They call them street furniture in the trade you know? Allow me to explain then. Cars that litter the roads, so popular you barely notice them are jovially named such in the trade – until all of a sudden you realise they’re all but gone… almost.
This year sees the significant birthday of a luxo-barge that caught the customer by surprise not to mention the dealers. We are talking about the Vauxhall Carlton of course, a car that fitted in perfectly with its surroundings be it on an airport mini-cab rank, a car hire forecourt, on the drive of a suburban three bed semi or hanging off your back bumper with blue lights a blazing. The mid 80`s were heady times for Vauxhall as they awoke from being a worthy also-ran brand to running up front with the likes of Ford in both fleet and retail sales numbers.
The “new” Carlton was launched to immediate praise in 1986, going on to scoop the coveted European Car Of The Year award. With its slippery shape allied to a pliant ride and soft sumptuous interior it wasn’t long before the Carlton found its niche with customers looking for family car that was a distinctive notch up on the class-o-meter from the Cavalier or a middle management motorway muncher. Ford had their Granada that was all new the year before and Rover with its 800 series also in `86 but the Carlton had that slightly more cut above feel in terms of build quality.
Engines spanned from a Bobby basic carb tuned 1.8 through to a multivalve 3.0 unit, and of course lets not forget the bedroom pin-up Lotus Carlton and a sprinkling of diesel power units too. There was, of course, the obligatory estate model which went on to be one the best selling cargo carriers of its era. In fact, when the Carlton was eventually replaced with the Omega, many estate models were snapped up without the need for dealer discounting such was its demand and popularity. The Carlton was even one of those cars to die for… quite literally, as many models were converted to hearse and funeral cars.
But today, well under 500 models survive on our roads and most of those comprise of the range topping GSi3000 and limited edition Lotus Carlton variants. So raise your glass and wiggle it to the unfairly forgotten Vauxhall Carlton – 30 years old in 2016.