BY the spring of ’97 we’d decided to let the Sierra go before it became a money pit, especially as we’d already been given £900 for it after the accident. For reasons I no longer recall (other than, perhaps, liking the look of it) I chose a saloon rather than the more common hatchback. It was a maroon 1992 Vauxhall Astra 1.7 diesel. Yes, diesel. Again, for no logical reason except that it was there on the forecourt and I liked the look of it and it happened to be a diesel.
Sorry the picture is (a) so small (b) the wrong colour. It was the best I could find, not having any decent original photos of ours, that shows the shape. Later incarnations of the Astra saloon looked ugly (to my mind) because they tried to increase luggage capacity by raising the boot line. That may be more practical but it spoils the looks in my view.
The Astra wasn’t our first saloon, but having had a couple of hatchbacks I did miss the rear wash-wipe! And, of course, it wasn’t quite so practical for big loads (although it still had split rear seats). Nevertheless, it served us for family holidays to Cornwall and Germany. It was our first (and, to date, only) diesel, and there’s no doubt it was a little noisy. To be honest, we didn’t do enough mileage to make a diesel worthwhile but I didn’t know that at the time. It had a pretty “oomphy” turbo, though, which, after a second or two’s lag, would give you some hard acceleration if you needed it.
We paid £5,700 for the Astra and were given a whole £200 for the old Sierra. (The dealer later called me in disgust saying he’d discovered the Sierra was actually an insurance write-off, implying that we’d done something illegal. I had a letter from the insurance company telling me they’d written it off but that we were free to keep and use it, so I wasn’t worried – but it wasn’t nice to be accused of an attempted fraud.) This was the most we’d ever spent on a car. Given that it was already five years old, and this was over 20 years ago, we were probably ripped off. This inflation calculator tells me it’d cost over £10,000 today! But hey, I’m not bitter or anything.
As a fascinating aside, my relatives have had a fair few Vauxhalls between them: My dad had a Viva, a 1978 Cavalier, and two Astras, while my in-laws had a Chevette and several Astras before defecting to VW.
Anyhoo, the Astra saloon served us well for a little over six years. I don’t recall why we decided it was the end of the road, and even my trusty personal diary for 2003 gives me no clues. Whatever the reason, our next car took us back to the Ford stable – where (at the time of writing) we’ve stayed ever since.
More of that in episode #9. I know, I know: it’s hard to contain your excitement. But hang on in there, AutoMemory fans: it’ll be worth the wait. Probably.