Getting older is not easy, especially for cars. So when it comes time to celebrate a specific cars birthday you’ll always find it’s a big thing. So with that in mind, I’d like you to raise a glass and celebrate the 30th birthday of the Vauxhall Calibra.
So, what is the Vauxhall Calibra and why is it so special to us European petrol heads? Well, the Calibra was Vauxhall/Opel’s replacement for the outgoing manta B2. It was based on the then-new MK3 Cavalier/Vectra A, however, unlike the cavalier, the Calibra was a whole lot more aerodynamic. For the time, it was the sleekest car available which was huge back in 1989. The looks stayed relatively the same with a few minor changes midway through the production run up until 1997 when production ceased. Externally these included an updated front grille, slightly different headlamps as well as slightly altered front & rear bumpers while internally there was a newer steering wheel & slightly altered dash with airbags fitted.
Engines were plentiful in the Calibra range. Sizes ranged from a plethora of 2.0 liters all the way up to the 168bhp 2.5 V6, the 2.0’s could be had in either 8 valve or 16 valve configurations with the early 16v ‘Red Top’ lumps being engineered by Cosworth however these never really had the dynamics to match the Calibras beautiful sleek bodywork. That was until 1992 when a truly spectacular variant of the Calibra was unveiled.
I’m of course talking about the 4×4 Turbo. These are known by owners and Vauxhall people alike as the holy grail of the Calibra range and for good reasons. Engine-wise, it had the C20LET which was a turbocharged version of the already existing C20XE, however, the changes didn’t stop there. The 4×4 turbo also had a six-speed Getrag gearbox fitted to help get the most of the turbo 4 pot, these two helped the Calibra tons but Vauxhall wasn’t finished just yet. Normally, the Calibra was a three-door FWD coupé which was fine until you started converting it to run an AWD layout. With most of the lineup consisting of mainly FWD cars, Vauxhall took the independent rear suspension setup from the already existing Omega and fabricated it to fit the Calibra chassis, this made the car perform leaps and bounds compared to the FWD variants. Power output for the 4×4’s stood at 204bhp and with a top speed of over 150mph, these were quick for a mid-nineties Vauxhall.
The 2.5 V6 C25XE engine arrived for the Calibra in 1993 and while it was down on power compared to the 4×4 Turbo at only 168bhp, It was credited for being the better one to both own & drive due to its linear power delivery. This engine was used as the base for the 4×4 DTM race car which had success in the German Touring Car Championship.
While on the subject of the DTM championship, after the success, Vauxhall came up with the DTM limited edition to celebrate. These were only available in white to mimic the race car. Limited to only 22 cars, trying to find one now is not easy as these are becoming future classics & owners aren’t wanting to get rid any time soon.
The Calibra was able to fend off competition from a lot of coupé’s for quite a good amount of years and with race success under its belt, it sold relatively well for a European GM product. It could never outsell the likes of a Mercedes-Benz or BMW as these were the darlings of the coupé market in the nineties but it wasn’t a complete flop. With its sister car the cavalier taking numerous BTCC championships with thanks to the legend that is John Cleland, both the Cavalier & Calibra were loved, especially in the UK.
With everyone in the nineties wanting to be seen, the Calibra was a very good credible car to buy. It had racing success under its belt as did the Cavalier it shared a lot of components with. It looked fantastic as well with its gorgeous bodywork and with the C20LET model in the 4×4 turbo, it made for a decent performance car and if you couldn’t quite stretch to the turbo, the normal variants were just as good.
Unfortunately, in 1995 GM decided to pull the plug on the Cavalier for the upcoming Vectra B and due to poor sales in its later life, the Calibra ceased production two years later. It lasted for 8 years and with that came many a good variant and a car for everyone. In the UK it crafted the way for many a performance Vauxhall throughout the ’90s and put them on the map for making really good performance cars which weren’t too expensive to buy or run and that statement still stands true 30 years after the Calibra’s launch. Even today, Vauxhall has never made a replacement as of yet which is a shame.
To celebrate the 30th birthday of the car, there is due to be a static display ran by CalibraClub.net, Performance Vauxhall Show & Performance Vauxhall at this years PVS at Bruntingthorpe Airfield, there are tons of Calibra owners wanting to join but slots are only for ten cars. Expect to see anything from early models to the limited edition cars and anything in between. The PVS or ‘Performance Vauxhall Show’ as it’s fully known is a huge UK-based Vauxhall show so that’ll be the best place to celebrate the cars birthday in style.
So, raise your glasses to the Calibra, a brilliant car often overlooked by people. If you ever find a 4×4 Turbo or a limited edition Calibra for sale, go out and buy one as soon as possible, you won’t regret it.
