Since it’s that time of year, we’re going to do a little series of vintage ads featuring beautiful bodies on the beach (hopefully). That shouldn’t be hard with our first one: a 1971 Chevrolet Opala, which hails from that ultimate beach-and-beautiful-body-loving country, Brazil. The Opala’s basic body structure originated from the Opel Rekord, but under the Nova-esque hood it was very Chevy indeed: both the 153 inch four, and the 230 and 250 inch sixes, the latter being the beneficiary of local tuning to take it all the way to 171 hp. Who needs a V8 anyway?
Beach Time: 1971 Chevrolet Opala
– Posted on August 8, 2012
I don’t think I ever saw one of these but the power plants mean that I like it.
My Dad had the Opal Rekord version, a 1967. This would have around ’73 or 74. It was brought to California by one of the men who worked for him when he was a Navy Officer. It was a great car. I have fond memories of using it to learn how to drive a manual transmission when my Parent’s went away for weekend. Was allowed to drive the 3 seat station wagon, but Dad hadn’t taught me how to drive a stickshift. It took about 20 minutes to drive the 4 blocks (because of me stalling it) to my friend’s house who was going to teach me how to drive it! We were the only people in town with a car like that… there were a few Opals, but we had the only Rekord.
Hi Dave H. I am still trying to get in contact with you, since I believe I have your car. Having a Navy officer bring a C coupe to the US from Spain is too much of a coincidence. Mine is registered as a 68, but may have been built in late ’67.
The original color was blue-green metallic, then painted a pale gold metallic, and finally white. Does that ring a bell? There was also a Washington, DC Navy shipyard sticker on the bumper. I would very much appreciate to hear more about its origins.
My favorite Opala is the two-door Caravan wagon, which has got a mini-Nomad look to it:
that’s an awesome wagon!
Now, I’d like to see how the guy and gal in the water managed to drive the car out of there!
Seriously. I wonder if in our litigious society that ad ran today, and somebody drove their new Opala onto the beach, got it stuck, and sued the manufacturer. Would that be far fetched today in 2012?
I lost a 350 Jawa in a situation like this. A young lady and I desired privacy and went further down the beach than normal. The outgoing tide cut a deep channel and when we returned it swallowed our bike. It did not look to be deep. It was. Pistons and rods compress better than salt water.
Nice looking car. Why didn’t we get this instead of the stupid Vega? This fits in better with the rest of the Chevy lineup at the time, looks better, and probably got better mileage anyway than the Vega.
Like 3/4 size Holden very cool
Somewhere I’ve got video of our old Tempo 4WD in an almost identical location, along the OR coast. The tide was on it’s way out so I drove it to a higher part in the surf, hopped out shot video of the waves coming in and surrounding it through 2 cycles, ran back out there hopped in and got it back to higher ground. It looked just like a TV commercial.
This car reminds me just a bit of the 1967 AMC Rebel/Ambassador.
The Chevrolet Opala (Opel+Impala) was a larger and heavier car than the Vega: 104″ wheelbase, 180″ length, 2450 lb weight. It used the Opel Rekord C (1966-71) body with the mechanicals from the Chevy II (1962-67): 4 and 6 cylinder engines, transmission and suspension. I don’t think the American buyer would like its harsh and unsteady ride, more adapted to the primitive road conditions of Brazil, at the time. AGB
Hindsight is 20/20 – let’s just say GM could’ve brought this in as a captive import; much like Dodge did with the (Mitsubishi) Colt, Plymouth with the (Hillman Avenger) Cricket, and so on. Suspension would’ve been re-calibrated for American roads and the American/Canadian based Chevy OHV fours and sixes were a no-brainer. Could’ve even been engineered for the add-on/strangulating emission controls that were added on as the late sixties/early 70s progressed. Personally, with the Opel based styling, this would’ve been a hit. However, the GM Central Commitee overruled anything, especially with John DeLorean once he headed Chevy division. Always a pissing match with over stuffed suits on the 14th floor. In fact, I’d heard (but never saw) the car that Chevy divison actually was designing and did propose (with the OHV four or an Opel derivative proper OHC) – instead, GM Central Committee shat upon them with the Vega . . . .
The rest is history. Ah, what could’ve been in North America . . . .
shhh… if you’re very quiet you can hear it rusting. ’60s Opels/Vauxhalls had a terrible reputation in Europe for rust, and in Brazil with the poor painting and assembly quality, must have been terrible.
Seriously, my mate from Brazil said that GM cars down there were so poorly built that during some ‘dark years’ the new owner often had to strip the car apart and reassemble it correctly. This was especially the case by the ’80s and ’90s when the Opala was still being stamped out of ancient and worn dies, and the runaway inflation made workers even less inclined to do their jobs. During the dictatorship era, consumer protection was as lax as workers rights, so GM treated its South American customers even worse than those who bought a Vega (if that was possible!)
He also told me that these cars also had very negative connotations in Brazil in the ’70s and ’80s, as GM supplied the right wing Junta, and a black Chevrolet was the equivalent to KGB’s black Volga. Read another way, GM’s addiction to fleet sales over private customers knows no boundaries.
I must admit that my mate is a VW freak, so perhaps his recollections are tainted by an anti-GM slant.
Another note, these are probably the first ‘ethanol safe’ cars on the planet, as they were engineered to run on sugarcane alcohol fuel in order to help Brazil achieve fuel security in the ’70s.
All of this doesn’t make it any less cool, and the idea that you could buy a ‘brand new’ 1960s car in the late 90s was really cool when everything new was a jellybean shaped blob.
wrong informations man…
The Chevrolet Opala was a sales success from the beginning in 1969 to the end of production in 1992. The initial series had several construction issues, mainly due to workforce inexperience, but quality improved gradually to a satisfactory level. Remember that we are talking about an auto industry that was just over 10 years old at the time. If somebody had the money to rebuild a car, he would buy instead a Ford Galaxie (1966 vintage), much more comfortable and better appointed than an Opala. Its long production run was the result of a closed market, with extremely high import duties. After 1982, when Ford stopped the Galaxie/ Landau assembly, one had to buy an Opala if he needed a larger car. I owned three of these vehicles (74-79-84) and they gave me very good service. Saying that this car had a bad image is just silly. It did not offer German quality nor American ride but was an honest down-to-earth automobile. AGB
Dave H em La Jolla, você disse Opala? you said Opal ? In the United States of America? I ‘m from Brazil, I have had 3 Opalas and always sought information on ” Chevrolet Opala on American soil”, but only heard that Rekords and Commodores were exported to the US…can confirm this information ? would be a great discovery for the nostalgic and Brazilian “opaleiros” friends (sorry my bad english)