Curbside Outtake: 1987 Vauxhall Cavalier 1.8i Convertible – Open Roof, Open Minds

Here’s one we never saw many off, even in their heyday. A convertible version of the Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2 (the 1981 GM J car for the UK), based on the almost as rarely seen two door saloon.

The J car first came out in Europe in late 1981, and in the UK the Vauxhall Cavalier in a range of two and four door saloons which visually most closely the North American J car four door saloon, and a five door hatchback. The two door had the same profile as the four door; the five door was a full family hatchback rather than the coupe styles more usually seen in North America. In 1983, there was an offer of an estate version, that was unusually shorter than the hatchback and used panels pressed in Australia. At the same time the two door was dropped in the UK.

Engine choices were a wide range from 1.3 litre to 1.8 litre and later 2.0 litre, and there was full range of trim options. European assembly was in Luton, for right hand drive, and Russelsheim, for left hand drive as the Opel Ascona C.

The car was a commercial success, outselling the Ford Sierra for some time and re-establishing Vauxhall as a key player in the family and fleet markets, as BL’s offers failed to ignite the UK imagination.

The convertible actually came from Germany, rather than the UK, despite the UK’s history of converting saloon cars to convertibles, from the Morris Marina and Ford Cortina to the Jaguar XJ-C and Austin Metro. The conversions were built by the now defunct Hammond and Thiede in Germany, although a small number were built by Keinath and by Voll, also in Germany.

In total 3500 cars were built with around a third of them coming into the UK as right hand drive Cavaliers, and showing a strong survival rate with around a third of them still registered.

Mechanically, the cars were fitted with 1.8 litre fuel injected engines, direct from the top of the range SRi and CD trim versions of the saloon and hatch, with an interior that was close to the sporting SRi version.

The roof was manually operated and declared by Vauxhall as easy to operate and did at least have a decent sized rear window.

Production ran from 1984 to 1988, when the J car was replaced by the GM2900 based cars, sold as the Cavalier Mk3 and Opel Vectra A. There was no convertible that time around but there was the Calibra coupe, and a small number of them appeared as convertibles albeit only on a development basis.