This year, Vauxhall celebrates the 25th anniversary of one of its most famous and dramatic models, the Lotus Carlton, which started a long tradition of Griffin-badged performance saloons that continues to this day.
The Lotus Carlton was the fastest four-door saloon in the world when it was launched in 1989, 65 years after Vauxhall produced Britain’s first 100mph road car. With 377bhp from its straight-six, twin-turbocharged engine, the Carlton could achieve the 0 to 62 sprint in 4.9 seconds and would go on to a top speed of 176mph. Its chassis was developed and fine-tuned by Lotus, resulting in a highly dynamic car with the handling capabilities and top speed to keep up with the finest supercars of the day.
A total of 440 Lotus Carltons were produced from 1989 to 1994 as a joint project between Vauxhall and Lotus, with each car costing an eye-watering £48,000.
“Everyone at the time said it was completely inappropriate for a manufacturer like Vauxhall to launch a 176mph car,” said Stuart Harris, current Head of Carline Brand at Vauxhall and a key member of the Lotus Carlton’s launch team back in the eighties. “It was better than the competition in every conceivable way and will go down as one of the most iconic Vauxhalls of all time. It was a landmark product for Vauxhall, which to this day is still much loved. It introduced the brand to people who would not have considered driving a Vauxhall before. The car put a question mark in people’s heads and got them talking – just like the cars in today’s VXR range do”.
After the Lotus Carlton there were talks of a successor, but the project did not go ahead. This meant that the 3.0-litre quad-cam-engined Omega, produced from 1993 to 1997, was the sole large performance saloon for Vauxhall for the rest of the 1990s.