(In yesterday’s vintage review Car and Driver gave an Opel the win in its comparison. A few years earlier, it was a very different story. First posted 3/9/2012)
Car and Driver made its rep in the sixties, and it took some colorful writing along with some blatant stunts to cement it. Few are more (in)famous than the Opel Kadett assassination, a so-called review of a 1968 Kadett LS 1.5L wagon in the February 1968 issue. It’s long overdue for it to be reviewed, shedding light on how this came to be. It really needs to be done, because like so many memories of the far distant past, a re-reading makes it clear what a sophomoric undertaking it really was. And a very blatantly contrived one.
Before we (re)read the piece and consider some of the highlights of this famous piece of slander journalism entertainment, let’s consider what went on behind the scenes, as these snippets from the book “50 Years With Car and Driver” by Marty Padgett make clear:
“We didn’t care. We were hot”. That about sums it all up. Never mind that the review itself is painfully stilted, and reads in part like something from a college magazine parody. Let’s just say that the Opel Kadett was hardly a brilliant car, but it was an honest one, and there were no pretenses to its purpose in life. C/D resorted to some pretty desperate measures to fill up the overly-long pages of the times with its diatribe:
Visibility, considering all that glass, should be excellent – but it’s not. The rear-view mirror stands in the way of a good 30% of forward vision, and front quarter vision is reduced, on the driver’s side, by the outside mirror and the vent window moldings. And the driver sits tall inside the car – so tall, in fact, that rearward vision is obstructed by the roof”
Utterly absurd. Those same C/D swashbucklers who would drown a tester in a flooded road in Baja and whatever else they came up with to entertain their loyal followers couldn’t see out of the boxy and glassy Kadett! Yet they repeatedly refer to it as “the car of the tomorrow” Wonder what they’d think of the typical car of today’s visibility.
Ok, I’m taking it too seriously. Probably because I just don’t find it very funny. It has nothing to do with any latent affections for the Kadett; I see its shortcomings all too clearly. It’s just so stilted and contrived and…dare I say it?…badly written: “it’s an electric car without the batteries” …”a limp, unending mass of tapioca”…”it stands for nothing, affirms nothing”…”not terrifying because it’s so bad, but because it looms evil-filled as the car we’ll all be driving a few years from now”. Right.
By the way, the Kadett’s 14 second 0-60 time was excellent for the times, for its class; and this was with the 1.5 L engine, not the 1.9. The 27 second run to eighty may seem a bit lengthy, but don’t ask how long a Beetle would have taken, if it ever got there. The Kadett 1.5 was hardly designed to be a high-speed stormer.
The assassination review has become a popular pastime for auto journalists; Jeremy Clarkson has taken it to new heights, although it’s all-too obvious what he’s up to. When it came out of left field at C/D, it was a bit of a shock. Enough so, that GM pulled its advertisement budget; for awhile, anyway.
I’ve indulged in a hit or two myself; my harsh and colorful review of the gen2 2008 Scion Xb, one of the first reviews of that car, went viral on the web, and may have played a part in that car’s initial weak reception. Or not. But at least I gave credit where credit was due.
I can’t quite say that for two of Robert Farago’s Reviews at TTAC: His blast of the 2008 Focus hinged largely on the tape wrapped around the under-hood wires. And perhaps his last review there, of the Lincoln MKZ, reflected the state of his burnout that was almost complete at that point. He was gone a week or two later; a colorful blowout finale.
Some think I’m still at it; giving the 1977 Seville CC the Deadly Sin status didn’t exactly win me new friends. Which reminds me…we haven’t done the gen2 Seville yet. Maybe there’s still time to make amends. Maybe.
(click each page for extra-large size)
Other Kadett B Articles at CC:
1966-1973 Kadett B – It Dethroned The VW
1969 Kadett B – Buick dealers Really Sold These Here
Kudos, Paul–you posted this before I could mention it in the Kadett CC comments.
This memorable piece was less a review than an op-ed on the social/political values that C&D perceived this car to represent. It isn’t hard to find modern analogies in reviews of the Prius, Volt, Leaf, etc.
The great irony being that the Kadett hardly registered a blip on American buyers’ radars, rendering rather impotent the suggestion that this car represented everything wrong with society at the time!
Anyway, illustrates why I generally prefer reviews from the data dorks at Consumer Reports et al to the buff books.
The hatchet job on the Opel reminds me of just about every review of the 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan.
I drove a 1968 Opel Kadett wagon in 1980. The fenders were held on the car with duct tape and they had a tendency to flap at speed. It drank a quart of oil per tank of gas, but for $200 it did the job.
Consumer Reports is not even worthy of lining your cats litter box with. Never was.
Kind of harsh, don’t you think?
