Cavalier and Chevette Club

A Brief History of the Club.

Welcome to the Cavalier and Chevette Club
Your friendly Vauxhall - Opel Club since 1994
© Cavalier and Chevette Club 2023 We acknowledgement to Vauxhall Motors Ltd
In late 1994, it was not quite 20 years since the Vauxhall Cavalier Mk.1 and Chevette had been launched in the UK, and a little over 10 years since the last Chevette had rolled off the production lines at Ellesmere Port. The famous Cavalier name had less than 12 months left to run before the last Mk.3 would drive out of the Luton factory. The time was held to be ripe to form a club to cater for the Cavalier and Chevette. The Club was founded under the working title of “The Vauxhall Cavalier and Chevette Club”, and members started to join up to this new venture, which originally catered only for the Vauxhall Cavalier Mk. 1, Chevette and Bedford Chevanne, with their Opel equivalents (Manta B, Ascona B and Kadett C). By 1995, the new Club had a new, snappier, word-play name – the “Vauxhall Cavette Club” (from CAValier + ChevETTE), a new semi-roundel badge and logo (based on an old Vauxhall dealership sign) and had held its very first event – a road run through the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage site in Shropshire. There was something prophetic about the first and last of these – the name was to cause the Club occasional problems down the years (of which, more later), and the Club’s road runs are one of its most popular features to this day. Following its very first meeting in April, a skeleton Club Committee was in place by mid 1995, along with the Club’s new magazine, published under the title of “Cavette Caviare”. In those days, the public’s expectations of amateur publications were lower and the magazine was an A5 booklet, typed up on an electric typewriter, printed by a local community printshop and bound in sugar paper, without illustrations. By September 1995 the Club had established itself enough to be invited to form a stand at its first static show, a joint affair held at the Oswestry Showground with the Victor 101 Club. From its earliest days, the Club punched above its weight; in 1996 it joined the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) to keep abreast of happenings on the national and international classic car scene. A little later that year it was one of the 20 founding clubs that created the Vauxhall Bedford Opel Association (VBOA). Members could now buy the first Club regalia and windscreen stickers to advertise their status. In 1998 the Club Magazine went a little more upmarket, changing to a better quality paper and for the first time featuring a regular photo cover with plates inside recording events attended - though it remained a monochrome publication.1999 was a big year for promoting the Club; not only did the spring of that year bring a multi-page spread in Classic Car Mart devoted to our activities (the Club Focus series of articles of happy memory) but the VBOA National rally at Billing saw us take the award for “Best Club Display,” presented by no less a person than the late great Gerry Marshall. Now on a roll, we went forward into the year 2000 with the Silver Jubilee events commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the launch of the Chevette and Cavalier in the UK; these were held at Ellesmere Port and Luton respectively. A presentation-cased Silver Jubilee Medallion was available to all paid-up members of the Club in this special year. By 2001, change was in the air for the Club as its growing membership and the rise in expectations of the public in line with new technology began to outstrip its original semi-informal structure and organization. A more formal Committee structure was adopted to look after its day-to-day running, along with the drafting of new Rules and Constitution. Gone, too, was the A5 format magazine, replaced by an A4 sheet-style Newsletter with a regular colour front cover – a format that is still on use today. Neither participation in events nor communication with members suffered as a result of these radical changes – in fact, 2001 saw the Club for the first time participate in the prestigious NEC International Classic Car Show. Not only that, but the Club launched its first website in this year. This was pretty cutting-edge stuff at the time; the technology was in its early stages and very few car clubs had a website in those days. As ever with radical changes to an established format, the changes did not meet with approval from the whole membership, but the majority supported the moves and went forward with the revamped Club into the new century. In 2002, the Club’s Committee held a consultation with the membership about its name. Though a clever