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.
Throughout the production run, several special edition models were launched. Customers who chose a Calibra Cliff Motorsport Edition in May 1996 were way ahead of the game. Its paintwork was the same as the Class 1 racing car in which Manuel Reuter would win the ITC championship for Opel at the end of the season. The street-legal Cliff racer had a 20 mm lower sports chassis and BBS light alloy wheels (7J x 16).
By the 1970s, Opel had emerged as the stronger of GM's two European brands; Vauxhall was the third-best selling brand in Great Britain after the British Motor Corporation (later British Leyland) but made only a modest impact elsewhere. The two companies were direct competitors outside of each other's respective home markets, but mirroring Ford's decision to merge its British and German subsidiaries in the late 1960s, GM followed the same precedent. Opel and Vauxhall had loosely collaborated before, but serious efforts to merge the two companies' operations and product families into one did not start until the 1970s - which had Vauxhall's complete product line replaced by vehicles built on Opel-based platforms - the only exception to the rule being the Bedford CF panel van, the only solely Vauxhall design which was marketed as an Opel on the Continent. By the turn of the 1980s, the two brands were in effect, one and the same.
Detail improvements, such as a new dashboard and a steering-column shift, embellished the Kapitän line in May 1950. Bigger changes were saved for March 1951, to anticipate the opening of the doors of the Frankfurt show on 19 April for an 11-day run. Its earlier fast-back style was modified to a mild notch-back contour, and a new horizontal grille – not the prettiest in Opel history – dominated the frontal view. With a higher compression ratio (still only 6.25:1), engine power was 58 bhp (43 kW; 59 PS) at 3,700 rpm and top speed was 80 mph (130 km/h). Output increased to 60 bhp (45 kW; 61 PS) during the further life of this model, which ended in July 1953.
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Opel's relationship to GM in America during the war has been disputed. Alfred P. Sloan's memoir indicates that when the war started, as Germany nationalised many foreign-owned industrial assets, GM's contact with Opel was broken and remained that way for the rest of the war. Other writers have alleged that even after June 1940, official connections between Opel and America were not broken, and monetary gain by Americans continued throughout the war.
Funny enough, the Calibra almost made it to the shores through Saab dealers. The timing was fortuitous, the Calibra went on sale in 1990 or right around the time GM stuck its claws into Saab. Based on the also-not-for-us Vectra, the Calibra was a slick coupe that was touted as the most aerodynamic car in the world … in 1990. A drag coefficient of 0.26 is still damn good today.
In April 1993, the Corsa B was unveiled and in the United Kingdom Vauxhall dropped the Nova name, with the car from now being known as the Corsa. In May 1994, it was launched by Holden in Australia, as the Barina, replacing a version of the Suzuki Swift sold under that name. This proved a success, and was the first Spanish built car to be sold in significant volumes in the Australian market.
On the British motoring show Top Gear, Richard Hammond drove a 1963 Kadett A through the middle of Botswana and across the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan. He loved the car so much that he named it Oliver and later had the car shipped to the United Kingdom and restored, and it remains in his possession. It appeared on Richard Hammond's Blast Lab with the personalised number plate 'OL1 V3R'. It also appeared in the Top Gear lorry challenge as one of the used obstacles.
Our family car when I turned 16 was the exact same “sickly green” 1965 Kadett A model your father had. My brother and I lived with our divorced mom and she bought it in 1969 from a friend who was leaving the Berkeley, California area where we lived. My mom got a driver’s license with a borrowed car with automatic transmission, but we had no car. So she bought it and figured she would learn to drive a stick, which she never did.
The other reason for the B’s success had to do with GM: once again, after having failed to slow down the VW’s ascent with their 1960-1961 compacts, they were forced to take the small car market seriously. That led eventually to the Vega in 1971, but in the shorter term, it meant marketing the Opel as something other than with which to remodel the garage. Now the Kadett family, which included a new fastback coupe, sedans and wagon, was seen in front of the typical American garage: two Opels for the price of one Buick.
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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.
The new four-cylinder, oversquare one-litre water-cooled Opel OHV engine weighed only 96 kg and was the first all-new engine developed by Opel since before the war. The side-mounted camshaft was driven not through gear-cogs but using a single chain with a hydraulic tensioner, the valve train employing rocker-arms and light-weight hollow rods. The arrangement was low on weight and on friction, permitting engine speeds above 6,000 rpm. The pistons were formed from an aluminium-alloy and incorporated a bimetal expansion strip to ensure uniform thermal expansion. The three-bearing forged crankshaft was of more traditional construction. The carefully designed aluminium inlet manifold provided for efficient feed of the fuel-mixture to the cylinders and helped provide the engine with good fuel economy characteristics.
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 July 1990, after General Motors bought a stake in Saab, it was reported the Calibra would be badged as a Saab in the United States, but these plans did not materialise. There were also plans for a cabriolet version to be produced, but these too failed to materialise, although Valmet Automotive built two fully working, red coloured prototypes in 1992, with the 2.0 litre, 8 valve engine.
In 2014, Opel revealed the fifth generation Corsa model, which almost looks like its Adam smaller brother minus the funkiness. The major design changes can be seen especially at the front, where the smiling grille sits more higher, encompassing a chrome ornament and the Opel badge, new headlights and foglights surroundings as well as a new hood. Te side profile is more accentuated by two sharp l...
Typically, although a far better car, like the Chevette all Kadett models have been the butt of jokes in Europe, particularly for being very common (the quintessential middle-class car in Germany and the Netherlands), very prone to rust and very easy to steal. While essentially good cars, and always praised as such by contemporary press, these gave Opel its commoner reputation it is still struggling to shake off.
In November 2010, a facelift was announced. A revised front end was the most dramatic difference over its predecessor, consisting of a new grille, a restyled front bumper and new 'Eagle Eye' headlamps (introduced on the Insignia) which contain daytime running lamps, standard across the refreshed Corsa range. (Vauxhall versions gained the latest badge from 2008 on the front grille, tailgate and steering wheel). A new 'Touch and Connect' multimedia system from Bosch was made available as an option on certain Corsas, replacing the CD60 unit. Alloy wheels are upgraded on SXI, SE and OPC/VXR versions. Production ended in the end of 2014, with the Adam styled Corsa E released.
The last known KF V6 Calibra race car in existence, is the Zakspeed prototype, Calibra Concept 2, which had been built to be used as a test car for the upcoming FIA championship, that actually never happened. The Calibra turbo was also rallied, albeit without any major successes. A Calibra finished ninth in the 1992 Sanremo Rallye, with Bruno Thiry at the wheel. This did make it the fastest car in the 1600 to 2000 cc class.
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.