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There was a boy's ass in it

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Mi Kadett

Mi Kadett

The Kadett was for many years Opel's most popular model. For a period in the late 70s and early 80s, it was Denmark's best-selling car model, month after month. I have bought and sold many of them in my time. There were many used cars for sale, they were easy cars to repair, and then they could be sold at a reasonable profit. The Kadett C, D, E models were all popular cars in this country.

A Kadett in a car dealer's used car range was always interesting

So a slightly battered Kadett in the used car range of car dealers was always interesting to me. In 1994, it was no longer selling used cars that I supplemented my income with. But I still couldn't stop watching. I was passing by Storegård cars in Bramming on another errand when I spotted a Kadett E from 1985 1.6S standing in the rows. It had a small front damage but was otherwise intact and without extensive rust. I asked the price, and since the line of used cars was long, I offered to give the same for the car as they had given for it, and a deal was made. We could use car number 2, and this was a light object. Although the E model was not my favorite by any means, it was a spacious car with room for a pram and it was just what we needed at the time.

When I got it home, I started right away. The car had been driven with a poorly glued windscreen, so that it was wet at the bottom, and the front bumper and helmet had to be changed, and a new headlight was also needed. A car wrecker in central Jutland had just chopped up a GSI. I hitched up my trailer and drove up to get the parts I was missing, because an interior other than the shitty brown that was sitting in the car would be a big boost to the atmosphere inside the car. In the mid-90s, every junkyard was full of Kadetts, so you could find everything for a Kadett for little money. To my surprise, the parts I had purchased over the phone had a nice dark red metallic color. The GSI they came from had a lot of rear damage, so I bought the whole front. Another salvage yard had a damaged Kadett Sport standing, from which I bought the entire interior including the nice Recaro seats that were in those models. So my trailer was packed when I drove home.

Plan for the car takes a turn

During the drive home I decided I wanted to paint the whole car in the same nice color as the parts I brought home because all I needed to make a smart car out of those parts was a GSI rear -bumper that suited my summer project. I peeled everything out of the car and threw it to my painter and told him to do his best. I got it back just in time for the summer holidays and spent a week collecting our Kadett. Since we wanted to use it ourselves for some time to come, I made a little effort to get everything done properly. It had not driven more than 100,000 km and ran very well in both engine and gear.

There was a boy's ass in it

A bit of boyishness went into this Kadett, and it ended up being a really nice car. When I saw the overall finished result, I agreed with myself to just give it the last shot. That means fine Fondmetal rims, GT steering wheel and instrumentation. Cosmetically perfect. So I threw myself at the engine with the big service, which, among other things, included renovation and optimization of the Varajet II carburettor and a new Simens "free flow" sports exhaust, instead of the hopeless aftermarket exhaust of unknown provenance that sat on the car.

Everything actually went so well that we went on summer holiday in the spacious number two car that summer. Everything was as it should be except for the car's hopelessly bad undercarriage. I had had a new Kadett E in the 80s and knew very well that it was not the model's strong point. I made a phone call to a certain Mr. Henrik Lundgård, who had driven rally in these cars, so he had to know how to get such a car to drive properly. Because if there's anything I can't deal with, it's a car where the springs and shock absorbers don't match. The Kadett E had a historically poorly set-up undercarriage, it got a bit better with the facelift in 1990, but never good.

Driving pleasure can be found in Opel's motorsport catalogue

Henrik Lundgård gave me some original spare part numbers of original bushings and suspension, which were found in the Opel motorsport catalogue. He also recommended that I use springs and shock absorbers from the last year GSI, which probably came from Bilstein. I found such a set, and Opel in Herning got me the optimized rally parts. When the parts were added, the car was almost unrecognizable, both comfort and sport were united, and the car's driving characteristics were as if transformed. It turned out really well. We kept the car for 3 years and drove 80,000 km in it, and when I sold it I got DKK 20,000 more for the car than I had previously paid for it at Storgård cars. In 1995, for example, we were on a long trip in the car through Europe, with 3 children in the back seat. It went fine, except for the missing A/C system. We especially lacked that when we came to London, where there was a heat wave and 33 degrees. This Kadett had the honor of being my last home-built family car. Unfortunately I didn't take very many pictures of the car, but here are the few that exist.

Aftermath. I sold the car to a young man here in town. Unfortunately, he smashed the car at an intersection in the city centre. A car did not comply with its right of way, and I saw the sad sight of our fine Kadett lying on its side. He had the car for a year before the accident, and then bought an original GSI as his next car. I met him one Sunday morning at the bakery, where he said: "It's a bit of a shame that "your" Kadett was smashed, because my GSI doesn't run as well as the one I bought from you."

Thank you, Henrik Lundgård, for the recipe...


The model name Kadett saw the light of day in 1937. Production of the first Kadett was stopped by the war. After the war, this car model and the entire production apparatus were taken as spoils of war and moved to Russia, where production resumed under the name Moskvitch.

The Kadett name reappeared in 1962 (model A). It was a small semi-boring shoebox of a car, which nevertheless achieved some popularity, with just under 650,000 examples of the model being produced. The model was only in production in the period from 1962-1965.

The model existed in 3 versions, as Sedan, Van and Coupe, all with the same small 993 cc push rod engine. A good little machine which, incidentally, came to serve Opel in many models right up until 1993, when, after a long faithful service, it disappeared from the Corsa model's engine range.

The B model

Kadett had its big breakthrough with the B model. It was a slightly larger car, nicely designed and in production from 1966-1973. Almost 2.7 million copies of the B model were sold. This model came in a multitude of versions and with a wider range of engine configurations. The B model was also given a sporty touch in the form of the fine SR and Rally versions, which even benefited from the large CIH engine in 1.5, 1.7 and 1.9 liter form.

