Last sum­mer, a Nova Sport set the in­ter­net alight when it ap­peared on eBay with a fi­nal sale price of sixty-six grand. You’re look­ing at the very same per­for­mance Vauxhall…

Performance Vauxhall - - CONTENTS - WORDS Dan Furr PHO­TOS Matt Woods

Last sum­mer, a Nova Sport set the in­ter­net alight when it ap­peared on eBay with a fi­nal sale price of sixty-six grand. Meet the very same per­for­mance Vauxhall.

Ev­ery now and again, a video, im­age or ral­ly­ing cry pub­lished on the in­ter­net goes vi­ral in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion. A gazil­lion shares across mul­ti­ple so­cial me­dia plat­forms turn what­ever’s be­ing dis­trib­uted into an on­line sen­sa­tion. The Ice Bucket Chal­lenge, pic­tures of Rene Zell­weger’s new face, The Fap­pen­ing. They’ve all been the sub­ject of mass hys­te­ria re­sult­ing in huge amounts of traf­fic to the web­sites re­spon­si­ble for the posts be­ing shared. Even Kim Kar­dashian’s butt cheeks were claimed to have bro­ken the in­ter­net af­ter they were spread far and wide across dig­i­tal me­dia. Nice.

Or­di­nar­ily, eBay list­ings get less at­ten­tion. Sure, mates with shared in­ter­ests might point you in the di­rec­tion of a wildly priced car or su­per-rare au­to­mo­tive com­po­nen­try be­ing of­fered for sale to the high­est bid­der, but in truth, the vast ma­jor­ity of nar­row-in­ter­est auc­tions go un­no­ticed out­side of the rel­a­tively small group of like­minded en­thu­si­asts whose cu­rios­ity has been aroused. That is, of course, un­less the item be­ing listed is a Nova Sport with bids hurtling to­wards the £66,000 mark! Yep, you’re look­ing at that Sport.

Ru­mour sur­round­ing the true na­ture of the auc­tion ran rife while it was live, with many spec­u­lat­ing the Nova’s owner, Jamie Gall, was us­ing the list­ing as a pub­lic­ity stunt to help pro­mote his clas­sic car hire busi­ness. Oth­ers sug­gested the rapidly ris­ing bids were be­ing gen­er­ated by


mis­chief mak­ers who wanted to cause trou­ble for Jamie by see­ing how far they could push the fi­nal sale price. We may never know the full truth (in­for­ma­tion was less than forth­com­ing when we at­tempted to find out!), but one thing’s for cer­tain: dur­ing its time ad­ver­tised on eBay, the Vauxhall we’ve pre­sented on these pages gen­er­ated masses of on­line chat­ter, not to men­tion plenty of col­umn inches in some of the na­tion’s big­gest mo­tor­ing mag­a­zines.


While you’ll un­doubt­edly re­call the auc­tion and the ex­cite­ment it gar­nered, what you might not be aware of is the fact this wasn’t the first time Jamie ad­ver­tised the ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cial for sale. “I first spot­ted it as part of a group of cars he was of­fer­ing as a job lot, which in­cluded a 1983 Es­cort RS1600i and a low mileage 1991 Fi­esta RS Turbo,” re­calls Richard Beel, joint owner of spe­cial­ist ve­hi­cle sales firm, Ap­pre­ci­at­ing Clas­sics. “I was in­ter­ested, but Jamie lives in the far reaches of the Scot­tish High­lands. Af­ter much de­lib­er­a­tion, I de­cided it was too far to travel from my base in Nor­folk, es­pe­cially when I was lack­ing the full de­tails of each car be­ing ad­ver­tised.”

Ap­pre­ci­at­ing Clas­sics has forged an en­vi­able rep­u­ta­tion as one of the ‘go to’ sup­pli­ers of im­mac­u­late retro rides with spe­cial prove­nance and/or few miles cov­ered. The busi­ness started with the sale of a tidy Mk1 Golf GTi ex­actly five years ago, but Richard’s per­sonal his­tory of own­ing per­for­mance Vaux­halls was al­ways go­ing to in­flu­ence his de­ci­sion to seek out some of the very best old-school Griffins in ex­is­tence.

