LEAD, DON’T FOL­LOW!

Stuffed full of rare parts and per­for­mance up­grades, the first 2.6-litre Vec­tra B GSi has a pleas­ing past and a fan­tas­tic fu­ture…

Performance Vauxhall - - CONTENTS -

Stuffed full of rare parts and per­for­mance up­grades, the first 2.6-litre Vec­tra B GSi has a pleas­ing past and a fan­tas­tic fu­ture.

t’s Septem­ber 2000. Tech­ni­cians at renowned com­pe­ti­tion car tuner, Mo­tor­sport De­vel­op­ments (MSD), are ap­ply­ing fi­nal tweaks to a new breed of Vec­tra B GSi. Equipped with a 2.6-litre ver­sion of its pre­de­ces­sor’s small­erdis­place­ment V6, the first ex­am­ple of Vaux­hall’s new sports ma­chine rolls off the pro­duc­tion line in the form of a black sa­loon. Lead­ing the charge to the open road, the car is fit­ted with ev­ery op­tion, in­clud­ing sun­roof and a rare full-colour in­for­ma­tion dis­play with in­te­grated satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion. Swish!

Pulling out of the fac­tory gates, this fiercest of Vec­tras en­thu­si­as­ti­cally pulses to­wards a pre­de­ter­mined fu­ture as one of the man­u­fac­turer’s pool cars. Sadly, the good times don’t last long; as the mid-noughties ar­rive, the sec­ond-gen Vec­tra be­comes less de­sir­able than last week’s milk, lead­ing GSi 26001 to be left out to pas­ture in a quiet cor­ner of the com­pany’s car park.

Two years pass be­fore the black beast sees its next glim­mer of life. Keen to see the car safe in the hands of an en­thu­si­ast, a lat­eral think­ing Vaux­hall em­ployee posts on the Vaux­hall Vec­tra Own­ers Club fo­rum (vvoc.com) ap­peal­ing for a new keeper to step for­ward. The deal be­ing of­fered was sim­ple. It was also mind­bog­glingy un­usual: the first com­mit­ted Vec­traphile to show an in­ter­est could have the car free of charge. Yes, you read that cor­rectly. Zero pence. What an op­por­tu­nity!

fAST WOrK

Mike Mant was the quick­est to his key­board, sub­se­quently be­com­ing 26001’s first pri­vate owner. Keen mod­i­fier, Steve Francis, was next to see his name on the car’s log­book. In his cus­tody, the six-cylin­der stun­ner gained ev­ery­thing from up­graded front seats to a full Bas­tuck twin-exit ex­haust and an Omega B’s 3.2-litre V6. By 2016, how­ever, Steve was ready to move on to a new ride.

He couldn’t have picked a bet­ter buyer when he men­tioned the prospec­tive sale to his friend, Mick John­son. The CNC router op­er­a­tor from Brad­ford has been a GSi nut since he first spot­ted a tidy ex­am­ple of the model on the road back in 2002. “I wanted one from that mo­ment on­wards!” he smiles. Enough pen­nies were saved to buy a 2.5-litre GSi be­fore months of care­ful mod­i­fy­ing were topped­off by a fea­ture in Per­for­mance

Vaux­hall (then known as To­tal Vaux­hall) and eight years of happy mo­tor­ing. A Ja­panese di­ver­sion in the form of a Bug­eye Subaru Im­preza STI dis­rupted the pro­ceed­ings, but the call of the Grif­fin was much too strong to ig­nore. “I loved the Scooby, but I missed the Vaux­hall scene and the fel­low own­ers I spent good times with at shows,” sighs Mick. He rea­soned an­other Vec­tra was the only way for­ward.

He bought a sil­ver 2.6-litre GSi, which fast be­came a mod­i­fied mas­ter­piece. Key changes in­cluded Apex coilovers, a 3.2-litre

engine swap, cus­tom bi-Xenon head­lights and more Irm­scher parts than most petrol­heads can hope to imag­ine. Need­less to say, the car be­came well-known, but Steve’s of­fer re­sulted in a shift in fo­cus.

“I’ve fol­lowed 26001 ever since it first ap­peared on fo­rums,” con­tin­ues Mick. “I re­ally wanted to own the car and wasted no time in agree­ing a price with Steve. The prob­lem I had was be­ing in love with two GSis, but only be­ing able to keep hold of one. I re­mem­ber ma­chine-pol­ish­ing 26001 and park­ing it next to the sil­ver car. The new ar­rival’s black body­work looked so much bet­ter. It was at that point the de­ci­sion was made.” He wasn’t go­ing to let the sil­ver GSi go eas­ily, though. De­ter­mined to stick with the big­ger V6, he de­cided to swap en­gines be­tween cars.

BucK THe TreND

Af­ter drop­ping sub­frames, Mick and his me­chanic fa­ther (also named Mick) re­freshed the 3.2 with a Courte­nay Sport light­weight crankshaft pul­ley, a fly­wheel from the same Vaux­hall spe­cial­ist, Vi­bra Tech­nics engine mounts and Piper fast-road camshafts. The black car’s cabin was also rev­o­lu­tionised with

chic Re­caro Trend­line front seats, while grey in­te­rior plas­tics were coloured black by the guys at Air­time Paint in Dorset. A tonne of stan­dard trim then hit the bin in favour of Irm­scher ped­als, kick plates and floor mats. Vaux­hall’s leg­endary styling part­ner also pro­vided car­bon-ef­fect parts, in­clud­ing the coin tray, gear stick sur­round and hand­brake cover. As a per­sonal fin­ish­ing touch, Mick com­mis­sioned cus­tom dash dial in­serts fea­tur­ing the MSD logo and his long­stand­ing fo­rum han­dle, V6MICK, em­bla­zoned on the faces.

