Friday Autoeclectic: Astra GTE

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By Tim Smith

A few months ago I wrote a post about the Ford Sierra XR4i. My father owned that car around about the time we, as a family, were members of a local Fellowship. It was all about holding hands in the air and speaking in tongues and people who had been spoken to by The Lord.

If I’m honest I found it all a little confusing. Anyways, something that particular church was good at was cars. You see this was the eightees. Young twenty/thirty somethings who had the will and the way were making money left, right and, well, mostly to the right, regardless of belief.

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While my Dad had his 4i, one of his mate’s at the Fellowship had an Astra GTE. I knew, as a kid, that the 4i was faster, but not by much. They used to joke about racing. I’m not sure they ever did.

Fast forward ten years or so and myself and a date have been stuffed into the back of an acquaintance’s modified GTE. She was a nice girl, that date. I definately laughed too loud at one point (where nobody else did) while we watched American Pie in the Cinema, and I definately didn’t laugh anywhere else, but what the hay… what was I talking about?

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Ah, yes. The GTE. As he threw that thing along the main road from Stroud to Gloucester I can honestly say I’ve never been in something that felt so deeply overpowered. If this was Star Trek and I was an engineering chief, I’d be shouting  STRUCTURAL INTERGRITY FAILING.’

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Vauxhall, historically aren’t very good at making something that handles. However, they are quite good at getting people to make engines for them.

The GTE was no exception, the first version developing 124bhp from 1.8 litres. Later versions employed the 2-litre ‘red-top’ with 148bhp (or 150 of those slightly smaller German horses).

That doesn’t sound much in today’s money. After all, you can get that in a mid-range Corsa. But, here’s the rub: the Golf GTI of the 1.8’s time developed 112bhp. The Escort XR3i only 105bhp.

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The GTE, then, could outgun anything in it’s class at the traffic lights. In a time before Nurburgring lap times and ‘handling’ this was all that mattered.

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This week’s chosen car comes with the later red-top engine and the paint job, alloy combination I’ll always remember the GTE as having. At two-six, it does seem a little steep, but then, I reckon, that value will only climb.

Advert reproduced below:

Key facts

  • 1990
  • Petrol
  • Hatchback
  • Manual
  • 105000 miles

Solid Artic White, CURRENTLY UNDERGOING FULL SERVICE AND MOT AND CAMBELT, THIS GTE 16V IS AS GOOD AS IT GETS! VERY CLEAN INSIDE AND OUT WITH NONE OF THE USUAL RUST. CALL FOR FULL DETAILS, 12 months MOT, 6 months tax, Last serviced on 02/01/2014 at 105,000 miles, Service history, Excellent bodywork, Grey Cloth interior – Excellent Condition, Tyre condition Excellent, Immobiliser, Sunroof, Electric windows, Electric door mirrors, Sports seats, Power steering. 5 seats, CAR HAS BEEN GARAGED FOR LAST FOUR YEARS WITH VERY LITTLE USE. ORIGINAL SERVICE BOOK WITH STAMPS IN IT, ALL PREVIOUS MOT’S AND TAX DISCS! HPI CLEAR. A USABLE CLASSIC! CALL FOR FULL DETAILS, Experian auto check clear, £2,680

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