Even if you don’t agree with their auto reviews and reliability ratings, their tests of household products and articles on personal finance aren’t all that bad. But even then, no publication is perfect.
“Paragon of Naderian virtue” gives away enough to confirm your point, Paul. I never quite got the presumption, which I guess started with C&D, that people who like cars must sneer at everything done by the government that, uh, built the roads (“nanny state”) as well as sensibly-sized and -powered vehicles, derided as “grocery getters.”
I truly enjoy my Mazda3’s quick steering, strong brakes and rather snarly engine note, but put those features in a coupe and I’d never buy one. Luckily, the market responds to customers and regulators and insurers, and mostly ignores snotty fanboy magazines.
So I get the sporty parts with four doors and a big hatchback, plus airbags and crash safety standards that automakers still ignore if they can get away with it. (As in all those child-haulers that lack rear bumpers, because they’re “trucks,” you see.)
Grocery getters unite! You have nothing to lose but the cost of a magazine subscription! 😉
Car and Driver was all for better handling and braking in bread-and-butter family cars, too. The magazine tested a 1970 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale with the optional heavy-duty suspension package, and gushed over what an improvement it was over a “regular” Delta 88.
The magazine compared a 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon to a 1973 Mercedes S-Class, and found that the (much cheaper) Olds acquitted itself better than most people would think, given the price spread between the cars and the golden reputation Mercedes enjoyed at the time.
The magazine also lauded the downsized 1977 GM full-size cars and 1978 Ford Fairmont for their clean styling, better space utilization and superior (to most domestic cars) road manners.
The magazine had a mixed view of government regulation of automobiles. On the one hand, it was against most government regulations, but it also tended to blame the hard-headed attitude of Detroit management for opening the door to government regulation of the industry in the first place. The concern was that such regulations would result in slow, balky, ugly cars, and, let’s face it, with few exceptions, from about 1974 through 1982, that’s largely what we got. So Car and Driver was hardly wrong on that one.
Yes, things got better thanks to the heavy use of computer technology and the implementation of better quality control measures borrowed from Toyota, but no one could have predicted that in 1973.
At any rate, most of the improvements were driven by foreign competition, not government mandates. The federal goverment didn’t care if a car handled poorly, took 25 seconds to get to 60 mph or looked as though it was built by drunk 11th graders, as long as it met applicable government regulations. It was tough competition from Japan and Germany that resulted in better handling, performance, structural rigidity, build quality and ergonomics for ALL cars.
People who weren’t around in the 1970s and early 1980s can’t remember how dumb some of the government regulations really were. Speedometers were limited to 85 mph, cars were saddled with ugly 5-mph bumpers at both ends, and the speed limit was capped at 55 mph in ALL states. The federal government even threatened to deny federal highway funds to states that didn’t have a certain percentage of drivers complying with the 55 mph speed limit.
There is a good reason that today speedometers are no longer limited to 85 mph, cars no longer have to have 5-mph bumpers at both ends, and virtually everyone regards the 55- and 65-mph speed limits as the dumbest and most deservedly ignorned laws since Prohibition. It was because they were stupid, hamfisted government regulations that deserved to be mocked and defied, and hats off to Car and Driver for leading that effort.
Geeber: I know this is three years too late, but my folks had a 70 Olds Delta 88 with 455 and that HD suspension. Rode like a truck. Tar strips were like hitting frost heave fissures. Hard riding and bouncy. Totally out of character for that car: gold with gold vinyl top, brocade cloth interior, really first class trim and build. And that suspension. Talk about cognitive dissonance !
I still have a Consumer Reports that I rescued from my parent’s basement that tested 5 “mid-priced, full-sized” cars. They liked the Buick Le Saber and the Pontiac Executive, praised the room and engineering of the Chrysler Newport while trashing it for noise and build quality, and barely tolerated the Mercury Montery. But they rated the Delta 88, with a 455 and standard suspension, dead last, despite its underpinnings that were almost identical to the Buick and Pontiac. Their complaints were that the back seat was so soft that you could hit the floor going over a bump (all 3 GM cars were said to have rear seats that were unacceptable for more than 2, due to the high hump for the differential) and a suspension that went to pieces on bad roads. They also complained about excessive side-to-side motion over bumps, leading me to suspect that Olds tried to compensate for overly soft springs with an overly stiff anti-roll-bar. Ah, the good old days.
That side to side motion may have been excessively soft control arm bushings, especially the upper links. I’ve noticed my vintage cars (4-link axle ) do this when those bushings become worn,soft and compressed.
Fun part about all this? None of these regs applied to boats, and Mercury Marine was selling Hi-Performance 2 cycle and 4 cycle engines ’80-’90. Was not until the mid 90’s did EFI creep into the marine world. Yes Mercury had some EFI outboards creeping back to about ’88 or so, but they were all performance engines, with a ECM so big you could use it as a wheel chock on your tow rig.
