's Great British Cars – Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2

Sun 24th Jun 2018

Great Britain, great cars. The UK motor industry is respected the world over, and though many of the vehicles are actually owned by foreign manufacturers, there can be no doubting of the fantastic heritage of the British motor.

To celebrate Britain’s famous history is launching a series looking back on some of the most famous vehicles the UK has ever seen.

Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2
It was simply a case of right place and right time for Vauxhall when they launched the second generation of the Cavalier in 1981.

With world-beating fuel economy combined with classy stylings and front-wheel drive sophistication, the Cavalier landed into the heart of a British market which demanded a car for the travelling salesman. Tax breaks meant that the company car played a hugely significant role in British society, and Vauxhall’s revitalised car fell into the perfect storm.

Ford had long been the rival to Vauxhall, but their third generation Cortina had failed to capture the imagination. So as Ford faltered and took their time developing the Sierra, the Mk2 Cavalier made its way to the top of the sector.

1981 saw rivals fall by the wayside, the Talbot Alpine saw sales decline, British Leyland’s Austin Ambassador and Morris Ital were wound down in preparation for the launch of the Austin Montego 1984, and Volkswagen’s Passat, which was also launched in 1981, would have to wait a few years for its day in the sunshine.

So with a one-year head start on the Sierra, the Cavalier claimed a large share of the market, and the Sierra’s slow burn with the British public saw Cavalier outsell its rival through 1984 and 1985.

Margaret Thatcher played a big part in the success of the Mk2 also, with a tax break at 1.8 L, any company car having a larger engine than this attracting higher personal benefit taxes.

The Cavalier and Sierra enjoyed a famous old battle in the 80s, but by the time the Cavalier was upgraded in 1988, it had sold an impressive 807,000 models - making an icon of the era of excess.

Years of manufacture: 1981-1988 
Price when new: £6,588
Price now: £500-£5,000
Engine: 1,598cc 4cyl petrol, 90bhp
Top speed: 105mph

Vauxhall are still designing classic cars - find out what they have to offer at today.