The Kadett engine

However, it was the small OHV pushrod engine that was the standard engine in the majority of all B models, most widely used as the 1.1 liter version. It was the same engine which, with a slightly larger bore, brought the engine up to 1,078 cc.

As standard, this engine had 45 hp, and as an S engine with slightly higher compression, the little machine delivered a whopping 54 hp. The Kadett engine performed well despite having a cylinder head with only 3 exhaust ports and two Siamese intake ports that branched off inside the cylinder head between the exhaust ports (as on the BMC A series engine).

All versions unfortunately had a small primitive Solex 35 PDSI carburettor with manual choke. But despite the simple engine and the sparse equipment, this engine's characteristics were that it did not use very much fuel and that it was durable. In the B model, the 1.1 engine even got a superstructure in the form of a 60 hp SR engine with 2 Solex 35 PDSI carburetors and increased compression (9.2:1).

In 1971 came the last and final version of this engine. The bore was increased once more, and it was now a strong oversquare engine. All versions of this legendary little engine, from the 1.0 engine to the 1.2 (1196 cc) found their way into the B model's large engine compartment.

This of increasing engine volume was very common practice at the time, and a very simple and cheap way to more engine power. It may seem strange and unnecessary that Opel chose to equip this model with the many different engine configurations of what were basically two different engine families OHV and CIH. But the B model was a bit of a world car, and therefore it was the local tax and insurance conditions that caused the B model to be motorized so differently from country to country. Here in Denmark, it was the 1.1 and 1.2 versions with N (normal petrol) that were most common.

Large engine compartment and small engine made all rear-wheel drive Kadett models extremely serviceable and any do-it-yourself mechanic's dream.

Despite having only 3 main bearings and a short stroke, this engine was a surprisingly durable and lively little engine. But since there was only 2.5 liters of oil to lubricate the machinery, it was important to keep the oil level at the maximum and to change the engine oil on time. It was also important to make sure to keep enough water on the radiator, because there was no expansion tank in the cooling system, and the engine did not feel good running hot. The engine had an easily recognizable sound, with the click of the valves being part of the charm.

The transmission was as simple as the engine, 4 speeds with synchronization on all forward gears. However, the rigid rear axle was at least over time sprung with coil springs instead of the primitive leaf springs.

Versions with 1.0 and 1.1 engines had a long slanted gear stick that went directly into the gearbox. Later, a body variant was made with a larger gear tunnel, which made room for a retracted gear change, a nice short and precise gear change, here in Denmark very common in the Holliday model.

The C model

The C model from 1974-1979 was built to the same standards and many parts were the same. Still, it was a completely different car. Although the construction could now be considered a bit old-fashioned, the C-model won the favor of many buyers and became very popular. Opel made a lot out of the vote, and a harmonious little car came out of it, which enjoyed great popularity here in Denmark. The C model was the last small Opel with rear-wheel drive and the last car model to be assembled here in Denmark, indeed a Kadett C was the last car to roll off the assembly line at the GM assembly plant in Copenhagen.

The model came in many variants, such as Sedan in two- and four-door versions, Estate car, Coupe, 3-door Hatchback (city). The rarest C model was the Aero, which had an open roof. Only 1,242 examples of this model were made at Bauer in Stuttgart. These cars are today prized collectors' items.

In 1978, the model got a facelift, characterized by the fact that the front side indicators went around the corner in the front, so the front fenders were different. It gave the car a completely different appearance, and many older models had these modified front fenders installed when the originals were rusted through. The model came in a sea of special models such as Berlina, SR, GTE and City.

The coupe model was available with all engine variants except the small 1.0 engine. That is, 1.2, 1.6, 1.9 and 2.0.

The models with 1.9 and 2.0 engines had Bosch L-Jetronic injection and respectively 105 and 115 hp. These models won many victories in Rally and are today very valuable collector's items. With the fine Bilstein undercarriage, it is a particularly fun car to drive. Comfort was never the car's strong point, but it is still easy to understand why this car gained classic status beyond what is usual for a small Opel.

Kadett C also came in a Vauxhall variant under the model name Chevette. This model had a Vauxhall engine and a more aerodynamic front, a model which also gained some popularity here in Denmark. The Chevette was never seen as an Opel, which it wasn't. But it survived the Kadett and was in production right up to the beginning of 1984.

The C-model was a real world car and gained wide distribution, it was found, for example, as Daewoo, Buick and Isuzu. The C model had the same transmission as the B model, but could be supplied with a 3-speed automatic transmission.

Opel went to great lengths to match the steering and suspension as best as possible. They almost succeeded in hiding the car's simple and old-fashioned technology. The rear-wheel drive Kadetts were good to drive due to well-balanced driving characteristics. But on ice and snow, the light rear trailer was a bit of a nuisance. The car's grip was simply too bad. This was embarrassingly revealed in the snowy winters of the late 70s, when a tile in the trunk was the only option for just about decent passability. The City model, if possible, even worse - it was simply hopeless when there was snow on the road. But the C model was cheap to run, held its resale value well as long as the rust hadn't taken too much of a hold. Opel did nothing to protect its cars from rust. A 4-5 year old Kadett that had not been undercarriage treated could have been rusted through in several places. These cars were the garage's best friend, easy to screw up and relatively service-demanding. Everything could be made with ordinary tools, and many good workshop hours could be sold, some of which were with a welder, when they had to appear when the owner changed.

The C-model was the car that ended an honor with small rear-wheel drive Opel cars. All the sporty equipment you could buy, combined with the fine, well-balanced driving characteristics, made the car popular with young and old alike. The C car model probably appears to many who experienced it in its heyday as the most "real" Kadett of them all. With a production of no less than 3.3 million also the most popular!

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