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1999 Vauxhall Omega Estate - if Carlsberg did completely inappropriate track cars


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As the story of this car is highly Autoshite-centric, I have decided for your delectation to copypasta my existing thread on it from Pistonheads - with references and names updated appropriately where needed and some minor edits for this audience. Please do enjoy this rather sporadic tale of trackday-based silliness aboard one of GM's finest barges:


(This part originally posted 10-Nov-18)

So, the background....

A long time ago, in discussion with friend, fellow PHer and tame racing driver Synchromesh, we pondered: what about a trackday car that was 6 cylinder, RWD, manual..... but not another bloody BMW 3-Series? For the sheddy 328i "track slag innit" is somewhat like a clitoris these days.....
Initial thoughts centered on a Jaguar S-type for ultimate incongruous hilarity. However, this was swiftly put paid to by a total lack of affordable off-the-shelf performance upgrades such as suspension and brakes.
At the same time, chatting to good friend @horriblemercedes and mentioning the idea brought up another proposition - an Omega. Now, here was a cheap, relatively plentiful and very well-made car with a lot of potential. Due to their popularity as a drift barge and some mild parts sharing with the Holden Commodore, there was also a decent supply of brakes, coilovers etc available from performance suppliers.

Fast forward several months, and with Synchromesh having been distracted by his own track car projects, myself and merc firmed up on the idea and started seriously looking for a V6 manual Omega. We quickly discovered that the fabled 3.0 MV6 model was now virtually unobtainable - at least, unless one wanted to spend several thousand pounds on one of the few remaining uncrashed or rust-free examples. Thoughts turned instead to the 2.5 V6 in standard trim, but the majority of these turned out to be comfortably specced automatic cruisers. Later on, we found out that the auto was standard on all V6s - manual was an option you had to deliberately tick, and what kind of idiot would do that on a motorway barge?*
At this point, it was May 2017. I was studying for my final year exams at uni, and merc was busy with work commitments. With a lack of suitable cars forthcoming, and both of us rather skint, we put the idea on hold for the time being.

*It turned out that back in 1999, one slightly strange buyer decided to spec a 2.5V6 CDX estate in Jewish Racing Gold, with a towbar.... and a manual gearbox!

Fast forward to April 2018 and said JRG car was listed on Gumtree, with 66,000 miles, for the princely sum of £650. The original owner had turned out to be an elderly gentleman who didn't drive very much. He had sold it to the vendor - a chap who also didn't drive very much and was thus getting rid.

The car had an excellent MOT history with nothing to note until the 2018 MOT. Merc spoke to the seller in Felixstowe on the phone and found out it was a manual (as the ad wasnt clear), and immediately left a deposit via bank transfer. That was that!
The following weekend I went to stay at merc's house in Birmingham to make the trip to collect it together in my Jeep. We arrived in Felixstowe at around 10am on the Sunday morning to find a car that was great, barring some iffy colour matching on the offside wing and some minor trim defects. The V6 sounded great revving out and the underside was almost spotless. Merc insured and drove the Omega behind my Jeep the 260 miles back to my unit and we parked it up, to get back to our normal lives for the time being.


For the next few months of the car's existence merc kept a diary, and this is how it goes:


Driving back from Felixstowe to Cheshire, the brakes were clearly atrocious with a massive amount of slack travel before the pedal bit at all. The main piece of maintenance for today was to bleed them. The fluid that came out was awful. I got the nice job of sitting in the car and pumping the pedal while Matt released the bleed valves in turn until the fluid leaving the system looked fresh.

In addition to this we also replaced the boot lift struts as they were totally flaccid (although a handy broom handle had been included in the sale!), the wipers and checked the scuttle for debris as that’s a weak point on the Omega for rust. We also added a solar battery charger.



We came to the car to find the battery completely dead. Our main ambition for today had been to solve a central locking fault involving the driver’s door not locking/unlocking, which we originally believed to be a lubrication issue. We jump started the Omega from my Astra and set about dismantling the driver’s door card. After circa 15 minutes running, the Omega shut off suddenly and we found that there were no flickering dashboard lights. The car wouldn’t start from a known-good forklift battery so it was jump started from Matt’s Jeep, running sweetly. Feeling that the battery could have died, we decided to buy a brand new battery and unexpectedly this completely solved the central locking problem. We therefore fitted the single bonnet strut I had bought, assembled the driver’s door card, topped up the coolant, adjusted the throttle cable, fitted one of the two replacement exhaust rubber hangers I had bought, and unblocked a windscreen washer jet (using a straightened paper clip).

