Manufacturers are getting increasingly switched on when it comes to their heritage. This is good, because it means that heritage collections are becoming the norm, and with them, a whole world of wonderful, vibrant history becomes available. A case in point would be the unassuming, beige tin-roofed building hiding at the back of Vauxhall’s offices in Luton. Other than the delightfully period Vauxhall signage, there’s really nothing to make it stand out. Open the doors though, and it’s a different matter altogether.
But before we get to the building’s innards, it’s worth having a scout around the car park. At first, it just looks like a collection of Vauxhalls. Look closer though, and the cars hold more intrigue. There’s the obvious in the form of the BTCC Vectra clone, and then there is the subtle, in the form of the red Astra TechLines. One auto, one manual. Both filled with buckets seats and roll cages. Yep, they’re the ‘reasonably priced cars’ of Top Gear fame. Nice.
Back to those doors. Walk through them and you’re greeted with a pretty special sight. The collection boasts a 75-strong gathering a Vauxhall’s finest, with cars dating back to the 1900s through to more modern, familiar tin. And every car is pretty much immaculate. Maintained by Andy Boddy, Senior Vehicle Restorer and Terry Forder, the fleet wants for nothing, and it shows.
You see, this is a working fleet. These cars are, for the best part, MOTd, taxed and insured. They’re at the disposal of journalists, so that our favourite magazines or websites may stay topped up with reminders of where Vauxhall comes from. These cars aren’t pampered and never driven. They have to earn their place in the collection, as the Lotus Carlton so ably demonstrated when we borrowed it for a Petrolicious article.
Everywhere you look there is something to catch your eye. The Mk1 and Mk2 Astra GTEs grabbed our attention, especially the latter as we had, up until this point, no idea what a nice one looked like. We’ve only owned dilapidated heaps. Though there’s a Calibra as well, and ours wasn’t too bad. It was nowhere near as nice as Vauxhall’s V6 example, mind. The collection’s Zafira GSi was also mint, and free of the council estate modifications you normally see them with.
Elsewhere there are Victors, Veloxes, Cavaliers, Novas and much, much more. there are even concept cars – the XVR and SRV are both there, tucked away in the corner. You don’t need to be a die hard Vauxhall fan to love it here. If you like cars, you’ll be in awe. There’s something to satisfy every automotive want.
But it’s not just the cars that excite, there’s all the associated gubbins, too. Like the BTCC trophies, the unused Frontera decals, the concept models, the signage, the posters, the… well, you get the idea.
It’s a fascinating place, and one that Vauxhall clearly takes a lot of pride in. These cars aren’t old relics of a time now gone, they celebrated icons from a diverse and varied automotive offering. It’s lovely that they’re being preserved, and even lovelier that they can all still be driven.
We’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking, after all, each one is worth a thousand words, right?