I bought this Carlton in 1996 and still have it.
Originally manufactured in Germany in 1989 as an Opel Omega the Carlton was in 1990 sent to Luton UK to be rebadged as a Vauxhall and converted to right hand drive. In 1996 I spotted it for sale on a used car lot and it was love at first sight.
However, things have not been easy for either of us since ’96. My family and I settled in Northern Ireland in 2000 while the Carlton remained at my parents garage in London over the next 16 years. Finally reaching Northern Ireland through the goodwill of my nephew Geoff who also had the body rebuilt and painted. A video of his surprise gift to me has been on YouTube since 2017.
Getting the Carlton back brought many happy memories. It is a fast car with rear wheel drive that is easy to control thanks to the power. The 3 litre straight six produces 204 bhp that provides around 150 mph top speed and a 0-60 in 7.0 secs. In 1990 that was considered as seriously rapid. But the 0-60 is only part of the story as the urge doesn’t end there, in fact it’s only getting into its stride as the speed rapidly mounts sweeping you well passed the 100! This is a car that you can definitely lose your licence in if you’re not mindful of its potential.
Driving it you quickly note that its sports style seats are comfortable and hold you well. They also look good in half leather with red piping. The clutch is heavy. No question. The steering even with power steering is heavier than might be expected especially at parking speeds. However, when driving at normal speeds you quickly appreciate how the steering lightens while communicating through the steering about what’s happening. It makes a drive in the Carlton a pretty confident experience with its handling for such a large car rewarding when pushed.
A good thing about the straight six is that its fairly bullet proof and should keep going for several hundred thousand miles before needing a rebuild if you’re running and regularly maintaining it. Sadly, mine spent more than 15 years without moving and although it fired up work was required. A total rebuild is almost complete.
A most enormous obstacle with these cars is finding spares since the government appears to have collected most of them during its scrappage scheme and won’t allow anyone near them. Good old government making life easy for all as usual. That was sarcasm by the way. If something goes wrong expect finding a replacement part to cost you several weeks if not months before you finally track it down.
However, fortunately there are some valuable Vauxhall clubs to join such as AutobahnStormers. For advice and spares they’re very good.
Also, I wish I could claim the Carlton to be reliable, but in truth its not particularly good on the reliability barometer. Most of the times its small things only, electrical issues mostly. While engine, gearbox and diff are about as reliable as you’re likely to find anywhere in the ’90s.
I guess the real acid test for any car is asking its owner if they would buy another? I wouldn’t hesitate.
Bob Price 1.9.2022
HOW MANY STILL MOTORING?
|CARLTON GSI 24V||Licensed||16|
|CARLTON GSI 24V||SORN||73|
|CARLTON GSI 24V A||Licensed||7|
|CARLTON GSI 24V A||SORN||44|
|OUTSTANDING||Up to £18,000|
|VERY GOOD CONDITION||Up to £14,000|
|AVERAGE CONDITION + MOT||Up to £6,750|
|AVERAGE CONDITION – MOT||Up to £1,500|
|BROKEN DOWN||Up to £900|