LOTS FOR LITTLE
THE 24-LITRE OPEL CREATES A GOOD IMPRESSION THE Opel, German-built and introduced to this country by the great liGeneral Motors Corporation, is creating great interest just now amongst prospective purchasers of well-finished, comprehensively equipped cars of good performance. We recently tested the 21-litre during a long week-end and were very favourably impressed. The 21litre Super Six is the o.h.v, model of the Opel range, and with an D8 tax engine developing 60 b.h.p. at 3,600 r.p.m. and a weight of 23 cwt. it is naturally an excellent performer. Right at the outset it appeals as belonging to that excellent modern family of cars which are restful to drive, extremely lively and essentially controllable. A driver strange to the car takes his seat, which is very comfortable, yet high set and close to the wheel without need for microscopic adjustments to accommodate individuals of differing body measurements, and at once he commences to swing through traffic with complete confidence. Visibility is excellent, as although only the nearside lamp is visible, this . seems ample means by which to judge the car’s width, possibly because the wings do not project very far beyond it. The pick-up, after momentary hesitation from a crawl, is extremely good and there is definite ” bite ” at over 20 m.p.h. in top gear, the brakes are immensely powerful and sensitive, and the steering permits of accurate negotiation of difficult traffic obstructions, so that the Opel has a pleasing sense of being ” accident-proof ” and tireless to handle, even to a novice driver in a considerable hurry. A little more acquaintance with the car and you realise how very silently this Foursome Drop head Coupe functions. The engine is unobtrusive, so that at idling speeds It is difficult to tell if it is running, by car alone, and it makes very little fuss when working hard. The bodywork is not prone to undue storm-noise, and apart from a slight rattle in the region of the facia and an occasional drumming by the off-side door towards the conclusion of the test, it was commendably silent. The doors shut firmly, the windows are taut and wind up and down nicely and the generous build of the seats creates a worth-while air of real quality and the leather upholstery is particularly noteworthy in this respect. We encountered truly terrible weather conditions and can vouch for the rain-proof qualities of this drophead coupe, while the ventilation arrangements are admirable, only occasional trace of fumes being noticeable, and then only momentarily and accounted for by the newness of the car. This Opel, then, is well finished internally and contrives to function in a very lively manner with no display of effort, concealing very effectively that it may be bought for as small an outlay as £265. In town-driving only the patter of the wheels over surface irregularities intrude during 90 per cent. of the running. The suspension is definitely of the soft variety, giving a very high degree of comfort over the worst surfaces. Indeed, no real shocks ever reached the occupants, even when driving quite rapidly over kerbs while manceuvring, and the worst that occurs is some throw-up motion. Yet, in spite of this supple suspension, road-holding is entirely adequate. Some roll takes place when cornering fast but the car as a whole merely leans over rather than rolls outwards, and tail slides can only be provoked by injudicious cornering on wet surfaces and even then only need about a quarter-turn of correction on the low-geared steering. Wet tram-lines give rise to minor deviations of no real consequence and there was a slight tendency to slide at the front, cornering abnormally fast at considerable lock on a sodden surface. At full lock, particularly to the right, a curious action seems to occur in the front suspension, but the lock is so generous that this is only encountered at low speeds in extreme rnanceuvring. Generally it is very good suspension of a well-balanced kind and the Dubonnet independent system at the front is well worth having. The steering is fairly light and would probably get lighter with additional use. We found it rather too low-geared for our personal requirements, approximately three and a quarter turns being needed, lock to lock, which, in conjunction with some lost motion and a rather big wheel, called for considerable arm-work in fast negotiation of congested areas. However, the control is decisive and one grows accustomed to working at the tiller in traffic. There is no real castor action, a feature of the Opel “Cadet,” so that the car has to be continually directed, though the wheel can be spun back rapidly after a corner. No return motion is conveyed through the wheel, but on ripply surfaces some vibratory movement is transmitted from the facia board to which the column is attached. The clutch is a trifle fierce, biting only at the end of a fairly considerable pedalmovement and some care is necessary to avoid starting jerkily, particularly as the engine hesitates momentarily from low revolutions and is so quiet that its speed is difficult to access. This applies rather to acceleration from a crawl after disengaging the clutch to change down, rather than to starting from rest. The pedal action is extremely light and the engagement positive. Flexible mountings are responsible for a sense of vagueness about clutch engagement in many modern cars. The three-speed gearbox possesses excellent synchro-mesh that can be operated really rapidly. On the car tested the lever was rather stiff to move in second and top positions doubtless due to the small mileage run, which was under 4,500. It is centrally placed and comes almost up to the wheel, but
is nevertheless quite rigid. Doubledeclutching could be satisfactorily employed, though at low speeds it was hampered by pick-up hesitation. Towards the end of the test the engine stalled repeatedly in traffic and the clutch did not appear to disengage fully, so adjustments were probably due which would overcome this difficulty. First and second gears hummed slightly in spite of helicallytoothed gears, but the sound was not unpleasant. Gear positions are normal.
