We take a close look at one of the most bonkers Vauxhalls in the UK, a Zafira VXR with room for a large family and enough power to make Porsche owners blush!
The Zafira VXR perhaps represents the high water mark of Vauxhall’s early 2000’s lunacy, a point in time where this traditionally ultraconservative, highly controlled (from the bigwigs over at GM HQ in Detroit) company decided, ‘sod it, let’s VXR every model in our range!’ The GSi badged model that preceded it certainly made headlines at launch and Vauxhall evidently relished being able to claim they sold the world’s most powerful people carrier, but it’s the less well known VXR model that came next that truly took things to another level. Taking the running gear from the Astra VXR and flinging it at the bodyshell of the all-new Zafira really shouldn’t have worked, particularly as buying one new was a serious financial investment, but the results were spectacular – 240bhp is impressive enough today, back in 2005 it must’ve seemed certifiable!
If there’s one thing we know and love about the UK’s Vauxhall scene it’s the fact that everyone involved can’t leave well enough alone, and if it came with a Griffin badge on the front, chances are it’ll have been tweaked and tuned at some point. The Zafira VXR was no different, and within months a number of tuners were offering re-map packages, helped along thanks to the car’s shared VXR powerplant. The example we have here is the culmination of all this; a 500bhp+ monster of a people carrier, a car that’s every bit as capable of blasting down the Autobahn at threefigure speeds as it is hauling a family to the seaside. Owned and built by Ian Waterfield over the course of two intensive years it can stake a claim to being among the most powerful Zafiras in the UK, being denied the top-spot by the car of friend and fellow Vauxhall nut, Aaron McCann.
“I was looking at buying an Audi Q7 at the time, something I could use to transport the family in, ”Ian recalls. “By the time I got back to the dealer it’d sold though, so I decided to have a look at the Vauxhall. It wasn’t my first choice, but I quickly fell for it.”
A previous history of Vauxhall ownership had left Ian with an impressive stock of Z20LET and LEH parts, all of which were temptingly gathering dust in his workshop. It was simply too much to resist, and within weeks the modifications started to flow – mere months after signing his name on the V5, Ian had a Stage 3 Zafira VXR good for 304bhp. It’s here that the issues began to arise, firstly when the turbo seals decided they didn’t fancy sealing anymore, eventually rendering the OE K04 fit for the scrap heap. The next logical step up was a Garrett, Ian eventually selecting the ever popular GTX3071R and pairing it with a Tial 44mm external wastegate and MOK (Michael O’Keefe) tubular manifold.