|Production||1962 – 1991|
|Body and chassis|
|Class||Small family car (C)|
|Predecessor||Opel 1.3 litre|
- 1 Kadett I (1936–1940)
- 2 Kadett A (1962–1965)
- 3 Kadett B (1965–1973)
- 4 Kadett C (1973–1979)
- 5 Kadett D (1979–1984)
- 6 Kadett E (1984–1991)
- 7 Kadett name
- 8 References
- 9 Literature
Kadett I (1936–1940)
Opel Kadett Spezial (K38) "Cabrio-Limousine" (1939)
|Production||1936 – 1940|
|Body and chassis|
|Engine||1,074 cc sv I4|
|Wheelbase||2,337 mm (92.0 in)|
|Length||3,765–3,840 mm (148.2–151.2 in)|
|Width||1,375 mm (54.1 in)|
|Height||1,455–1,545 mm (57.3–60.8 in)|
|Curb weight||757 kg (1,669 lb)|
The first Opel car to carry the Kadett name was presented to the public in December 1936 by Opel's Commercial-Technical director, Heinrich Nordhoff, who would in later decades become known for his leadership role in building up the Volkswagen company.
The new Kadett followed the innovative Opel Olympia in adopting a chassis-less unibody construction, suggesting that like the Vauxhall 10 introduced in 1937 by Opel's English sister-company, the Opel Kadett was designed for high volume low cost production.
Kadett series II 234 (1937)
For 1937 the Kadett was offered as a small and unpretentious two door "Limousine" (sedan/saloon) or, at the same list price of 2,100 Marks, as a soft top "Cabrio-Limousine". The body resembled that of the existing larger Opel Olympia and its silhouette reflected the "streamlining" tendencies of the time. The 1,074cc side-valve engine came from the 1935 Opel P4 and came with the same listed maximum power output of 23 PS (17 kW; 23 hp) at 3,400 rpm.
The brakes were now controlled using a hydraulic mechanism. The suspension featured synchromous springing, a suspension configuration already seen on the manufacturer's larger models and based on the Dubonnet system for which General Motors in France had purchased the license. The General Motors version, which had been further developed by Opel’s North American parent, was intended to provide a soft ride, but there was some criticism that handling and road-holding were compromised, especially when the system was applied to small light-weight cars such as the Kadett. By the end of 1937 33,402 of these first generation Kadetts had been produced.
Kadett "KJ38" and "K38 Spezial" (1938–1940)
From December 1937 a modified front grill signalled an upgrade. However, the 1,074cc Opel 23 PS (17 kW; 23 hp) engine and the 2,337 mm (92.0 in) wheelbase were unchanged, and it would have taken a keen eyed observer to spot the difference between the cars for 1937 and those for 1938.
The manufacturer now offered two versions of the Kadett, designated the "Kadett KJ38 and the "Kadett K38" the latter also being sold as the "Kadett Spezial". Mechanically and in terms of published performance there was little to differentiate the two, but the "Spezial" had a chrome stripe below the window line, and extra external body trim in other areas such as on the front grill. The interior of the "Spezial" was also better equipped. To the extent that the 300 Mark saving for buyers of the car reflected reduced production costs, the major difference was that the more basic "KJ38" lost the synchromous springing with which the car had been launched, and which continued to be fitted on the "Spezial". The base car instead reverted to traditional rigid axle based suspension similar to that fitted on the old Opel P4.
The base car was available only as a two-door "Limousine" (sedan/saloon). Customers looking for a soft-top "Cabrio-limousine" would need to specify a "Kadett Spezial". For the first time Kadett buyers, provided they were prepared to choose a "Kadett Spezial" could also specify a four-door "Limousine" (sedan/saloon) bodied car, priced at 2,350 Marks as against 2,150 Marks for a "Spezial Cabrio-Limousine" and 2,100 Marks for a two-door "Spezial Limousine".
In marketing terms the "Kadett KJ38" was intended to fill the niche that Opel had recently vacated with the departure of the Opel P4, but the KJ38, priced at 1,800 Marks, was more expensive than the P4 and its reduced specification left it with the image of a car for poor people (..Image des Arme-Leute-Autos..) at a time when economic growth in Germany was finally fostering a less minimalist approach to car buying. The "Kadett K38 Spezial" fared better in the market place: in 1938 and again in 1939 it was Germany's top selling small car. By May 1941 the company had produced 17,871 "Kadett KJ38"s and 56,335 "Kadett K38 Spezial"s.
Competitive pricing led to commercial success, and Kadetts continued to be produced during the early months of the war: by the time production ended in May 1940, following intensification of World War II, 106,608 of these Opel Kadetts had come off the assembly line at Opel's Rüsselsheim plant, which had been the first major car plant in Germany to apply the assembly-line production techniques pioneered by Henry Ford.
