Cavalier Mk2 Saloon & Hatchback

1981 to 1988
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Your friendly Vauxhall - Opel Club since 1994
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The design of the Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2 started in 1977 as part of GM’s J-Car platform which was to be used worldwide. GM decided at board level it was to be designed with as many interchangeable parts as possible. There were two competing designs the Cavalier Mk2 design that made production which was designed by the Opel Styling Department headed by Henry Haga and a design by the Vauxhall Styling Department headed by Wayne Cherry. The UK design looks similar to the German one from the side but had a completely different front styled similar to the Mk1 Carlton, a wooden buck was made of the UK design. Both designs were put to General Motors who decided they wanted to go with the German Design. Once the German design had been chosen, two design teams were used meaning the platform was a really true world car, the teams were the GM Tech Centre in Detroit and Opel in Germany. The first car was driven of the production line at Luton on 17th August 1981. The dealer launch was at a hotel called the Sheraton Skyline Hotel at London Heathrow Airport. A launch to the public was on the 23rd September 1981. The Mk2 Cavalier was the first major model to be announced since Vauxhall and Opel’s UK marketing operating were full merged. All dealers became Vauxhall-Opel with ‘Vauxhall-Opel better by design’ used as the advertising slogan at the time. The only Opel models left for sale in the UK were the Opel Manta Coupe and Hatch and the Opel Monza/Senator. Launch events were held in dealerships all over the country and varied from wine and cheese parties to some highly imaginative events. Most launches were in the evening or at lunch time, but one enterprising dealer held a Champaign breakfast at 8am in the morning with Bucks Fizz for all the visitors. The car launched with 15 different versions (saloon 2 and 4 door and 5 door hatch back). With two engines 1.3s and 1.6s and five different trim levels Base, L, GL, GLS and SR. All cars other than the SR were assembled (not manufactured) at Luton. The SR being produced at Antwerepe. Compared to the Mk1 Cavalier the Mk2 Saloon was 3 inches shorter and the hatchback is 5 inches shorter. However, the car has much more space than the Mk1 Cavalier due to the face it has a transverse engine with front wheel drive. In its first year the Mk2 Cavalier won Family Car of the Year in What Car? Magazine came top of its Class in Car Magazines Top Ten Awards and came top in class in Tow Car of the Year Completion organized by Caravan International. Australian build Estate was available from 1983 but was not that popular. The Mk2 Cavalier was Britain's second best selling car (behind the Ford Escort) in 1984 and 1985.While for 1983 a 1.8 L engine was launched, which had electronic fuel injection. A diesel 1.6 L was added about the same time, while the 1.8 L was supplemented by a 2.0 L in late 1986. Family I and II engines initially with complex Varajet II Carburettor, injection coming in 1985 with 1.8/115bhp models. The car was face lifted in 1985 with a new chip-cutter style grille, modified rear lamp clusters, new steering wheels, upgraded equipment levels, new upholstery options and updated instrument graphics. Due to poor sales the 2door model was dropped around this time. MacPherson strut front suspension with torsion beam at the rear meant good handling, with only the well-equipped CDi, SRI 130 and the Special Cavalier Calibre (only 500 produced) getting power steering as standard. The car was face lifted again in 1987 which saw the introduction of a smoother looking grille, new rear lamp clusters, and a much wider range of trim levels for the 1.8 engine. Also, around this time the LX/LXi was introduced, this was in response to Ford introduction the Sierra LX. Also the range topping SRi 130 was introduced around this time with the 2.0 130bhp Family II engine with a 0-60mph time of 8 seconds. Production of left-hand drive cars also commended at Luton and cars were exported to Europe badged as Opel’s which was a commitment to the factory. And proof that UK built cars could be as well made as Belgium and German ones. By 1987/88 the completion had caught up, if not overtaken the Mk2 Cavalier. However, all was not lost as the Mk3 Cavalier was just around the corner
Mr Beicker driving the first all-new Cavalier off the production line in AC Block at the Luton Plant
Some of the Dealer Launches and Scottish Motor Show launch. Note the Cavalier v Cortina Film is mentioned.
The Cavalier Mk2 Drive Off on 17th September 1981.
Early Clay models of the Cavalier Mk2.
Vauxhall Chairman and Managing Director driving the first Opel Ascona C built at Luton off the production line 13/01/87.
Various design stages of the Cavalier Mk2.
Some of the 1987 Facelift Brochure.