Carlton a textbook

executive

Vauxhall Carlton

IF ever there was a car for its time then it must be the Vauxhall Carlton.

This was a textbook executive car marketed by Vauxhall from 1978 to 1994.

The first Vauxhall Carlton came on the scene to replace the hopelessly outdated VX1800 and VX2300 saloons and featured the then lastest styling idea of a droop snoot without the traditional grille.

It was a conventionallarge saloon or estate with rear-wheel drive and a lot of space inside.

Power came from a 2.0 petrol engine and features and options included central door locking, alloy wheels and electric window. At the time such goodies were rarities on mainstream cars and interest in the Carlton escalated.

Things were happening fast in the early 1980s and a facelifted model saw the disappearance of the droop snoot front, in favour of an angled grille.

There was also a wider engine range consisting of a 1.8L carburettor, 2.0L carburettor and a 2.3L diesel.

A 2.0 petrol injectionengine was introduced for the 1984 model year and was replaced by a 2.2L fuel injection engine for 1985.

The MkIIcame in 1986 and promptly earned the title of European Car of the Year.

New to the Carlton's line-up with the Mark II were two six-cylinder engines with 2.6 and 3.0 capacities and in my view this was a masterstroke.

The Carlton was a car which handled beautifully and these engines suited it perfectly.

These were both 12-valve engines, but later 3.0-litre models were offered with 24-valves, producing much more power and torque. As well, Vauxhall used the "Dual-Ram" intake manifold, which lets the car breathe as two separate three-cylinder engines below 4,000rpm, but changes the intake manifold profile at 4,000rpm to increase the runner length, thus increasing total engine output.

In addition to the straight-six engines there was a range of four-cylinder power units.

The star of the show was the 1990 Lotus Carlton which had 176mph easily in its sights and became a Vauxhall icon. For a time, this was the fastest four-seater ever made and it is still spoken of with due reverence.

Prior to the Lotus tuned version, the range topper was the GSi 3000 upon which the Lotus Carlton was based. At launch in 1986 it had 177bhp (132kW; 179ps) giving it a top speed of 134mph (216km/h). In 1990, power was increased by going from 12 valves to 24, resulting in 204bhp (152kW; 207ps) which allowed 0-62mph to be achieved in 7.6 seconds and increased the top speed to 149mph.

To me the Carlton epitomised the fast executive car of its day and although its stylng dated rapidly the driving experience of the six-cylinder versions was one never to be forgotten.

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