The other main event of the day was trying the new 18” alloys Matt had collected for the car from a breaker’s yard, from an Astra H Twintop. They came with an odd mix of three Chinese ditchfinder tyres and one Michelin winter tyre. All were flat but have seemed to hold air since inflation. We also removed the solar charger we had attached on the previous maintenance session in case that had somehow killed our battery.



I went to Evesham to collect a set of wheels Matt had found on eBay. Light, Lenso wheels (in the correct fitment!) with BTCC Dunlop slick tyres. The seller had had them on his tuned (538bhp!!!) Astra H VXR and turned out to be a really helpful guy, helping me diagnose a little stutter with my Astra H SRi Turbo 200 (turned out to be MAF sensor - I had to kick myself for not working that out myself!). He had enough components in the garage to build about half a dozen engines - he kept handing me all sorts of bits to look at - everything from forged rods and pistons to coilpacks.



Weightwatchers. We stripped out trim and the rear seats, but didn't get time to go much further. We also got chance to try the Lenso wheels and slick tyres we had bought, but unfortunately the bulbous sidewall on these tyres met the suspension strut on the front so we sold them and bought a set of Nankang NS-2Rs [entry-level track tyre] that Synchromesh happened to have spare. We kept these for future use with better suspension, and emergency spares in case the ditchfinders turned out to be unusable on track.
At the end of the day we loaded the car onto the trailer and moved it home from the unit, ready for the upcoming track day.


[When this picture was uploaded to PH, user McSam (another tame racing driver friend of ours), commented:
"This in particular is offensively brilliant. Please get some spacers so you can run it like that, but be careful, as I expect few components on the car were designed for that kind of lateral acceleration 😆" ]

Pictured here in the Hemi Jeep's natural habitat....


Now, to November 2018.... the first track outing was here, whether the car (and drivers!!!) were ready or not. As novices, we invited our friend Synchromesh along for support and a little guidance, which he did in exchange for the opportunity to check out the old girl for himself. It was a busy day at Oulton Park, with over 80 extremely varied cars being put through their paces. The Omega wasn't among the fastest but didn't embarrass itself immediately, either.
Luckily the trackday was well-served with photographers!




Pictured here is merc getting a bit of a slide on at a damp Lodge Corner, with a well-timed burst shot from the track snapper:




Track virgin merc improved massively throughout the day, and towards the end was approaching the speed and commitment of myself (a 5 time track "veteran") and race driver Synchromesh.
All three of us were very pleasantly surprised with several aspects of the car:
- With a lot of weight stripped out of the interior, it wasnt as slow as we feared
- The random ditchfinder combo gripped predictably enough and lasted all day without melting or falling apart - meaning we hadn't had to punish the still-standard suspension with sticky tyres
- Although floaty, the handling was pleasingly viceless and encouraged you to push harder and harder. Then again, at launch in 1994 the Omega was praised for its ability to (and I quote directly from Autocar's Steve Sutcliffe) "run rings around the E34 525i"!

Come 3.30pm, we were beginning to congratulate ourselves on a fault-free day with our untried elderly barge. No oil or water used, brakes (just about) holding up with regular cooling-off sessions, and no untoward rumbles or clonks.
I went out for one final session with merc as a passenger....... and downchanging from 3rd to 2nd for Foulston's chicance, the car wouldn't go into gear. Thinking I'd missed a gear, I tried again - only to realise the the clutch pedal was firmly stuck to the floor. It dawned in my mind that something had gone drastically wrong, confirmed by a horrible grinding noise as the car finally slotted into gear. As we coasted to a halt in the runoff road and waited for the tow truck, further investigation and experimentation revealed that the car was fine when out of gear with the engine running, and went into gear fine with the engine turned off.
So, all logic currently points to a disintegrated clutch or clutch release bearing. A sad end to an otherwise fantastic day, and as I write the car is currently sat at my local motorsport garage awaiting their assessment come Monday morning.

Predictably (and understandably) I have spent all night weathering a variety of clutch-related banter from the others, but every cloud has a silver lining. If the original, 20 year old clutch had not disintegrated at the end of today and lost us the last 45 minutes of track time, it would probably have let go at the start of the next event. That would have been significantly more irritating! Additionally, today is probably the hardest the car has ever been driven in its life, and the clutch copped some serious abuse!

Anyway, we've all come away having had a fantastic time today, and a long list of planned upgrades to slowly evolve the car into a full-fledged track machine. Roll on the next event!