It was about 1968 when Mom decided that each of us kids could get a magazine subscription of our choice (well, subject to parental approval) so I got Car and Driver.
I read it uncritically for a year or two, then slowly started to have my own thoughts. By ’74 or so I was no longer reading C/D. It’s misremembered as a great car mag, but it never really was. It had a couple really good columnists, but the bulk of it was not very good.
I don’t recall this particular article, but an Opel Kadett -any body style- in mid Michigan in the ’60s would have been wonderfully exotic.
Car and Driver was New York based until the mid-70’s when they moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. I used to be a Motor Trend fan until about 1977, as I got tired of Motor Trend’s “trend” of previewing cars and features that always seemed to be way off the mark, and MT’s susceptibility to what it seemed, always getting and testing some seriously “factory massaged” cars. I always felt MT’s writing and testing was second rate compared to C & D and Road and Track.
I’ll say; I drooled over the Opel Kadett Rally coupe when I was a junior in high school. It represented freedom, coolness and transportation all rolled into one car. I still wax nostalgic when I see pictures of it. Of course, my parents were having none of it. So when I was a sophomore at college they gave me a four-year-old Corvair that was the biggest POS I’ve ever driven…
I just came across a 1966 Motorcade Magazine (remember that? I didn’t either) that had an article on the Kadett Coupe. All b&w pictures, too. They pretty much liked it, and with 0-60 performance of 19.0 seconds, gave it 3 Good and 2 Fair votes.
I still want one…
So glad Cook Neilson bailed and went to Cycle magazine. Himself, along with Phil Shilling and Gordon Jennings, not to mention the Japanese superbike invasion made that 200+ pages of almost Penthouse quality worth the price of the subscription. Thank you mom!
I remember this screechy screed, and it really was like beating a puppy with a riding crop. Around May of 1968 I test drove a Kadett, and while I didn’t buy it, I found it a very pleasant contender in its class. Opels always deserved more success in America than they got, although the Buick dealer experience was not reassuring. When I shopped an Opel GT in late 1969, the salesmen were still clueless.
I agree. My Dad and I periodically checked out Opel cars. Even in the SF Bay Area, the dealers seemed clueless about the product and really treated them as also rans. By the time I was old enough to get a new or late model used car, I did look at a ’76 Kadett, but the price vs. equipment was about $1500.00 – $2000.00 (the Deutsche Mark took off in those days) more than a comparably equipped Corolla 1600 DeLuxe or Datsun 510. $4500-$5000 bucks in the fall of ’76 would get you a nicely equipped Skylark or Omega hatchback.
My #1 complaint was how C/D was always saying ‘Americans should drive smaller cars’ and ‘Detroit should sell more small cars’, but then rip on this Opel. I also think it was since it was a GM car it got roasted, if it had a VW badge, then….
Interesting perception. Those of us who were Ford fanboys thought C/D forgave GM cars for faults that would have been unforgivable on Ford products.
I begin to ponder if VW had bribed or threatened some folks at C&D to give a bad review of the Kadett?
I took C/D in the late 70s/early 80s for a few years, but they lost me with the GM X cars. I remember sorta-wishy-washy reviews, but when the unadulterated awefulness of the line became clear, they blithely stated that “everybody knows the horrible defects of the X car”. Er, not the ones who depended on C/D for that information. (Never drove one, though my wife owned a Citation years before we met.)
I’ll glance at a copy of C/D at the dentist’s office. A bit less over-the-top than Automobile, which is also there. Unless I can find Field and Stream. 🙂
If I remember correctly, C&D tripped all over themselves on an X11 about how great it was. MT, as usual in those days of Peterson being a PR extension of GeneralMotors, (so it seemed in the 1970’s) heralded the X car as the second coming of Christ. GM fed Motor Trend a steady diet of fertilizer and it usually showed in their “Car Of The Year” selections. Car and Driver was always somewhat (still is) tongue-in-cheek.
C/D reviewed the Citation X/11 in the May 1979 issue. Later on, they came to believe that GM had slipped them a ringer and were considerably less enthusiastic about the X-cars. Pat Bedard admitted as much when he first drove the current Chevy Malibu and in his column was somewhat jaded after the x-car experience.
EVERYBODY initially loved the X-cars. I believe that even Consumer Reports gave it a favorable review. And that magazine bought test cars from dealers to avoid getting special company-prepped ringers.
Car and Driver was hardly alone in gushing over the X-cars, which WERE a big deal in 1979 and 1980. Here was a small, fuel-efficient, front-wheel-drive car in the mold of the first-generation Honda Accord, the wonder car of the late 1970s. The X-cars were made in America, and appeared just as the Iranian Revolution launched the second fuel crunch and had everyone scrambling for gasoline. There was an actual RIOT at a suburban Philadelphia gas station when it ran out of gasoline in the summer of 1979.