piece of wordplay, the old name had caused more problems than it solved. Some people believed that Vauxhall had once made a car called the Cavette; others misheard and called it the “Vauxhall Chevette Club” or the “Vauxhall Corvette Club”. By popular choice of the membership, the name was changed to do exactly what it said on the tin – The Cavalier and Chevette Club. At the same time, the scope became “and related GM models”, rather than “Opel models” – the Bedford Chevanne fell outside the original scope! With the renaming came a new square badge, after the fashion of Vauxhall’s own logo in the 1970s, and the Club was set firmly on the path to become what we see today, with formal written Rules and Constitution available to all members. 2003 brought an invitation for our Club to take part in the 100th Anniversary of Vauxhall Motors Ltd., by participating in the rerun of the 1000-Mile Trial. We were very proud to do so and both our entries completed the run successfully (one also raising money for charity along the way) and the Club also assisted with marshalling the event. Away from our support for the Vauxhall Centenary, this was a year of consolidation of the reforms undertaken in 2001/2. By 2004, a more pro-active stance could be resumed, and the Club set itself up formally as an agency for car-finding for film, TV and other media work. This was the Club’s 10th Anniversary year, and for the first time a .Road Run was held in the Cheshire area. This was the forerunner of what was to become the July Jaunt/August Amble series of runs. Planning began for the major celebrations of the 30th Anniversary of the launch of the Cavalier and Chevette in the following year. In 2005, a large part of the year was given over to the 30th Anniversary celebrations, held at Ellesmere Port in May (where several other Vauxhall clubs turned up to support the event) and Luton in July. The Luton event was held at the Vauxhall Heritage Centre and followed by a run to visit Stondon Motor Museum. These major events, coupled with the design and sale of Anniversary merchandise, dominated the 2005 season. 2006 began with the Club supporting the first-ever Federation of Historic Vehicle Clubs’ “Drive It Day”. Links were strengthened with Vauxhall Motors by Club members taking one of the Plant Tours of Ellesmere Port that were then available. Also in 2006, the Cavalier that was to become known as the famous “Lou” joined our ranks. Little by little the history of this car was uncovered; it was established that this was indeed one of the Motor Show model launch stars and was featured in Vauxhall’s 1975 brochure. The oldest surviving Cavalier Mk.1, it and its owner have brought the Club splendid publicity over the years. Moving into 2007, the Club saw two changes with lasting impact on its future. Firstly – though the content remained all our own - the Newsletter setup went to a professional layout artist and printer/distributor. Previously, it had been an all-amateur affair (save for a splendid but sadly unsustainable glossy magazine in 2001/2). Front of house, the membership voted to increase the Club’s scope to include the Mk.2 and 3 front wheel drive Cavaliers. Though this move was slightly controversial at the time, it has proved invaluable since, with some fine examples of the later models joining displays and some of the Club’s most loyal members coming to the fold as a result of this expansion. 2008 was another year of consolidation following the changes to the Club’s scope, but there was no resting upon laurels – planning began for a 15th Anniversary celebration Members also got the opportunity to tour the Bentley Factory in Crewe on an official Group Visit. The big thing for the Club in 2009 was a complete relaunch of its website, more or less along the current lines. It became more comprehensive and benefited from member-generated professional guidance. The 15th year since the Club’s founding was celebrated in style with a members-only national rally held at the Griffin Trust site at Ellesmere Port, on the old airfield adjacent to the Vauxhall Motors plant, followed by a photoshoot in front of the factory itself, by kind permission of Vauxhall Motors Ltd.The Club’s main concern in 2010 was an invitation to attend the prestigious Cholmondeley Pageant of Power, a sure sign of being recognised on the classic scene. A return visit to the Bentley factory took place in amongst a host of other events and road runs up and down the country. 