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Top Gear’s Top 9: greatest ever Vauxhalls

… and before you mock – yes, it was difficult to pick our nine favourites

Top Gear Vauxhall Monaro VXR
  1. Lotus Carlton

    Top Gear Vauxhall Lotus Carlton

    Alas, the humdrum standard Vauxhall Carlton would not make this list. When Lotus got hold of it, though, the straight-six was enlarged to 3.6-litres, twin Garrett T25 turbochargers were fitted and a conservative top speed of 176mph was touted. It rattled the UK Government and the Daily Mail, who ran a campaign to have the mega-Carlton banned.

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  2. Vauxhall VX220

    Top Gear Vauxhall VX220

    Another Vauxhall and Lotus love affair in the early 2000s led to this – the ultra-lightweight GM-engined sister to the Series 2 Elise. Oh how we wish Vauxhall still made sports cars. 

    The VX220 – known as the Opel Speedster elsewhere – began life with a 144bhp 2.2-litre engine from an Astra, but in 2003 that was switched for a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, good for 197bhp. Then came just 65 examples of the most serious VXR220, with a tweaked turbo engine and hardcore Ohlins suspension.

  3. Vauxhall Astra GTE Mk2 16v

    Top Gear Vauxhall Astra GTE

    The second-generation Astra was a revelation for Vauxhall, and when it fitted the GTE with its fantastic 150bhp 16v ‘redtop’ engine in 1988 it became a true hot hatch hero with a 0-60mph time of around 8.0secs and a glorious digital dashboard.

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  4. Vauxhall Nova GTE/GSi

    Top Gear Vauxhall Nova GSI

    Known to the rest of the world as the first-generation Opel Corsa, the little Nova did a decent job of taking on the Ford Fiesta and the Austin Metro in 1980s Britain. The 99bhp fuel-injected GTE (which later became the GSi) was particularly popular with yoofs and crims.

  5. Vauxhall Insignia VXR Sports Tourer

    Top Gear Vauxhall Insignia VXR

    Anyone else forget these once existed? The facelifted SuperSport version of Vauxhall’s fast estate arrived in 2013 with all-wheel drive, shouty styling (just check out the fangs) and a 321bhp 2.8-litre turbocharged V6 engine. It also binned the previous generation’s speed limiter for a top whack of 170mph. 

    Budget Audi RS6, anyone?

  6. Vauxhall Monaro VXR

    Top Gear Vauxhall Monaro VXR

    At the same time Vauxhall was selling the VX220 in the UK, it was also offering the gloriously brutish Monaro. Built in Australia, the Monaro was essentially a rebadged Holden that was also sold in the US as the Pontiac GTO. That didn’t matter, though, because it was also a two-door, rear-wheel drive V8 coupe that loved to get sideways. We adored it. In fact, we still do.

  7. Opel Manta B 400

    Top Gear Opel Manta 400

    Group B rallying gave us a ridiculous crop of homologation special road cars, didn’t it? One of the best-looking of the bunch has to be the Opel Manta 400 – seen here in full rally-spec. Just 245 road cars were built and only 59 got widebody Irmscher arches draped over their Ronal alloy wheels.

    The Manta was rear-wheel drive so didn’t have much success in competition, but with 144bhp from its Cosworth-sourced 2.4-litre four-cylinder, the road car was at least a little bit lively. 

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  8. Vauxhall Calibra DTM

    Top Gear Opel Calibra

    As you’ll well know by now, when it launched in 1989 the Calibra was the most aerodynamically efficient mass-production car in the world. It had a drag coefficient of just 0.26, yet still managed to be a cracking-looking car. 

    The DTM road car was built to celebrate the Calibra’s entrance into the German race series. Hurrah, we hear you cry – just check out how cool the racecar looked. Sadly the road-going special edition didn’t get that wild bodykit, although you did get lower suspension and white BBS wheels. Still lovely.

  9. Baby Bertha

    Top Gear Vauxhall Baby Bertha

    Meet Baby Bertha – a V8 Repco-Holden engined racer based loosely around a Vauxhall Firenza. Bill Blydenstein and his team designed Bertha for one thing only: to win the Super Saloon championship in the mid-Seventies. It did. Twice.

    Click these lovely blue words to find out more about what has to be the coolest Vauxhall ever built…

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