GM, which had scored big with the downsized full-size cars of 1977, intermediates of 1978 and full-size personal luxury cars of 1979, appeared to be on a roll. Car and Driver wasn’t the only magazine excited by the X-cars, and the cars didn’t need the magazine to be a hit.
It was gen2 Seville you should’ve slammed as a deadly sin. Fake Daimler Vanden-Plas styling with the gas-350-with-a 455 crank-pretend-diesel with the cellophane 4100 V-late engine – that was the uber-shitbox car. When these Kadetts were new, I played little league ball for Don Collins Buick. We’d pick up our new season jerseys at the dealer who hosted us with hot dogs and soda. I remember us kids playing in a white ’69 Kadett Wagon. Another of my teammates folks had one. Of course, I wasn’t driving it. Datsun 510 and Toyota Corollas were making serious inroads into NorCal buyer’s hearts ca. 1968-69.
I actually like the 2nd generations styling for its completely silly over the topness, sort of like “Brougham Gone Rouge”. Now what is a deadly sin is that underpowered piece of crap 4100V8. GM should have kept the 368 V8 and at least the torque would have made the car driveable.
I started losing interest somewhere between the “it follows as night the day” narrative and the pissing about the noisy engine.
Now you know why I absolutely hated C&D back then – they were communists – not my words, but of others who were very critical of their writing, which seemed tuned just to tick people off if for no other reason.
But hey – it was the Vietnam years and all that. Besides, I was into Hot Rod Magazine – I didn’t even discover C&D until after I went into the military and picked up one at the BX magazine rack just to kill some time one day – probably had a neat car that caught my eye on the cover or something.
I just kept on motoring happily in my beautiful avatar, not caring one whit…
Reading your xB review was a treat. I don’t think I caught it back then. The first gen xB is the only car I ever gave a passing thought about buying new. Would be a perfect drummer rig. If only I knew someone who had one…
Gen1 xB was a great little breadbox. Toyota it seems, is bent on becoming GM II; xB gen2 got, bigger, bloatier, silly. Like the difference between GM ’70 and ’71 B bodies.
IIRC, the thing that got GM’s ire about the C&D Opel review was not so much the written assassination but the cover photo of the new Opel wagon in a junkyard.
And, yeah, it was C&D that drooled all over themselves over the Citation X-11, so much so that I went out and test drove one based solely on the article. Fortunately, it was obvious what a pile of crap it was, including the shifter that would pop out of fourth gear on the highway on deceleration as the engine moved about on the motor mounts, exactly as reported in the article (but C&D added the caveat that the GM rep assured them it was just a pre-production glitch).
I too fell for C&D’s X car journalistic orgasm. My Dad and I drove up to the Healdsburg Buick outlet – guy tossed us the keys to an automatic Skylark coupe with the V-6 – we were impressed with the “right now” power delivery, but felt that the materials (interior) were a little cheesy and I do remember a tinny 70’s Mopar-like feeling when the doors opened and shut. Now, I know the troublesome early X begat the FWD A’s; my V-6 Celebrities were OUTSTANDING in every aspect. Trouble free.
“The assassination review has become a popular pastime for auto journalists; Jeremy Clarkson has taken it to new heights, although it’s all-too obvious what he’s up to. ”
Clarkson is not an auto journalist, he’s an entertainer. As a petrolhead, I don’t read anything he writes because I regard him as a moron.
Thanks for the link to the Scion Xb review , hadn’t seen this as I had not seen TTAC that far back. I didn’t know the Xb existed until I saw Xb cabs in Chicago in 2010 and got a ride in one. The second gen trades practicality for attitude, but oh what attitude !
C&D was known to err in the opposite direction as well.
Their awestruck review of the Rover 2000 made that car an over night sensation.
On paper, and when tested within a few months of assembly, those cars were indeed sensational. Every enthusiasts idea of how a four door sedan ought to be designed and built.
Unfortunately, they fell apart in comparatively short order, leaving a lot of owners very unhappy. And very unhappy with C&D for having whetted their appetite.
Still, in the early years, C&D did have some memorable journalism.
One of the more intriguing cars first trumpeted by C&D was the original BMW 1600, followed by the classic 2002. Ever after, David E. Davis was quite fond of claiming it was C&D that was primarily responsible for BMW’s reputation in the US.
While he might have been right (for decades, anything with the roundel was always given a glowing review in C&D which undoubtedly contributed to sales), there were still enough missteps (like the Kadette and Citation) to offset the ones they got right.
It’s just like theater or movie critics crapping on a show or film just to get noticed. There are plenty of examples out there of classics that were panned when they first came out.