Hope You Enjoy!
By Alex Jebson
The world of motoring is always evolving, new cars are launched with a plethora of ground-breaking gadgets & gizmo’s, more reliable engines and better safety equipment. So it only makes sense to go buy a brand new car right? Well, this is unfortunately where the majority of people are wrong. Because what you really need to do is buy an old car and here are the reasons why.
Their Better Built.
Now yes, on first glance, this may seem crazy to say, modern cars have better build quality and on the whole are quieter, however, this doesn’t always mean they are built better. A lot of manufacturer’s older cars were constructed better than their more modern counterparts and were built with better components and stronger metals, this means that they are surprisingly solid. Now sure, not all old cars will be as reliable as newer ones but with better materials used, it’s not the first time a classic has been known to outlive a car considerably newer.
They Look Far Better.
How many times have you driven into a car park and noticed cars looking identical with the styling? With old cars, you don’t get this for good reasons. First of all, designers back then really were on top of their game producing some really iconic shapes with some even going to style houses. This made for an interesting time in car ownership and easier as you could distinguish cars from each other, it also meant that truly gorgeous cars like the shark nose BMW’s of the ’80s or the classy grace of an old Mercedes-Benz instantly became a hit and even now are still in demand.
They’re Easier To Work On.
With new cars coming out every other day, manufacturers make it really difficult to stop everyday people working on their cars. While this works for people who don’t really have a clue about how cars work, for people like myself and others who are about the place, we find it annoying, to say the least. You have to strip down a lot of plastic to get to the engine and then you have to strip down even more of the car to change a starter motor for example. With older cars you’ll be surprised at how much space you have to work with, take both my mothers Lexus RX400h & my Volvo C70 for example, now these cars are premium cars from high-end manufacturers but you’ll discover the slightly older Volvo easier to work on. The Lexus has acres of plastic covering everything. Even removed, there’s no space to put a hand let alone a spanner or ratchet which makes typical maintenance a pain, made even worse by Lexus’s Hybrid system which dominates most of the car’s engine bay.
You Actually Have To Look After Them.
This statement links in with the one above but it’s a tad different, with a modern car, you can be 100% certain that it’ll do everything you’ll ask of it and more and won’t put up a fight, it’ll do the job of ferrying you and others around. However with older cars, especially classics, the same can’t be said. You have to listen out for noises & smells, you have to watch air/fuel ratio as well as make sure the temperature of both the water & oil are where they should be. If a classic car has a choke you have to be careful that it’s not running too rich or too lean as this will wear down the engine. Now to the average person, this is too much to worry about, however to people who love old classics and retro’s, we won’t have it any other way, we love fixing our cars as nothing comes close to the satisfaction of fixing something broken.
The Community & Clubs are Brilliant.
If there was ever a reason to buy a classic it’d be this, the classic car community & the vast amount of classic car clubs around the world are really good, unlike a lot of groups, there’s no hate towards specific cars or makes, anything goes as long as it’s within the certain age limits the different groups make up. For example, I’m in two groups with my car, one of which is ‘Retro + Post Millennia 365 Motor Club “aka” RPM 365’ and the other is ‘Young Retro Motor Club’ and there are very good reasons to why. First off, the people in both groups are fantastic and the admins who make the group what it is have done a fantastic job, the other cars in the respective groups are also lovely and have stories behind them. Whether they are family cars handed down or barn finds which have taken on a lot of work to make them into a show winner, there’s a story to be found with each one. Thirdly the group is so welcoming to people. Now even though my car is over 18 years old now, it’s certainly not the oldest car around — in fact some consider mine new compared to what they have which is fine. I’m still allowed in with open arms in both groups and there’s not a lot of hate with anybody, everyone is chilled and in certain circumstances, help is given out either physically or over the internet. Even though I’ve only had 4 years of car ownership, the best kind of community for me personally is the classic car community as they are a cut above the rest.
There’s No Badge Snobbery.
These days badge means everything so it’s such a refreshing feeling to see an old Austin Metro get the same amount of love as a similarly aged Rolls Royce or Bentley, regardless of budget, favorite manufacturer or dream car there is no sniggering or bad comments about cars people own. In fact, there’s often a mini group of people within an already existing group that like the car you seem to have and this is brilliant for meeting friends. You can own a car with a lesser-known badge or from companies which built cars to a low cost & you’ll be able to find someone who can easily look over the badge and will love it regardless.
There’s A Vast Array Of Different Vehicles.
