1989 Vauxhall Carlton GSi 3000


- Totally unmolested
- Incredibly original
- Digital dashboard
- Just 31,000 miles 

The Background

The flagship vehicle of Vauxhall in the late '80s through the early '90s, namely the Carlton, came in various forms. Traditionally, it was of course aimed at the luxury market. CDX models, and of course the leather and wood filled Diplomat were evidence of that. However, Vauxhall wasn't afraid to be a bit wild, and as such, offered performance version. There was of course the mighty Lotus Carlton, but let us not forget the car we have here - the formidable and fast GSi. This was, let us not forget, the car that made the Lotus version possible. 
While the Lotus Carlton has gone on to be a high-rolling poster-child of performance, the GSi model has been all but forgotten. And this, dear reader, is criminal. An outstanding car, many were crudely converted to Lotus replicas, while many went the way of the scrap man. But the loss of the past is the gain of today. This early, pre-facelift 12-valve model is arguably the best of its kind. A world class example that has covered a mere 31,000 miles over the course of its life. Finished in fetching silver, this car is a welcome throwback to a time when performance wasn't the exclusive domain of the hatchback.

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The History

Having just had four owners in its 32-year life, this GSi clearly has been loved. The last couple years it has been with the owner and vendor as part of a small collection  of other classic Vauxhalls, and has been kept in dry storage throughout. The vendor has not been afraid to use the car though and has covered a few thousand miles in their ownership, proving the car is a perfectly usable classic motor. As such, this is the kind of car you can buy, and hop in and drive right away. Beautiful and immaculate though it is, it's not been pushed into being nothing but a show car. This is instead a show car you can enjoy fully.

The first owner had the Carlton from 1990-2015 after purchasing it from a lease company. Over this period it spent a lot of time unused and this is evident by the mileage that can be totally backed up by tests and the included paperwork. Similarly, from 2015-19 the third registered owner did not use the car much, but the entire time has evidently been loved. To find a car like this that had been looked after to such an impressive level is rare.

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The Paperwork

The paperwork is not massive with this vehicle simply due to its incredibly low miles. Plenty of MOT certificates and vintage tax discs were a nice sight, and an up-to-date V5 document was also present stating three previous owners. Original handbooks were also present and in super condition.

There is an MOT in place until August of 2022 and as you would expect for a car with such low mileage, the MOT history makes for pleasing reading. The last three MOTs have been acquired without a single advisory, while some previous ones make mention of some slight corrosion and and some worn brakes, but these issues have all be addressed since (as is proven by the recent MOTs). It is, make no mistake, in exceptionally good condition.

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The Interior

Quite honestly, we were blown away by the condition of this vehicle. Throughout the interior there was little evidence of wear whatsoever. Vauxhall interiors of this era were built to take the strain of hundreds of thousands of miles, so with just 31k on the clock, this one simply hasn't had the chance to develop any wear. It's show class. The dash is immaculate, the optional digital dash is bright, clear and fully functional (not to mention, it gives you a giddy thrill each time it turns on and cycles through a system check). The leather steering wheel is pretty much as new, as is the gear shift, which falls to hand beautifully. No wear, no frayed leather. It could be 1989 all over again.
Just two things we noticed were firstly, that a portion of the roof lining around the sunroof was hanging a bit and for this reason the vendor has not used the electric sunroof for fear of making the situation worse, so can't confirm this works. This should be a relatively easy fix for anyone with a bit of know-how. Secondly, the vendor pointed out there is a tape stuck in the cassette player (hopefully it’s a good one!).

The door cards, the carpets, the kick plates, the mats, the... it's just all excellent. A full-on time capsule. Sort that roof lining out and you'll be left with a car that will scoop concours trophies. It really is that good. In the boot this was just as good being spotlessly clean and sporting a totally unused and original spare wheel shod in a Michelin tyre.