The Kadett assassination was indeed unfair. The car was very competitive in its class and if you didn’t like it, you were probably not in the market for any of its competitors either. And GM saw right through it. C/D did some goofy stuff in the 1970’s and 1980’s and it was fun. If anything, Top Gear carries on much of that tradition. They never did, however, have anyone who could hold a candle to Peter Egan at Road & Track.
As far as Farago was concerned, I didn’t like him much because he was the very type of assassin that the C/D folks were, actively rooting for the demise of the American auto industry just so people would notice how right he was.
Did he wake people up to what was going on? Undoubtedly. Did he wear out his welcome with excessive axe-grinding and intolerance of those who disagreed with him? Undoubtedly as well.
And the first-gen Seville was anything but a Deadly Sin. Taking a step backward with the second-gen car was.
I wonder what happened to that sharp ’59 Buick in the background of those junkyard photos. Off to the crusher with that ’59 Ford I guess. They were only nine years old in 1968! A car, an American car anyway, was all used up by 100,000 miles. We thought that was normal.
I wonder how much of Detroit’s recent troubles are due to the fact that cars just last longer now? German, then Japanese quality forced them into it.
Nice the way the C/D review ends up next to the Advertisers’ Index. I loved C/D in those days and remember this review well. Probably kids like me were the target audience for stuff like this. Like Top Gear is today.
One possibility is to be used as a drug mule. FWIW, the 1959 Buick Invicta was the preferred vehicle of use for the real French Connection drug smuggling operation in the sixties, specifically because of the large fender ‘storage’ area directly behind the front tires.
and the 59 Ford swinging above the Buick! Looking like “59” was a limited lifespan year in that pic.
Good old C/D. Anyone remember the Fiat Strada? A C/D editor wrote “torch the sucker” in his review. Probably not as big a risk to the advertising department though.
I still get nasty comments periodically for the article in which I said the Lincoln Continental Mark was vulgar, and I didn’t think that was even a hatchet job, just a very popular and influential car that is really, really not my cuppa.
Hatchet job? You?
Not even maybe.
I’ve read AUWM as faithfully as CC and TTAC. And I remember C/D from the Leon Mandel era.
Your “vulgar” comment re the Mark was exactly correct.
BTW Paul you and Farago aren’t even in the same county, much less ballpark.
Although my wife – a Subaru fangirl – cringes every time a B9 Tribeca goes by, because she knows what I’m thinking…”flying vagina”.
So I’ve at least gotten a laugh or two out of Robert’s lampooning of what is essentially a bloated Outback. The rest of what I’ve seen reads like a cheerleader for Detroit’s demise.
Like this one in particular. The legitimate points made later in the piece are offset by the tone of the first two paragraphs:
Seriously, I’ve found your GM stuff to be pretty fair and consistent with what Aaron has written. And a must-read for people interested in how the company got to the place where it could become the political football known as Government Motors today.
Profoundly sad, considering that GM now seems to be building the best vehicles in its history.
Magazines have been known to over hype some cars just to make advertisers happy Wheels magazine in Australia gave glowing reports on the truly horrible Leyland P76 even awarding it a COTY it even conducted a comparism with the currentlocal big 3 offerings proving it to be the best handling and performance car available the locally made Valiant coming last. Ignoring the fact that the Valiant blew the P76s doors off in standard production racing. Buyers however saw the car and put off by an extremely ugly design stayed away in droves despite Wheels best efforts.
C/D was trying too hard to be hip…and looking on it today, it just comes off square.
And as any of us who survived the 60’s know…it wasn’t hip to be square until the 80’s…
C/D apparently still remained “proud” (if that’s the right word) of this piece many years later. For their 50th anniversary in 2005, they chose one article to represent each decade and the Opel assassination was the one they chose for the 1960s.
1968 was also the year that Car and Driver refused to test the new Corvette. They said the first one delivered was such a piece of junk that it wasn’t worth their time and to bring one back when it was ready. I don’t really have that much of a problem with the Opel hatchet job. Just look at the domestic compacts that showed up in 1970. They were right to be gloomy about the compact car future.
Just caught up with this post. Wonderful coverage, and an insight that helps me understand CD better. First auto mag I subscribed to at the tender age of 14 in 1972. At first I absorbed everything like a sponge, but gradually… maybe as I subscribed to Road & Track and Motor Trend… and read some really good writing… CD’s arrogant attitude, gratuitous cussing, and often curmudgeonly commentary made this the first magazine I cancelled as well. David E Davis stands out as a general loud mouth, and Brock Yates? He seemed like an old man whose incessant ill-willed complaining became worse as his health failed. For all I know, maybe he was, but I was awfully glad when he finally disappeared from CD’s pages. It seemed like they were trying to impress their publishing stable-mates at Playboy, and about as sophomoric.
