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My father, who could well be this man (except for the Germanic house behind it), bought a new sickly-green Kadett A just like this in 1965, at the local Buick dealer in Towson. So, yes; I can speak for the Kadett’s ability to trounce all VWs in street-light races, thanks to my older brother’s repeated VW-baiting. And at seventy or so, the turbulence from the boxy body caused the tops of the thin little doors to actually move away from the body enough to see daylight between them. Lightweight construction indeed. Hopefully, someday I’ll miraculously find a Kadett A and do the full story of its colorful place in history, both the automotive world’s as well as the Niedermeyer’s. But this CC is about its successor.
In September 1995, the Vectra A was replaced, but Calibra production continued until June 1997. Although a smaller coupé (the Tigra) was available, the marque was left without a mid sized coupé until the Astra Coupé was launched in 2000, and with the introduction of the Opel Speedster in 2000, three years after the Calibra was discontinued, Opel finally offered a sports car again.
The Kadett featured a more modern design than the Volkswagen Beetle that then dominated the market for small family cars in West Germany and various surrounding countries. The Kadett offered more passenger space, more luggage capacity, and better visibility for the driver. Its water-cooled engine provided effective heating for the passenger compartment. However, by the mid-1970s the Kadett's weakness was already apparent as the car's bodywork was not well protected from corrosion.
We took the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe and then headed down to Forges-les-Eaux, along winding D-roads through quiet villages and dense forests, scenes to be repeated over the following three days. What you notice immediately about the Calibra is how civilised it is. That V6 engine is a gem, not especially powerful by today’s standards but honestly quick and genuinely refined.
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.
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.
^ General Motors Austria Gesellschaft m.b.H. (GMA, founded 1963 as sales organisation; from 1979: Administration, Non-productive Departments an Sales) and General Motors Austria Werke Gesellschaft m.b.H. (GMAW founded 1979; Production). In November 1987 GMAW (Austrian Handelsregister, HRB 24.436) were merged into GMA (HRB 20.133b, actual Firmenbuch FN 110500a).