So how did this rusty and beat up Opel Admiral end up in the US? These were certainly never imported, and by 1973, it would have been a chore to federalize it. But I have a theory: this was one of several brought over by Cadillac when they were considering using it as the basis of their new 1975 Seville. And after taking a good look at it and driving the snot out of it, they dumped it in a back storage lot. And someone finally got their hands on it. Hey, it’s as good as any other theory, and there is basis to it. And even if not, it’s time for someone to buy this Admiral and turn it into what the gen1 Seville should have been.
The new large Opels— Kapitän, Admiral (above) and Diplomat (“KAD”)—were first shown in March 1969 at the Geneva Auto Show. It was a dramatic design, inasmuch as it was clearly less blatantly “American” than its Chevelle-like predecessor, yet it still had American influence, in the best way possible. Slimmer and trimmer than its predecessor, it not only was handsome, but it was also a harbinger of US GM cars to come; but not for several years.
And who was responsible for this fine design (V8 Diplomat version above)? Well, there’s no attribution to be found on the web.
But we do know that in 1967, two years earlier, Chuck Jordan (left) became design director for Adam Opel, AG. Probably the new KAD cars were already in an early stage of development, but undoubtedly Jordan was involved with them to one degree or another, as he was an intense, hands-on designer, even when he was in management. Jordan was Bill Mitchell’s protege, and heir apparent. It was a huge shock when Jordan was passed over to be Mitchell’s successor, but he eventually did become VP of GM design in 1986, and considers the 1992 Seville his greatest success.
The story has been told before here, but when Cadillac finally decided they needed a smaller car to compete with Mercedes and other imports, the Opel Diplomat was given very serious consideration. It was the right size, had a heavy duty Chevrolet 5.4 L V8 under the hood and a deDion rear suspension as well as four wheel disc brakes. It was widely praised by the German press as being a very refined and capable high speed road car, a legitimate Mercedes competitor. Even Mercedes engineers were impressed, and said so.
So why not just use the KAD tooling and add a few American-style luxury touches, to make a very legitimate Mercedes fighter? After bringing one or more over to Detroit and carefully inspecting it, it was deemed that none of GM’s North American plants could build it to the close tolerances it was tooled for. That’s pathetic, but a reflection of the realities of the times, when body gaps were big enough to stick a finger into them.
So a Plan B had to be created. That involved a Chevy Nova, adding three inches to the wheelbase, and modifying it in other ways to do the job, including the addition of a lot of sound deadener, which made it very heavy. I’ve decried that solution ever since, but not too many agreed with me when I called it a Deadly Sin. Underachieving, when so much is on the line, is a sin.
Well, the Opel KAD cars didn’t become what could have been GM’s American Mercedes fighter, but there’s no question that its styling did influence the Seville. The Seville was the first to use this clean “sheer look” design, one that GM would over-use for decades. And the fact that its origins are from a car that Chuck Jordan oversaw several years earlier, makes this all the more…sad. Now if Chuck Jordan had been responsible for adapting the Opel for the first Seville, and given the job for its successors, the whole Seville story might have turned out very different.
A lot more like the alter-Seville history I wrote about last year. That one imagined using the previous generation Diplomat as the basis for a 1965 Seville. What could have been…
Meanwhile, back to the (painful) reality at hand. This Admiral’s provenance may be a mystery, but its condition isn’t. From this view, it’s not too bad.
But anyone locked in the trunk won’t have a very hard time escaping; just kick a bit where the daylight is coming through.
This is the mid-level Admiral, which only came in six-cylinder form. The lower-tier Kapitän was actually dropped after the second year of this generation, as a Bel-Air trim level for what was inherently an expensive car for Europeans no longer made any sense. The top-tier Diplomat had a different front end, with the vertical headlights, came with the 327 V8, and was very luxuriously equipped. So this Admiral is somewhat analogous to an Impala, but not nearly as affordable to Europeans.
Looks a bit like a Chevy six,except for the bulge in the front of the valve cover. This is a 2.8 L version of Opel’s CIH (cam in head) family, built in four and six cylinder variations of the theme. The cam resided in the cylinder head, but in a lower position than usual.
The result was that it looked a lot like a Chevy six (this is a four cylinder version), with the familiar stud-mounted rocker arms, but these arms were activated directly by a hydraulic cam lifter, eliminating the push rod.
The one in this Admiral is a the basic single-carb version, rated at 130 PS (130 hp). The optional twin-carb engine upped that to 145 PS. And optional fuel injection raised further to 165 PS. Those outputs correspond almost exactly to the the Mercedes 280 engines in the S-Class.
From what little we can see of it, the interior on this Admiral does look a bit American.
Here’s what it would have looked like in its prime. Not overwhelming, but quite decent, and the ergonomics were good. The Diplomat upped that significantly, with higher quality materials, a full console, and more wood.
The seller doesn’t explain how he came to have this Admiral. What he does have to say is this: 73 Opel – Great opportunity to own and restore a very unique vehicle. Car runs, is movable, and stops. Front windshield is cracked. Needs body work on driver side floor, fender support, driver side rear door, driver side rear lower quarter panel, rear body panel. Gas tank needs to be replaced. Need exhaust. Seat needs new upholstery. In other words, it’s a bit of a project.
What this really wants is to be turned into the alternate-reality Seville, with a fuel injected V8 and other updates to show the world what the Seville could have been. In my alter-reality, I’d buy it and do just that.
Ebay ad forwarded to me by Barry Koch