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