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The Exterior

Unmolested and from what we could tell, totally original paintwork. The silver paint worked well on this big motor and was shiny and clean. We thought it was refreshing that such a tidy car had not been polished to high heaven and kept a very authentic look and feel with minor ‘swirl’ marks under bright light. Looking down every panel the car boast straight, uniform lines and no evidence of any damage or corrosion. We counted perhaps a handful of very minor car park dings that honestly were almost unnoticeable. Nothing that has broken the paint though, and nothing that can't be removed by a PDR specialist. 

The black plastic bumper trims were glossy and in perfect shape along with a very original looking chrome tail pipe. The bumpers themselves, which often come to harm on this model, are all in excellent order with no rash or damage. They hang well on the car, too. Dealer plates are still mounted to the car and also some original window stickers along with the original windscreen.

The alloy wheels were near perfect with only a couple of minor marks. These too, were untouched from new and shod in GoodYear Eagle tyres retaining plenty of life.

As for the all important question with any car made from '80s steel, we can report that there's no rust here. The rear arches, which were a known killer spot on the Carlton, are as clean as a whistle. No corrosion, nor any sign of previous repair. The door bottoms, the front wings, the pillars - all are solid and free from anything that should cause concern. Building on what we said earlier, this GSi is a bit of detailing away from being an award-winning show car.

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The Mechanics

It was immediately clear when looking around this GSi that it was mechanically superb. The general under-bonnet condition was excellent with no leaks or even weeping of any fluids. From what we could tell all the original pipework, caps and trims remained and everything was in superb condition. The engine valve cover had lost some of its black crackle paint finish but again this was totally in keeping with the rest of the car, being un-molested and un-restored. 

Hearing the car start left us in no doubt about its life and sounded as you would expect... smooth. Along with that it drove about nicely from what we could see. The current owner, fastidious in nature when it comes to the cars he buys, assures us that it's in excellent health with no untoward bangs or noises, no smoke and nothing that would stop you from jumping in and driving away, no matter how far you need to travel.

Having done some research, the owner also believes this to be the lowest mileage 12-valve GSi in existence. In fact, it's only one of a handful of this model left. Despite the exclusivity of the Lotus Version, the reality today is that the GSi is a far rarer car. Making one in this condition very special indeed.

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The Appeal

This car is a welcome assault on the senses. First of all, it pulls you in with the whole 'not seen one of those for years' thing. Then, much like on a first date, you find yourself lost, just staring at it. It's a captivating thing, this Carlton. Immaculate, honest and utterly captivating. I\t takes you on a journey to the past, to a time when manufacturers were keep to extoll the virtues of power and performance on all their offerings. We don't get big saloon cars today, we get silly SUVs. This car is from a more exciting and fun time. Unapologetic with its imposing nature and big-capacity engine. 

But then you have the reality. The fact that this is arguably the best of its kind left in existence. There isn't another like this, not in this specification and not with a mere 31k on the clock. This car is a time capsule, a testament to the passion and focus of the people who have owned it before. And now, in a rare turn, you're being presented with the opportunity to bid and buy it. And you should. Whoever secures the winning bid will not want to let this car go, so make sure it's you. 

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Auction FAQs
Vehicle specification
  • Year 1989
  • Make Vauxhall
  • Model Carlton
  • Colour Silver
  • Odometer 31,483 Miles
  • Engine size 2968
Auction Details
  • Seller Type Private
  • Location Scotland
  • Country United Kingdom
Bidding history
42 bids
  • ma•••• £17,250 19/11/21
  • Ab•••• £17,000 19/11/21
  • ma•••• £16,750 19/11/21
  • Ab•••• £16,500 19/11/21
  • ma•••• £16,250 19/11/21
  • Ab•••• £16,000 19/11/21
  • ma•••• £15,750 19/11/21
  • Ab•••• £15,500 19/11/21
  • ma•••• £15,250 19/11/21
  • Ab•••• £15,000 19/11/21
Message C&C Auction Team

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