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…
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
“I FIRST SPOTTED THE CAR AS PART OF A JOB LOT, WHICH INCLUDED AN ESCORT RS1600I AND A FIESTA RS TURBO”
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?
“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
“THE NEW OWNE R INTEND S TO COVER PLENT Y OF MILES IN THE CAR”
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