“My first car was a Manta GT/E,” he smiles. “I bought it be­fore I’d passed my driv­ing test. I was deter­mined to treat the car as a rolling restora­tion, but the cost of in­surance was pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive. I was sad to be forced into sell­ing such a great mo­tor, but the Mk3 As­tra GSi I bought to re­place it soft­ened the blow!”

He was able to make up for his ear­lier loss by pur­chas­ing a Manta 400 as an Ap­pre­ci­at­ing Clas­sics stock item not long af­ter the busi­ness was es­tab­lished. More re­cently,

a six­teen-valve Mk2 As­tra GTE with only 9k miles on the clock, a mint Mk3 Cava­lier GSi2000 and a Cava­lier Turbo have passed through his com­pany’s work­shop, which houses an on­go­ing Lo­tus Carl­ton restora­tion project. His Vaux­hal­llov­ing cre­den­tials are with­out doubt, but how did the Nova Sport he’d de­cided to put to the back of his mind end up land­ing on his doorstep?

look around

“An Ap­pre­ci­at­ing Clas­sics cus­tomer asked me to put his name down for the Lo­tus Carl­ton,” he ex­plains. “Dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions, the same client ex­pressed a de­sire to own a Nova Sport. I took time out to in­spect a cou­ple of ex­am­ples of the model on his be­half, but the cars I viewed failed to match the high stan­dard of cos­metic and me­chan­i­cal con­di­tion of a Nova I’d be happy to in­vest my own money in, let alone the cash of a val­ued cus­tomer! A few months later, a mate got in touch to tell me he’d bought a pris­tine Nova Sport and a low mileage Fi­esta RS Turbo from the same seller. I im­me­di­ately re­alised he was talk­ing about Jamie’s cars!”

Sure enough, the in­fa­mous Nova had found a new home. With the bit be­tween his teeth, it didn’t take long for Richard to ac­quire the great Grif­fin for his Lo­tus-lov­ing cus­tomer.

Com­pletely re­stored at a cost of more than twenty grand (“the en­gine work alone was £3,800”) in 2004, the white won­der has cov­ered just 256 miles since that time. “It had only been driven 46k miles prior to the work be­ing car­ried out,” con­firms Richard. “Even so, the shell was sub­jected to an in-depth restora­tion. A new tail­gate, gen­uine new front wings, those iconic body graph­ics and pretty much ev­ery other new gen­uine part that could be bought was ac­quired for the project. It was an amaz­ingly ex­haus­tive job.”

As you’d ex­pect from such a thor­ough restora­tion, all of the car’s chas­sis and me­chan­i­cal equip­ment has been over­hauled. There are some de­vi­a­tions from stan­dard spec­i­fi­ca­tion – most no­tably the fif­teen-inch Rev­o­lu­tion RFX fivespokes and Italvolanti Imola steer­ing wheel – but Richard as­sures us the orig­i­nal parts were sup­plied with the car in case its new owner wants to re­vert back to stock trim. In de­fence of the ap­point­ment of bright white rally rims, they hint at the Sport’s ori­gins as a ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cial built to en­able Vauxhall to com­pete in mo­tor­sport more ef­fec­tively against op­po­si­tion field­ing in­creas­ingly po­tent four-wheeled weaponry.

In the early 1980s, Vauxhall was ral­ly­ing the Nova SR (as cam­paigned


by hero driver, Harry Hockly), but it wasn’t the most pow­er­ful car be­ing asked to de­liver off-road vic­tory. For­tu­nately, reg­u­la­tions stated that an evo­lu­tion model could be used pro­vid­ing a min­i­mum of 500 units were made avail­able for pur­chase to the pub­lic. Con­se­quently, un­der the guid­ance of Vauxhall ar­chiv­ist, An­drew Duer­den (then work­ing for Vauxhall’s mo­tor­sport di­vi­sion), the Nova Sport project took shape.

