My dad bought a Kadett when we became a two-car family in the 60’s (Mom got the Rambler Rebel, and then a 72 Impala). It lasted until ’77, when we used the Impala to help push it down the highway and into the Olds dealership where they were having a “We’ll give you $1000 for whatever you can drive onto the lot” trade in sale. (Sadly, we got an awful 77 Cutlas Supreme). I got some of my early driving lessons (in the neighborhood) in that Opel – shifting gears from the passenger seat, or sometimes riding on my Dads lap and steering.
The way it nearly came to the US is interesting, though. Back then, GM North America was a very different place than GM Europe, and it looked like there was very little interest in bridging the gap, unlike today. But after GM bought a 50% stake in the Trollhattan trolls, the General was now burdened with the problem of attracting more than devotees to an aging lineup at dealerships. The solution was to sell the Calibra to Americans through Saab dealerships, but badged as a Saab.
Despite its age, the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa was ranked #10 in Europe's best-selling cars top last year. An all-new model is right around the corner and it should help the supermini put up a good fight against other subcompact hatchbacks like the next-gen Renault Clio and Peugeot 208. Today, Opel is releasing some technical details about its revamped five-door-only city car, emphasizing on the diet it’ll be going through for its sixth iteration.
The parent company PSA is also preparing the transition to the electric age: By 2025, the carmaker intends to offer offshoots with electric or hybrid drive for all 40 models of its brands. It will start in 2019 with all-electric versions of the Peugeot 208 (reservations opened in the UK last month) and the DS3 Crossback. An electric version of the Peugeot 2008 will follow in 2020. PSA’s plug-in hybrid offensive starts in 2019 with a corresponding offshoot of the DS7 Crossback, the PHEV versions of the Peugeot models 3008 and 5008, the Citroën C5 Aircross and the Grandland X mentioned above.
Launched in 1962, GM Europe's small car for the 1960s, the Opel Kadett, looked like a shrunk Chevy Nova, and hid a 1.0-liter water-cooled overhead-valve four-cylinder up its nose. While this motor had pre-War origins, it was a good one. It weighed just 211 lbs, revved beyond 6000 rpm, and made 54 horsepower in the high-compression 'S' version, as long as you used premium fuel.
But the hot news of the new Kadett B line was the mid-year 1966 introduction of the Rally. Sporting both fog and driving lights, as well as the obligatory racing stripes, the Rally was something altogether new in the small-car market: the first really overt attempt to sell sportiness in the lowest end of the small-car market, at least in the USA. The Ford Cortina GT had been doing it for a few years, but was one class bigger and a fair bit more expensive. The Opel Rally set the template for all the little pocket rockets to come; just like with the big American muscle cars, blatant economy was out, and performance, or at least the impersonation of it, were in.
The Kadett A (above) finally appeared in 1962, and was a classic GM/Opel effort: highly pragmatic, conventional in every respect, reasonably stylish for its time, and designed to deliver a good bang for the buck. In just about every way possible, it was the antithesis of the VW: front-engine rwd, a rather tinny but roomy body, highly tossable but with a primitive suspension and ride, a very roomy trunk, and excellent visibility as well as economy. Oh, and a proper heater even! Its little 987 cc OHV four made 40 net/46 gross hp, six more than the VW 1200. Its trim fighting weight of 1475 lbs (670 kg), some two hundred pounds less than the VW, showed in both its acceleration and body integrity.