This is no surprise however it makes for a fantastic variation of cars, there’ll be times, for example, you’ll be at a car show and see a car you’ve never seen before and one conversation later with the owner and you’ll have information on a car you never knew existed or on a vehicle you’ve never looked up before. Even a simple search of the classifieds and you’ll see something which is like nothing else on the road. Add club posts into the mix and you’ll have something nobody would’ve known existed which is also a very refreshing thing to see. Being able to share information about it to people who might won’t know much about the car in question is an amazing feeling.
You Keep Specialists In Jobs.
This is weird to say however bear with me, with old cars comes rare parts and tools. Dealerships get rid after cars have turned an age limit as they fix the new stuff which is nothing new. These parts & tools wind up being acquired by specialists who then take over the work if you don’t fix cars. Now, these are mainly small garages with maybe a few people employed who work on one specific kind of manufacture — there’s always that one “guy” if you will. Now these guys are the unsung heroes when it comes to the classic car scene as they know everything there is to know about the cars they fix, whether it be a Ford specialist or a Mopar guy, there’s information to be had from these people and with more people buying modern stuff, these guys go under the radar even more than what they already are which is a crying shame.
The Modifications Are Fantastic.
When it comes to car ownership, the first thing that us car owners love to do without a doubt is to make it our own, whether it be a simple thing of changing wheels or fully modifying a car, it’s in our blood, it’s something we can’t get rid of. Now in the classic & retro car scene, this is where it’s at its best, the modifications both done & seen to classics are just amazing.
Take this Vauxhall Viva, for example, this is my mate Darryl’s Viva, now, I met Darryl through the Facebook group “RPM 365” & just like me, this is his first car & also like me he works on his car outside his house using the limited tools that he has. However, unlike my build process where I’m going down the OEM+ route while fixing all its bad bits, Darryl here went with a completely different route. He started off with a 1972 Viva 1.3 5 door which in itself is a pretty solid choice for a classic car.
However, as you can see this isn’t any normal Viva because it’s currently running a tuned 1256cc Chevette engine with a stage 1 clutch which is pretty good however Darryl wants to change this to small block Chevy V8 for that gorgeous old school V8 rumble.
Exterior wise, its matte black with subtle satin black ghost flames on the front end of the car which looks really rather swell if I do say so myself.
Like most people, Darryl has two sets of wheels for the car which include the good old Cobra drag slots & also a lovely set of Cragar 4 spokes as well to fit in with the muscle car vibe this beautiful car has in spades.
It sits on upgraded front suspension which means, unfortunately, the Slots won’t fit just yet. To fit in with the muscle car vibe, it has chopped front springs and custom rears for that really lovely 80’s rake it fits so well.
The front end is all fiberglass and these include both the front end & wings which makes this car light at just over 700 kg, it also has a Magnum front end which makes the car look a bit more aggressive with its 4 round headlamps and magnum grille. The headlamps have also been changed for custom halo units. To go with the muscle car vibe, it has the obligatory front spoiler with again custom projector spotlights fitted as well as custom halo indicators, add these into the rest of the package and it’s a one of a kind car.
What makes this special however is what’s been done to the doors. Remember I mentioned that it’s a 5 door? Well, Darryl has smoothed off the rear door handles so it looks like a 3 door and to the unsuspecting eye it can be believed to be a 3 door car until you get up close to it and find out otherwise.
Now let’s talk under the bonnet, shall we? I’ve already mentioned that it’s currently running a tuned 1256 Chevette lump with a stage 1 clutch but what I haven’t mentioned is that upon further inspection there seems to be no battery under there and no washer bottle. Why is this exactly? Yet again, Darryl and his remarkable mechanical & engineering skills came into play as he was able to relocate both of them to the boot to save weight & gain better access for his potential V8 swap.
It’s finished off with some other small but really nice details like American style plates and color changing bulbs as the originals weren’t up to the trick of lighting up the road anymore.
Want to know the best bit of all though? All of that work was Darryl’s own, instead of buying a modern car and going through the process of mapping it & putting wheels on it and then calling it a build, he took a car that no one really knew a lot about, saw potential in it and made it his own. So much so that last year, it was featured in a Street Machine magazine article which is no easy feat.
And this is what is seen a lot of in the classic car scene. Taking cars which aren’t around anymore, having a vision and then carrying it out and making it look spectacular.
If you want to get into car ownership where there is a loving community with fantastic cars and tons of owners with stories to tell, it makes sense to buy an older car over a newer one. Sure reliability won’t like a new car and you will have to keep an eye on what the car is doing but that is the charm of owning a classic car, add in a different kind of driving experience & looks that classics have and it’d be a no brainer to go out & buy one.
Do you think I’m correct in what I’m saying and if so, what would you add? Also, do you like old cars as well and if so are you considering buying one? Let me down below and I’ll be sure to comment on my thoughts.
Hope You Enjoy!
By Alex Jebson