(first posted 10/23/2013) Rivera Notario spotted this elderly Chevrolet Opala in Santiago, Chile, and posted it at the cohort. The Opala was an important step in GM’s Brazilian ops to build a local car, after decades of assembling NA GM cars and trucks. There was some discussion as to whether that should be small, like the Opel Kadett, or the next size up, the Opel Rekord. The bigger car got the nod, but the Opel engines stayed home, as the Opala is a Chevy II under the hood: either the 153 CID (2.5 L) four or the 230 CID (3.8 L) six. That eventually led to some interesting higher performance developments, especially the six. Here’s my post on the Brazilian fuel injected Chevy 250 six, which was built there until 1998,
Notario only posted on shot, so I’ll augment a bit. The Opala arrived in 1968; here’s the 1974 lineup, with the sedan and three levels of coupe, including the SS coupe in the back.
The SS 4100 coupe sported a warmed-over version of the 250 CID six, rated at 169 hp. Some sources suggest it had a four-barrel carb,
But this picture from wikipedia shows one set up for racing, and with what looks like a Weber two-barrel downdraft carb. It was backed up by a four speed transmission, and very much Brazil’s home-grown muscle car of the era.
A two-door wagon (“Caravan”) was also on tap, and form the looks of it, available in SS trim. This one appears to be from the mid-late 70s.
One last detail: one might naturally assume that the name “Opala” was an amalgam of Opel and Impala, but it was actually selected by a journalist from thousands of names submitted in a contest. Of course, that might have still been on the mind of the person that submitted the winning bid, or the journalist. But it certainly works well enough.
Here’s a much more detailed history of the Opala by Rubens
Related: The Chevy 250 Six was Built in Brazil With Fuel Injection and Tuning by Lotus PN
From what I saw in a issue of Collectible Automobile about Brazilian cars, the Opala was a amalgam of opal and Impala.
Another good and interesting Brazilian auto oddity is the Ford Corcel. Originally a car derived from the upcoming Renault 12 developped from Willys do Brasil. Ford inherited the project when they acquired Willys do Brasil in the late 1960s. The 2-door sedan was a shrinked Falcon 2-door http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MX6Hxg3Yrls while the 4-door sedan look almost like a long lost twin brother of the R12.
Thanks for another car I’d never heard of,I see a lot of Vauxhall/Opel/Chevy/Holden in the lines.Love the bumble bee striped SS.
That profile shot of the old red Opala is just perfect, with the dark-haired ladies in the background hurrying off to wherever and whatever, while that old careworn and rust-bitten car sits there in the shade. As for the cars themselves, I like the clean styling very much, and that shot of the Chevy six brings back some memories of the motor in my brother’s old Nova, and how easy that engine was to work on. And I’m with Gem on that yellow SS. I mean, an Opel GT (more or less) with a Chevy six? What’s not to like? I’ve just added an Opala SS to my imaginary Jay Leno Garage.
Ahhh, the Chevrolet 230 Six, a motor that really don’t get no respect and very unfairly, too. These things hauled around everything from a Chevy II to a Bluebird school bus. It was a clean sheet design in 1962 and really represented the ultimate Stovebolt, just in a package that was pretty near indestructible. Seven main bearing crank (take that Falcon and Valiant) and hydraulic lifters made for what I think is the best powerplant of the era’s sixes. Perfectly smooth, quiet, torquey and rock solid reliability. They will run to astronomical mileage with only the most basic maintenance. Anybody with half a brain cell could to the points and plugs in an hour. Starters, alternators, water pumps, piece of cake.
In normal use, especially coupled to a Powerglide, I never once saw one fail or have any kind of drivetrain problem. Sure the normal GM stuff broke but the aftermarket stuff was cheaper and better anyway. Manifolds didn’t crack. Head gasket? Well, they never failed since it was all good ole cast iron. Sure, especially in a B body, you weren’t gonna win any races but I can’t recall anyone I knew actually caring about speed. They wanted a smooth, reliable and relatively economical ride, and the 230 gave that in spades. They were everywhere in Canada, where the Chevy II/Acadian, Malibu/Beaumont were the most popular cars on the road. I’d say that around 80% of the Malmonts and 50% of the Chevy/Canadian Pontiacs had the 230, and 90% of the Chevy II. Loads ended up in boats, which the place where ultimate reliability rules.