The brakes are most commendable in every way. They are extremely powerful, pulling the car up smoothly, in a manner that gives vast reassurance to a nervous driver or passengers, and they do their work in complete silence. Moreover, the pedal pressure could not be lighter, yet the action is truly progressive, controlled not only by the pressure applied but by the extent to which the pedal actuating the hydraulic system is depressed. An emergency pull-up on sodden Brooklands concrete resulted in very slight deviation from the straight and no sign of wheellocking, nor did the car’s nose bow excessively. Another stop, from 30 m.p.h., using only moderate pressure on the pedal, was accomplished in approximately 40 feet, on the same unsuitable surface. The hand brake is in the form of a trigger on the right-hand side of the facia. Its grip and ratchet action are good, but it is necessary to stoop to make certain it is fully disengaged, as one’s reach is hampered by the rim of the steeringwheel. It operates mechanically on the rear wheels and is a parking brake pure and simple. On the other hand it does hold the car securely on hills and releases to permit clean restarts, which so many parking brakes do not, and hand-brakes are still used frequently in traffic driving by 99.9 per cent. of drivers (the .1 per cent. is skilled enough to operate foot-brake and accelerator with one foot and uses cars in which the pedal spacing makes this manipulation possible). The Opel system is probably amongst the best of the modern trigger hand-brakes, but we are not yet used to having this major control so tucked away. On the concluding day of the test we visited a fog-bound rain-drenched Brooklands. No acceleration figures or timed tests were taken, partly because so many masses of figures relating to utility cars appear in the weekly motoring press that we hesitate to further confuse the ordinary purchaser, and partly because weatherconditions were so unfair. Without working up speed on preliminary laps the Opel held 69 to 70 tn.p.h. on its speedometer down the Railway Straight and round the Byfleet Banking and about 60 to 65 m.p.h. up the hill to the Members’ Banking. In fairness to the maker’s claim of 80 m.p.h. we are informed that the speedometers read slightly slow on account of larger size tyres being fitted than was originally planned and we con less we did not check the instrument. This high-speed work seemed to worry the car not at all. The suspension behaved in a most praiseworthy manner and we have never lapped Brooklands in greater comfort. Over the roughest going the frontworks ride steadily, the lamps moving only very slightly, and the bonnettop rippling without giving rise to any drumming. On first gear the maximum, by speedometer, was 25 m.p.h., and on third 45 m.p.h., At these speeds the engine is a little obtrusive and normally changes would be made at 15 to 20 m.p.h., and 30 to 35 m.p.h. respectively. In top gear it was possible to run at literally 1 m.p.h., per speedometer, and to get away quite smoothly, the accelera
tion beginning in earnest from 15 to 20 m.p.h. It is possible to start in top and normal to do so in second, if so disposed, on level roads. The acceleration is of a very high order for a car of this size and assists materially in happy negotiation of straggly traffic on our beautiful by
pass roadways. From Brooklands the writer drove to his home in thirty-five minutes without really hurrying and under adverse weather and traffic conditions. This run embraces very twisty, restricted country roads, the Kingston By-pass, a large town and several miles of tramlined main high-streets, and forty-five minutes is considered the usual time for a fast car. To average 33 m.p.h. indicates how this Opel will eat the miles in longdistance main-road going. The driving position is excellent, and the seats very comfortable. The pedals are close but well spaced and there is never any danger of operating the throttle while braking. The treadle-accelerator has a fairly strong spring. There seemed a tendency to sluggishness on the over-run on the indirects, but this may have been accentuated by the heavy condition of the toads. There was some slack in the transmission. The facia carries, from left to right : a big cubby hole with useful, locking lid, with inset clock, direction indicator switch, lamp switch, 100 m.p.h. speedometer, combined oil-pressure and fuel gauge, indicator warning light. The dynamo-charge lamp shines from behind the facia onto the floor. The horn button is in the wheel centre ; starting and dimming switches on the floor. The ignition lock is carried on the steering column and incorporates a steering-lock. To start, the throttle pedal has to be fully depressed while the starter switch is used. Our objection to this system lies in the fact that both feet are needed, so that on a hill the car must be held on the handbrake, while an “14 ” driver sometimes likes to disengage the clutch while using the starter, to obviate disengaging a gear. There is no starting handle. To an experi enced driver those are minor points. The direction indicator and lamp switches are of identical pattern and close-set, which is confusing on first acquaintance, as. one frequently extinguishes the lights, intending to cancel the indicators, or signals a right-hand turn by putting on, the headlamps 1 The Bosch lighting is. admirable and the mechanically-driven. screen-wipers are fully up to their work. The wide rear window permits of an. excellent view in the central, oval mirror, if the driver stoops slightly. We have commented upon the high quality of the leather interior upholstery, and the imitation-polished wood facia and ivory minor controls and gear-lever knob blend well and impart a sense of the quality German production. The rear seat has a useful central armrest and push-in ashtrays. Entry and exit is easy, as the floor is very low, running-boards being dis pensed with. The backs of the front seats fold forward, that of the passenger’s seat tending to do so automatically under heavy braking. Care must be taken not to foul the pavement when opening the doors on a cambered road. Ventilation half-windows are fitted and the doors have small metal “pulls,” and big pockets. The bonnet is held effectively Continued on page 454 by single clips each side, which are a trifle stiff to release. Externally the Opel has a dean, dignified and pleasantly unadorned appearance and it keeps very clean. Oil-pressure is indicated in numerals and not by a definite number of pounds, and remains steady. The speedometer is calibrated in m.p.h. and has a total mileage recorder but no trip, and the fuel gauge registers accurately in quarter, half, three-quarter and intermediate tank contents. In conclusion, this Opel is a welcome newcomer to the ranks of medium-sized high-performance cars of essentially modern conception. It can hold its own with far larger cars in respect of point-to-point average speed, it is at all times productive of a feeling of security and controllability and
it has outstanding braking and suspension. And its accommodation and the quality of its interior appointments prompted the title of this test-report, for definitely the 2i-litre Opel Drophead Foursome is very good value at i265 and very attractive from its open or closed car dual characteristics alone, apart from highspots already mentioned.