2011 brought a new dimension to the Club’s structure, in that a President was appointed. The Constitution had always allowed for this non-executive role, but the right person to fill it had been elusive. By a special stroke of good fortune, the Club’s path was crossed by Rodney Nicholls, a man with a remarkable and long career at Vauxhall Motors, including serving in the Styling Team of Wayne Cherry (the designer of the Cavalier M.1 and Chevette). Rodney Nicholls also designed the 1975 Motor Show Stand for Vauxhall, where the newly-launched Cavalier Mk.1 was displayed We were overjoyed that this distinguished man agreed to become our Club President and to share some of his knowledge of Vauxhall’s history with us. 2011 proved an interesting year for the Club in other ways, too, with the 30th Anniversary of the launch of the Cavalier Mk.2 being celebrated, leading to much useful publicity in the classic media. By comparison, 2012 was a quiet year for events, partly due to the appalling weather that caused the abandonment of many shows through the season, including the VBOA National Rally at Billing – a sad loss of the special planned 30th Anniversary of the National Rally. On the home front, though, the Club went from strength to strength. Not only was the first “Joint Membership” category in its history made available, but another stride was made in IT communication, with a Members-Only Forum appearing, linked to the Club’s ever-expanding website. There was an excellent show season for weather in 2013, and the Club took part in a large number of events and some media photo-shoots. This was also the 25th anniversary of the launch of the youngest Club model, the Cavalier Mk.3. As well as the outdoor events where this was promoted, the grand finale of the “Mk.3 25th” was the appearance of one of the earliest surviving cars at the NEC Classic Car Show. The car was still in its photographic beige paint, (as used in monochrome Vauxhall promotional pictures) and it was backed by a reconstructed Vauxhall display stand. Behind the scenes, the Club began winding itself up to plan for the major events for the 40th Cavalier/Chevette Anniversary that would start in 2015.2014 brought fresh initiatives and opened new fields for the Club. Already headed by our President with his notable Vauxhall background, we were fantastically lucky in securing an equally distinguished Vice-President, Richard Angus. This gentleman was heavily involved in Vauxhall’s Marketing/Merchandising from the early 1970s through to 1995, so spanning the whole of our UK model range. The Club also set up a formal and official Valuation Service for its cars and began to explore the payment of membership fees by Paypal. The first moves were made towards making our Newsletter available to members electronically as well as by paper copy. Of course, while all this was going on, planning was feverishly underway for the big anniversary events of the following year. The big news of 2015 was of course the 40th Anniversary of the launch of the Cavalier and Chevette in 1975. This was celebrated with specific Club events with static displays at Luton (Vauxhall Heritage Centre) and Ellesmere Port (National Waterways Museum, close to the factory). Enormous goodwill and publicity was generated by the commemorative Durness to Dover Drive (known as the Ruby Run, it being the Ruby Anniversary), going from extreme north west to extreme south-east drivable points of mainland Britain. There was also a road run and display at Caernarfon Castle (initial film publicity material for the Cavalier Mk.1 was shot there). A permanent token of the Anniversary was produced, in the shape of an enamelled cast plaque. In line with the amount of media attention generated by the anniversary events, the Club’s officers for the first time included the role of Publicity and Media. 2016 opened on a great note with the Club winning the National Car Club Awards “Outstanding Website of the Year”. The trophy will be held in perpetuity. Still on the IT theme, we launched a Club Twitter Feed and a Youtube channel, while membership payment by Paypal became a reality. For the first time, a closed (Members only) Facebook account was available. Back in anniversary mode, we saw the 35th anniversary of the launch of the Cavalier Mk.2, with consequent media coverage and received another mention in the FBHVC Newsletter for the innovative idea of borrowing the Vauxhall Heritage Centre Cavalier Mk.2 to join up with the former Heritage Centre car that was then in the ownership of a Club member. Seeking to secure the future of the Club and its cars, a Youth Recruitment initiative was set in motion. 2017, and the future starts here. So far, the Club has changed and evolved to meet every new challenge of the emerging IT scene, Government directives and flux in the world of classic motoring. Where next? Who can say, but we have never yet failed to meet challenges head on and to lead the way in some fields. Long may it continue!