The Cohort gives us another gem, courtesy of Corey Behrens. When did you last see a Vauxhall Cavalier Sports Hatch on the road?
I recently shared a 1972 Ford Capri 1600GT to CC. The Capri was Ford’s secret weapon – well, perhaps not secret but it was something that was not really challenged by the key competitors, especially in the UK market. The effect of the added glitz, even glamour, to the rest of the Ford range should not be underestimated, yet BL, Chrysler and Vauxhall had nothing to offer there. Ford let the market……do the maths.
Until 1975. Then Vauxhall brought us the first Cavalier. Nothing more or less than an Opel Ascona B with a new front clip and positive attitude to teaching Ford a lesson, it was an instant success for Vauxhall in the UK. In business terms, exactly what the Doctor ordered. The following Cavalier Mk 2 from 1981 (a J car) was soon selling 130,000 a year in the UK, and the Ford Cortina was being genuinely challenged in the market for the first time for over 10 years.
Vauxhall and Opel were not content with just a saloon. The earlier Manta A from 1968 to 1975 had sold around 40% as many as copies as the Ascona A, so another Manta was obvious. This time, there would two styles of Manta – a two door coupe from 1975 and, from late 1978, the Sports Hatch.
The concept was straightforward and aimed directly at the hatchback Capri II. The Sports Hatch concept was something Vauxhall had been working since the early 1970s, as part of an aborted programme to develop a mid size, Vauxhall specific product, and the Vauxhall styled rear was blended very successfully onto the Opel front end. These shots are from 1974, within Vauxhall, not Opel.
Mechanically, it was the same as the Coupe, so 4 cylinder 1.6, 1.9 and 2.0 engines, rear drive, with a well tied down rear suspension using coils and trailing arms rather than the leaf springs of the by then ageing Capri.
The rest, as they say, is history. Vauxhall had a car with such brochure and showroom appeal that “they go out as soon as they come in”. This appeal was backed up by ability. Autocar called it “Just plain nice”, CAR identified it as knocking the Capri off its perch and being well worth £162 (3.5%) extra. List price in late 1978 was £4393, around £25,000 now.
Records show fewer than 100 Sports Hatches surviving in the UK. Vauxhall retreated from the continental Europe market as the cars became common with Opel and this is likely to one of the last Vauxhalls sold in Europe. So for Corey to see this one in Amsterdam, albeit missing a rear wiper and with an aftermarket exhaust, is quite a find.
Well worth that £162.