Sunday, 8 February 2015

Cars I have owned - No 10: Vauxhall Cavalier 1.6L

As I mentioned a couple of cars ago, I have owned three Vauxhall Cavaliers - and this was the second of those.
The first was a 1.3L Mk II model in 1982. By 1985, I had a better-paid job with a higher-spec car, so my second Cavalier was a 1.6L four-door saloon.
I don't think the quality was quite as good on this model as the first and the shut lines between the leading edge of the bonnet and the headlights was wide enough to get your fingers in.
At this time I'd started a freelance motoring agency supplying editorial to regional newspapers. It was hard work on top of my day job, but it meant we had money spare at the end of the month and it also meant that often I had a test car on loan from one of the manufacturers. We were effectively a two-car family!
The Cavalier was much more lively than the Nissan Stanza we'd had before. It developed 90bhp and the car seemed quite a lot lighter. Steering was much lighter too - it was a far better car to drive. There was a radio, cloth seats and head-restraints, but no central locking or electric windows.
This was also the first car that Margaret drove on a regular basis. There had been several attempts to teach her to drive; all of which had ended in cross words. Margaret hates to take instruction from anyone, but especially me. After the last attempt, I vowed I would never try to teach her again, so when she finally decided she had to be able to drive, it was a driving school that took on the task.
The catalyst for driving was a desire to take Sam to a pre-school club in Whittlesey, where he went with Claire London, a little girl whose mother Margaret had become friendly with. Sam had been missing Tom since he started school and these sessions, a couple of times a week were a means of diverting him and also preparing him for school. There were no buses to Whittlesey and Jane London didn't have a car, so if Sam was to go to pre-school, she would have to pass her test pronto.
In fairness, she did exactly that and also passed first time too!
Vauxhall Cavalier on holiday in Somerset (Cheddar Gorge) - that's Tom peeping out of the rear window.
Like the 1.3 model, the Cavalier 1.6 had an automatic choke. It gave no trouble and, overall, the Cavalier was a pretty good car.
Back in 1985, company cars were a real perk because they were very lightly taxed. It meant that a business could give an employee private and personal use of a car that was "needed" for work. The value to the employee of such a relatively tax-free perk was massive and the cost to the company was far less than paying and equivalent value in extra salary.
It meant that company car purchases drove the market for new cars and former company cars (traded in at three years old) also dominated the used car market. Ford was the big player in this market and Vauxhall was desperate to get a bigger share. The Cavalier, as I said in my earlier piece, was a much better car than the Cortina and it should really have won European Car of the Year, but was beaten by the Renault 9 (French fix!).
Ford’s new Sierra was somewhat radically styled and it wasn’t going down well with the British public. The Cavalier out-sold the Sierra in 1984 and again in 1985, but Ford’s fleet operation was unbeatable and by the time the second-generation Cavalier was discontinued to make way for a new model in 1988, the Sierra was almost twice as popular.
Vauxhall sold 807,624 Mk II Cavaliers between 1981 and 1988. By December 1989, it was the third most common car on British roads
I really liked my first Cavalier and this one, although some costs had been cut in manufacture, was also a very good car. Build quality also seemed better. The 1.3 had suffered lots of niggly problems after about a year (thankfully after I'd passed it on to a colleague) but this one was fine.
It took Sam to pre-school and served as a reliable family car for two years. It also took us on our first foreign driving holiday when we went to France, had a couple of nights just outside Paris and then did a quick tour of the Loire before an overnight stop at Rouen on the way back.
In August 2006, Auto Express magazine named the Mk II Cavalier as the country's sixth most scrapped car of the last 30 years, with just 6,343 still in working order. By December 2009, that figure had fallen to a mere 1,289. Six years on, I'd be surprised if there were more than a couple of hundred of them.
A contributing factor was that the Mk II Cavalier was one of the most stolen cars of the 1980s and early 1990s and they were particularly popular with joy-riders because of their better-than-average performance and the fact it was easy to break into and start. Other factors included corrosion and premature camshaft wear.
Also see:

Ford Popular - click
Bedford HA Van - click
Morris Mini - click
Vauxhall Viva HC - click
Citroen GS Club - click
Morris Marina 1.3GL - click
Talbot Horizon 1.1 LS - click
Vauxhall Cavalier 1.3L - click
Datsun Stanza 1.6GL - click