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Inside Vauxhall’s secret stash

  1. The chances of being in another room this over-endowed with Vauxhallalia stands at comfortably long odds. It’s the manufacturer’s very own stash located in a top-secret location, just off the A505 in Luton. And it’s brimming with griffin-badged icons.

    The centre was started in the mid-sixties as little more than a garage to store the company’s delicate veteran fleet. The five-strong collection expanded as the 115-year-old company started building a back catalogue, changing location several times before settling into this very building in the late nineties.

    And despite several crippling economic crashes, uncertainty at parent company GM, and the Vauxhall Vectra, the heritage centre’s stronger than ever. The sixty-plus collection’s growing all the time, and it’s positioned itself as a meeting point for all things classic Vauxhall - there’s even an archive of technical and promotional material.

    The breadth of its stock’s staggering too, yawning from a 1903 5hp right up to a 2007 Monaro VXR 500. Wondering through the neatly parked rows of cars makes you realise that, despite some questionable offerings over the years, the company’s quietly bled some truly iconic names into the British lexicon - Viva, Victor, Chevette, Astra, Cavalier.

    Then there are the quite mad concepts, like the anagramically predictive 1966 XVR, faintly dystopian 1970 SRV Concept Car and faintly ridiculous VX Lightening. All of which keep each other company here, gently reminding us how ridiculous the seventies were.

    But they’re not collecting dust. As the Heritage Centre steward, Terry Forder, explains: “The cars are all working and ready to go. The worst thing you can do to a classic is not drive it, and my colleague Andy Boddy and I are responsible for making sure they’re all used as regularly as possible.”

    Which sounds quite fun. Especially considering that there’s a 377bhp Lotus Carlton, freshly restored Firenza Droop Snoot, surprisingly sideways Chevette HE and cache of retired touring cars in stock.

    But where do all the cars come from? Andy says: “The majority of our cars have been bought back from private individuals that have either contacted us, or we’ve been specifically looking for a particular model until we come across something we see as the best example. Of late, we’ve taken cars from the press fleet, so we have half a dozen more recent vehicles too.”

    The best thing about the world’s biggest private collection of classic Vauxhalls? It opens its doors one day a year to the public. A bit like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Only with less chocolate. And less Willy Wonka. And no Oompa Loompas.

    The next open day’s not till 2013, but we’ll keep you posted with dates.

    Now click on and enjoy an alarming density of Vauxhallalia.

  2. Ex-racers cosy up to old show queens. 

  3.  Got competition pedigree?

  4.  The 1966 XVR Concept

  5. Guess what make James Carpenter Cars specialises in?

  6. Inside the 1970 SRV concept. Spacey. Dystopian.

  7. Girth. The SRV has it. 

  8. Astra VXR racer licks its wounds. 

  9. A chronology of Astras.

  10. Hey! It’s the 2003 Lightning concept!

  11. The Heritage Centre took in this Droop Snoot as a full restoration project. You wouldn’t believe that, three years ago, it was fit for the scrap yard. 

  12. That one on the far left’s called the Golfer’s Coupe. Disappointing absence of chequered, polyester interior.

  13. The VX Lightning’s innards.

  14. Chevette HS awaiting a spanner. 

  15. This is no stranger to some axle stands. 

  16. Vaxhallphemera

  17. An early Vauxhall Victor.

  18. Old models were rescued from the design studios. Can you guess what it is?

  19. Wyvern, Cresta, Victor and Viscount. Sounds like the cast of Last of the Summer Wine

  20. Look! No rust!

  21. Royale, Omega and Monaro. You’d struggle to find three more disperate cars…

  22. Babies got back. 

  23. Three generations of diminutive Vauxhall. 

  24. Peoples’ power by Vauxhall. 

  25. An excruciatingly rare Chevette HS. 

  26. There’s a very hot Firenza engine in there somewhere. 

  27. Love the nosecone. 

  28. The Chevette cuts an odd sort of dash. 

  29. The most important cupboard here - this is where they keep the biscuits. 

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