The Opel is back
UNTIL the outbreak of World War II, Opel cars were sold in this country through the Pride and Clarke organisation. The 1.1-litre s.v. 3-bearing 4-cylinder Kaden cost about as much as the out-moded Austin 7 Ruby and had independent (Dubonnet) front suspension, faired-in headlamps, was far more roomy and possessed hydraulic brakes. Although it did not boast more thar about 24 b.h.p., it got along well if held at its flat-out speed and amongst those who enthused over these ugly ” tin and cardboard ” saloons were Anthony Phelps and John Eason-Gibson. Opel also imported bigger sixcylinder models, of 2+ and 3.6 litres, including d.h. coups of the kind the Germans made so well, if you didn’t object to cumbersome hoods when these were folded. I had experience of 4and 6-cylinder Opels at this time.
This General Motors’ make from Russelsheim has only just begun to be iinported into England, ending 26ars’ absence. This has started rumours in hysterical circles that to combat continued Strikes by Vauxhall workers, Opel is about to take over Luton. Naturally, General Motors strongly deny this. The true story of affairs would seem to be that should Britain join the E.C.M., Opel would import cars into Britain to counterbalance Vauxhalls exported to Europe. At present no very intensive sales drive appears to be visualised. Opel prices here are not yet particularly competitive, nor do London showrooms or service schools Of German mechanics seem to be part of G.M.’s policy. But the make which historians associate with the 1914 August Bank Holiday Brooklands’ racing and Segrave’s initiation into motor-racing in the early I920s, is back; Volkswagen agents who have lately lost their distributorships seem glad that this is so!
I have recently been driving an Opel Rekord L 4-door saloon, with 93 x 70 mm (1,897 c.c.) 1.9-litre 4-cylinder engine. (This model is also available with 1.5, 1.7, 1.75, and 2.2-litre engines.) It is perhaps unfair to review this model in MOTOR SPORT, because it has very little claim to being an enthusiast’s car, although its top speed exceeds 100 m.p.h., nor is a s.s. +-mile time of under 19 seconds to be despised from a family saloon.
It is a long time since I have experienced quite such lurch), suspension. And although I have heard that the rally-boys are excited about the new coil-spring rear suspension, they must surely have tried it on a different version, for even at low cornering speeds it is easy to spin the inner back wheel on the rigid back axle. Then the steering (3 turns lock-to-lock; strong castor return), with a rather big high-set wheel, is heavy for parking and somewhat vague being affected by road undulations and the Servo disc/drum brakes while progressive and effective have a spongy feel, nor do the 6.40 x 13 Continental Record nylon tubeless 4PR tyres give 100% confidence in wet-road driving.
This 1.9-litre de luxe Opel is really a nicely-finished, wellequipped German Vauxhall, which is expressing it about as broadly as saying Fords from Cologne (née Taunus) are German versions of the Dagenham products. It offers fully-reclining front seats, shaped so that they are very comfortable, are upholstered in ventilated and pleated vinyl. There are under-bonnet and boot lamps, reversing lamps, coat hooks, rear roof grabs, powerful o/s roof lamp, a too-shallow lockable cubbyhole, sill internal door locks, exterior mirrors and anti-dazzle interior mirror, a self-locking boot lid which flies up automatically when unlocked, concealed lockable fuel filler, Kienzle clock, and matching Vdo 120 m.p.h. speedometer and multi-purpose dial, also handbrake warning light and “jumbly” symbolised push-button switches for side lamps, headlamps, and 2-speed wipers. A slim lb. stalk dips the full headlamp beam by flick action and also operates the turn indicators and flasher. The padded steering-wheel spoke is pushed to sound the horn. Moreover, there is fully-vented air flow through the car, with adjustable facia vents, controlled by rather-too-remote under-scuttle levers, big ” thief-proof ” quarter-lights in the front-doer windows and electric rear-window demisting, with warning light. As a family saloon. the Opel Rekord is roomy, stylish and nicely equipped. The high-camshaft engine tended to be ” rattly ” at tick-over, which was set too fast, and, developing 102 (s.a.e.) b.h.p. at 5,400 r.p..m., had to be pushed to take the cruising speed above 70 A central gear lever, looking and feeling rather like that of a Volvo, worked nicely once the strong spring-loading and considerable lateral movement to find reverse were allowed tor. The teat car had a 4-speed all-synchromesh box; 3-speed manual and automatic transmissions are also available. With a 3:89 to 1 top gear the ratios are quite high and 3rd gear is frequently needed. The handbrake is one of those unlovable twist-and-null underfacia affairs, of which I had hoped we had seen the last. Presumably because of r.h.d., whereas the wipers’ push-button is operated with the thumb of the left hand, the washers’ control Pulls out from the right of a bracket hung from the facia. ‘Elie bonnet-release is also on the n/s and the heavy lid has to be propOe.1 open. The battery is a 12v 44 amps. Mareg, charged by alternator. The instrument-lighting control is badly placed, under the facia Continued on page 1029 THE OPEL IS BACK—continued from page 1015
crash-padding and behind the steering wheel. There are no door pockets or parcels Shelf. The presence of Bosch lamps and electrics, with a box of eight fuses, is reassuring but the headlamps, as adjusted, were of little more help than the one-candlepower ones that I used to endure on my aged Austin 7s before the war. . . • The sole odometer lacks decimal readings and the uncalibrated fuel gauge is rather vague.
A good feature is the 14A-gallon fuel tank, enabling me to cover 350 miles from full to a gauge reading zero, still without running dry. In general usage with a good deal of Castlelimitomising the consumption of 4-star petrol (9.0 to I c.r.) averaged 28:6 m.p.g., a very good figure for a 1.8-litre car. The automatic choke gave a fairly prompt start, hot or cold, hut there was a noticeable flat-spot in the two-choke Solex 32 DIDTA-4 carburetter, when accelerating hard. No oil had been used in 944 miles.
This Opel Rekord is like some people I know—pleasant, smart, if a trifle old-fashioned, no doubt dependable, but one wouldn’t want to live with them. But it was comfortable, served me staunchly (except when, after a very obliging policeman in a smart black B.M.C. 1100 had led me, late at night, through the Birmingham jungle to a petrol station, the fuel-filler cap did its hest to thwart the single key which unlocks it and all the other serviees, including the steering-lock), and the doors, which have arm-rests and neat little pull-out interior handles, shut with a ” clunk.” The price, as tested, is £1,239 12s 11d., inclusive of pt. but without certain extras.
Perhaps I shall find the smaller 1,:,arLd more my sort of car. . . . W.B.