I thought I would take the opportunity to pass on my experience with Carlton’s and the associated big Vauxhalls of this era (they are all re-badged Opels). I own and have owned other Carlton’s, 2 Opel Monza’s and a Senator.
With sensible maintenance these cars are capable of Trojan mileages and relatively low running costs. My last Carlton had the lowest running costs of any car I have owned. Over a 4-year and 50K miles running period it only ever needed an alternator beside normal service items. It was sold with over 140K miles under its belt.
All these cars are now aging fast and the Carlton should truly be recognised as a future classic. They don’t carry the image or reputation of equivalent BMW’s and Merc’s, but there is no doubting that a ‘MK2’, clean, metallic and ‘cross spoke’ wheeled car has its own distinctive image and displays the last of the ‘hand drawn’ styling clues. Fit and finish was better in early cars.
Carlton’s are the ultimate cruisers. They are extremely comfortable and quiet over long distances, big, roomy and great haulers. They ride more softly than BMW’s and I don’t think they were ever intended as ‘sports cars’. Re-chip the 8-valve engine keeping its low rpm, flat torque curve and make sure all the breathers are clean and the pick up will surprise most people. Just don’t expect them to shift fast from a standing start. The engines perfectly suit the excellent auto boxes. Avoid the 1.8 and go for a pre ‘cat’ car for best performance and economy. By the way, I have only ever achieved around 21 mpg driving around London, but 40 mpg is achievable on long, speed limited runs.
The practical stuff:
These cars rot. If they had been galvanised a lot more would have survived. Terminal rust occurs in the front chassis legs due to ingress of muck through the access holes. Attend to this if you have a clean one. The rear wheel wells are the main area for rust. Its aggravated by muck accumulating in the door seal. Keep this area clean and ‘vaselined’. The sills eventually rot under the guards and towards their ends. The boot leaks due to poor seals and the spare wheel well can rot due to standing water. Poor paint application in later cars causes rot around the front and rear screen rubbers and the sunroof channels can rot if water can’t escape properly. The door bottoms suffer and this is no surprise as the window channel seals are next to useless in preventing water ingress.
Electrics are a problem. Wing mirrors pack up due to the switch bank corroding (water drops directly onto it when the window is open) and window motors pack up. This is not necessarily the motor itself, but more to do with the electronic module that is part of them. It sometimes stems from the wiring under the centre console. Bulbs blow if the alternator’s voltage output module is faulty (it should output no more than a constant 13 volts under load). The air con is a weak spot. Use the windows and sunroof regularly.
Head gasket blowing is not so much a problem as on the front wheel drive cars due to the fan being manual and keeping under bonnet temperatures more constant. However, radiators and water pumps fail.
Vauxhall brake discs warp (I have always used Girling replacements) and this results in wheel wobble when braking at about 50-55 mph. Rear discs corrode, particularly on autos. Steering joints eventually give up causing rapid tyre wear, poor steering and wobble. Change the auto box oil and filters at sensible mileages.
My current Carlton info is recorded below. I searched a long time to find a low mileage example and it was well worth the wait. I sold an Astra, bought the Carlton and went on a Caribbean holiday with the money left over – perfect!