A full re­spray was fol­lowed by a Stage 2 de­tail and ceramic coat­ing courtesy of JC De­tail­ing. The process de­liv­ered an ocean deep sheen, en­sur­ing the ex­te­rior is as bold as it is black. Morette quad head­lights, Team HEKO wind de­flec­tors, Opel tail­lights from Brazil and a cus­tom ex­tended bon­net ably push the dark­hued theme, while Mk2 As­tra GTE vents tip the prover­bial hat at Vaux­hall’s long run of pre-VXR fas­troad scene smashers. Un­der the long hood, a riot of Chrysler Candy Ap­ple Red and car­bon-dipped com­po­nen­try has the engine shock­ing like a steel heart, but it’s the Irm­scher parts that shout loud­est of all. 26001 bris­tles with the Ger­man firm’s up­per and lower grilles, rear apron and side skirts. The lat­ter were an es­pe­cially stun­ning find, as Mick ex­plains. “Phase 2 skirts are very dif­fi­cult to get hold of. For­tu­nately, I spot­ted the parts at­tached to a ne­glected Vec­tra B be­ing ad­ver­tised on­line. The car was dumped on its side, but I in­stantly recog­nised the rare Irm­scher items look­ing sorry for them­selves!”

full cir­cle

His Vec­tra’s body is com­mit­ted to the all-black at­tack, yet Mick hasn’t been afraid to ex­per­i­ment with the wheels his car rides on. At the point of pur­chase, 26001 was rolling on gen­uine Corsa D VXR eigh­teens, but Phase 2 Vec­tra B GSi al­loys took up res­i­dence a short while af­ter the car ar­rived at the John­son fam­ily home in West York­shire. Car­bon-wrapped BBS Per­for­mance Line REs took their place a short while later, but the pris­tine Grif­fin would wear them for lit­tle more than a year be­fore the ap­point­ment of rarer rims plucked from the long-gone sil­ver ma­chine.

“When I first bought them, I wanted a de­sign of wheel no­body else had ever fit­ted to a Vec­tra B,” he re­veals. He’s talk­ing about Com­po­mo­tive MO6 six-spokes, an iconic of­fer­ing from the mo­tor­sport­fo­cused wheel man­u­fac­turer. MO6s are usu­ally found dec­o­rat­ing the cor­ners of Cos­worth-badged Fords, but fin­ished in a cus­tom

“MO6s are usu­ally found dec­o­rat­ing the cor­ners of Cos­worth-badged Fords”

sil­ver-black pow­der­coat and dec­o­rated with bolts and cen­tre caps painted Candy Ap­ple Red, they’re the per­fect choice for this spe­cial Vec­tra.

Barely a blink above, the arches hunch tight over tyres. As stan­dard, the GSi sits 20mm lower than reg­u­lar Vec­tra Bs, but Mick’s car runs far closer to the floor thanks to a set of Spax RSX ad­justable coilovers. The RSX units were chiefly cho­sen to fully lower the rear with­out forc­ing a helper spring delete, but teamed with Alu­mi­nati ad­justable drop links, a White­line rear anti-roll bar and a full con­ver­sion to Pow­er­flex Black Edi­tion polyurethane bushes, the re­sult is a chas­sis which fol­lows through on the hard­core aes­thetic.

Only the brakes needed at­ten­tion to com­plete 26001’s me­chan­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion. Thanks to Steve’s ef­forts, the car was al­ready mak­ing use of large front discs slot­ted into Brembo four-pots. It also featured a rear end loaded with SAAB 9-5 Aero stop­pers, but Mick wanted to take things a step fur­ther. “The Brem­bos were bril­liant!” he cries. “The only neg­a­tive I have to say about them is they sim­ply didn’t look big enough be­hind the new wheels. Be­ing to­tally hon­est, I swapped to AP Rac­ing brakes and 330mm discs for looks more than per­for­mance!”

To­day, there’s not an inch of 26001 that hasn’t seen im­prove­ment through sig­nif­i­cant mod­i­fi­ca­tion, but not ev­ery­body is a fan. “I got a fair bit of grief af­ter buy­ing the car,” Mick re­mem­bers. “Many peo­ple told me I had a duty to re­turn it to stan­dard spec­i­fi­ca­tion.” Of course, that was never go­ing to hap­pen. Af­ter all, he wanted to build the car to suit his own taste in per­for­mance and looks. To that end, across the Irm­scher­lit­tered ex­te­rior, over the all-black cabin and all the way through to the oily bits, the su­perb style of the first 2.6-litre Vec­tra B GSi goes where more cau­tious own­ers fear to tread. Num­ber one is now one-and-only!

Is this the best-pre­sented Vec­tra V6 engine bay we’ve show­cased to date?

Gen­uine Comps are a rare sight on a Vaux­hall

com­fort­able in­te­rior fea­tures rare colour in­for­ma­tion dis­play and fac­tory sat­nav

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