December 3, 2022


Born to perform

Vauxhall Carlton GSi 3000 | Spotted

4 min read


Seemingly, it wasn’t long ago that Matt Bird covered one of these. But if, like me, you’re thinking that was only in the last month or so, it wasn’t. Crikey, it was last November, which means another six months of life has just skedaddled by in a blink. And despite the GSi 3000’s seemingly biannual showing, this is still a super-rare car – and also one that I love more than sipping French Cidre under the shade of a plane tree, and I like doing that a lot. So if you’re unimpressed by its inclusion then, quite frankly, nurr. It’s in.

The Vauxhall Carlton GSi 3000. Isn’t it just magnificent? Yes, yes and yes, are all right answers. Fair play, it isn’t the 24-valver that MB spotted. And true as a straight edge, that’s the big-daddy Carlt we all want, if we haven’t got pockets deep enough for a Lotus. After all, it was the 24-valve model, launched not long after this one would’ve rolled off the Luton line in 1990, that used its new tally of 204hp to see off the BMW 535i in the January edition of Autocar & Motor. I’ve just dug out that twin test and pilfered this comment: ‘With this new Vauxhall engine, BMW’s 3.5 no longer sets the standards by which big sixes are judged.’ Well, how about that bit of breaking news, then, from 32-years ago?

Here, the reciprocating faucets in the head, otherwise known as valves, number twelve. That means this one’s got 177hp, but who gives a monkey’s chuff about that? Not me, and here’s some facts as to why: the 4.0-litre AJ6 in the XJ40, with 24 valves I might add, only mustered 235hp; and because the big Carlt weighed just 1,300kg, 177hp was all it needed to slingshot to sixty in eight-seconds flat. And bar the cylinder head, essentially it’s the same car as a GSi 3000 24v, it just doesn’t breathe quite as freely. Think of it as a Carlton GSi 3000 24v with a head cold, then, and perhaps show it some sympathy.

Anyway, being pretty much the same GSi underneath as the car that beat the 535i, let me spring another sentence or three from that A&M that’ll prove how mighty it was in the handling department: ‘Given the well-documented magnificence of the 5-Series chassis it is to the Carlton’s credit that there is almost nothing to choose between these two on a twisting road.’ And ‘The Carlton, in extremis, handles neutrally, rolling little and showing no desire to push its nose away from the apex. If you go faster still it reveals a penchant for hanging its tail out, but never goes too far or tries to bite back.’ Come on, tell me that doesn’t sounds truly loveable? It’s like a big old cuddly black Lab.

Except, as I said, this one’s a rare breed now. There are, according to, just 63 Carton GSi 3000s left in the U.K. That’s fewer than the number of GSi 3000 24vs, which stands at 101, while Lotus Carltons, for the record, are the most prolific, showing 189. So Β£13,000 for such a rare car doesn’t seem too much of a stretch, really. And looking at the pictures, it’s far from a shabby barn find. The exterior looks sound and the interior well groomed, with nothing more than a few creases in the leather bolster of the driver’s seat to show its 90,000 miles. I love that the original Phillips stereo is still there and it’s one with the old LCD dashboard – I’ve always admired the slight kitsch K.I.T.T. aspect of these.

What about the rust issues, I hear the naysayers warn? Ah yes, big Carlts do wither with tin worm, it’s true. But there’s potentially some good news here. Looking at this car’s more recent MOT history, exactly that problem – along with a fair few others it must be said – meant a big fat fail in July 2020. So the fact that it got the all clear in September that year, and has since passed another annual fitness check last year, does point to it having all the attendant issues attended to. In which case, what are you waiting for? I hear Rotherham’s very agreeable in springtime, so get going, pronto.

Specification | Vauxhall Carlton GSi 3000

Engine: 2,926cc, straight-six, naturally aspirated
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 177
Torque (lb ft): 177
CO2: N/A
First registered: 1989
Recorded mileage: 90,000
Price new: Β£20,000
Yours for: Β£12,980


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