Scrapophile – Vauxhall Omega

German design and engineering, six cylinders, and rear wheel drive. BMW, right? Wrong. This week’s Scrapophile car is the Vauxhall Omega.

I’ve always reserved a special place in my heart for the Omega. It’s often overlooked for the likes of BMWs, Mercedes and Audis, and while it perhaps lacks the polish of its peers, it’s by no means a bad car.

It was originally introduced in the 90s to replace the Vauxhall Carlton, and it was adopted by the police fairly quickly because of its space, comfort and performance coupled with cheap repair and purchase costs. They depreciated extremely badly and as a result have become something of a used bargain.

Go for a post facelift model (Mid 1999 onwards) and you won’t look too out of date. The exterior styling is understated, and perhaps even a little dull, but it’s not ugly. Several engine variants are available – 2.0 and 2.2litre Ecotec 4cyl engines sit at the bottom of the pile, with a 2.6 and 3.2litre V6s at the top. There are also some older variants of the petrol engines with slightly reduced capacity and some less common diesel engines.

The V6s are the ones to go for, with silky smooth power delivery and reasonable outputs of 178bhp for the 2.6 and 215bhp for the 3.2. The 4cyl engines are a bit strained, particularly the underpowered 134bhp 2.0litre unit. When buying, look for CD trim or better and you’ll get some decent equipment – climate control and electrically adjustable heated seats are standard from this spec and up.

The fake wood looks a bit crap, but this is a Vauxhall so it doesn’t have it all. The best models are Elite and MV6, which both have leather as standard, the MV6 having a sportier suspension set up.

Most Omegas are automatics, but don’t let that put you off. While the auto box is sluggish and laggy, it suits the cars lazy character nicely, since the Omega is best suited to motorways slogs.

The long wheelbase makes the handling predictable and should the tail slip away, it’s not too hard to bring it back into line. Or to hang it there, should you so desire! For proper drifting fun, a manual is essential. If you want the ultimate sleeper drift mobile then go for an ex-police 3.2V6 special, the only 3.2 variant with a manual ‘box.

Fuel economy isn’t great, it’s only realistic to expect mid-20s at best unless you live on the motorway.

If you want an Omega then it’s best to test drive a few. They’re not very expensive so many will have been bought on the cheap and neglected. Check for a full history and make sure the cam belts have been changed every 40,000 miles. If not, do it right away. It’s not a massively expensive job thanks to the engine being longitudinally mounted.

Another key thing to check is the cam cover gaskets, which are prone to failure. If they’re broken then oil leaks into the spark plug apertures and causes the engine to run rough. Fixing them is a pain, but can be done with basic tools at home.

Lastly, make sure the car rides well, suspension wear is common, and check that all of the electronic gadgets work as they should.

There’s no need to spend much more than £1500 on an Omega, and, providing you make sure it’s a good one, it should provide you with a few years of bargetastic motoring. If you’re feeling exceptionally adventurous you could strip one out and slap some old tyres on the rear for an oddball skid machine…

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