16 Mar 2013

Spotted - Vauxhall Astra T9 - Super rare special edition

Colin Hubbard spots a supremely rare (only 15 made) Vauxhall Astra special edition called the T9

I spotted this rare beast for sale in Cumbria on Ebay and on first view it looks like a boring old Astra diesel with some Halfords wheels, and in beige. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find this is a very special car.

The Astra T9 (read Triple 9) was commissioned in limited numbers by Thurlby Motors, who are a Vauxhall dealer based in Lincolnshire, in conjunction with Triple Eight Race Engineering, who were Vauxhall’s official BTCC works team, as a response to some critism of their previous effort the 888 Astra CDTi.

The recipe for the 888 was to take a standard Astra 1.9CDTI Diesel in 120bhp SRI spec and then throw various chassis and engine upgrades at it to create a pretty special little car with race car handling, easy performance and exceptional fuel economy. Any car from the Astra range could be picked as the base car, so there are 3 door, 5 door and estate versions.  Basically you picked the body style, styling, colour and interior spec and Thurlby as a package added the goodies as a complete car.

The engine was treated to a remap which upped the power from 120bhp to 200bhp and also 330lb ft torque and, by using the sport button, the car could also be switched to an everyday 165bhp and 275lb ft to suit your mood; or whatever’s next to you at the traffic lights.

The suspension was revised with 30mm lowered and stiffened springs and revised damper settings to create a much livelier car more at home on a racetrack than the high street.

The front brakes were replaced with huge 335mm discs and 4 pot Alcon callipers to provide exceptional stopping power that was a match for the suspension mods. The last detail change was the wheels which were replaced with lightweight 18 inch Team Dynamics alloys to reduce unsprung weight along with Toyo Proxes T1-R tyres to give superb grip to the front wheel drive chassis.

Overall this was a masterful package as the remapped engine provided more than enough grip to overwhelm the front wheels providing a huge kick from 2500 revs and everyday 40 plus mpg along with a race car chassis setup that really did deliver on it’s promise of trackday handling.

Looks wise you had to make do with the standard Astra with a bodykit, but a little more aggression in the form of larger wheels and a lower stance. The interior was a letdown as it was completely standard unless you specified some optional extra cost Recaro seats but nothing so special as a different steering wheel and gear knob or drilled pedals.The only UK press criticism of the 888 was that the ride too hard for everyday use and so after the limited run of 100 Astra 888s Thurlby duly responded with the Astra T9 which took everything from the previous special and made the following subtle tweaks to the chassis.

The spring and damper rates were revised so they were less harsh whilst providing more control on the UK’s pothole riddled tarmac, and the T9 now rode the bumps with more compliance. This, in conjunction with new 18in Compromotive CXR lightweight alloys and less aggressive Avon ZZ3 tyres, brought a very slight increase in track which in turn reduced torque steer. The brake set up was also improved with slightly larger front discs (343mm vs 335mm) which help deliver more power and feel than the previous version.

These small tweaks turned the T9 into a fantastic road car that was as happy as taking the kids to school in performance stealth as flying round a racetrack on a trackday.

When Evo magazine tested the T9 they had a lot of fun and found it only dropped to 28mpg when driven hard which considering the performance is an immense figure compared with its rivals.

Speaking of which what are the rivals for this car, I can only think of one car which is a true rival to the T9 and it’s the Renault Megane dCi 175 with a cup chassis which costs £3k more than the T9 when new.

Even with the optional Recaros this makes the Astra T9 the Performance Eco Car of the Noughties.

So to the actual car in question. This is a 2006 5 door model in Pannacotta Pearlescent paint which really helps with the Q car look. It has a full service history and the mileage is low at 48,000 which works out at about 7,000 miles per year. The tax is about to expire but there's 8 months MOT and it benefits from a reconditioned gearbox which is a common failing of these Astras.

A financial benefit of this car is that it’s being sold with the personalised reg of T9VXL which has been valued at £1900 so the asking price of £6900 could mean that if you sell the plate privately the car will stand you about £5,000, and that’s if you pay the asking price.

Factor in 4 wheel refurbs (£200), a small paint repair (£100) and I would personally source a good secondhand leather sports interior (circa £500) and so for £6,000 you have a cracking car that is cheap to run but could embarrass and surprise alot of more exotic machinery at a trackday.

The full advert is here.