This is the first post of a few more, I'll be doing others individually as otherwise it'll be a HUGE block of text.
This might be incredibly obvious to a motoring forum, but first cars are special things. For some people they may just be a practical thing, a tool to shuttle you to and from work or school. Some see them as a social object, something for you and your friends to gad about in. Me? I'm in the last camp. People who get perhaps a bit more emotionally attached than they should do to their machines because of what it gives them, what it gave them, and what it means to them - independence, even freedom. And how that can affect (warp?) your perception of what is an otherwise unexceptional pile of metal and plastic. Such is my experience with the Vauxhall Vectra. With MY Vauxhall Vectra.
Born out of GM's desire to build a car 'For the New Millenium', the original Vectra hit the market in... 1988. The B model arrived in the UK in 1995 as a replacement for the Cavaliers pounding the Motorways of Britain delivering tie-clip wearing photocopier paper salesmen to every meeting, with a jacket hanging in the back and a carphone in hand. A billion pounds was spent on the Vectra in R&D alone, so said GM, and I'm just going to get that Clarkson video out of the way here first...
All had a chuckle? Good.
Apparently, this one video suppressed Vectra sales in the UK so much that Vauxhall/GM complained to the BBC. Some even point to the closing of their Luton plant as being the fault of Mr Clarkson, (but I think that's little more than the work of Corporate apologists).
'The' Car's History
'The' Vectra was purchased originally in 2001 by my grandparents as a replacement for their White 1985 Cavalier, which after their initial test drive of a Vectra had decided it had lived quite long enough thank you very much and promptly caught fire on the M25 on the way home. Were my grandparents taken in by the Vectra's rakish styling? Or subtle, understated ("cough") performance? Or the fact it was shiny and had air conditioning? Whatever it was, I imagine it was probably also related to the Cavalier being a reliable old bucket (up until the conflagration) and they were replacing it with something a similar size that had the same badge from the same dealer they'd got the Cavalier from...
'The' Vectra had a solid, comfortable, pampered life in the hands of the Grandparents, racking up a healthy 78,000 miles in 13 years, main dealer serviced all the way, with posh tyres and windscreen wipers and the lot, all the way up to 2014. Which is when it entered my life on a permanent basis.
I had, of course, experienced it from a child and into a teenager's perspective many times in those years. Experienced its cloth upholstery, its CD player ("War of the Worlds" was often in the rotation), and its air conditioning. One particularly hot summer springs to mind when I was baking in my mother's '92 Red Sierra estate and had to vacate to the Grandparent's air-conditioned luxury box for my own health.
So, in 2013, during one of the iffiest years of my life, my Grandparents were scouting for a new car. They'd driven the new Astra, and lo, it was good. But the Vauxhall dealer would only give them £300 part ex for the reliable old Vectra that had stood them sterling for so long. They liked the car. They didn't want it to go. And frankly the dealer was having a laugh offering them such a paltry sum. So they offered it to me. Match the price, and the car is yours.
I grasped it with both hands. I hadn't owned a car since passing my test, 5 years before. I'd driven them. Borrowed them. Rented them. But never owned one. I was without transport, in the middle of rural Dorset, and I was digging myself a bit of a rut.
Since that day in 2014 we've been North, South, East, West. It's carried many things the designers perhaps didn't intend for - dogs, sheep, chickens, an alpaca once, as well as surfboards, camping equipment, and band gear (two drumkits on one occasion). I was able to see my other set of grandparents who I wouldn't have been able to see before they passed if it weren't for the Vectra. The car allowed me to get away when I needed to escape the village for a week, or a few hours, it allowed me to start running and building my own business, and it allowed me to clamber out of the rut I was struggling in. It allowed me to meet my (now) Fiance. It took us on dates and holidays. Its moved house with us twice. And it has never, ever let me down - except for the one time a coil pack went in Northumberland, but even then it limped me the 5 miles to the nearest town feeling very sorry for itself on three cylinders until Mr. RAC arrived.
This bargain basement spec, 1.8 petrol, now on 114,000 miles and counting, is, to me, more than the sum of its parts. And you could offer me a Lancia Delta Integrale with dealer miles on it tomorrow and I would turn it down if it meant I had to watch the Vectra drive away for the last time.