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Yes, we have noticed that in the 5 years since we bought this car for banger money, even total wrecks are now commanding 4 figures and nice ones are several k. You just dont see Omegas any more, even facelift ones. Without jumping the gun on the thread, the car is currently at an impasse where a really determined person could reinstate all the trim and put the car back on the road, but I CBA with that and it wouldn't be worth very much in its current state. Whilst it is now a much rarer car than it was, personally I'm in for a penny, in for a pound on going full race car, because to quote JFK, "not because it is easy, but because it is hard". And how coll will it look when it's finished? Very, IMO. 

Anyway, here's some onboard footage that subsequently emerged from another punter on the same trackday:


best summed up, I think, by the comment left on the video:

In conclusion, the standard suspension setup does leave a bit to be desired for track work (but it does at least cushion the rumble kerbs nicely.....)

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Not sure about track days but the Omega was a sweet handling car even in diesel automatic form. They’re all at least 20 years old now though and were worth eff all even 15 years ago so most have long since headed to the minicab rank in the sky. 

I do love a really inappropriate/unlikely track or rally car, I’m still obsessed with the V8 Discoveries and 110 I saw running in the Woodpecker Rally back in about 2002

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2 hours ago, mat777 said:

You just dont see Omegas any more, even facelift ones. 

Guilty m'lord , I've broken around 20 of them, usually for the manual boxes to get shoved behind Saab B204/206 engines in kit cars.  

They are a hell of a car though and I still lookout for a suitable saloon resto project.  I rescued/restored this one last year , 2.5 V6 manual with only 17k, without a doubt the best one left, now sold on :(  IMG_0283.thumb.JPG.d7c1d98dacbbd476003f1a542911b8c0.JPG

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My FIL had one for several years, a white MV6 (the hen house was a rare option I believe).


Cant remember if it was the 3 litre or 3.2, but went well enough and handled better than I'd expected. It was an ex-plod car, but not mega miles - it was a training car so only something like 60k miles after 7 years. They were evidently hard miles, as it felt pretty baggy by 100k miles although the engine still strong.

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On 1/19/2023 at 10:43 PM, straightSix said:

I love inappropriate track cars. Not a V6 but you got me looking at this now:



The 4-cylinder engine is I believe pretty closely related to the red top motors, should it need a little more zing.... 

On 1/19/2023 at 11:15 PM, High Jetter said:

Yes, very under rated. Moar pls

Coming right up!


On 1/20/2023 at 8:26 AM, andy18s said:

Just spotted on a Facebook page.


Saw that in an Omega owners group - tasty spec with the suspension and brakes, however I suspect it's more rotten that the average Terry-Thomas Character... The scuttle being full of leaves is not a good sign to start with as the drain holes in it will be blocked and rusting merrily. 

On 1/20/2023 at 11:08 AM, warch said:

Ironically (seeing as they frequently sold to people who wanted but couldn't afford a 5 Series) the equivalent Beemer is now cheaper and easier to find on the used car market. 

I'd much prefer this over a 5-series as a used buy - it's no more rust prone, waaaaay comfier, and has the same diesel engine anyway (or if petrol, then no vanos oil seal bollocks to worry about)

On 1/20/2023 at 11:18 AM, De Selby said:

These are much better looking cars than I remember 

Still not overly keen on the front of the pre-facelift, but the rest is definitely a handsomely understated car in today's era of unnecessary creases....


On 1/20/2023 at 9:32 PM, mat_the_cat said:

My FIL had one for several years, a white MV6 (the hen house was a rare option I believe).


Cant remember if it was the 3 litre or 3.2, but went well enough and handled better than I'd expected. It was an ex-plod car, but not mega miles - it was a training car so only something like 60k miles after 7 years. They were evidently hard miles, as it felt pretty baggy by 100k miles although the engine still strong.

That looks like an oversized version of a New York Taxi roof advert 😂

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This part originally posted 13-Nov-18

Thanks all for the replies, glad to see our madness is appreciated!

We've heard back from the motorsport garage I took the car to (WMD motorsport in South Cheshire - extremely highly recommended bunch of all-round top chaps!). It does appear that the clutch release bearing has gone through the "fingers", explaining the lack of drive and pedal welded to the floor. I'm currently researching if any HD applications exist before the put a new standard clutch in. I'm in no hurry to get the car back so time spent in reconnaissance is rarely wasted.

We also aim to do something about the root cause of the issue - namely the huge pedal spacing that rendered heel'n'toeing impossible and led to the rampant clutch abuse. Top option at the minute seems to be to get some generic pre-drilled aluminum "sports/tuning" pedal pads from ebay and bolt them to the existing brake and accelerator, with the overlaps facing each other to close the gap.
The slightly more redneck option was to heat and bend the pedal stalks towards each other, but that would mean jauntily angled pedals amongst other disadvantages.....

