Opel Kadett C 1200

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Opel Kadett C 1200

1973 - 1979
1196 cc
65 bhp @ 5,600 r.p.m
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
80 mph / 128 km/h
Number Built:
2 star
Opel Kadett
Opel Kadett C 1200
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2

John Beltz

THE OPEL KADETT had been well known in Europe and the UK since before the war. In those days it was cheap but not altogether nasty, having beneath its cardboard and pressed coconut construction a bog-simple engine that propelled it quite rapidly by the standards of the times.

The post-war Kadett KE saloon was more forgettable, but things changed for the better with the release of the Kadett C 1200. The Kadett C appeared in 1973, and was Opel's version of GM's 'T-Car', built in Japan by Isuzu and sold around the world under various different monikers - best known to Australians of course as the Holden Gemini.

The Kadett C formed the basis of the British Vauxhall Chevette, which had a restyled front end, and used a 1256 cc OHV Vauxhall engine rather than the 1196 cc OHV Opel engine. The Kadett C had comfortable seats, the front ones with head-restraints and reclining squabs, upholstered in what would pass for black embossed leather. It possessed such refinements as a heated back window, carpeting, cigarette lighter, roof grab, hinged rear-windows, etc., these being specialities of the two-door coupe model. There was also an electronic clock.

The engine was a pretty agricultural-looking four-cylinder unit of 79 x 61 mm. (1,196 c.c.) which in the coupe poked out 65 DIN horses at 5,600 r.p.m., and which had Opel's high-set camshaft. It gave an unexpected surprise in the form of lively acceleration and was happy cruising at an indicated 70 m.p.h. It was rather noisy towards peak revs, and the back axle emitted an irritating hum at motor-way speeds. There was a substantial stubby-gaitered gear lever, very baulky to get into first and second gear from rest and with a heavy lifting-movement required before reverse could be engaged, but otherwise pleasant to use.

The 3¾-turn-lock-to-lock rack-and-pinion steering was moderately light but a bit sticky around the straight-ahead position and had good return action. The Opel was rather difficult to drive in cross winds yet through fast corners it performed well. It had 13 in. Michelin ZX tyres. The body interior was nicely done in black-matt finish with matching facia and the recessed door handles and other details were neat.

There was no storage cubby, but an open tray ahead of the gear lever and a shelf before the passenger were provided. The latter tended to break away from its mounting after continued use. A single left-hand stalk control dipped the headlamps and its extremity turned to work the wipers, while the rear-window heating was operated from the heater-fan control.

There were powerful fresh-air vents with closure flaps in the facia centre. This Opel coupe got its extra performance from an increase in compression ratio of 1.4 to 1, so, at 9.2 to 1 good fuel was required. The filler cap for the 9¾-gallon tank was concealed behind the imitation off-side rear body-vent, perhaps to deter casual milking thieves, an all too common occurrence in the 1970's. The range was a useful 344 miles.

In South Korea, Daewoo Motors built a version known as the Daewoo Maepsy. The Kadett C formed the basis of the British Vauxhall Chevette, which had a restyled front end, and used a 1256 cc OHV (over head valve) Vauxhall engine rather than the 1196 cc OHV Opel engine. It was notable for the inclusion of a hatchback version named City-Kadett, based on the UK Vauxhall Chevette hatchback, which was a first for Opel. Although Kadett C production ended in 1979, the Chevette was produced until January 1984. Interestingly, the Vauxhall Chevette was imported to Germany starting in 1979 to satisfy the needs of the rear wheel drive traditionalists and was quite a success for a year or two.

The Kadett C today is a cult car in Germany, especially in fastback Coupe form. The most sought after versions of the Kadett C Coupe are the Rallye and GT/E models. These models were built first with the Bosch fuel injected 1897 cc OHC Opel engine, and followed by the updated 1998 cc OHC engine. A very rare version was the Aero-Kadett, an open-top Kadett with targa roll bar, detachable roof insert and a separate convertible top aft of the roll bar (like the contemporary Lancia Beta Spider (Lancia Zagato in the US). This car was built in very limited numbers by Karosserie Baur in Stuttgart.

The Kadett C reached the United States as the Buick–Opel. In reality, however, this was an Isuzu Gemini; an updated version of this car was marketed in the USA as the Isuzu I-Mark in the early Eighties. In Brazil, the Kadett C was released six months before its European release as Chevrolet Chevette, and it was available with a choice of three gasoline engines, a 1.4 L, a 1.6 L and a 1.0 L (available only for 1992 and 1993 model year) and the 1.4 L and 1.6 L were also available on ethanol.

This Chevette went through several redesigns - first a front and rear fascia similar to the Opel version, then a look similar to the British/American Chevette, and finally a design reminiscent of the updated American version. It was available in several different bodies: Hatchback (1979-1987), Station Wagon (called Chevrolet Marajó, 1980-1989), Pickup (Chevy 500, 1984-1995) and Sedan (1973-1993). The Chevette sold over 1.6 million units in Brazil, being replaced by the Chevrolet Corsa.

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Also see:

Opel Brochures
Opel Kadett
Opel Kadett City
The History of Opel
Holden Gemini
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