Rose-tinted Vauxhall Nova GTE for sale
Automotive

Rose-tinted Vauxhall Nova GTE for sale

Just imagine for a second the roads of Britain without small, cheap Vauxhalls on them. It would be a very, very different automotive landscape, because so many of them have been bought for so many decades. Generations of Corsas have been best sellers since the early 1990s, and that looks set to continue with the demise of the Ford Fiesta. Before the Corsa was the Nova, of course, meaning something like 40 years now of Vauxhall superminis up and down the land. It’s easy to think of the Fiesta or the Mini as the nation’s small car of choice, though it’s impossible to argue with the sheer amount of Vauxhalls on UK roads. 

We’ve all driven a Corsa or a Nova a bit too fast, right? Or been a passenger in one going too quickly, that’s for sure. They’re inextricably linked with that freedom (and perhaps foolhardy confidence) of being on the public highway for the first time. None of the small Vauxhalls have been revolutionary – or ever class-leading, really – and yet so many of us are indebted to them for getting us mobile in the first place. 

Back when budget (and insurance quotes) would only allow an L or an LS or an Envoy, it was always the fast ones that seemed desirable. Vauxhall knew it as well, and for almost as long as there have been Novas and Corsas there have been performance derivatives: VXRs, GSIs, Sports, SRs and so on. We’ll leave the discussion of why one isn’t in the current lineup for another time, but suffice it to say the existence of several different tiers of go-faster costume back in the day was all the excuse some people needed to make their humbler Vaux look (and sound) like something more senior. And that was great. 

30 years after the last Vauxhall Nova was made, it’s hard to think of a car for which surviving this long is a notable achievement. Think about it: they were cheap to start with (so surely less likely to be loved), they were notoriously easy to pinch, infamously prone to rust, loved for an engine swap and near enough worthless when those first scrappage schemes came around 15 years ago. If you can bear to look, the Government spreadsheet for 2009 shows 57 different types of Nova crushed in that year, including 354 that just came under ‘Nova’, from Swing to Saloon. Even that was a decade and a half ago – they just aren’t out there anymore. 

But then there’s this one, a 1990 1.6i GTE, what would have been one of the very last before they became the GSI. Just when it seems that all the beautifully preserved cult heroes have been found, so another little gem surfaces. This one is low mileage (sub-60k) and has only had three owners for almost 35 years of use. It’s completely standard, too – not even a pair of 6x9s dropped into the parcel shelf. Those owners have surely all doted on it, moreover, with a stack of history available, the red pinstriping still vibrant and the interior looking impressively together (given they were never the last word in fit and finish). For enthusiasts of a certain age, it’s hard not to look at a Nova GTE and smile, whatever memories of carefree youth it evokes. Whether you owned one, drove one or merely lusted after one in the late 20th century and early part of the 21st, rose-tinted specs are virtually guaranteed. 

Best hope you’ve done well in the decades since, then, because reliving the glory days won’t come cheap. Hardly like old fast Vauxhalls are the only ones to be afflicted, of course, and nostalgia tax has a lot to answer for when what’s coming next looks so unsettling. The only Nova on PH currently is £23,000 – there, said it. More even than might be paid for a 205 GTI, but old Peugeots are as common as muck against the Vauxhall. As most things are, in fact, with just 46 left on the road according to HowManyLeft. Obviously no rational argument could be mounted for spending £20k on a Nova GTE in 2024, but no one who lusted after one more than 20 years ago should let that stand in their way. Genuine want is the only prerequisite for taking the plunge. And ideally a stack of old cassettes.