I can see why GM of Brazil chose the 230. It is perfect for the conditions where a reliable engine with loads of low end torque would be ideal for those conditions, as well as the ability to repair it with only the most basic tools.
I love the 230 and thing it is waaaaaay underrated!
It would be hard to agree more with canucklehead. Had a couple of the 230s. I understand they screwed up with the design when they created the 250 with the integral manifold but the 230 remains unblemished in my mind.
After my Saturn Vue experience I am no fan of Opel. However, ….. that two door wagon with a 230 (even with a glide) would just rank right up there with me.
Most Ford sixes of 200 and 250 CID had 7 bearing cranks except a few early 200s.
I’d say 50 percent of low end Chevy’s and Pontiacs had sixes (Biscaynes, Strato-Chiefs and such). The 283 was almost universal in Impalas and Parisiennes.
was the 194 related? I had a 62 or 63 Pontiac Acadian Sport Deluxe convert many moons ago, and it had the 194 and PG, and it was very nice in that car…just smooth…One of these days I’m going to have to digitize some of the pics of my yestermobiles…
The 194 is a 230 with smaller bore and shorter stroke. That applies to the 215 used by Pontiac too; it had a smaller bore.
The more I see the cars and trucks offered in South America. ..the more I appreciate the simple ruggedness they offered. I’d love that wagon!
I remember in early 1960s Iran , the company that imported Chevrolets, only sold Impalas imported from Canada, and they were all 230 sixes coupled to a 3 speed manual, no power anything , no option list was available.
The engines were painted red, and this was the distinction from older 1950s engines which were blue colored.
Overall these impalas sixes had a very good reputation and the resale value was excellent.
All the GM Canada engines from the era were painted red, even the V-8s.
FWIW, seems like a perfectly good car, but “opala” is Hawaiian for rubbish or garbage…
Behold! The Chevrolet Coronet/Maverick! CorMav?
I can think of nothing more to add. I could say it’s ugly, but someone obviously likes it, so I won’t.
At least the rear windows roll down…
The body shell was penned in the early 60s, whaddya want?
I don’t think the 2 door hardtops look bad at all.
Also, I find it interesting that a neighboring country took a completely different approach.
As with the South American a-body Mopars, I bet these would have done fine in the US. Why didn’t it happen? Not Invented Here syndrome, or?
I think we have previously had reasons stated as to why they didn’t build this car’s Opel base, or was that only the 1970’s version in relation to the Seville? I wonder if the South American version might have been more suitable. Obviously the powertrain would have been.
That wagon has a Nomad-esque look.
Yes, the SS wagon and coupe are definitely ringing my bell. Love to see a SBC in there, of course…
Whoa, I had not realized 2 of my pictures (this and the 125p) on the Cohort had made it to the Curbside Classics website! I glad they were chosen. I can only add this Opala sports Citroën CX hubcaps. And that Opalas were quite popular in Chile, mostly as taxis and police cars.
This is the second Opel with a Chevy engine I get to know about. The other one (which I like much more), is the Opel Admiral with the 327 small block.
One of the numerous cases of “foreign-designed car with a different powertrain”, like the Lada Classics, Fiat 125p, Standard 2000…
The featured red Opala was built when the model was already a bit long in the tooth, meaning that the Rekord it was based on had long been superseded at least twice, around 1980. Nevertheless, in the context it was built and sold, the car was a solid and comfortable option. A Comodoro or Diplomata version, while quite expensive, could be had with power steering, air conditioning, and a 3 speed automatic (later on you could order it with power windows, mirrors and all that but that was much later). In fact, it was similar to the Nova in the fact that you could order a bare bones 4 cylinder with a 3 on the tree manual and no frills at all, and also a vinyl topped, automatic, air conditioned, power steered “luxury” car. But, bear in mind that the bare bones version would cost, in terms of wealth needed to buy it or months of salary, probably a similar amount than a Buick or Olds would cost in the US. Perhaps even more. The vehicles themselves are comparable, the environment definitely not.
I’d say definitely more. The Opala could be more of a Cadillac Series 75 (or a bit more), or a well-equipped Mercedes S-Class.