Holden TS Astra turbo convertible 2003-04: Future Classic

By: Joe Kenwright

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Holden TS Astra turbo convertible Holden TS Astra turbo convertible Holden TS Astra turbo convertible

Looking for something to put away in the shed? Young Mr Kenwright reckons this car might be worth a punt. See more stories like this in Unique Cars magazine.

 

2003-04 Holden TS Astra turbo convertible

Australians knew immediately that Holden's second, Opel-sourced TS Astra was no ordinary small car and it's now working its magic on a new generation of budget buyers. That's why the ultimate version, the 2003-04 TS Astra Turbo Convertible, is a rare, benchmark model destined for on-going interest.

In 2001, the TS Astra Convertible was already a standout package, built by Bertone in Italy. Extensively reinforced, it featured a powered soft-top with glass rear window, mesh windbreak, heated front seats, upmarket leather trim, four-seat capacity, ABS, stability control and alloy wheels.

Once destined for minor continuing interest, the atmo rag-top has since been compromised by the high oil usage and timing-chain failures of its bigger Zafira/Astra SRi 2.2-litre engine.

The Turbo version arrived in May 2003 during Holden chief Peter Hanenberger's last year at the helm. Its short 14-month model life reflected his priorities, not the accountants', and was one of Hanenberger's pet projects.

The Turbo's starting point was the all-new and very different 'Ecotec' 2.0-litre replacement for the 'Family II' engines, as made in Australia. Developed by Lotus Engineering with input from Opel, GM in Detroit, and Saab, it had to be a state-of-the-art, all-aluminium DOHC 16-valve engine. It featured a perfectly square 86mm bore and stroke and twin balancer shafts. For the special 147kW/250Nm Z20LET Turbo version, it gained a stronger cast-iron block. Lotus had a vested interest in its effectiveness as it was the premium engine in the Opel Speedster version of its Elise sports car.

Apart from lifting the Astra Turbo Convertible's performance into another league, it could also be outstandingly economical with a 6.4L/100km highway cycle. Because its torque peak arrived at 1950rpm, it could also be driven around town frugally.

It came with wider front and rear tracks, firmer suspension settings, sportier five-spoke 17-inch rims, bigger 308mm front discs, 264mm rear discs and the proven F23 five-speed manual. Yet it was still nimbler and lighter than the Astra that replaced it.

Apart from the wheels, the subtle Turbo badging and polished stainless steel exhaust tip, the Astra Turbo Convertible's presentation was more look-the-other-way than look-at-me, which came in handy with its mid-seven second 0-100km/h sprint times and a standing 400 metres in the low 15-second range.

For around $10,000, this much style shouldn't come this cheap.

 

*****

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