Being launched as a centrepiece to the company’s Centenary celebrations, the VX Lightning is a two-seater roadster based on the same technical foundation as the Pontiac concept Solstice, first seen at the 2002 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Under the long bonnet of the VX Lightning is a new version of Vauxhall’s all aluminium 2.2 ECOTEC engine, reworked with a supercharger to produce a maximum power of 240hp and 305Nm of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox is mated to the engine, driving the rear wheels.
The chassis incorporates independent suspension, the front end using a simple and reliable strut configuration with a rack and pinion steering. At the rear, the independent suspension is all aluminium for weight saving. Overall, the car manages a near perfect 50:50 weight distribution for the best in handling and agility.
Designed in the UK, the VX Lightning is a classically proportioned sports car with a long bonnet and short rear overhang. There are also some subtle echoes of the past, including the rollover hoops sculptured into the rear deck and bodywork which flows down into the cabin. Inside, deeply sculptured seats are finished in black and red leather, while red leather has also been used to trim the sweeping dashboard.
May 14, 2003 – Although much of the attention – at least in the United States – is on the centennial of the Ford Motor Company, which will be officially celebrated on June 16, this year is also the 100th anniversary of another motor firm: Vauxhall, which has been part of General Motors since 1925. Perhaps as a move to shine some light on the company, it unveiled the VX Lightning concept at the Dorchester Hotel in London this week.
The Vauxhall Lightning concept was a joint project between the GM North America (GMNA) Advanced Design Studio in England and the Opel/Vauxhall Design Center in Rüsselsheim, Germany. The programme was initiated by Wayne Cherry, vice president, General Motors Design, and carried out under the overall direction of Anne Asensio, Executive Director of Advanced Design, and Martin Smith, GM Europe Director of Design.
The Lightning was designed and developed at the GMNA studio in Birmingham. The team was headed by GMNA Advanced Design Director and chief designer on the Lightning, Simon Cox. The joint design team included Opel Advanced Chief Designer Stefan Arndt, Dale Grewer (exterior), and Jochen Werner (interior).
As a commemorative vehicle the emphasis in the grille and elsewhere is the Vauxhall ‘V’ motif. It provides a bold front, as the front fascia flares back with two hood lines completing the arrow-like shape that seems to drive the long-hooded vehicle forward. Reinforcing the ‘V’ theme is the creased centerline of the hood, rear decklid and facias. The angular headlamps continue the themes introduced on the VX220, integrating with the dramatically peaked front fenders.
In classic British roadster style, the hood is long and the rear overhang short. The VX Lightning shows a further evolution of the Opel/Vauxhall form language from the VX220/Speedster, with a more subtle softening up of the surfaces. The rollover hoops beautifully sculpted into the rear deck, with just the touch of a crease, is an indication of the new softer, but still edgy direction this European team is taking. An interesting detail is the polished metal air vent panel in the bodyside air outlet. The rear view mirrors seem to have been formed by high-velocity air, stretching them to a speed shape.
Inside, deeply sculptured seats are finished in black and red leather, while red leather has also been used to trim the sweeping dashboard.The seats, inpired by Italian motorcycle racing gloves, are untreated red aniline leather with a thick buffalo-type grain. Pads of dark charcoal leather are added over the surface or in the case of the door and the IP hood, the red leather floats as a panel over the surface, slightly offset from the main structure. The ebony piano lacquer used as an accent on the center console and framing the instrument dials adds a note of elegance that moves this car up a few levels from the Vauxhall VX220.
The VX Lightning has a new version of Vauxhall’s all aluminium 2.2 ECOTEC engine, reworked with a supercharger to produce a maximum power of 240hp and 305Nm of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox is mated to the new engine, which drives the rear wheels. The chassis incorporates independent suspension, the front end using a simple and reliable strut configuration with a rack and pinion steering.
At the rear, the independent suspension is all aluminium for weight saving. Overall, the car manages a near perfect 50:50 weight distribution for handling and agility. The vehicle has a 95-inch wheelbase, is 45 inches high, 153.1 inches long, 71 inches wide and weighs 2,900 pounds. It rides on 19-inch alloy wheels in the front and 20-inch alloys in the rear, with Michelin Pilot rubber.
Kevin Wale, Vauxhall chairman and managing director, said the Lightning is “a return to our early performance roots when Vauxhall was famous as the manufacturer of the first true British sports car – while we continue to be both innovative and bold in exterior and interior design.” He added, “Ultimately, the VX Lightning, as a classic roadster, represents the best of our past, and our future – a vehicle that is quintessentially British.”
While rumors swirl in and around Detroit that the production Solstice will go ahead, there is no word on whether the Lightning will be put into production, but along with the GTC Geneve concept, it is an indication of Opel/Vauxhalls new design direction, and a prequel to the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.