A stickered up Vauxhall Belmont with a big wing might not sound like typical Festival material, but it’s something that’s got to be worthy of further investigation. Brits will always think of the pensioner’s favourite, the Astra saloon or ‘Belmont’, as the definition of beige, boiled sweets and travel rugs on the move, although in fact the name was dropped by the time this mk3 Astra-based shape appeared. Poor sellers in the UK, booted hatches have always been popular in Europe – particularly in the southern markets.
Despite its innocuous appearance, this 1994 Opel Astra Saloon is an intriguing part of 1990s Super Touring history. A development prototype for the Cavalier Super Tourer, this chassis is one of four built: a pair were latterly sent to South Africa and appeared in tin top racing down there, and of the other two that stayed in Germany this particular car entered and then led the Nurburgring 24 hour race for all but the last six hours.
This was an unofficial effort, albeit one that involved Opel Motorsport supremo Volker Strycek, and that also explains the bizarre early-90s colour scheme that hides the blanked out factory Opel colours slightly visible underneath.
‘It’s a great little car,’ says owner/driver Andy Wolfe. ‘Really proper under the skin, it runs 18” as opposed to the 19” items on a Cavalier, and the cylinder head is on the right way around, also unlike the Cavalier’s. But it does have a 290bhp Swindon engine, and it’s ballasted up to 975kg.’ Such figures, and the quality of the original engineering, make this little Opel a car to take very seriously.
‘It never ran in the BTCC,’ adds Andy. ‘But we raced it in the late 1990s. It’s been idle since, but when this new series came about we got it back out again. We’ve done nothing to it – not developed it in any way. It originally didn’t have the wings, but we raced with them later on, and we’ve added them now to move up into a higher class. It runs in the middle of the pack in the HSCC Super Touring Car Trophy and all for about a quarter of the price of a super tourer.’
Photography by Chris McEvoy