Now, as for Peter Egan… talk about your class act. Great writing, amusing but engaging; the name makes me smile like Ken Purdy’s. Egan talked me into driving the whole Skyline Drive/Blue Ridge Parkway over two summers, many years ago, though in a 5 speed 1986 Escort (Ford deserved it’s bad years with cars like that) rather than whatever British roadster I believe he drove. It was still fun, and I may do it again one day… but not in August. Spring, this time….
The Kadett had uni-body construction, vacuum-assisted front disc brakes and rack & pinion steering back when most domestic cars (and some imports) were wallowing around with worm & roller steering and 4-wheel drum brakes. It actually was the car of the future in some ways.
Kadetts were pretty nicely finished with high-quality materials for an entry-level car. With good maintenance, TLC and avoidance of road salt (all cars exposed to salt rusted in those days, some just faster than others), Kadetts and other Opels of the era are still usable and reliable cars, in my experience. I drive several of them, and have continually since 1980.
I had a 1968 Opel Kadet B around 1971. It performed very well. I drove it several times from Cleveland, Ohio to St. Paul, Minnesota. I went to Seminary in St. Paul.
The only issue was that the starter went out. And to change the starter the whole engine had to be lifted out. Which was costly and time consuming. As a college student with limited resources I went awhle with parking it on a hlll behind a shopping center where I worked. After work I would put it in neutral and coast down the hill and pop the clutch to get it started. I did the same back at the dormitory. I did this until another student lent me money to get it fixed. I paid him back at a later time.
I eventually got rid of the Opel and went on to something else. I will always remember the Opel Kadet. A great car for a student 🙂
We have several other Kadett B articles here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-european/curbside-classic-1966-1973-opel-kadett-b-it-dethroned-the-volkswagen/
For what it’s worth, there was no need to remove the engine from a Kadett B to change the starter.
On the 1.5 & 1.9 engines, a starter could be replaced in minutes with easy access from above. And those engines didn’t “lift out” anyway; they were removed from underneath along with the front suspension. Much easier than it sounds. I did my first engine / suspenion transplant on a Kadett B wagon when I was 16.
The 1.1 engine starter exchange was trickier, with access limited by the exhaust manifold, but that was easy enough to remove if needed.
Bottom line: These cars were / are very easy to keep rolling if you have a few tools and some mechanical skills. A repair manual was a bonus but not essential.
I’ve never owned an Opel Kadett, nor have I known anyone who had, but I’ve seen pictures of this generation Kadett, and I’ve found it hideous to look at, from nearly every angle.
Heard of this article but the first time I’ve read it.
Had it been published two issues later, it would have been a classic. As is, just horrid.
(Disclaimer, I have very fond memories of two friends’ Kadetts; impressive cars)
Back in the mid 70s, I had friends that owned a Kadett wagon and a Honda N600. (BTW, wasn’t the Kadett wagon available with an engine smaller than the 1.9 liter? I know some early Kadetts had a 1.1 liter, but was there an engine between these 2 ?)
One afternoon I was asked if I could drive either the Kadett or the N600 from one side of Jacksonville to the other. Since the Kadett had a “tiny” engine AND automatic transmission (IIRC), I picked the N600.
Like others, I think it is a shame that Opel did not go on to be as big an import brand as VW. Surely, with GM behind them, Opel had the vastly better engineered product, until VW finally switched to water-cooled engines and FWD.
By the way, I thought C&D was pretty decent when I first started reading it at the age of 16. MT seemed to write articles that went out of their way to avoid antaganizing current or future advertisers. The “final nail in the coffin” for MT was their idiotic _____of the year awards that seemed to be tailored for only 1 possible winner. They started with car of the year, then expanded to truck of the year (to grab more advertising dollars), then other “spurious” categories were created.
Road and Track? They lean too heavily on cars I’ll never be able to afford to own….aka exotics with high 5 figure and low 6 figure price tags.
I used to read the British magazine CAR. Had nearly every issue from 1972 to the early 2000s. Stopped reading it (except at bookstores) when the price per issue got so steep and the cars I was interested in became few and far between.
Still, it’s a great magazine to read if you want to read about what the rest of the world gets, and the U.S. doesn’t…..like the FWD BMW “minivan”.
Yes; the one tested by C/D had the 1.5 L four, which was offered as an upgrade over the little 1.1 L four.
This was an unfortunate article & is a thorn in my side.
I belong to the many classic BMW communities, owning 2002’s, e24’s, e28’s & e30’s.
I’d owned Manta & Ascona A-body’s in the late ’70’s & ’80’s
When I mention my heavily modded ’75 Opel Ascona(1900) I added to my collection in 2001, a few of my acquaintances throw this article in my face, trying to shame me & my prized Opel.
