The real people’s car successor was the 1962 Kadett A. The low maintenance costs were expressly part of the recipe for success of the two-door notchback model. The lines were matter-of-fact and modern. At the same time, the interior space was anything but typical of a small car. The advertising promised “well-formed seats, plenty of legroom. We have dispensed with overhanging metalwork and unnecessary bells and whistles. That would only have cost a lot of money.” Instead, the boot was a real luggage compartment and – the fuel filler cap was on the outside! “You never have the smell of petrol in your boot,” it said with a wink towards Wolfsburg. With its modern, water-cooled front engine, the Kadett offered a further design advantage over the Beetle. “Opel Kadett, in short: O.K.” – Opel built almost 650,000 units by 1965 alone.
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A prototype for the next-generation Opel Corsa has been snapped during winter testing in Northern Europe, wearing a full-body wrap. As such, it's easy to discern the car's overall shape and form, but hard to make out many of its details. Despite this, we can see it will look substantially different to the next-generation Peugeot 208, which was spied earlier this month...
The motor's all new as well. At least, this 114bhp one is. Like Ford, Vauxhall now has its own 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo petrol unit. The rest of the range is made up of mainly petrol engines, with only a 1.3-litre diesel in 74bhp and 94bhp to choose from the oilburning fratenity. The gasoline line-up starts with a duo of naturally aspirated 1.4-litre engines producing 74bhp, and 89bhp respectively, followed by a pair of blown 1.4-litre units producing 99bhp and 148bhp, while the Corsa VXR gets a 202bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine.
The next step for Opel was the resumption of passenger car production. It might have seemed easiest to bring back the Kapitän first since its engine was already in production for the truck, but occupation regulations restricted German civilians to cars of 1.5 L or less, which made the Olympia the obvious candidate. Under Dr Ing e.h. Karl Stief, who had been chief engineer at Opel since 1934, useful changes were made to this tough little car. The Dubonnet front suspension was replaced by a conventional coil-and-wishbone layout and the steering was correspondingly rearranged.
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From 1986 to 2003, Opel models were produced by Delta Motor Corporation, a company created through a management buyout following of GM's divestment from apartheid South Africa. Delta assembled the Opel Kadett, with the sedan version called the Opel Monza. This was replaced by the Opel Astra, although the Kadett name was retained for the hatchback and considered a separate model. A version of the Rekord Series E remained in production after the model had been replaced by the Omega in Europe, as was a Commodore model unique to South Africa, combining the bodyshell of the Rekord with the front end of the revised Senator. The Opel Corsa was introduced in 1996, with kits of the Brazilian-designed sedan and pick-up (known in South African English as a bakkie) being locally assembled.
The brakes were now controlled using a hydraulic mechanism. The suspension featured synchromous springing, a suspension configuration already seen on the manufacturer's larger models and based on the Dubonnet system for which General Motors in France had purchased the license. The General Motors version, which had been further developed by Opel’s North American parent, was intended to provide a soft ride, but there was some criticism that handling and road-holding were compromised, especially when the system was applied to small light-weight cars such as the Kadett. By the end of 1937 33,402 of these first generation Kadetts had been produced.
GM imported the Opel Kadett B, built at the recently closed plant in Bochum, Germany, into North America starting in 1966. American and Canadian car buyers weren't especially enthusiastic about these cheap little cars, but sufficient quantities were sold that they were fairly easy to find in American wrecking yards through the 1980s. Here's a '67 in a Denver-area self-service yard that managed to outlive most of its contemporaries.
In the US, some 500 Buick dealers started carrying the Kadett in 1964, after their previous sole product, the larger Rekord, was knocked out of the ring by GM’s own 1960/1961 compacts. I strongly suspect the Buick dealers (and their ad agency) who hadn’t yet taken down their Opel signs were not really very committed or motivated, and all of 17k ’64s and 14k ’65 Kadett A were sold. Meanwhile, VW was moving some 400k Beetles in America.
It had some crazy mechanical issues. At one point it stumbled and stalled because the carburetor had come loose from the intake manifold and I had to tighten it back down! Another time, my brother was driving it and the brakes failed. Somehow the end of the brake shoe that meets the brake cylinder piston had become worn on one side, causing the piston to slip off the end of the shoe when the brakes were applied, losing braking and squirting fluid all over.