There was a time when Opel cars, for all the company’s participation in Grand Prix racing and experiments with rocket-propelled vehicles, were pretty terrible, if serviceable, cardboard-and-glue productions. All that changed radically after the war and the models from the Adam Opel AG at Russelheim became ever better and more attractive packages, so that I usually look forward to testing the latest models. Nothing could be more up to the minute so far as this make is concerned than the handsome 2-litre four-cylinder Rekord Berlina (or four-door saloon) which Mr. Ken Moyes of General Motors caused to be delivered to the Motor Sport offices last month.
At first I looked for it in vain, because its drop snout makes it look all too like a modern Renault or the latest Ford Granada. That apart, the lines, with the tumble-home window glasses, are crisp and pleasing. The latest Rekord is also very comfortable, even if the colour of the cloth upholstery on the test car was rather a vulnerable shade. The short-stroke 95 x 70 ram, engine starts promptly on automatic choke, hot or cold, and this five-bearing, Zenith-carburetted power unit, with the ingenious Opel cam-inhead valve gear involving a chain-driven camshaft, is notably smooth when wafting this spacious saloon to 60 m.p.h., which it does from rest in 11.0 sec., and to 70 m.p.h. in 15 1/2 sec. Indeed, the driver gets to such legalised cruising speeds almost without noticing it and the power comes more quietly even than the wind noise, which isn’t excessive. I have heard the brakes criticised as grossly over-servoed but, although sensitive, those on the Opel I tested were reasonably progressive.
I remain impressed at the value that a £4,352 saloon of this sort provides. It is fast, safe, pleasant to ride in, and carries ample luggage in a self-locking boot, of increased size in this latest Rekord. There is no real “character” to this particular Opel, but perhaps those who will use it are not aware of what this is. It is a good, quiet motorway car. The ride is comfortable, if with a little sideways-lurchy roll at times, which takes the edge off the road-holding. Cornering is decently neutral, with a trace of initial understeer, and no protest from the Michelin ZXs. Less nice is the steering, still by recirculating ball, which is not notably sensitive and which is very heavy for parking. The new Rekord has MacPherson-strut front suspension but has a live back axle on coil springs. It is somewhat conscious of side-winds. The gears are changed by a short lever with a beefy knob but they tend to baulk a bit if hurried shifts are looked for, and bottom sometimes jibs; reverse is easy to find after the sliding-catch on the lever has been lifted. Those who like an uncomplicated facia layout will approve, for this 1978 Rekord has a vertical line of six horizontal warning-lamps flanked by a big clock and the speedometer. The latter has digits at 20 m.p.h. intervals, 70 m.p.h. not being specifically marked. There is no tachometer, which, in a family saloon of this calibre, is unusual these days. On each side of the main dials are the smaller, neat temperature and fuel gauges. The single-spoke of the steering wheel carries three recessed thumb-pushes each side for the horn and Opel use a single, left-hand stalk control, its button setting the screen wipers to intermittent operation, and, pressed harder, operating the washers. Its tip is turned to bring in full-use of the two-speed wipers, which are very effective. A big switch down on the right controls the lighting, with flick-dipping on the stalk. An elaborate heating and ventilation system is fitted, and the test car had a Philips non-push-button stereo radio. One key suffices for ignition, doors and the fuel-filler cap, which is under a flap on the off-side.
There is a big lockable cubby-hole and useful rigid pockets in the front doors, the external driving mirror is adjustable front within by a knob (which is becoming common thank goodness.), head-restraints are fitted and the back bench seat is of very generow dimensions. This 105-m.p.h., 1,979-c.c., 9:1 compression-ratio Opel is a typical product of its age, which will no doubt give excellent service to many motoring families. It gave me 28.3 m.p.g. of four-star petrol in average non-motorway driving, used no oil in 800 miles, and was just what so many middle-class motorists are seeking. I was surprised when the square of trim surrounding the radio and heater-binnacle fell off, followed by both the, rear-door ash-trays; later some more trim fell down and obstructed the clutch-pedal which when gently pulled, caused a cascade of additional trim panels and the demister tubing also fell out. Not the kind of quality expected from a German-built car, and hardly in the, Audi/BMW tradition, but perhaps this Opel Rekord had been rushed out quickly for the, purposes of Press road-testing. The heavy front-opening bonnet has to be propped up, but dip-stick and Opel-GM battery are fully accessible; the agricultural-looking engine, has a well-protected ignition distributor and the Bosch headlamps give a good driving light.—W.B.