After the Second World War the Soviet Union requested the tooling from the Opel Rüsselsheim car plant in the American occupation zone as part of the war reparations agreed by the victorious powers, to compensate for the loss of the production lines for the domestic KIM-10-52 in the siege of Moscow. Faced with a wide range of German "small litrage" models to choose from, Soviet planners wanted a car which closely followed the general type of the KIM – a 4-door sedan with all-metal body and 4-stroke engine. They therefore rejected both the rear-engined, two-door KdF-Wagen (future VW Beetle) and the two-stroke powered, front-wheel-drive, wooden-bodied DKW F8, built by the Auto Union Chemnitz plant in the Soviet occupation zone. The closest analog of the KIM to be found was the 4-door Kadett K38.
On August 26, 1945, the State Defense Committee published Order № 9905, which prescribed the start of production of the 4-door Kadett on the Moscow small car plant "without any changes to the design". But implementation of the plan was far from smooth. The Rüsselsheim plant had been deeply involved in the Nazi war effort, producing aircraft engines for the Luftwaffe, and consequently has been heavily damaged by the Allied air raids. Very little was left to be salvaged – mostly incoherent drawings and plans, with several stamping dies for the 2-door version of the Kadett to add.
Still, a number of Kadetts has been captured as trophies by the Red Army and available for study and reverse-engineering. This project was conducted by design bureaus formed as Soviet-German joint ventures under the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD). There were 11 of them in total. One in Berlin (reverse-engineered the engine and transmission. Another in Schwarzenberg worked on the steel body. The wooden-bodied station wagon was developed in Chemnitz. The vast majority of the personnel of these design bureaus were German specialists and craftsmen hired by the Military Administration. These design bureaus not only prepared the necessary blueprints and documentation, but also provided the wooden master model for the body. They even developed the new trim pieces which distinguished the Moskvitch from its Opel prototype, including hood emblems and hubcaps with a large "M" (for "Moskvitch"). However, the stamping dies and most of the tooling had to be produced in the USSR.
Production started on December 4, 1946. The Moskvitch 400/420 continued to be made in Moscow with some minor changes until 1956, when it was replaced by the Moskvitch 402. The latter was an all-new design apart from the engine, for which Moskvitch continued to use the Kadett side-valve engine until 1958, when it was replaced with a domestically designed OHV engine.
Kadett A (1962–1965)
|Production||1962 – 1965|
|Engine||993 cc Opel OHV OHV I4|
The Kadett was reintroduced in 1962, with deliveries beginning on 2 October, a little more than 22 years after the original model was discontinued in May 1940. The new car (designated the Kadett A) was a small family car like its predecessor, although it was now available in 2-door saloon, 3-door estate ("Car-A-Van") and coupé versions.
Kadett B (1965–1973)
Opel Kadett B 4-door Limousine
|Production||1965 – 1973|
|Body and chassis|
|Related||Opel Olympia A|
The Kadett B was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in late summer 1965, The Kadett B was larger all-round than the Kadett A: 5% longer both overall and in terms of the wheelbase, 7% wider and 9% heavier (unladen weight), albeit 10 mm (0.39 in) lower in basic standard "Limousine" (sedan/saloon) form. Production ended in July 1973, with the successor model introduced a month later following the summer shut-down, in August. The two-seat Opel GT was heavily based on Kadett B components, its body made by a French contractor, Brissonneau & Lotz, at their Creil factory.
Opel Rallye Kadett B "Gills-coupé" ("Kiemencoupé"), 1965–70
Kadett C (1973–1979)
|Also called||Buick Opel (America)|
Holden Gemini (Australia)
Isuzu Gemini (Japan)
|Production||1973 – 1979|
|Wheelbase||2,395 mm (94.3 in)|
The Kadett C appeared in August 1973 and was Opel's version of the General Motors' "T-Car". It was the last small Opel to feature rear-wheel drive, and remained in production at Opel's Bochum plant until July 1979, by which time Opel had produced 1,701,076. Of these, 52% had been exported outside West Germany, most of them to markets in other parts of western Europe.