I owned a purple 1900 and loved that car!
lol.. Purple? I call mine “M&M Blue”. They had some very bright solid colors back in ’74 & ’75!.
The “M&M Blue” one in the photo above might be for sale if you’re interested?
It is a California car… zero rust.
I just sold my ’72 2002 that I’ve owned for 30 years….3 hours ago.
The economy is not what it appears….
Wow – I subcribed to C/D starting in 1979 and recall them referencing this review and still being proud of it, but I’ve never read it until now. It’s all about the last paragraph, really. Though masquerading as a review of the Kadett, it’s really an angry protest of the impending government regulation of the automobile and that anger somehow got transferred to this poor Opel, which was probably not much worse than a typical 1968 low-buck import but was held up as an example of what all cars will be like once all the safety and pollution regulations kick in (fuel-economy standards were still in the future). And as we all know, they were largely right in predicting the malaise era. Fortunately, improvements in engineering and technology would eventually allow safety, low emissions, and good performance to coexist. But it was a long walk through the desert before getting there.
Meh, I hate how some rags gush on about sport sedans while out here in the Midwest we could give a damn about carving corners-and some of us even want to bring Brougham back…
Point being, I don’t read many hobbyist rags. I have my own opinion on cars and could care less about those of a profession writer. If you want to go weak in the knees about “handling”, hatchbacks, deco tenting the wood and chrome trim and other such heresy, I’m not getting a subscription and I sure as hell will not be paying newsstand prices.
Oh, and get off my lawn!
My first Opel was a 69 Kadett L wagon automatic in 1985. Great car and gave me a love of the brand for life.
Since I originally commented on this piece four years ago, I’ve amassed what my wife may call an ‘overly comprehensive’ collection of C&D back issues. Having read most issues between 1968 and today, I still think C&D was, and is, the best American car magazine on sale.
That said, re-reading those back issues confirmed my original impressions. In particular, Davis and Yates always seemed more interested in advancing their personal celebrity than in undertaking the work of honest journalism. And, especially in their latter years, both seemed to expend most of their ink on whatever famous person they’d recently lunched with, or golfed with, or compared megabuck car collections with, ad nauseum.
Another bit of irony exposed by reading later ’70s articles was that compact cars, far from being the harbinger of a neutered doomsday that C&D presented here, became the last bastion of automotive enthusiasm in the 1970s. Instead, it was the V8 full-sizers, dumbed-down and softened-up, that got re-cast in the role of complacency and submission to government regulations.
Which is not to say that I don’t love C&D. I do. But it’s hilarious today to read the obligatory column in each back issue claiming that automotive performance has peaked, and we’ll never see such peaks again thanks to the government, eco-weenies, granola, yogurt, Birkenstocks, and the like. A half-century later, we still have V8 musclecars, only now they hit 60 mph in half the time they did in the ’60s. Call me an optimist, but I think we’re doing okay.
I’ve had essentially the identical experience in re-reading old C&Ds.
Having had a subscription to the German Auto, Motor und Sport from the mid 70s until about a dozen years ago, the contrast between the two was always very striking. AMS was always so objective, with very in-depth technical articles, reviews, and many long-term tests, something they pioneered.
American magazines, especially C&D, was entertainment most of all, and the celebrities had their egos inflate over time. The positions they took may have made for entertainment then, but haven’t aged well.
Meanwhile, picking up an old AMS is a very different experience.
Well I think that’s a culture gap – US cars mags always seemed to me as the motoring equivalent of Penthouse; German (and Austrian and Swiss) car mags were in the main technical publications. To an extent (not a little due to the corrupting influence of Top Gear!) it has changed, but even today there’s no way of denying this.
I think it’s the culture that differences. In Norway we got both the AMS (and some other German magazines, some translated and some not) and some american magazines like Car and Driver or Motor Trend. The German ones are kind of boring but very serious, the american (and british) are more entertaining, but sometimes less serious.
AMS was known for beeing objective, but in the later years a lot of people over here call the magazine “Audi motor und sport”. I don’t know, I’m more into magazines with older cars these days.
That beeing said, post WW2 (until the 70s) cars was like this Kadett B for most of the families over here. Cheap, by European standards reliable, spartan and powerless (most of them had the smallest engines over here). The Kadett became a much better car with the C-model in my opinion.
My parents had a 1966 Kadett wagon and it was a terrible car, though not for the reasons cited in the C&D rant. It was uncomfortable, slow and noisy, which was to be expected in its class. But it also fell apart in a little over 3 years, was nearly impossible to start on wet mornings and fetched a total of $50, (perhaps my father could have gotten more if he tried) when they got rid of it in 1969. I remember the starter, voltage regulator being replaced and the clutch assembly falling apart a few times. The starting problem was supposed to be remedied with a kit (GM charged owners to fix GM’s mistakes) that didn’t really fix it. Ours seems to have been worse than most, but the Buick dealer that serviced it was probably less savvy about overcoming its flaws than a dealer in Germany would have been; I wonder if the clutch problems were partly caused by the way they torqued the fasteners while putting it back together.
