Words & photos - Daniel Bevis
Before I climbed into this car, I knew I'd love it. It could have turned out to be a horrible puddingy sludgefest and I'd have still loved it. You see, my parents had a V-reg Cavalier 2000 GLS when I was a kid; DKG 494V was identical to this in every way, except that theirs was tobacco brown with black seats. But aside from the colour scheme, exactly the same in every respect - the chrome, the Rostyles, the vinyl roof, the two-tone dash, the works. And, as many car-obsessed folk will attest, it's the motors our parents owned that got us interested in cars in the first place.
That brown Cavalier was the family daily-driver for some time, and took us all across France and Spain on holidays as well. One of my clearest memories of the car, in fact, was the exhaust falling off in the Pyrenees, my dad fetching it from the road and putting it on the back seat between my sister and I. 'Don't touch it, it's hot!'
And now, decades later, I find myself promoted to the front seat of a 2000 GLS - Vauxhall's own example in fact, part of their Heritage collection. All those hundreds of miles of country lanes, shopping trips and foreign motorways, spent in the back seat calling out for the radio to be turned up... and now I'm allowed to actually operate the controls myself. Oh, frabjous day!
Thankfully, the rose-tinted glasses are entirely superfluous, as the Cavalier is genuinely fun to drive. I mean, I would say that anyway, because I want to like it so much, but it really is. The 2.0-litre engine offers a modest 100bhp, but the short gearing and light weight mean it's an eager performer (and you can ask my dad about what happens when you fit a shorter-geared Chevette four-speeder), and the fact that it's rear-wheel drive with very little mass at the back end means that you can enourage the tail to be rather playful. The handling is what you'd expect it to be - a bit wallowy and loose; it isn't a sports car, of course - but the GLS's crowning glory is its interior. As the travelling salesmen of the 1980s surely demanded, it's jam-packed with lurid velour, eye-searing carpets and manically dyed plastics. It's not so much a car interior as a fairground ride, and it's one that transported me happily back to my childhood as I cheerfully pottered around the Bedfordshire countryside. What a thoroughly lovely little time machine this is.