Shed of the Week: Vauxhall Omega Elite

Not a lot of people know this, perhaps, but Vauxhall made the world's first sports car. The 25hp 4.0-litre Prince Henry of 1913 was designed by the legendary motor engineer Laurence Pomeroy. It was the McLaren P1 of its day.

A torpedo-bodied Prince Henry was auctioned in 2015, after it had been owned not only by Pomeroy's son, also called Laurence, but by Midlands motor enthusiast and major Dunlop Tyres stockholder T W Badgery as well. Badgery also owned the Worcester leather company, and reputedly ran his Prince Henry on "castor oil, second pressings" from his factory.

Few right-thinking Shedmen with a penchant for funny names would turn down the chance to own a car called the Prince Henry, especially one that had been designed and owned by men called Pomeroy and Badgery. These days, they would need something in excess of ยฃ500,000 to indulge that whim, but if they wanted a big-engined Vauxhall for considerably less money, they could buy this Omega for ยฃ1,500, or less after haggling.

Discounting the Prince Henry, its descendant - the even more sporty 30-98 of the 1920s - the Lotus Carlton, sundry Irmscher overbores and the Aussie V8s,ย the 3.2 V6 engine under our Omega's bonnet must er surely qualify this as the biggest-engined Vauxhall-badged car ever (did you ever wish you hadn't started something?).That means speed with your space, a combo that greatly endeared this tough old bruiser to British police forces up and down merrie olde Englande in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And as our Shed is the Elite model, it's got the luxe to boot.

By the time the B2 came around, the German-assembled Omega had gathered a good reputation for strength and reliability. The main difference between this last B2 model and the pre-1999 version was that the B2 had ESP, a handy addition for a car with rear-wheel drive and 215hp.

A common cry among Omega fans is that they like their cars but wish they had gone for one of the 3.0-litre-plus six-potters instead of the smaller V6 or straight four they settled for. The 3.2 in our Shed is generally considered to be the best option. It had the highest horsepower and torque of any Omega and would usually return the same sort of mpg as the smaller V6s, but with more performance. Be aware though that this robust old-school Omega is no lightweight, tipping the scales at up to 1.8 tonnes. As a result, mpg figures for cars like this inevitably look a bit horrific by modern standards. Mid to high 20s is a decent expectation, with low 30s on a run and low 20s in town.

In exchange, you do get authoritative rather than urgent acceleration - and lots of comfy lozzing space. If you fancy a spot of freelance Deadpool-style vigilantism, the cabin is big enough to transport four hefty blaggers, or three if you would prefer a fellow lawgiver in the front seat rather than Big Vern. The boot will accommodate several bags of swag plus the odd moderately sized candelabra, the lighting fixture traditionally (and surprisingly, given its awkward shape) identified as a prime target for burglars.

This Elite has had a lot spent on it, but it's no show queen. A non-excessive oil leak and worn front brake disc were advised on the October test, and the alloys are somewhat nibbled. The curling bottom edge of the bootlid will need some attention eventually, if only because it shows up the rest of the car. These items apart, our Shed looks fit for plenty more active duty. The interior seems to be holding up well and it's only had four owners in its 15-year life.

Problems Omega owners may encounter include faulty central locking solenoids, faulty clips on the window regulators, leaky heater valves, and engine management warning lights coming on, usually as a result of a busted air flow meter. If the MOT-spotted oil leak is around the block, it's most likely the 'double washer' seal that needs replacing, although the cam covers are another known weak spot. The suspension comes under a lot of pressure so you should budget for new wishbones every 100k or so.

The Cat C thing mentioned in the ad needn't be a worry. On older cars, Cat C status is usually an uncontroversial consequence of quite small accident repair costs outweighing the value of the vehicle. 2003 -ย or 2002 if you believe the UK Government -ย was the last year of Omega registrations. Shed discovered this date anomaly after a lengthy traipse through the website that tells you what your road tax (or whatever it's called now) will be on any given vehicle. Shed has carried out this exercise on this Omega so you don't have to. Assuming he's done it right, which is a big assumption given the state of his eyesight, buying the invisible tax disc for it will cost you ยฃ315 a year, or ยฃ27 on the monthly drip.

In other old Vauxhall news, you probably knew that the company got its name from its founding location in that south London suburb in 1897. But did you know that Vauxhall (the place) got its name from a likely lad called Falkes de Breautรฉ, who had a hall there in the early 13th century? Falkes' Hall later became Foxhall, which became Vauxhall.

What did de Breautรฉ do for a living? He ran King John's mercenary force. Which brings us back to the Omega copper connection, sort of. You get all this stuff for free you know.

Here's the ad.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (79) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Turbobanana 14 Dec 2018

    Quite a handsome old brute (car that is - can't speak for Shed) and probably as quick as any of ze Germans for the same money.

    Don't really want it, mind.

  • Cold 14 Dec 2018

    My (now ex) brother in law used to own a slightly earlier one of these back in the mists of time. Coming off a mini-roundabout I managed possibly the biggest wheelspin I've ever achieved.

  • Camelot1971 14 Dec 2018

    I loved my 3.0 Elite Omega when I had it. Great comfort and performance given the size of the thing. Not very reliable though.

  • SidewaysSi 14 Dec 2018

    I think the original pre facelift Carbis quite a handsome thing to be honest.

    Remember when it was launched Autocar saying it was a better drive than the 5 Series and really rated it.

  • Limpet 14 Dec 2018

    Handsome car, that has aged really well IMO. We had one on a company fleet back in the day (pre CO2 based BIK), and I drove it a couple of times. It went well, felt really solidly put together, and had a lovely wafty quality to it. Unfortunately, it was also a complete dog reliability-wise. Persistent electrical issues, including a nasty habit of locking people out, random misfires that several dealers had a go at, and couldn't fix, and a number of outright breakdowns. They ended up moving it on at 18 months old, as the guy who had it simply couldn't trust it.

    The thought of all that with 15 years of wiring degradation, and wear and tear on top doesn't appeal, personally. It does look good though.

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