Having had mixed feelings about the 1.9-litre Opel Rekord saloon I tested last year, it was suggested that perhaps the Kadett Rallye coupé version of this popular German car, which is now available in Britain under the General Motors banner, would be of greater appeal. This proved to be true. Incidentally, General Motors are taking Opel sales in this country far more seriously than I may have conveyed previously, with a Lex service depot near Lord’s Court and a growing dealer network.
This 1.1-litre Coupé is a fastback four-seater. This type of body is very difficult to style successfully on a car of this seating capacity if it is also of modest size. In consequence the Opel has become a bit too bulbous externally, in order to encompass a wide back seat and sufficient headroom therein for normal adults. The effect is reasonably sporting, but in American fashion this is over-emphasised by crossed chequered-flag motifs on the body, which was, in the case of the test car, also rendered conspicuous by a red and black striped paint job and lining on the body sides.
When I commenced driving this Opel, with its twin-Solex 75 x 51 mm. (1,078 c.c.) SR engine developing 67 b.h.p. (S.A.E.) at 6,000 r.p.m., I thought it was terrible. The steering seemed indecisive, the brake pedal went almost to the floor, and visibility seemed bad. But having adjusted the comfortable reclining-squab seat closer to the wheel I quickly got the feel of this unusual car. Its engine is very quick to respond to the throttle but noisy in GT fashion—the throttle tended to stick, and even an increase in idling r.p.m. from 1,000 to 1,500 accentuated the “phizzing” from the power unit. Opened up further, it emitted quite a roar. The brakes continued to feel very spongy, which was useful for preventing wheel-locking on icy roads, but is less convincing in the dry. The steering, at three turns lock-to-lock, is extremely light, except at close to negative lock, and it is completely free from lost motion, giving accurate control. It suffers from some shake on bad roads; mild castor return action is present. The gear lever, apparently adopting the opposite stance to that of non-Rallye r.h.d. coupés, nestles very close to one’s left leg, but this I did not mind, and it certainly slices the changes through. There is synchromesh on all four gears.
The two-door body has self-anchoring front seats, released for access to the back seat by pressing a button on the side of the squab. Like most German cars of any class, the interior finish and appointments are of high quality, this Opel possessing ventilated vinyl upholstery, a low-set wood-rimmed steering wheel, sill door locks, neat little pull-out inside door handles, anti-dazzle rear-view mirror, padded vizors, but no facia shelf or door pockets. There is a lockable cubby-hole, wide but not very deep, with odd-shaped lid.
Instrumentation consists of a tachometer reading to 7,000 r.p.m., with a yellow segment of its dial from 5,800 to 6,000 r.p.m., then red from 6,100 onwards, a Vdo speedometer, and a matching r.h. dial containing the warning lamps and coloured segments for TEMP. and TANK. A row of four terribly “fumbly” buttons to the right of these dials look after lamps, facia illumination and wipers; it is contrived to work the two-speed wipers and the rheostat instrument lighting from these buttons but this makes for stiff action, and I never could find the button I wanted in the dark. Another button controls the two-speed fan, which is noisy at full speed. Apart from the three facia dials, the Rallye Opel has additional small instruments down on the console, consisting of an ammeter, Vdo clock, and an oil-pressure gauge normally reading 4 kg./sq. cm., but going to “5” at high r.p.m. These are not too easy to consult but are nice to have. I encountered again the Opel speedometer marking of a green segment to 35 m.p.h., orange from there to 60 m.p.h., and red thereafter! A l.h. stalk control sees to lamps dipping and flashing; the horn-push is in the steering wheel hub.
Full marks to the efficient screen-wipers, and to the equally efficient washers, once I had discovered a r.h. pull-out under-scuttle control worked them, and that this didn’t open the bonnet! The Bosch headlamps are also very good—but have the usual very weak (and dangerous!) Continental dipped setting. The auxiliary lamps are quartz-iodine Hellas.
Worthwhile items include the roof-grabs, rubber-tipped bumpers, steering-lock, one big key for all locks, and special lift-up and push-forward catches for the ¼-lights, to defeat those trying to prise these open. A conventional and convenient central hand-brake lever is angled slightly to the right. Ventilation is aided by curious cold-air inlets, placed side by side in the facia centre, with caps for closing them, which generate rather more draught to the face than side inlets. The rear windows open as vents. The heater is entirely satisfactory but its hot-cold control became over-stiff to operate.
The engine is somewhat difficult to start from stone-cold (manual choke) and lots of revs. are needed to get away from rest. The clutch is rather heavy but the real shortcoming of this Opel is suspension which is too supple for a fast car; side winds have a had effect on stability. The bonnet needs a prop to hold it up, and I fought for some time, as on the Rekord, with a fuel filler cap that is difficult to unlock. The tank holds 8.8 gallons and under winter driving conditions the little car returned 33.3 m.p.g. of premium petrol and had used 4 pint of oil in 580 miles. A Varta battery is fed by an alternator, which is tucked well away under the other machinery, so that one hopes it is reliable.
A long spell of snow and ice, during which the grip of the Continental tyres gave confidence, precluded taking performance figures but I rate this Opel a pleasant, willing little car, of unusual character, which is notably comfortable and accelerative. It was priced, before devaluation, at £999.—W. B.