1996 Vauxhall Astra LS 1.6 from UK and Ireland
She's called the Green Devil for a reason!
Bought the car for 150 quid, and had to replace the driver's door glass and a gear linkage.
Did about 2000 miles when the head gasket went at 128000. New gasket 10 quid, half a day's work and back in business till the oil pump went at 150000 miles.
Seized the camshaft (25 quid at Smithy's), replaced it, then seized a gudgeon pin on number 2 piston whilst dry-starting (20 quid at Smithy's). Fixed that, did 100 miles and then spun a big end bearing. Got some fogals off ebay for 18 quid and got back up and running again.
Water pump shed its impeller at 180000 right in the middle of 2009's winter.
Replaced cylinder head and cam at 205000 for a lower mileage one (50 quid at Smithy's). Cam turns out to be a long-duration and polished head from a retro fitted Nova, happy days :)
The Astra F is a great car. What makes it great is its chassis. When properly lowered and stiffened, the Astra shell makes for an excellent platform for right-on-the-wire driving.
In the dry, a good set-up will give you super grip and excellent stability, whereas other cars just don't give the same results due to such things as body-flex (the Astra mk2 was notorious for this at full tilt, and would often throw the back out).
In the wet, even with top tyres, the Astra F has the potential to be a death trap, but then you don't take roundabouts at 60 and expect to come out the other side :D
All in all, the 1.6 8v, when released from its insecurities, is a tough, durable little engine with massive torque that belies its size. An engine that can quite literally survive anything you care to throw at it. It has taken more knocks than Frank Bruno, and still rattles up to 5000rpm, even with 210000 miles on the clock. When replacing the head, it was noted that the wear on the bores was minimal with no scoring, embedded materials or ridges at the top of the bores.
The interior I found very drab; grey dash, grey doors, grey everywhere. Swapped out the interior for black carpets, cards, buckets etc, black dash, and sprayed the dash inserts in plasticote silver metallic, the stuff you use to patch up silver cookers, fridges etc when the paint's come off. Black and silver gives a superb finish, and makes the interior look modern for very little cost.
Comfortable car to drive, or it was until I dropped it on the deck with new springs and shocks. 60mm on the front and 40mm on the rear to keep the car looking level, instead of dragging its rear.
Things to do, I guess a re-ring is in order due to the oil seals being very old, compression rings still within tolerances, but other than that, everything is sweet. I guess I'm just lazy, because I did notice the oil rings were poor when I repaired the spun bearing all those miles ago.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 24th February, 2011
The continue the saga, I've decided to rip the engine out and completely rebuild it as cheaply as possible.
Parts to replace are all the major wear components; rings, bearings, gaskets and seals. New timing belt kit, clutch kit, front discs, front tyres and a strut mount.
Having ripped the engine apart, I am very pleased to see no damage to pistons, bores etc with 218,000 on the clock, so well worth fixing.
So far I've spent £88 and got a head gasket set, main bearings, timing belt and tensioner, and lots of WD40...
Rings and big-end bearings should set me back another £80-100, add oil, antifreeze, sump gasket and a pint and a pack of crisps, and I should be done for less than £220 on the engine rebuild.
Clutch kit for £40, discs £35, strut mount £18, 2 tyres £60. Various clips etc to finish the job.
All in all, I am looking at less than £400 quid to fully fix the car, and this is another big reason why I love the Astra, apart from the fact that it is easy to work on.