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1. VAUXHALL ASTRA MK1 EXP & EXP S

The Vauxhall Astra EXP launched in April 1982 and was the first factory produced limited edition model in the Astra range. What was strange was the fact that one model was a luxury version of the Astra L while the other was, visually at least, overtly sporting and in effect a version of the Opel Kadett SR, at the time there were no sporting models in the standard Astra range.

The normal EXP featured a choice of two different 2 tone paint schemes - Black with an Antique Gold metallic centre section or Hazel Brown metallic with the same gold centre section. The gold painted standard wheels looked a bit chintzy but the car was well equipped with lots of extras such as tinted glass included in the price. It was available as a 3 or 5 door Hatch with 1300 manual or 1300 & 1600 5 door with automatic available on the 1600 engine only as an extra cost option. All the cars were built at Bocham in Germany and coincided with the production run of the similarly painted Opel Kadett Guy Laroche SE.

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The EXP S was only available as a 1600 manual 3 door Hatch in Carmine Red with a Black bottom half, it came with a full specification that basically mirrored the Kadett SR. It could not have been more different to the normal EXP and is a wonder why they were not marketed separately, the EXP S was also far less popular and there were still plenty in dealer stock long after the normal EXP had sold out. This was probably the same reason the Kadett SR was not a big seller - it was more show than go.

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2. VAUXHALL ASTRA MK1 CELEBRITY:

The second, and last, factory produced Astra MK1 limited edition was the Astra Celebrity launched in April 1984 and was designed to boost Astra sales prior to its imminent replacement. To many this was the best looking Astra MK1, excluding the GTE, ever made and it certainly was a striking looking car. It was only available as a 5 door Hatch with only one engine, the 1300S, there was however a choice of gearboxes - the standard was a 4 speed manual with a 5 speed or automatic as options. It was also very well equipped with even a removable glass sunroof and bronze tinted glass as standard. Only one colour combination could be had, Silver metallic for the centre section and Anthracite metallic for the rest of the car. It was a good seller with all being sold within 2 months of being launched.

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3. VAUXHALL ASTRA MK1 OGLE MD CONCEPT:

To accurately analyse the Vauxhall Astra Ogle MD Concept first shown at the 1982 NEC Motor Show it is necessary to go back into the history of two different companies – Ogle Design and Avon Coachworks.

Ogle Design was a British design consultancy company, founded in 1954 by David Ogle and based at Letchworth in Hertfordshire. Ogle Design was involved in the style of many diverse household and industrial products, an example of this diversity is the design of the Bush TR82 radio of 1959, the Raleigh Chopper bicycle from the early 1970s is another. In 1959 the Ogle became involved in car design and even small scale production of their own. Between 1959 and 1962 they built a series of complete cars. The first was the 1.5 based on an extended Riley 1.5 litre chassis with a two-door, four-seater coupé-styled body built in glass fibre and was capable of nearly 90 mph, 8 were made.

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Made in greater numbers was the 1962 SX1000 based on the BMC Mini. The first cars were built by grafting the Ogle glass fibre body to a customer supplied car. The conversion was expensive at £550. Later in 1962, complete cars became available with the 997 cc Cooper version costing £1176. Any of the Mini engines could be specified up to the Cooper S unit which topped out at 110 mph, 66 were made. The final car was the SX250, an updated Daimler Dart built in 1962, 2 were made but Daimler was not interested and the design was sold to Reliant where it became the basis of the Scimitar GT which was launched in 1964. Following David Ogle's death in a car crash in one of his own designs, am SX1000, another accomplished designer, Tom Karen, took over the company as Managing Director and Chief Designer and one of his first decisions was to halt all car production and concentrate on contracted design work undertaken for outside companies.

In 1974 the automotive part of the business was restructured into a separated division. One of the main customers was Reliant, all the Scimitars, Robin & Kitten were Ogle designs. One of the main customers was Reliant, all the Scimitars, Robin & Kitten were Ogle designs. Leyland Truck & Bus were also a good customer. Looking for new avenues of business in the early 1980s Ogle Design considered what had been successfully done by companies such as Wood & Picket with the Mini, taking a standard production car and refurbish and enhance the specification to coach built standards and then sell at a premium price. Tom Karen’s idea was for a compact, fast and luxurious car but with a heavy emphasis on distinctive design in keeping with Ogle’s individual heritage.

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The car was first shown at the 1982 NEC Motor Show and was based on a Blydenstein tuned 1600cc Astra with a view to limited production, the car was actually registered and used by Tom Karen himself. The target price was just under £10,000 at the time.

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Although there was some interest in the Astra MD there were no firm orders, the price was a major barrier to sales and also the prospect of Vauxhall producing their own sports version of the Astra D – the GTE. As a result the rights to the body design were sold to Avon Coachworks. Ogle Design was eventually sold and renamed Ogle Noor in 1999.

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The origins of Avon date back much further than that of Ogle, in fact to 1919 when two men, Tilt & Captain Phillips founded the company in Warwick and specialised in the production of coach built car bodies.For the first ten years, they concentrated solely on the Lea Francis brand, but eventually branched out into producing bodies for Austin and Standard. In 1938, the company became part of the Maudsley Motor Group, and moved to their Millers Road premises where they would remain there for some 50 years. After the War, Maudsley retired and the business was run by one of the company’s directors, a Mr Watson, who changed the focus of the business moving it away from coach building into the slightly more mundane but profitable realm of body repairs. This remained the case well into the 1970s. Graham Hudson bought the company in 1973, and integrated Avon into his own thriving body repair business. However, he was very aware of the company’s history and had plans to resurrect Avon as a coachbuilder. Thus, in 1979, Avon Special Products was formed, and after a spate of producing up market converted Land & Range Rovers they introduced the critically acclaimed coach built Jaguar-Avon XJC convertible. Then in the early 1980s came an upmarket version of the Triumph Acclaim, probably one of the most boring cars ever built, but it was given a thorough makeover by Avon Special Products and turned into something far more interesting. In fact what Avon were doing was exactly what Ogle had tried to do with the Astra MD but were far more successful, the Astra was marketed as the Astra Ogle and a promised (very optimistic) production run of 200 cars, but it was still not a success. However, this was largely because by this time Vauxhall were already offering the much cheaper Astra GTE and everybody knew there was a new Astra on the way and so only a handful of Astra Ogle were produced before being dropped – this time for good. 

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TWO PRESS RELEASE PICTURES OF THE ASTRA OGLE BY AVON COACHWORKS

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4. STAR CUSTOM VEHICLES (SCV):

Star Custom Vehicles were a separate company, but closely linked, to Vauxhall and were responsible for three special editions of the Astra MK1, the Invader, the Ibis and the Plaza. The company was started by Rob Darcus whilst he was actually working for Vauxhall as the Regional District Manager for the London area and used the his company to create special edition versions with custom paint designs in order to increase sales, some of these would be called “London Specials” and were only sold by the many dealers in the capital. In conjunction with London Dealer Hamilton Motors Rob set up a large paint facility in Ampthill to produce the cars. Eventually Vauxhall got involved in the project to build specials for other dealers across the country. In addition Star Custom Vehicles produced their own vehicles for sale which were much more sophisticated and sometimes included body kits. The output wasn’t just restricted to the Astra either as there were also many special editions of the Chevette that were built as well. Unfortunately Rob passed away some years ago.

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