From a Calibra to a cavalier, people from all walks of life love their vauxhalls. Meet some of them…
On Scottish driving culture and the beauty of the Vauxhall Calibra
I bought my first Vauxhall Calibra to treat myself on my 30th birthday in March 2001. What attracted me first was its shape. The earlier 8-valve models were the most aerodynamic cars at the time, because they had steel wheels. It has been copied a lot now, but at the time it was the only one with that shape. In my opinion it was a bit ahead of itself.
The car’s designer Wayne Cherry really went for the wow factor. It has features that the Vauxhall Cavalier, for example, just didn’t – electric front windows and sunroof, leather interior, heated seats and impact protection. People might take these for granted now but the Calibra was the first mass-market car to have all those sort of features as standard. When you park up at car events, everyone looks at the Calibra. It’s stunning, and I think it will soon be defined as a classic car.
I was the secretary of Club Calibra and, living in Rosyth, Fife, I also organised drives in Scotland – up the coasts and across the Highlands, some more than a thousand miles a journey. I think there’s a distinct car culture here where we think nothing of jumping into the car and driving, say, from where I live to Glasgow and back, a round trip of 84 miles, for a car meet or something. Or just going for a drive with some music and enjoying the scenery.
Down south, if you suggested a meet, they’d say, “That’s 30 miles away, I’m not doing that!” I used to think, why do you have this car if it’s not to drive it?
On classic cars and a D-type Vauxhall
My granddad, Mike Pierce, has been dealing in cars for around 50 years now. Turn-of-the-century cars are his passion. He used to race when he was younger but that all changed when he part-exchanged his rally car for an old Rolls-Royce. He rebuilt it bit by bit and he’s not looked back since.
He and my Nan look after me and my sister, and I suppose my love of classic cars does come from him. I saw him working on them and got involved. Now we restore cars together and go to all sorts of motor events.
The D-type Vauxhall is the one that he’s keeping for me to own, once I’m old enough to get a licence. They were produced from around 1918 to 1925 as a luxury grand tourer. They cost £1,800 at the time, which was very expensive; you could have bought a house for that!
They were fast cars for their day. The sportier version of the D-type, called the 30-98, was the first car to do 100mph round Brooklands race track in Weybridge, Surrey, and in a previous life, ours was raced regularly.
Going out on the road in the D-type, being surrounded by modern cars, is exciting. Even though it’s from 1922, it can still keep up with traffic at around 50mph. They only have rear-wheel and transmission brakes, so it can feel a bit hairy when you get up to speed!
I really enjoy going out in the Vauxhall, but it’s certainly different to driving a modern car; it feels like you need six hands!
Every journey in the Vauxhall is memorable; it’s such a unique car to be in. It’s nice to think that it was built in Luton, just down the road from where we live.
On how the vauxhall cavalier captured the spirit of his generation of young techno-pioneers in the 1980s
It was the early 1980s. I had recently graduated in electronic engineering, and I was just beginning a job as a customer service engineer with Nixdorf Computers. I was excited enough by that, but then came the icing on the cake; I got a company car, and it was a Vauxhall Cavalier hatchback, white with brown trim. Everyone wanted a Cavalier as their company car; the engine was good, the interior solid and modern like a cockpit, and the look was fantastic. They had a sleek, efficient futuristic look that seemed perfect for my generation; we were excited by computers and technology, by the idea of working hard and getting things done, by the future itself, and the Cavalier was in keeping with that. It made 1970’s cars look dated.
With Nixdorf computers, I was working on things such as the first ATM machines and the first barcode scanners, and I was driving around England installing and servicing this new electronic technology that didn’t always work so reliably in those days. I had to carry all the equipment in the car, as well as the mobile phone the company gave me, which was the size of a sewing machine. I’d be suited and booted – in those days being an electronic engineer was quite glamorous and you’d be expected to be smartly dressed – and the phone and the car helped to make an impression. I remember once being in the offices of a fashion magazine we serviced, and being asked my opinions on a fashion shoot they were doing. I suspect fashion people wouldn’t ask the IT guys now.
I had another Cavalier, a newer model, when I went to work for the BBC in 1989, and that was great too. When I look back, I feel very fondly towards them; I really feel like I understood the spirit of that car.