It was produced for 20 years in three generations
You still might find it hard to believe that Vauxhall is celebrating 40 years since the Cavalier was launched.
The saloon is the fifth most popular car ever sold in the UK, with more than 1.8 million examples of the three different iterations sold between 1975 and 1995. The rear-wheel-drive Cavalier L offered a new level of refinement in a new, medium-sized car and was available as a two-door and four-door saloon.
It offered drivers of the time all of the essentials: a heated rear window, two-speed wipers with electric speed wash, reversing lights, hazard warning flashes and fascia warning lights – all surrounded by soft carpeting.
On the outside, owners could appreciate the Cavalier L’s aerodynamic styling, while experiencing its 1.6-litre engine and four-speed manual gearbox (with the option of an automatic), all housed on a 99-inch smooth wheel base with advanced front suspension.
One step above the Cavalier L base model was the GL, which offered all of the luxury and comfort of the L and more – seats were upholstered in plush velour and a wall-to-wall, rich tufted carpet was the foundation of its attractive interior.
Some six years later and the MKII incarnation was created, this time in front-wheel-drive. It offered class-leading levels of fuel economy and performance, which had previously been unthinkable for this sector of car.
It was Britain's second best-selling car in 1984 and 1985 and, at its peak, came with the choice of 1.3 or 1.6L engines derived from the smaller Vauxhall Astra. There were also 1.8-litre and two-litre versions, together with a diesel. Trim levels included base, L, GL, SR, SRi, CDi, convertible and estate. An interesting, fashion-themed quirk of the CD trim of the MKII version was door pockets that doubled-up as detachable handbags.
In 1988, the third and final version came to market, available either as a front-wheel or four-wheel drive. The top model in range was the turbo; there was also a V6 version too, which was popular with police forces at the time. The MKIII version remained in production until 1995, when, after 20 years on sale in the UK, order banks closed for good. It was replaced by the Vectra in 1996.
In the British Touring Car Championship from 1990 to 1995, the Cavalier scored a manufacturer’s win in 1992 and again in 1995. It was during this latter year when BTCC legend John Cleland also won the driver’s title.