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Category: Opel

1959 Opel Olympia Caravan

Emerging as if from some Philip K. Dick dystopian version of the future where the Germans ruled America, Opel’s lineup in the 1950s broadly mirrored that of its American counterparts – only, in 7/8ths scale or less. The Rekord was Opel’s higher-end family car, and it’s styling was in large part based upon that of the mid-50s Chevrolet lineup, only trailing behind by a few years. The Rekord went on to mimic a few other GM products in later versions, and the 1959 model year was the last of this body style.

It was available in two or four-door variants, and marketed in the US as the ‘Olympia Rekord’. But there was also a wagon version of the Rekord, and that was called the Caravan. There are several different naming conventions on these and technically they’re all Rekords, but this one was either called the Olympia Caravan or simply Opel Caravan. Regardless, under the hood was not a thumping V8 but a thrifty four cylinder, and these were sold through Buick dealerships in the US for a while. Today, a relatively top-spec Caravan has popped up for sale:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1959 Opel Olympia Caravan on eBay

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2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo

Yeah I know…a BUICK? Stick with me on this one.

After a gap of a few years and a less-than-spectacular fourth generation, the Regal came roaring back with pretty modern styling in 2008 and the promise of more performance aimed at a younger crowd. This was in part thanks to its underpinnings, which were in no small measure based upon GM’s corporate partner Opel’s Insignia and the Epsilon II platform. It was a front-driver, it’s true, but option was a direct-injected 2.0-liter Ecotec inline-4 cranking out 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque; numbers in line with performance legends such as Audi’s original S4. You could even get a manual transmission! And you could get this turbocharged package for under $30,000 – far less than the traditional performance sedan.

Of course, it was still an Opel a Buick, so they didn’t sell all that well. And dropping residual values meant that if you brushed a guardrail when it was five years old, the insurance company would probably total it. What to do with your totaled Buick then? Turn it into an Opel, of course…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo on eBay

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1993 Opel Monterey RS 4×4 Turbodiesel

When it comes to 80s and early 90s off-roaders, three names come to mind – Mercedes-Benz with the G-Wagon, Land Rover with the Range Rover and Defender models, and Toyota with the 4Runner and Land Cruiser. But one of the more popular and capable off-roaders in the period came from Isuzu, with their stellar Trooper.

The Trooper was sold in the U.S. for two generations between 1983 and, somewhat amazingly, 2002. But one of the more crazy aspects of Trooper history was the number of variants that were produced under other nameplates. Of course, the Trooper was famously re-introduced as a Honda Passport in the last 1990s, as well as under their Acura brand as the SLX model. Neither were particularly successful. But the badge engineering was far from over there.

In some parts of South America, the Trooper retained its name, but was sold under the Chevrolet nameplate – and it was oddly offered in Asia by Chevrolet dealers as well. In Japan, in addition to a Honda variation and Isuzu’s own sales, Subaru borrowed the Trooper too for their Bighorn model. New Zealand and Australia of course ended up with Holden-badged examples, one of which was called the Monterey. And that name carried to Europe, where the trooper was sold under Vauxhall (UK) and Opel (Continental Europe and Ireland) throughout the 90s. Well, one of those Opel Montereys has made it to the US….

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Opel Monterey RS 4×4 Turbodiesel on eBay

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1965 Opel Kadett Caravan

Here’s one you don’t see every day! The Opel Kadett B launched in 1965, but was actually the third generation of the Kadett nameplate if you counted the pre-War models. It introduced no less than eight body-style variants on the chassis, including two- and four-door sedans, two- and four-door fastbacks, two-door coupes, and two- and four-door ‘kombi’ wagon models that were dubbed the Caravan.

Produced at the Rüsselsheim factory (about 200km north of Stuttgart, near Frankfurt), the Opels were sold through Buick dealers with little success in the heyday of the 1960s. Part this wagon next to one of the General’s other creations from the period – I’m looking at you, Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado – and you being to understand the vast gulf that marketing just couldn’t make up for. Under the hood lay not a 7.0 liter V8, but a 1.0 liter inline four powering the rear wheels through a manual transmission. Luxury? Yeah, it had….carpet….and…..windows. This one even has a radio! But it’s still really neat to see a survivor Opel on the market today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1965 Opel Kadett Caravan on eBay

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1970 Opel GT

Down the road from me is a gentleman who daily drives a Porsche 914. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of the boxy flying pancake. In the right configuration they look pretty cool, but my eyes always gravitate towards the more classic grand touring look of the replacement 924. However, I certainly can understand the appeal of a cheap and simple classic Porsche. For some time about a decade and a half ago I had this dream that some day when I was a little better off I’d pick up an early 911 – because, of course, a decade and a half ago no one wanted them and they were still relatively cheap. Since having a classic car is by no means a necessity, for us with less well-endowed bank accounts and no trust funds, ownership of such cars remains a dream. In that light, the 914 makes more sense since compared to the rear-engine counterparts it’s still relatively cheap – though find a good one and it’ll be a pretty penny.

But dipping in to the classic car market doesn’t have to break the bank, and there are still a few neat older German cars that would be great weekend warriors. Certainly, one of the most unsung heroes and yet one of the more visually captivating is the Opel GT. The slinky 2-door had the looks of its parent company sibling Corvette, but motivation by the normal Opel inline-4 drivetrain meant it was much more affordable. These days they’re rarely seen but always a treat:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1970 Opel GT on eBay

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