come, the Vectra is not the most likely candidate to become a well-loved classic. It will be in the hands of enthusiasts to keep these cars on the road and avoid extinction.
Passionate owners are already likely to be car club members, and with a passion for their chosen makes and models, are far less likely to make an insurance claim than other drivers. For these reasons, Adrian Flux’s specialist insurance policies for classics will make sure club members get rewarded for the dedication to their chosen vehicle – modified or not.