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:
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…
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….
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:
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:
We don’t cover many Opels on these pages, but every once in a while one catches my eye and is worth a look. Here’s one such case; a Opel Rekord P2 Coupe. The P2 replaced the P1 in 1960, and the “P” moniker came from the panoramic windshield signature of the early model. While the P2 dropped the heavily rounded windows and become significantly more angular, it kept the “P” nameplate. In many ways, the P2 mimicked the Michelotti BMW 700 design – but of course the GM roots also drew design language from cars like the Chevrolet Impala and Biscayne, while adopting a more discrete, diminutive size for European distribution.
Under the hood was a 1.5 liter inline-4 rated at 50 horsepower, with an option 1.7 liter unit good for 55 horsepower in normal form or 60 horsepower in “S” specification. These were linked to a 3-speed manual mounted on the column, though a 4-speed became optional later in production. The Rekord P2 was West Germany’s second-best selling car (behind the Beetle, of course!), with nearly 800,000 produced between 1960 and 1963. Rare to see today, this Coupe certainly looks like a nice alternative to the traditional air-cooled history:
“Youngtimers” have been popular in the automotive news segment over the past few months, as a greater appreciation for cars just turning “vintage” has set the market ablaze. Within that category, automotive collaborations between manufacturers in the 80s and 90s produced some of the most memorable and, consequently, the most sought creations today. There was the Yamaha-powered Taurus SHO, the Mercury Marine-powered Corvette ZR-1, the Porsche-built Mercedes-Benz 500E and Audi RS2, Lamborghini had a hand in the BMW M1, and of course there was the Cosworth-built….everything, from Escorts to 190Es to Audi RS4s and RS6s. But one of the hottest cars from the period was, undoubtedly, the Lotus-built, Corvette-gearboxed Opel Omega/Vaxhaull Carlton twins.
Lotus was majority-owned by General Motors in the early 1990s, which led in part to the “Handling by Lotus” Isuzu Imark and Impulse models. Lotus, in turn, got an engine for their small Elan from the Japanese manufacturer which worked in partnership with GM. But their best work was certainly their last joint venture before GM sold them off to Bugatti in 1993. For the Omega/Carlton, Lotus took the production 3.0 inline-6 and punched it out to 3.6 liters, while fiddling with the 24V head from the Carlton GSi. Then, they hooked it up to a 6-speed manual ZF borrowed from the General’s parts bin. Also borrowed was a limited-slip rear end from GM’s Australian division, Holden. Then, they slapped not one, but two turbochargers on it. Brakes were Group C units employed from AP Racing. The result? A crushing 370 plus horsepower and over 400 lb.ft of torque from the C36GET produced the fastest sedan in the world:
Update 9/27/18: This G-Wagen sold for $17,366.89
Few things in this world are undefeated. The internet is one of them, taxes, death and then the ultimate final boss, mother nature. You can hide or try to fight it all you want, but the world very rarely has mercy on vehicles. Today’s vehicle, a 2002 Mercedes-Benz G500, was spared no mercy. Granted, this G-Wagen lives in the harsh climate of Quebec, Canada, but what this poor W463 turned into will make anyone scratch their head as to what happened. This brick on wheels has an extreme amount of rust to the point where there are holes the size of your fist in the body panels. These Gs have somewhere of a propensity to rust in some common areas, but I don’t understand how this G500 got this bad. As what it did for the value? I suppose not much.
The first generation Omega was a mid-sized luxury car offered in Europe by Opel, the German subsidiary of GM, between 1986 and 1993. Sold in Britain under the Vauxhall marque and rebadged as the Carlton, my friend’s dad had a mid spec model when I was growing up. I always thought of it as a poor-man’s BMW 5-series. And I don’t mean that in a bad way: it was actually a pretty admirable car, offering luxury features to the masses like ABS, an on-board computer and a dazzling (at the time) LCD instrument display. I suspect most people by now have forgotten all about them. But there is one very special edition of the Omega/Carlton that enthusiasts of my age could never forget, the one breathed on by Lotus. The British sports car manufacturer took the hottest version of the car, the 3000 GSi, enlarged the 3.0 liter 24v motor to 3.6 liters, added two Garratt T25 turbo chargers, a six speed manual gearbox taken from a Corvette and an aggressive bodykit. The result was a menacing and breathtakingly quick uber sedan, with 377 hp on tap and a top speed of 177 MPH.
Generally speaking, engine swaps are usually an improvement over the stock running gear even when they’re home brews. And if you’re really clever with your swap, you can end up making quite the sleeper; V8 powered Volvo wagons come to mind. But some people go over the top, and throw an absolutely crazy motor into a car which was never designed to have anywhere near the power levels capable of the new mill. Such is not the case here. That’s because the builder of this Opel GT designed that the popular adage “There’s no replacement for displacement” meant putting a V8 into the nose of the diminutive GM product. And by “a”, I actually mean two V8s. In an attempt to dispel the notorious “Mini-Corvette” moniker, this GT tops out at 11.4 liters of American muscle with just a bit of Opel sprinkled into the mix. Though far from our usual flavor, let’s take a look at this crazy creation: