SOTW: VAUXHALL ROYALE
No cheese please. Shed serves up a slice of 80s class.
Riggers favours the Japanese shed, Rusty the more modern hot-hatch type and me, well, I go leftfield and slightly older, often german-born and usually with a large dose of waftage built-in as standard.
But in a rare break from the Germanic barge, this week I have been inspired by my visit to the Paris motor show, as it prompted memories of heading to the London show as a child.
Nowadays, motor shows for me are a blur of trying to grab some info on the latest models for Chris-R and Riggers, attempting to take some photographs over peoples' heads and having the odd meeting. Gone are the days of sitting in every new model as you try it out for size, carrying groaning carrier bags full of brochures and ogling the promo girls (well, we might still find the time to do a bit of that) and that's a shame. As a child I remember wanting to sit in every car that I could, much to the annoyance of whoever had taken me to the show, but those early motor show visits forged strong feelings in me for certain cars, some of which have never waned.
I was a Vauxhall fan as a youngster (not sure why) and this was the star of the range as it offered all the coolness of my Dad's Cavalier (I was young, remember) yet had so much more besides; in my opinion it even trumped the mighty Senator and its rival, the Ford Granada, too.
I have wanted to find one of these for SOTW for ages, but you just don't see them for sale very often these days, so to have this one come along on motor show week meant it couldn't be ignored. This week's Shed started life rather in a rather glamourous fashion and was owned by a Director of Debenhams who bought it after the 3 year lease ended and ended up keeping it for 23 years (I wonder if he visited the motor show to look at the Royale, and got fed up when a young Garlick wouldn't get out of it?). Since then it has only been through a handful of owners, one of which worked for a classic car magazine so it has graced the shelves of WHSmiths, too.
I reckon this Royale cuts it as good daily transport, offering Merc levels of comfort but with a touch of quirkiness and rarity value to set you apart from the masses. Some people won't understand why you bought it, but those who know will give a respectful nod to the chap behind the wheel and will recall a time when all mainstream manufacturers offered a luxury car in the range. I love it, and in my opinion this Royale comes with no added cheese whatsoever, I want to sit in that velour armchair, select D and let the 2.8 take me gracefully down the road....as I hit the dashboard trying to get the oil pressure gauge to work. For younger shed readers, there is a tidy Renault 5 GT in the classifieds, but that shows no class whatsoever!
Vauxhall Royale 2.8 saloon auto. 1981 W registration. 101,000 miles, MOT and tax till March 2011 This is a very rare car, possibly one of only a couple of dozen. Practical Classics magazine did a feature on these cars a while back and said then that there were only about 50 left on the road, and most of them are probably coupés.
The car is in very good condition throughout, with one or two exceptions which I'll come to in a bit.
It has the biggest, most comprehensive service history folder I have ever seen, with bills from day one totalling about £9,000! The original handbooks, warranty leaflet, radio manual and the original dealer stickers are all present in the original folder.
It was bought by Debenhams for one of its directors, who after the usual 3 year period decided he liked the car so much he bought it from them. He kept it for about 23 years in all, before the car went to Danny Hopking of Practical Classics magazine. I have photocopies of the car in the magazine in the file.
It only changed hands a couple more times before I bought it from a chap who'd had it for 4 years, so I'm only the 6th owner.
The car drives beautifully, I have been using it quite regularly as a daily runabout and it's been totally reliable. The engine is sweet and smooth, there's no smoke or nasty noises and it pulls like a train. The GM Strasbourg automatic transmission is silky smooth, the fluid is bright red and there are no leaks from either the engine or the transmission.
The suspension is good with no knocks or bangs and the ride is excellent. The brakes work well including the handbrake, and the steering is straight and doesn't pull.
The interior is in excellent condition, no rips, tears, even wear to speak of at all, no cracks on the dash and no rips or sagging on the headlining.
So it must have some faults, right?
Not many, but the main thing you'd want to sort out is the driver's side wing, which really could do with replacing or some new metal being welded in. I recently bodged it up with some duct tape over the worst bits but it wants doing properly. New and secondhand wings crop up on Ebay sometimes so it's not a major worry if you have some DIY skills or have a tame bodywork guy, I have neither unfortunately.
Apart from that it's pretty good. I've had a good look underneath and it's all very solid, the front struts (where these often go) have been repaired to a good standard in the last couple of years and apart from a few blisters on the doors and rear arches, the bodywork is fantastic for a 30 year old car. The paintwork is still good, although obviously there are a couple of scratches and marks. The car's lived outside for a few years and it's picked up the odd scuff here and there, but it polishes up nicely and the chrome's all in good condition.
Other minor things are the oil pressure gauge has recently started reading maximum all the time unless you thump the dash, there's something loose inside the steering column housing that rattles sometimes and the central locking locks all the doors but doesn't unlock them. Also the sunroof is very stiff although it does open and tilt OK and it doesn't leak.
All in all as it stands this is a lovely example of a one-time Jaguar/ BMW/ Mercedes competitor that's a perfectly useable daily driver and one which wouldn't take too much to get it into really stunning show conditon if that's your bag.
It's a hard car to value as good ones so rarely turn up, but I think £995 is reasonable.
The car's in Glasgow, if you're interested drop me a line via Email.
Update: Another older ad has been found by an eagle-eyed PHer, it was at a lower price and this advert has more pictures too