Kadett D (1979–1984)
|Also called||Vauxhall Astra (United Kingdom)|
|Production||1979 – 1984|
Ellesmere Port, England, United Kingdom
Kikinda, Yugoslavia (Serbia)
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||3 and 5-door hatchback|
2 and 4-door sedan
3 and 5-door wagon / estate (Caravan)
|Layout||Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive|
|Related||Bedford Astravan (United Kingdom)|
|Engine||1.0 L Opel OHV I4 (petrol)|
1.2 L Opel OHV I4 (petrol)
1.3 L Family 1 I4 (petrol)
1.6 L Family II I4 (petrol)
1.8 L Family II I4 (petrol)
1.6 L Family II I4 (diesel)
|Wheelbase||2,514 mm (99.0 in)|
|Length||3,998 mm (157.4 in)|
Caravan: 4,207 mm (165.6 in)
|Width||1,636 mm (64.4 in)|
|Height||1,400 mm (55.1 in)|
|Curb weight||815 kg (1,796.8 lb) - 980 kg (2,160.5 lb)|
The Kadett D was introduced in the middle of August 1979, with deliveries on the home market beginning early in September 1979. In November 1979, the car went on sale in the United Kingdom, some five months before the Vauxhall Astra Mark 1, the British version, was launched in April 1980. The cars were designed as three- or five-door hatchbacks and estates or station wagons. There were also two- and four-door sedans featuring separate boots/trunks, which shared the silhouettes of the hatchbacks: in the United Kingdom, the sedan versions were soon withdrawn, until the 1986 launch of the MKII-based Belmont. For the first time since 1965 there was no coupé-bodied Kadett in the range: the previous Kadett C coupé was indirectly replaced by the three-door 1.3 SR sports model.
Technologically, the Kadett D was a departure, as it was Opel and Vauxhall's first front-wheel-drive car. It was also the first application of the Family II engine design, with a single overhead camshaft, aluminium-alloy cylinder head, hydraulic valve lifters, with capacities of 1297 cc (producing 60 PS and 75 PS) and had a transaxle design that allowed the clutch to be replaced without removing the transmission unit. A carry-over 1196 cc Opel OHV engine from previous generations of the Kadett producing 53 hp and a top speed of 87 mph was also offered on entry level models from launch, and a new 1600 cc engine was offered after Frankfurt 1981, followed by an 1800 cc version introduced for the Kadett GSE/Astra GTE model. The Kadett D was also equipped with a 1600 cc diesel engine, an option which was first presented at the Brussels Motor Show in 1982. Another frugal model, mostly sold in Italy, was the 1.0 liter model with 50 PS (37 kW).
This range of engines was also used for later models of the Corsa/Nova, and the mid-sized Cavalier/Ascona. From May 1981, the 1.3 was also available with a three-speed automatic. The automatic was made available to the diesel in September 1982. One interesting version which first appeared in mid-1982 was the Kadett Pirsch, (for deer stalking, a stealthy form of hunting). In non-German-speaking countries it was generally marketed as the "Kadett Off Road." This was a station wagon with rustic trim, fitted with a differential brake, reinforced suspension and more suitable tires, increased ground clearance, a skid plate, and shortened front fenders. In Sweden, a special postal Kadett ("Opel Kadett Post") was offered, fitted with a high roof (necessitating a unique and much taller windshield) and a sliding right-hand door, RHD, and the automatic transmission. This version was converted by Karosseriefabrik Voll (in German) in Würzburg, Germany. Voll also made a postal version of the Kadett E.
The Opel Kadett D was also built in South Africa by General Motors South African (Pty) Ltd. The South African range was made up of four-door fastback sedans, five-door hatchbacks, and a five-door estate model called the Voyage. The engines used are Opel's 1.2 litre overhead valve inline-four (L models only), or the OHC 1.3 liter (GL, GLS, and Voyage). Power is 60 PS (44 kW) and 75 PS (55 kW) respectively. Later a 1.6 liter was added and also a 1.8 in the GTE performance model.
Kadett E (1984–1991)
Pre-facelift Kadett 1.3 LS (1987)
|Also called||Opel Astra (East Africa; GMEA)|
Chevrolet Kadett/Ipanema (BRA)
Daewoo LeMans/Racer/Cielo/Nexia (ROK) & (AUS)
Opel Monza (RSA)
Passport Optima (CAN)
Pontiac LeMans (US)
Vauxhall Astra (GB)
Vauxhall Belmont (GB)
IDA Kadett (YUG)
|Production||1984 – 1991|
Ellesmere Port (Vauxhall Ellesmere Port), United Kingdom
Kikinda, Yugoslavia (Serbia)
|Designer||Gordon M. Brown|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||3 and 5-door hatchback|
4-door sedan / saloon
3 and 5-door wagon / estate (Caravan)
|Layout||Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive|
|Related||Opel Kadett Combo|
|Wheelbase||2,520 mm (99.2 in)|
|Length||Hatchback & convertible: 3,998 mm (157.4 in)|
Sedan & Caravan: 4,218 mm (166 in)
|Width||1,662 mm (65.4 in)|
|Height||1,393 mm (54.8 in)|
|Curb weight||850 kg (1,873.9 lb) - 1,010 kg (2,226.7 lb)|
The Kadett E (Vauxhall Astra Mark 2 in the United Kingdom) was introduced in August 1984, and was voted the 1985 European Car of the Year. The 1984 model was also developed into a more conventional three-box design with a boot (trunk), badged as the Vauxhall Belmont in the United Kingdom, launched at Frankfurt 1985. This was awarded the 1985 Semperit Irish Car of the Year in Ireland. There was a station wagon called the "Caravan" available, with either three or five doors. In South Africa, the Kadett notchback was sold as the Opel Monza, along with a convertible. This replaced the Opel Ascona.
