Back to Nature

Astra battles West Cork foliage. Foliage wins.

Astra fans of a delicate disposition should look away now. Image: Driven to Write
Astra fans of a delicate disposition really ought to look away now. Image: Driven to Write

As I get older, I find that many things I still view as contemporary are in reality, decades old. Music, fashion, events – cars even. The subject of this photo is a case in point. Old enough to be dismissed as a banger, yet to my mind at least, still sufficiently contemporary for this scenario to be unusual.

Yet the Opel Astra G was launched as long ago as 1998, marking a shift in style from the more curvaceous F model which preceded it. In retrospect it appeared to be an attempt by Russelsheim to move the Astra Golf-wards in appearance, adopting a more pronounced C pillar and abrupt tail styling and while there was little wrong with it visually or otherwise, it lacked the clean lines of the earlier car, the solidity and design quality of a contemporary Mark IV Golf, or indeed the novelty and visual dynamism of a Ford Focus. UK website ‘Honestjohn‘ described the G’s styling as ‘nondescript’ and ‘hamster-like’. I don’t see the hamster reference myself, but perhaps someone can enlighten me. Like most Astra’s however, the G sold strongly here in Ireland, offering buyers a cheaper Golf alternative or an antidote to the polarising appearance of the Focus. Nevertheless, it was utterly eclipsed by both.

This example grabbed my attention largely because the section of the car still discernible beneath the encroaching foliage appears in such excellent condition. Cars of this vintage were at the sweet spot when it came to corrosion protection, so note the apparent absence of rust. The degree to which the shrubbery has taken over points to the car having remained immobile for several years, (at least three as far as I can tell) which suggests some catastrophic failure or front end damage, but like the Titanic, all evidence is now buried beyond reach.

At this time of year, the onward passage of time falls into sharper relief. It’s certainly run out for this car. One of these days, someone will lose patience and it will be loaded onto a flatbed and compressed into a squashed cube. Meanwhile however, it forms a free and faintly surreal suburban art installation. One which amuses me as I walk to the supermarket. I shall miss it once it’s gone.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

10 thoughts on “Back to Nature”

  1. I noticed the rear window is slightly open. Let’s hope they let the dog out before abandoning the vehicle.

  2. From my lofty years – indeed I have just reached what I believe is termed a Significant Age – I have to warn you all that just like policemen looking too young, you also find cars that you thought had just gone into production sitting at the side of the road in Essex with their wheels and number plates missing.

    I remember the horror of seeing a Porsche 928 possibly 15 years ago, still running but apparently hand brushed in white house paint. Though possibly this was just a special edition.

    1. I have felt that way for about 5 years, Sean.

      The C-pillar meets the shoulder in a flawless manner. If VW or Mercedes had styled this car there would be clubs and anthems in its honour.

  3. For me, the problem with this generation of Astra lies in the rather clumsy handling of trim pieces. The doorhandles look like generic GM pieces purloined off something else, the tail-light lenses look cheap, and they boasted a wide array of really nasty wheels. And I always thought the front bumper was too deep relative to the grille and headlamps, which gives it a rather heavy and obtrusive appearance from the front.

  4. The foliage encroaching upon the Astra looks like clematis. Every year I am forced to chop down a tsunami of the God-awful stuff that breaks over my back fence from my lazy neighbour’s garden, covering the roof of my shed and choking the guttering with dead, dried paper flowers. If I am right and it is a similarly rampant breed, that knotted mat covering the Astra could easily be one season’s growth, explaining the otherwise reasonable-looking nature of the car.

    1. Oh lord. A comment pertaining to an Astra making reference to gardening. In one fell swoop I have accidentally killed my youth and instantly traversed into middle age.

  5. I used to drive these fairly regularly during my hire car years and in 1.4 16v form, it was a very nice thing to drive. The engine was smooth, sweet and revvy, the gearbox light, swift and positive of action. You sat lower in the car than the rival Focus, and the handling was very good – just not quite as wieldy and sharp as the Ford – I seem to recall Lotus were name checked by GM for helping with the development of the chassis. I do see what Richard means about the particular feature about which he is eulogising, it’s just I found that the front and rear of the car somehow did not match each other.

    1. I think the Astra G was a victim of poor timing; caught in a pincer between Golf IV and Focus it appeared a little half-hearted and as others have pointed out, detail styling rather let it down. I recall test driving one of these circa 1998 with my Dad. He found it nice to drive, but was unimpressed by the overall package. He didn’t bite.

      Given the prevailing weather conditions, the fact that the car isn’t covered in green lichen is quite staggering. In terms of duration, I know for a fact it hasn’t moved for at least two years – but it could be longer.

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