This time, we’re celebrating two decades of Vectra GSi. That’s right – twenty years! Time flies almost as fast as a Vauxhall powered by an MSD-fettled V6.
As the successor to the Mk3 Cavalier, the Vectra B had a lot to live up to. It’s worth noting that in keeping with time honoured tradition, Vauxhall didn’t care much for Opel’s choice of designation for the Vectra A; instead of towing GM's party line, the big wigs in Luton chose to stick with the Cavalier name until 1995, at which point the newer car arrived in British main dealer showrooms wearing the Vectra badge. As had been suggested by introduction of the Opel-originated Corsa marque to UK dealers two years earlier, the enforced use of the Vectra moniker signalled GM’s intent to standardise the names of many models it was selling across multiple territories.
The Cavalier didn’t go out quietly, though. At the hands of works motorsport legend, John Cleland, the still-revered Vauxhall won the 1995 British Touring Car Championship after being phased out of production! Buyers heading to main dealers in the hope of bagging a roadgoing example of the Griffin they’d just watched scream to victory were out of luck, although a comprehensively developed, carbon-fibre filled version of the Vectra B they were being offered by showroom salesmen would go on to compete in the BTCC a few months later.
Sporty street versions of the Vectra B inspired by the BTCC included the GSi. Developed in Milton Keynes by MSD and wearing a distinctive body kit featuring a rear wing, chunky side skirts and prominent grilles on each side of the lower bumper, the model was equipped with a breathed-on version of GM’s torquey 2.5-litre 54° V6 engine and a host of other upgrades, including special Recaros and tidy alloys.
It’s thought that fewer than 3,900 GSis were built first time around. Primarily a mix of hatchback and saloons, the number was also made up of a smidge over 300 tourers. Finding any surviving Vectra B GSi in good order today is difficult enough, but the GSi-kitted wonder wagon is recognised for being one of the rarest Vauxhalls ever manufactured.
GM replaced the 2.5-litre six-shooter with a 2.6-litre powerplant for the 2001 model year. The GSi – by now benefitting from a facelift – was offered with extra stopping power to complement increased displacement. Meanwhile, development work for the Vectra C was well underway, which meant a low number of 2.6-litre GSis were built (production volume is not thought to have exceeded 500 units) before the Vectra B made way for its successor in 2002.
Behind the scenes, work was taking place in readiness for the launch of the VXR brand, which meant cars in Vauxhall’s GSi range were considerably toned down. The Vectra C GSi, for example, exhibited understated looks not at all in keeping with the rowdy body kits of yore (angry styling was being reserved for the 2.8-litre turbocharged Vectra VXR). On the plus side, it featured a 3.2-litre V6 delivering close to 210bhp. If you were looking for an enjoyable driving experience (trust us when we say these old-school V6s are terrific engines) in an understated package, then the Vectra C GSi was the car for you.
We’ve pulled together a fantastic selection of Vectra GSis for your enjoyment at PVS. Gavin Shilton’s Merc-rimmed, Audi-leathered, TVR-anchored Petrol Blue beast, Mick Johnson’s immaculate black beauty, Philip Pratt’s astonishingly clean Moonland Grey 2.6-litre estate (widely thought to be the only one of its kind) and Jeff Backland’s Rotiform-riding 3.2 are just some of the highlights. Be sure to check them out on the special GSi celebration stand close to the Performance Vauxhall display at the heart of the show.