A convertible version was also available, for the first time in 1987, built by Bertone of Torino/Italy, bringing it to line with competitors, such as the Ford Escort and Volkswagen Golf. For the 1988 model, capacities were raised from 1.3 to 1.4 litres. In the fall of 1986 a new 1,998 cc engine replaced the 1.8 hitherto used on the GSi and Vauxhall Astra GTE in many markets, although the 1.8 continued to be sold in some places. In 1988, a 16-valve twin-cam version was developed for a high-performance GSi/GTE model, yielding 156 PS (115 kW) in non-catalyzed form, six less horsepower with a catalytic converter fitted. While criticized for a lack of refinement, the GSi 16V was also lauded as the most powerful car available in its class at the time. Aside from the "16V" badging, it could be told from an eight-valve GSi by its twin rectangular exhaust pipes.
The Kadett E has been seen as a grey import in the United Kingdom, but it is quite rare compared to its badge engineered sister, the Vauxhall Astra Mk II. It was never officially sold in Britain, and by 1989, General Motors was only marketing the Vauxhall brand in the United Kingdom, although Astras assembled at Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant were exported to the rest of Europe badged as Opel Kadetts. There was also a van version with a raised roof, called the Opel Kadett Combo.
The Kadett C was introduced in Brazil as the Chevrolet Chevette. The three-door station wagon was called the Chevrolet Marajó, and a pick-up was named Chevy 500. Brazilian production commenced in 1973, with the Marajó being added in 1980 and the Chevy 500 in 1983, shortly after a significant facelift affected the entire line. Brazilian cars had engines in various combinations of size - 1.0 (1992-1993), 1.4 (1973-1982), or 1.6 (1982-1995) liters - and fuels (gasoline or ethanol), though not all combinations were available for all body configurations. The last Marajó was built in 1989, the last Chevette in 1993, and the last Chevy 500 in 1995.
The Kadett E was introduced as the Chevrolet Kadett, and its station wagon version was called the Chevrolet Ipanema. The latter had three doors until model year 1993, when five doors became mandatory. The hatchback was only available with three doors, and the sedan was never offered. Brazilian production of the hatchback commenced in April 1989, with the Ipanema being added in October. From 1991 all versions featured fuel injection. Brazilian cars received either 1.8 or 2.0-litre petrol or ethanol fours. The Ipanema was discontinued in 1996, and the Kadett, in 1998.
While the Ipanema clearly succeeded the Marajó, production of the Chevette (by now in sedan form only, the hatchback having been discontinued after the 1987 model year) and of the Kadett noticeably overlapped; the newer model was placed above the old one in Chevrolet's lineup. While Chevrolet entertained the possibility of a pick-up version of the Kadett E, it never materialized.
In the early 1990s, South African Kadett GSi's were further upgraded based on their success in production car racing and initially 500 special units were built as road cars for homologation purposes. This was a minimum requirement for entry into the Stannic Group N races. They went against BMW's 325iS (A 2.7 litre homologation special from BMW). They featured more aggressive 276-degree camshafts made by Schrick with 2 different settings for timing overlap (110° and 107°), revised intake and exhaust modifications (4-in-1 branch manifold and freeflow exhaust), Irmscher spring kit, modified engine management system by Promotec, a limited slip differential developed by Andre Verwey and special Aluett 7Jx15-inch ET35 alloy wheels, they were nicknamed the "Superboss" and held the world record for the most torque per litre (114 Nm per litre) for a naturally aspirated car until 2009 being beaten by the Ferrari 458 (117 Nm per litre). After the first 500 units were produced, many more were built to satisfy public demand.
The Kadett E formed the basis of the Daewoo LeMans (later known as the Daewoo Cielo, Racer and Nexia) in South Korea, Nexia being the hatchback version), which was sold in the United States and New Zealand as the Pontiac LeMans, and in Canada (initially) as the Passport Optima. LeMans sales ended in 1993. The Nexia is still being produced at UzDaewoo plant in Asaka, Uzbekistan. The Cielo was last being produced at Automobile Craiova, a semi-independent (from GM) plant in Craiova, Romania. Their license expired in the fall of 2006.
In 1991, GM Europe decided to standardise model names across its two brands, and Opel adopted Vauxhall's name for the Kadett, Astra, for the replacement car for Europe which debuted that year. Only South Africa kept the Kadett name until the 1999 (Astra/Kadett F), when all models took the Astra name.
However, under Opel's internal naming convention, successive generations of the Astra platform are treated as a logical continuation of the Kadett lineage, hence the original 1991 Astra was designated Astra F in relation to the previous Kadett E. This convention has continued through the Astra K.
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