I grew up reading C&D as I was 10 in 1972. Lived every word but also remembering EVERYTHING C&D said had to be taken with a grain of salt. Automotive journalism loose cannons. I particularly LOVED all the columnist.LJK Setright Leon Mandel , Davis (Et.al) were always entertaining and yes Yates could be a blowhard but look at all the fun we had along the way. You never knew what form of automotive anarchy was in store from month to month. And thats where the fun laid.
Looks like C&D were positioning themselves to be the Mad Magazine of the automotive scene. How the hell could you trust anything they say after that??
I once read that the political bent of the three major auto magazines was Road & Track – right of center; Motor Trend – middle; and Car and Driver – left of center. That seemed to sum things up well.
At least the writing was best in C&D.
It’s not as simple as that. C&D may have been perceived as “liberal” during the 60s, because they more readily adopted the hip affectations of that time, but they became virulently negative to the emission and safety regulations that took effect in the 70s. That turned them into reactionaries, especially Brock Yates and many/most of the others, with endless rants about being forced to eventually drive slow and blobby electric safety cars and such. Some of their editorials became really embarrassing, at least from my POV.
R&T was harder to pin down, but like C&D, it too became increasingly reactionary to the emission and safety regulations.
MT mostly stayed out of this realm, but their love of domestic cars made them seem rather conservative.
I’m gullible enough to have believed what they wrote. Frustrating. I’d like to think that if I was around back then and read this article I wouldn’t, but darn it – I would have. I think what they did was terrible.
They lost me at “Naderian”. OK, so maybe throwing Nader as an insult was novel in 1968, but it wasn’t really funny then and certainly isn’t now. Which of course never stops the constant trotting out of everyone’s favorite whipping boy.
The irony is that main thing wrong with Opels of that generation was an inclination to rust. Pretty much as soon as they left the Buick dealership if I recall correctly. Naturally, the wags at C&D couldn’t have known that at the time.
I’ve always wondered about the Kadett assasination article if it was all the photos of the vehicle in junkyards which tried to suggest it was a piece of junk. I rode once with a friend who was driving a ’60 or so Opel that was a rolling tin can with little redeeming value. I have an old 1970 C & D yearbook with a reprint of their test of an Opel GT. The author of the article was not exactly enamored with it, going as far to say the engine made enough noise to embarrass a Farm-All. What killed C & D (and all the other car rags for that matter) for me was their over the top enthusiasm for the X-Cars. Based on their enthusiasm I bought one-it was the worst car I ever owned. Reportedly GM kept a stable of X-cars they had carefully tuned and adjusted to eliminate, or at least reduce, the issues of braking, torque steer and other issues. Give me CR any day.
Reportedly GM kept a stable of X-cars they had carefully tuned and adjusted to eliminate, or at least reduce, the issues of braking, torque steer and other issues.
Yet they were unable to do the same thing to the production models?
I’d like to know how the A-bodies derived from the Xs turned out better: where lots of parts redesigned, or were they just better at making and assembling them?
The pre-production X-Bodies given to the media to test were of course carefully prepped. But I don’t remember torque steer being a significant issue on production X-Bodies. Their steering box was mounted to the front subframe, which tended to move a bit under hard acceleration. That created certain inputs to the steering, but not classic torque steer.
The issues of the X-Bodies were all essentially due to being rushed to market, about one year too soon. Fundamentally they were very advanced cars and as soon as their teething problems were worked out, they were basically fine, except for the cheap interiors on the Citation, a cost-cutting move.
The A-Bodies had their steering relocated to eliminate that issue under acceleration, and the later X-Bodies got that too. And although they never got the height-sensing brake proportioning valve that they should have gotten, the front-rear proportioning was adjusted to reduce rear wheel lockup.
I had a first year Buick Skylark, and had no significant issues. My impression is that the worst offender of the X-Cars was the Citation, due to massive production volumes, cost cutting and a lack of proper development that were addressed in the second and third year of production.
The torque steer on by 1980 Buick Skylark was very pronounced when I picked it up at the dealer and test drove it, when I accelerated it the car veered strongly to the right. In all fairness this was the first front wheel drive car I had ever driven but in a year or two I was hearing lots of complaints from X-car owners about the torque steer issue.
As I understand it, the background junkyard photos were what really piqued GM’s ire.
I wonder it the article provided the inspiration for Wheels magazine’s road test of the Nissan Stanza SSS. Even they called it more of an assassination than a road test. Circa 1981.