The nimble, mid-engined, VX220 (or Opel Speedster) was based on the Lotus Elise and was actually manufactured by Lotus in their Norfolk plant, a collaboration we’d seen before with the insane Lotus Carlton back in the early nineties. A fantastic platform to build from then, but why would people choose a Vauxhall badge over a Lotus one?
Launched later that year, the VX220 was actually very well received with many commentators agreeing that it was much better value than its sister car, the Elise.
It’s difficult to find a definitive answer on how many were actually built in total, but the general consensus is that 8,000 to 10,000 were shifted between 2000 and 2005, with many of them sold as Opel Speedsters across Europe. Today there are around 1,100 remaining on the road in Britain making them a rare sight indeed.
It was powered by a 2.2 litre naturally aspirated inline-four, producing 147bhp and taking less than six seconds to get to 60mph, helped by its remarkably low weight of 870kg.
The lightweight chassis meant it was sublime through the bends, and to top it off it looked absolutely astounding, standing out a mile when parked alongside every-day Astras and Corsas in Vauxhall dealerships across the UK.
Even with all of this going for it, the VX220 was being hugely outsold by the Elise and Vauxhall knew they couldn’t just match the Lotus, they needed to better it.
Three years after the initial launch they upped the stakes by introducing the VX220 Turbo. It had a 2 litre turbocharged engine, taking it close to 200bhp and hitting 0-60 in an incredible 4.7 seconds in the process.
The Turbo was reviewed on Top Gear shortly after launch, with Jeremy Clarkson loving it so much that it eventually won their award for ‘Most Fun Car of the Year’ for 2003.
In 2004 Vauxhall launched their performance brand, VXR, and the limited edition VXR220 was the first car to wear the badge. Just 65 were built, which came with styling enhancements, 220bhp and a quicker 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds.
It’s fair to say that it was the perfect way of introducing the high-performance brand to the UK car-buying public!
Will it be a future classic?
The VX220 was produced for five years, with rumours that Vauxhall ended production early due to slow sales. Only the insiders will truly know what happened, but the fact remains that today there really aren’t that many on the road as a result.
The interior is stripped out and deliberately basic to save weight and give a proper sports car feel. The exterior styling gives it the supercar look for Vauxhall money!
There were a number of build quality issues reported, particularly with the early cars. Bad repairs can be easily hidden and these cars are popular at track days so look out for any damage.
Although it’s displaying the griffin badge, don’t think you’ll get away with paying Corsa prices for maintenance. It should generally be cheaper than most luxury marques though, assuming it’s been well looked after throughout its life.
Price When New
It was around £25,000 from new, on par with an Elise at the time. Affordable and appealing to many!
The British car industry is used to seeing small, lightweight sports cars, but not from the likes of Vauxhall. This was a landmark car for them, something completely different which they haven’t yet replicated, although we were recenly introduced to a similar sized sports car at the Geneva Motor Show, the Vauxhall GT Concept.
It did also help to launch the now well-established VXR brand in its later days.
When the car was launched in Spain, journalists were given the opportunity to take the VX220s out for a thrashing around Circuito De Jerez. Bad idea; the combination of an unexpectedly powerful car and a challenging circuit ended up in three of them being written off in one day!
Time to Buy?
Yes. Prices have been gradually rising over the last few years and you can now expect to pay around £10,000 for a decent example. Soon you’ll be hard-pressed to find one for under £10k!
An excellent sports car from the turn of the century that is exceptional fun to drive and looks tremendous. A unique car that is destined to go down in history as the time that Vauxhall tried their hand at a mid-engined sports car and failed… according to their sales figures anyway.
The real driving enthusiasts amongst us know how fine this car was, so track down a good example and have some fun. Overall we think this is a good investment opportunity.