top of page

Opel Ascona 1.6 S year 1979

A sales advertisement in Jyllands-Posten in 1999 read like this:

Opel Ascona 1.6 S year 1979, 1 owner from new. Driven 130,000 km. Continuously maintained, previously undercarriage treated and in original condition.

I drove with my son Allan to Sæby to look at it. Even though the rust was starting to take hold in the typical places, it was pretty much as advertised and the price reasonable, so it turned out to be a bargain.He bought the 20-year-old car as his first car, and he used the car daily for 3 years.

Even though the car was somewhat older than him, he was happy with it. But now the old Opel was wearing out. I thought it was too good to scrap, so I ended up buying the Ascona from him, even though I didn't really have the time to fix it up. Despite the Ascona B having a big place in my automotive heart (I got my driving license in one), I vacillated between refurbishing, storing or scrapping. In the spring of 2003, there happened to be an Opel meeting at the local Opel dealer, and there was a similar Ascona, top-renovated. When I saw it, I realized I had to save ours, so I set about taking it apart. I got help with the welding work. It had to have new fender edges at the back, new panel and stone plate at the front. And of course a couple of new front fenders. In other words, it was not hopeless.


Disassembling and assembling an Ascona requires neither special tools nor great skills. A little time and a little patience is enough for this generation of Opel cars. So the renovation went ahead and became a real cozy project, which went on and on over the summer and autumn. It should indeed turn out to be a perfectly fine form of stress therapy, without time pressure or unpleasant surprises of any kind. As I had bought and repaired several Opel cars of this generation in my time, it almost felt like being with an old friend in the garage.

Autolak in Bredsten did an excellent piece of painting work. While it was at the painter's, I dusted off a donor car in the form of a completely damaged Ascona 1.6 S from 1980. Ascona's were becoming far between, but there was one at a scrapyard in northern Jutland.

One lovely summer morning I got up early and went to Brønderslev on my motorbike to look at it. It was complete with insignificant side damage to the door and rear fender and only 58,000 km on the "clock". I wondered who could think of total damage to such an original car?


I bought the donor car on the spot. Drove back to Grindsted, turned north again with car and trailer and shipped it home the same day. It ended up behind my garage ready to pick parts from. It turned out to be a good idea. The front bridge turned out to be quite bad, so it was moved over. The engine was found to have burned a valve off running on unleaded petrol so the engine with only 58,000km behind it was also moved over. Lots of small parts also found their way over, including the plastic bumpers which, in my opinion, are much nicer than the chrome ones. In the autumn of 2003, I now stood again with a fine old Ascona B in the garage, assembled from all the best parts from two cars. All the little tricks that are needed to make such a car run really well were put to work.


Here comes my personal recipe for a 1.6 S: It must have a Weber 28/36 carburetor with manual choke, it fits the original manifold, and the original air filter can be customized. A sports exhaust from Simons. The improved brake calipers from the last year. A set of Bilstien springs and associated quality shock absorbers, this in combination with slightly wider rims gives really nice driving characteristics. My favorite is the period ATS rims fitted with quality tires sized 185/70-13. I had tried that combination before and managed to find these parts again. And of course I couldn't resist installing the steering wheel and instruments from an SR. I had recreated "my" car from the 70s. In the years that followed, we used the car somewhat more than expected. Our kids borrowed it from time to time when they just needed a car. I myself got many wonderful retro experiences out of driving pleasure trips in it.

It was looked after and looked after until I decided to sell it in 2011. The lucky buyer was a young boy of 18, whose greatest wish was an Ascona B, and who promised to take good care of it.

But I wasn't done with the rear wheel drive Opel, so a Manta B took over its place in the garage. But that is a completely different story, which I will come back to.


Opel started the 70s with a couple of fresh new car models. One of them was the Ascona, a car in the size between Rekord and Kadett. Together with Manta, which came the following year, Opel was involved in the battle for buyers' favor in the sporty middle class, which had suddenly emerged thanks to BMW's 02 series. The 70s were a good decade for Opel in Denmark. There were always Opel models at the top of the sales lists at home. Ascona and Manta were built on the same platform, with a harmonious and appealing design. Opel in the 70s was characterized by uncomplicated and proven technology in classically beautiful packaging. Despite the fact that Opel reused technology across the models, some homogeneous and well-driving cars came out of it. All models had rigid rear axle, and front axle with double wishbones and rack and pinion steering. Placing the engine as far back as possible in the engine compartment provided well-balanced and predictable driving characteristics.

