History of the Astra

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History Of The Astra

The Vauxhall Astra model name has been in use since 1979 on their small family car range. The Astra is technically essentially identical with similar vehicles offered by Opel (which is the European counterpart for Vauxhall). For the first 2 generations the Astra name was applied to right-hand drive (UK) versions of the Opel Kadett, but since 1991 Opel has since adopted the Astra model name instead of the Kadett name.

The Mk1 Astra was introduced in 1979 though it was available a year earlier in Europe as the Opel Kadett. This was replaced by the Mk2 Astra in the 80’s. The Mk2 Astra GTE was the first of the Astra range to be fitted with the now infamous 150bhp 2.0 16v ‘redtop’ engine. The Mk2 Astra was also sold in Europe as the Opel Kadett, and was voted European Car Of the Year in 1985.

The Mk3 Astra (which this Owners Club is all about) was introduced in 1991 and rather than a redesign of the Mk2 it was more of an evolution. This was the first generation to be called Astra by Opel and in Europe the Mk3 Astra was known as the Astra F. It was available in a variety of bodystyles:

3 door hatchback
5 door hatchback
4 door saloon
5 door estate
2 door cabriolet

There were 2 phases of Mk3 Astra the early phase 1’s were produced from 1991 – 1994 and the phase 2 ran from 1995 – 1998. There are a few cars around that were built during the changeover and these use parts from both phases of Mk3 Astra.

The top of the range GSi model ran from 1991 to 1994, and was only available in a 3 door hatch bodystyle, when production of the 150bhp 2.0 16v Astra GSi ceased as insurance costs were going up making ‘hot-hatches’ unpopular. This coincided with the phase 2’s coming in so Vauxhall replaced the GSi with the Sport models, which were available with a choice of 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 16v ecotec engines, and available in 3 door, 5 door or estate versions.

In 1997 Vauxhall re-introduced the range topping GSi, but they had replaced the infamous ‘redtop’ power plant with the less powerful 2.0 16v ecotec engine producing 136bhp. They had also made some changes to the bodykit with the 1997 edition, which some people call the Phase 2 GSi, or as special edition GSi’s. The phase 2 GSi’s didn’t have a vented bonnet like the early one had, the sideskirts were also different as was the rear spoiler.