Steve Thomp­son Cars (one of the last Opel deal­ers in Bri­tain), We­ber UK, Irm­scher, Ashley Ex­hausts and ENEM Cams of Swe­den were called upon to pro­vide parts and ex­per­tise for the project. The re­sult­ing Sport Pack boosted the out­put of the SR’s 1.3-litre lump from 75bhp

to a 93bhp, which might not sound much to­day, but the Irm­scher air box, Ashley si­lencer (painted red), high-pro­file camshaft, twin 40mm DCOE car­bu­ret­tors, up­dated throt­tle ca­ble and mod­i­fied fluid trans­fer hoses helped the Sport to reach 60mph from a stand­ing start a full sec­ond quicker than fu­elin­jected 1.6-litre Nova GTE, a car re­leased more than four years later!

There were vented brakes bor­rowed from the Mk2 As­tra GTE and a five-speed trans­mis­sion too. This was a big deal at a time when al­most ev­ery car on the road was mak­ing use of a cog cruncher with only four for­ward gears.

The Sport was more than just an ex­er­cise in Vauxhall scor­ing brag­ging rights over ri­val man­u­fac­tur­ers on dirt tracks. Be it ral­ly­ing or saloon car rac­ing, his­tory had proved that a win on Sun­day de­liv­ered show­room sales on Mon­day. In other words, Vauxhall knew the Nova’s dom­i­nance in mo­tor­sport would shift loads of prod­uct through main deal­ers, and that’s ex­actly what hap­pened; Harry Hockly’s ca­reer was given a real boost by the Sport, a Nova he used to win the Group A Bri­tish Open Rally Cham­pi­onship’s 1300cc class three times, re­sults en­sur­ing new No­vas sold like hot cakes. World Rally Cham­pi­onship leg­end, Colin McRae, and his brother, Alis­tair, also ben­e­fit­ted from the Sport’s bril­liant­for-the-time per­for­mance, as did James Kaye, the Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship vet­eran who used the Sport to great ef­fect at the cir­cuit in the early part his ca­reer. Job done.

mild to wild

The ho­molo­gated Sport shells were put to­gether at Opel’s Span­ish assem­bly plant and shipped to the UK. 3M-pro­duced ex­te­rior graph­ics were ap­plied shortly af­ter each car’s ar­rival in Blighty, while main deal­ers were sup­plied with the box of parts nec­es­sary to fin­ish each Nova to full Sport spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

The eBay star pic­tured here was com­pleted and reg­is­tered in Novem­ber 1985. We’re sure you’ll agree, it looks fac­tory fresh, a con­di­tion most Nova Sports are be­ing re­turned to fol­low­ing re­newed in­ter­est in the model af­ter its thir­ti­eth an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions in 2015 For­tu­nately, re­gard­less of its ex­quis­ite con­di­tion, this par­tic­u­lar Sport isn’t go­ing to be re­tired from the road. “While it hasn’t cov­ered much ground since its restora­tion four­teen years ago, the new owner in­tends to travel plenty of miles in the car,” re­veals Richard.

In an age when many clas­sics are be­ing squir­reled away as in­vest­ments only likely to see light un­der the il­lu­mi­na­tion of an auc­tion room, it’s great to hear this nifty Nova will be en­joyed by an en­thu­si­ast fol­low­ing its star turn across t’in­ter­net. And even if we’ll never find out the true story be­hind those strato­spheric bids, we can be thank­ful they helped to draw wel­come at­ten­tion to one of the most im­por­tant per­for­mance Vaux­halls in the man­u­fac­turer’s his­tory.

Twin We­bers are at­tached to Irm­scher in­let and re­place bor­ing sin­gle pieburg carb

Irm­scher good­ies in­di­cate this is no or­di­nary nova

Body script is very much of its time, but still looks ace to­day

minty fresh in­te­rior fea­tures flat door cards and dash blank­ing in­serts

Ev­ery part of the car is ut­terly spot­less

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