The Senator (also known as the Omega in Europe) was Vauxhall/Opel’s answer to the BMW 5-series and the Mercedes E-class. This mid-size executive car was once a staple of motorways across Europe, offering a winning combination of good performance and high specification levels at a competitive price. There’s a reason they were so popular with the police in the UK.
Nowadays they’re a rare sight on the roads, so this holds real retro appeal for anyone that grew up in the 80s. And CD specification is the one you want, featuring that splendid 3-litre inline-6 engine, a smooth automatic transmission and electrically adjustable suspension. As a way to waft about in comfort with some modern comforts but plenty of classic car credibility, it’s difficult to beat.
The History and Paperwork
MOT until July 2022
Current owner since November 2021
Selling due to lack of time to restore the car
10 owners from new
Comprehensive handwritten record of work carried out, going back many years
Previous MOT certificates back to 2001
Dry-stored and unused for the last 12 months
Original grey-blue velour interior
Electric wing mirrors, windows and sunroof
Digital instrument cluster
Wood veneer trim
The cabin of the Senator is a roomy and airy space, decked out in a combination of blue-grey velour and wood veneer trim. All of the internal trim is present and correct and looks to be in good condition. The wood trim in particular looks very good, with no evidence of splitting or delamination that we could see. As far as we could see, the seats are all in good condition, with no significant wear or tears. They’re certainly very comfortable and quite plush – we can imagine arriving feeling fresh as a daisy even after a significant motorway journey. Even with a six-footer in the driving seat, there is plenty of room in the back for adults to ride in comfort.
The interior here is in reasonable condition for the vehicle’s age. Obviously, as it has been in storage in a barn for the last year, it’s in need of a good clean, but otherwise everything seems well screwed together and solid. As a CD model, the cabin features a number of luxuries including electric mirrors, windows and a sunroof, as well as a digital instrument cluster. At the rear, the boot is a very practical size, even with the LPG tank that’s installed behind the rear seats there’s still plenty of room. It also includes a full-size spare wheel.
There are a few issues that any new owner will want to address. Currently the digital instrument display does not show the mileage (which was 201,295 miles at the previous MOT), These are notoriously prone to idiosyncratic behaviour and this evident on this model. LCD tech has moved on a bit in the last 33 years – which reflects the recent MOT reporting the mileage as unreadable. This is actually a replacement unit, and comparing the old readings to the new we come up with a figure of around 190,000 miles, although this can not be verified. A previous owner appears to have installed a Nissan radio and the headlining needs to be replaced as it is sagging badly at the back and is missing entirely from the underside of the sunroof. There is some wear and tear evident on the controls, and a small crack in the centre console near the heating controls.
Overall, the interior is in reasonable condition, but should be considered a mild restoration project to bring it back to its best.
Metallic blue paintwork
Original 7-spoke 15” alloys
Probably the car’s standout feature is the quality of the bodywork. So many Vauxhall cars from the 80s have perished due to corrosion, but this Senator’s metalwork is presented in excellent condition. The panels appear to be completely free of corrosion, are straight and well-gapped and all of the trim elements, badging and lights are present and correct too. It’s highly unusual to fine a Vauxhall project car from this era in such a complete and solid state. It’s a real bonus as some of those trim parts will now be very difficult to trace.
Literally the only issue we could find with the bodywork is that one of the centre-caps is missing from the wheels, and they could probably do with a light refurbish. Other than that, it’s very solid, corrosion free and straight as a die.
Where any new owner will probably want to spend some time restoring the car is underneath. The chassis and floor elements we could see appear very straight and solid, and there’s no evidence of any damage. However, the brake pipes, exhaust and a number of suspension components appear to have significant corrosion and would probably be best replaced, or in the case of the suspension elements, media-blasted and refinished.
4-speed automatic transmission
Electrically adjustable suspension
Mechanically, the Senator has the perfect set-up for a comfortable cruiser. That big inline-6 offers lots of torque and, when married to the 4-speed automatic transmission, offers hushed and effortless performance. The engine runs well, starting quickly and idling quietly, and the transmission shifts smoothly with no unusual noises.
We were unable to test the electrically adjustable suspension, but the owner assures us that to the best of their knowledge the car drives well and everything works as it should. In 2005 the car was converted to be able to run on LPG, with a tank installed behind the rear seats.
The engine bay itself is solid and everything appear to be in order, with no evidence of leaks or overheating. May of the engine components are clearly showing their age now, so we would recommend any new buyer gives the drivetrain a thorough inspection. Some of the rubber elements in the engine bay seem a little brittle with age and may require replacement, and there is some surface corrosion evident. However, with a bit of time and elbow grease, it should soon be looking back to its best.
There are so few of these lovely old executive saloons on the road now, it’s a real pleasure to see one in such an original, complete condition. Overall, the car is very solid and should be considered the base for a mild restoration project. With a relatively small amount of work, this would soon be the kind of modern classic that anyone would be proud to own, and that would be welcome at any car show you care to mention.
Let’s face it, these are an increasingly rare car, so if you’ve always fancied one and have the time to tackle a bit of restoration, this could be the perfect car for you.
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1988 Vauxhall Senator 3.0CDI
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