PHer Dr G asked:
Are Omegas related to the Commodore/GTO/Monaro underneath?

I replied: Vauxhall/GM expert Merc is best placed to answer that, but yes I believe that the basic chassis is shared with the VT Commodore and subsequent HSV/Monaro/Pontiac GTO. We're not sure yet if any of the suspension, axles etc are, but we're looking into it as an alternative source of go-faster parts!
For example, after some research it appears that a popular mod amongst the GTO community in the US it to fit C5 Corvette brakes. We had been looking slightly closer to home for parts, such as Astra VXR calipers, but if 'Vette bits fit, it would be a) hugely cool and b) much more potent!!

It was also pointed out to us (although Merc already knew most of the details) that an LS V8 would drop almost right in, as (trivia alert) the car was originally designed for an V8 top option as offered in the Holden equivalent. There was even a concept car produced, called the V8.com which was, as the name suggests, also stuffed full of then cutting-edge tech as a sort of mobile office.
Unfortunately neither idea came to fruition, and GM Europe chickened out leaving the 3.0/3.2 V6 as the range-topping engine.

PHer Symchromesh, our tame driver, also replied with the following compliments:

Although not a shared owner on this car, I've been roped in (well, it didn't take much persuasion) to benchmark the mods as the car progresses and give a few track-driving pointers to the boys. I don't claim to be an especially quick driver, but I've done a few track days in my time.
Just a week before, I was driving a Radical at Silverstone, so the Omega could've been a huge disappointment. But it really wasn't. There's something fun about tracking a car totally unsuited to the task, and showing up 'faster' vehicles in the process.
The car has potential, too. It's a predictable chassis which, once we've controlled the roll with a set of coilovers and added grip with the NS-2Rs, I think will handle quite tidily. Obviously everything is blitzing us on the straights, but the cams should make us less of a mobile chicane there. And the weight loss will help everything. So, it's a promising start, but there's way more to come.
Unfortunately I didn't get any clear laps in my benchmarking session, but managed to put in a 2.25.7. I had to move out the way for an Atom at Lodge so lost speed coming over the line, got massively held up at Cascades by a stock car thing, and had to move over again for an unnaturally fast 205 up Clay Hill. Taking these into account, I think it's around a theoretical 2.24. In terms of conditions, after a wet morning the track had mostly dried out, but it started to spit with rain again about five minutes before this lap. The OBC read 12°c. Maybe in warmer, drier conditions a further few seconds could've been found.
You'll also notice I wasn't using heal and toe for down changes. It's a really nasty feeling having to drag the revs up on the clutch, but I physically couldn't get my foot across. I don't think I ever driven a car with such wide pedal spacing. It's something we plan to rectify with a pedal extension for next time.
Oh, and the compartment by my right knee kept popping open when I hit kerbs. It just adds to the silliness.

The video he links here is of him driving and me passengering - and it syncs up with the Peugeot 205 video in the previous post, giving both angles of the same few corners (before he streaked past !)

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1 minute ago, mat777 said:


It was also pointed out to us (although Merc already knew most of the details) that an LS V8 would drop almost right in, as (trivia alert) the car was originally designed for an V8 top option as offered in the Holden equivalent. There was even a concept car produced, called the V8.com which was, as the name suggests, also stuffed full of then cutting-edge tech as a sort of mobile office.
Unfortunately neither idea came to fruition, and GM Europe chickened out leaving the 3.0/3.2 V6 as the range-topping engine.

Not a chance of dropping an LS in easily, it's been done but cost the owner circa 10k to modify it 

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4 hours ago, omegod said:

Not a chance of dropping an LS in easily, it's been done but cost the owner circa 10k to modify it 

I've heard what must be a 50/50 split of "it can be done easily, all you have to do is flip one of the engine mounts" vs "it can't be done without loads of work" and I cant figure out why there's such a split when normally there's a consensus. 

Granted the bloke who did it must have done his research, but on the other hand I've never been able to fully establish what was the same and what was different with the engine bay and transmission tunnel of the VT shape commodore, which was later offered with the LS1 but initially came with the older Holden 5.0 "Iron Lion".... I really need a tame GM engineer at my disposal 😅

Suffice to say there's no danger of an imminent conversion....


In the meantime, for those who are fans of early 2000s tech, he's some more info on the V8.com :


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