Opel was simply the master at building well-driving cars based on highly conventional technology. The Ascona model was replaced by the Vectra in 1988. The Ascona A and B models were rear-wheel drive, whereas the C model was front-wheel drive. In many ways, the C model was also a completely different car, which distanced itself from the somewhat conservatively built models of the past. Ascona was available in several variants. The vast majority with Opel's legendary CIH (Cam-in-head) engine. This engine was available as 1.6 with carburetor and 1.9 and 2.0 with carburetor or injection. However, the model could also be delivered with Opel's 1.2 OHV engine from the Kadett. The Ascona B also came to benefit from the all-new generation of OHC engines which arrived in 1980, unfortunately only in 1.3 guise. A bit strange that the larger 1.8 OHC engine never found its way to the Ascona. Not to mention what a phenomenal sports car the Ascona B could have been with a 2.0 16v DOHC GSI engine.


The top of the range were the models with sporty equipment in the form of the SR and later the E Sport models, but they all had to make do with the somewhat antiquated CIH engine. Still, the A and B models sold well, over 2 million. The Ascona was an important model for Opel.

Technically, they were robust and easy to work with, but development was a bit tricky. The CIH engine was robust enough, but it was also heavy and uneconomical. Among other things due to half-baked ignition systems and very bad carburettors. The models with Bosch L-Jetronic petrol injection were better on that front, but that system was unfortunately reserved for the sports models.

In England it was called Ascona B, Vauxhall Cavalier. It had a Manta-like front, and was a bit of a weirdo. This variant of the B model also came to Denmark, but was never seen as a real Opel in this country.

The best thing about an Ascona was that even with modest engine power it was fun to drive, - especially on loose surfaces it was really fun, which is why the model also became very popular among young people. It probably also helped that the model was easy to tune. A 1.9 or 2.0 engine could easily reach 120 HP without the large costs. The cylinder head channels were large relative to cubic capacity, and the stock camshaft pretty good. So Weber carburetors and a better exhaust system gave a somewhat fresher engine than standard. Extra power in the engine was very noticeable as the car was light. Many 1.6 models were equipped with the large 2 liter engine, and that in itself gave more power. This conversion could be done for little money as everything fit together. It was the same front axle and gearbox that was used in all Ascona and Manta models with a CIH engine.

I know of no car from that time with such a good and harmonious driving position as standard. Despite the fact that the steering wheel could not be adjusted and the seat could only be moved forwards and backwards, you sat excellently in an Ascona. The distance between pedals, steering wheel, seat and the short slanted gear lever was very close to the optimum, almost magical. The whole thing simply had an exemplary location. And Opel understood how to equip its cars with good seats. The large gearbox tunnel was not in the way at all, but instead allowed a nice relaxing resting position for legs and accelerator foot. All this, combined with fine, predictable driving characteristics, gave a very special driving experience that appealed to both young and old.


The model thus became very popular within all branches of motorsport, many quite rightly considered the B models of Ascona and Manta to be the kings of dirt roads. Which was certainly enhanced by the incredible results that the model achieved in international motorsport. I don't know any car that is so easy to drive sideways under full control.

The Ascona B model, together with the Manta B, also had the honor of ending the rear-wheel drive era in rallying. This before the Group B cars got so crazy that no one could drive them and they were banned. The Ascona 400 and later the Manta 400 were real sports cars with a 2.4-litre, 16-valve engine of 144 HP. An engine with enormous tuning potential. Well made for and for motorsport, but built in sufficient numbers for street use to be approved to participate in rally sport's king class. Walter Röhrl thus won the World Rally Championship in 1982 in an Ascona 400. A Rothmans painted Ascona 400 was a feared weapon in rallying in the early 80s. The model kept winning races. In fact, it continued to win long after the car had gone out of production, for example Ari Vatanen won the African Safari Rally in 1983 in an Ascona 400.

Articles you must read:

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page