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Vauxhall Senator

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      15.11.2002 02:25
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      My late husband, being a Yorkshireman, needed to know that his money produced good value. So, when searching for the car of his choice, he would look for something 3 years old ,which had given time for someone else to add on the bits he wanted. His 2.0 litre Astra SRi estate had already been so successfully dressed up when he bought it that it looked sporty without losing dignity; and when I took it over I received several offers to buy from complete strangers, so successful was this. All he needed to do was add the mandatory go-fast stripe. I remember with a smile that whenever I replaced my own car, I only had to turn my back for 30 minutes to return and find a thin red stripe once again daintily in place. For the same common sense reason, Malcolm queried why I had paid £1600 for my cavalier. He said that this sort of mid price meant that it would be worth very little very quickly. My reply that I wasn't going to borrow money for a tin box was answered with the suggestion that I should buy something like a large Ford Ghia with all the bells and whistles for the same price. When I reminded him of the fuel consumption, he countered with, "Well! You don't go anywhere, do you?" So, when I browsed around the forecourt of my trusted local garage a few years later, the gleaming grey Vauxhall Senator 3.1i CD could not be left behind. I handed over my £3000 knowing full well that I would never recoup the cost and drove happily from the forecourt to begin a short but eminently successful relationship. The Senator was replaced by the Omega in 1994 and the less said about that the better! Mine, a 24v luxury motor, had serious poke. The first time I laid my foot on the accelerator to overtake another vehicle I frightened the life out of myself. I had forgotten that my E-type and 4 litreR days were well in the past. Despite this, the Senator is perhaps the easiest car to drive that I have ever owned. The power steering
      was such that I had an audience more than once when extricating myself from tight parking spaces. I received a round of applause on one occasion, although at almost nil speed and with a beautiful all round view, with the help of the electrically adjusted wing mirrors, the manoevre was simplicity itself. It was just that the elderly gentleman beside me had just taken 5 mins to drive out with his Fiesta. Owning a car of this power meant that I didn't muck around with cheap tyres and cornering made me feel as if I were on railway lines. The Senator stuck to the road whatever my hands and feet were asking of it and at no time lost it's generosity. The automatic gearbox, not normally my choice, meant that cruising in town was effortless and motorway driving likewise, as cruise control was part of the specs. The gear lever had a "Sport" button which adjusted the suspension and aided fast sports driving, although I only tried this as an experiment. ABS and dual control brakes gave me a vehicle which I could stop extraordinarily quickly despite it's size and weight and always in a straight line. The leather seats (handy when you have two hairy dogs) and many additional comfort accessories meant this car would double as a limousine. Whatever little perks the driver and front seat passenger had were repeated in the back of the car. It was handy being able to see what the outside temperature was, and a flashing warning on the trip computer told me that below zero meant ice outside. At these times on hard frosty mornings, I only had to sit quietly for a few minutes, press a few buttons and all was cleared, including the wing mirrors, with my seat heated nicely for me and no hardship to the battery. I did tend to forget to turn off the seating though and often had an uncomfortably hot bottom. For the uniniated the Senator is similar to a Carlton with added loading. The CD is the ultimate in loading and in my opinion was
      ahead of it's years. With air conditioning, onboard computer and fully electric windows and tilting/sliding sunroof there is nothing missing. The display is large, green and digital and, in addition to the speedometer and rev counter, has clearly visible graduated warnings for oil, battery, water etc. The petrol gauge is also digital, showing the gallons left with clear figures. All indicators can be converted to decimal for those who think that way and the whole thing looks like a neon lit aircraft cabin. Add the cd autochanger and so many gizmos that I don't believe I found them all and you have a car to be proud of. The boot looks uninspiring until you open it. With the spare wheel and tools tucked beneath a rear wheel arch, no space is wasted in the cavernous, beautifully carpeted hole before you. The rear seats can be split and let down and I fitted a 9'6" roll of flooring into the boot with the end resting easily and safely on the passenger dashboard. Talking of carpets, the mats in the cabin are reversable with carpet one side and thick rubber the other. I don't have to tell you which way round I had them when driving to the stableyard. Servicing was inexpensive, although in any case it always passed it's MOT. The catalytic convertor took care of emissions efficiently and normal Vauxhall spares would have done for most replacement parts. The exception is the twin exhaust at a cost of £400, but is of a quality that meant in the almost 3 years that I owned the car I didn't need a replacement. The flat ends to the exhaust were an inconvenience when I managed a Filling Station however. I had been used to blowing out the blocked hose of our forecourt vacuum with my car exhaust pipe and this wasn't possible with the Senator. :-) This large, graceful all singing all dancing motor car comes at a price. I kept the computer showing at the average mpg......and you don't want to know! Alt
      hough on a trip to Scotland I kept careful check on my consumption and ran at 30mpg, my normal daily journeys were generous at 18mpg. For a while I ran at even lower and would not have kept this car if I had strayed more than rarely from local driving. Even with the bonuses I receive for being a woman of a certain age and a 30 year clean driving record, the cost of insurance was higher than I would have liked. Although I didn't need specialist tyres, as with PAS on any car, there can be a little more wear on the front. For this reason I replaced the tyres more often than perhaps I will need on my present car which I drive with a lot less respect. An additional plus side is that, with care, this motor lasts. Mine had done over 140,000 miles when I bought it and I personally know of another which has done 240,000 miles, still runs as sweet as a nut and, like mine, is rust free. The Senator also has it's lifetime fans and I like to think that it will become a classic car one day. An important reminder, should you be seduced by a sophisticated older vehicle, is that a full service history should be asked for and the car checked to see that everything works. I bought mine from my own trusted service station and was confident that I should expect few problems. Why did I dispose of my beautiful toy? Well, I retired at last (for the 3rd time), and had to be practical. So, a more recent town car it had to be. I am enjoying my little Ford Ka2, but feel a little flutter in the region of my heart when a Vauxhall Senator CD glides quietly past me. Note; as usual I can't fill in the opinion boxes

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