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AJ's Car of the Day '69 Opel Kadett Coupe
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Car: Opel Kadett Coupe

Year: 1969

What makes it special: The Opel Kadett was advertised as the “Mini-Brute." It was built by GM’s German subsidiary and imported for sale in Buick dealerships. Opels, which were sold in the United States from 1958 until they were withdrawn in lieu of Isuzus with Opel badges in 1976, are largely forgotten by the general public. But in 1969, Opel was second in sales among imports, thanks in part to having the largest dealer network with Buick, and also to having a lineup that included a sports car known as the GT. 

What made it famous: The Kadett/Rallye lineup included a basic two-door sedan and wagon, a fastback two-door sedan, the more luxurious LS coupe and the Rallye. Three four-cylinder engines were available as well, including a 55-hp 1.1-liter four, plus a 67-hp four and, optional in the Rallye, the 1.9-liter four. The 1.9-liter four had an unusual design. Usually called cam-in-head, it had wedge combustion chambers and rocker arms, but no pushrods between the solid lifters and the cam end of the rockers. The cam was driven by a duplex roller chain with hydraulic tensioning. A 2-barrel Solex downdraft carburetor was standard on the 1.9, which had a very oversquare 93 x 69.8-mm bore and stroke, allowing a 6000-rpm redline. Maximum power, however, came only at 5400 rpm, with 115 lb-ft of torque at 3100 rpm. All this in a body that looked like a stateside GM design left in the dryer too long, with strong hints of Nova and Chevelle in the front end and C-pillars.

Why I would want one: Growing up, our family had a '69 Opel Kadett, and I was able to drive it once I finally got my driver's license. It had the feel of an import, but looked like the love child of a German import and a Chevrolet Nova.

Fun fact: The Opel Rallye version included twin black strips down the beltline and black panels on the hood, “running lights” which were fog lights on the front bumper, “silver” steel wheels with chrome lug nuts; and simulated-wood steering wheel. 

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