TECH ASTRA COUPE 888

Performance Vauxhall - - ASTRA ESTATE - WORDS Dan Wil­liamson PHO­TOS Chris Wall­bank

When Vaux­hall de­cided to cel­e­brate suc­cess in the Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship (BTCC), the re­sult was some­thing re­mark­able. Rather than the reg­u­lar prac­tice of plac­ing ad­verts in tabloids and toss­ing tro­phies into cab­i­nets, Vaux­hall opted to use its 2001 BTCC crown as an ex­cuse to build a proper mo­tor­sport in­spired road car – com­plete with com­pe­ti­tion-bred parts fit­ted by gen­uine race me­chan­ics. It was called the Astra Coupe 888.

De­vel­oped dur­ing 2001 by Vaux­hall along­side its works BTCC team Triple Eight Race En­gi­neer­ing, the Astra Coupe 888 was a very lim­ited edi­tion based on the ex­ist­ing Coupe Turbo.

An out­line brief – in­clud­ing al­low­able me­chan­i­cal mod­i­fi­ca­tions and price tag – was planned by Vaux­hall, and draw­ings were penned by French artist Stefan Val­dant. The Triple Eight crew were then told to turn the pa­per­work into metal.

A pro­to­type was put to­gether for 5,000 miles of test­ing com­po­nents on

PER­FOR­MANCE VAUX­HALL road and track –where rac­ing driver Mark Tice­hurst tweaked the set­tings. Triple Eight en­gi­neered a scaled-down ver­sion of the BTCC bodykit (in­clud­ing front split­ter, whee­larches, skirts and wing), wind tun­nel-checked for aero­dy­nam­ics – achiev­ing a 0.09 re­duc­tion in rear lift and front-end drop to zero. Mean­while, a spec­i­fi­ca­tion was de­vised, in­cor­po­rat­ing qual­ity kit from brands found on real BTCC ma­chines.

Un­der the whee­larches sat a set of an­thracite 8x17in OZ al­loys run­ning 35 mm off­set, wrapped in spe­cially se­lected 235/40x17 Miche­lin Pi­lot Sport tyres. They were sus­pended from Triple Eight dampers and Eibach low­er­ing springs. Be­tween the stan­dard Turbo brake calipers were spe­cial Ferodo pads wear­ing 888 lo­gos. Un­der the Coupe 888’s bon­net was a stan­dard Z20LET, push­ing out 189bhp that peaked at 152mph and was ca­pa­ble of 60 mph in seven sec­onds. There was a Ra­mair panel fil­ter in­side a der­e­stricted air­box and Mill­tek ex­haust back box with an 888 tailpipe. How­ever, the ma­jor mod­i­fi­ca­tions thought up by Triple Eight were re­jected by Vaux­hall. The need for type ap­proval and a three year fac­tory war­ranty meant a power hike was im­prac­ti­cal. The sturdy, reg­u­lar F23 five-speed trans­mis­sion re­mained in place, im­proved with a quick-shift mech­a­nism.

In­side the Astra Coupe 888 was al­most as dra­matic as its ex­te­rior, boast­ing racy Sparco front seats in blue and black Al­can­tara, 888 steer­ing wheel and ped­als, blue cen­tre con­sole and 888 gear­knob. In Jan­uary 2002 the first Coupe 888s hit the show­rooms, priced at a pre­mium above the Coupe Turbo. Pro­duc­tion con­tin­ued for sev­eral months at Triple Eight’s Sil­ver­stone premises along­side the BTCC ma­chines.

All 888s were built from com­plete, fac­tory-fresh Coupe Tur­bos shipped there from Ber­tone. All were painted Europa Blue – a main­stream Vaux­hall shade cho­sen over the in-your-face red that was orig­i­nally planned. A to­tal of 100 Coupe 888s were made, al­though

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