The Opel Ascona is a mid-sized car produced by Opel. It was produced in three separate generations from 1970 to 1988, beginning with rear-wheel drive and ending up as a front-wheel drive J-car derivative. In motorsport, the Ascona 400 rally car driven by Walter Röhrl won the World Rally Championship drivers' title in the 1982 season.
The Ascona took its name from the lakeside resort of that name in Ticino, Switzerland, and already in the 1950s a special edition of the Opel Rekord P1 was sold as an Opel Ascona in Switzerland, where the name was again used in 1968 for a locally adapted version of the Opel Kadett B into which the manufacturers had persuaded a 1.7-litre engine borrowed from the larger Rekord model of the time. The Opel Ascona A launched in 1970 and sold across Europe was, however, the first mainstream Opel model to carry the name.
The Ascona was introduced in September 1970 and ended production in August 1988, to be replaced by the Opel Vectra A.
In the fall of 1970, Opel presented its completely new vehicle range in Rüsselsheim (internal project code 1.450). The Opel Manta coupé was launched on September 9, followed by the Opel Ascona on October 28 in two and four-door sedan forms, plus a three-door station wagon, called the Caravan or Voyage. These models were positioned between the existing Opel Kadett and the Opel Rekord.
The Ascona was developed as a competitor to the successful Ford mid-sized cars, the Ford Taunus/Ford Cortina. The Opel Ascona A stayed in production until 1975. By that time, almost 692,000 vehicles of the first series had been produced.
The range featured petrol engines from 1.2 L to 1.9 L, with power between 60 PS (44 kW) and 90 PS (66 kW). The 1.2 L had an overhead valve (OHV) head, while the 1.6 L and 1.9 L featured a camshaft-in-head (CIH) type of engine. The CIH was a compromise effort, with the camshaft mounted next to the valves rather than above them. All used a single barrel carburetor. Even with this simple design, the Ascona 1.9 SR had a successful career in motorsports, with Walter Röhrl winning the European Rally Championship in 1974. Tuner Steinmetz developed a special version of the Ascona SR, with two single-barrel Solex carburettors, lifting power to 125 PS (92 kW).
From 1971–75, the 1.9-liter Ascona was exported to the United States as the "Opel 1900" sold through Buick-Opel dealerships. All three body styles were offered at first, but the four-door sedan was dropped after 1972. In 1974, heavy rubber-clad impact bumpers were added in response to Federal regulations. All Opels sold in the US in 1975 were equipped with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, which was not available on the European versions. The fuel injection was added because of the more strict emissions requirements that were in force that year. Due to the unfavorable DMark/U.S. Dollar exchange rate, after 1975, all Opels in Buick showrooms were replaced by Isuzu Gemini models wearing Opel badges.
- 1.2 S – 1,196 cc, 60 PS (44 kW)
- 1.6 N – 1,584 cc, 60–68 PS (44–50 kW)
- 1.6 S – 1,584 cc, 75–80 PS (55–59 kW)
- 1.9 S – 1,897 cc, 88–90 PS (65–66 kW)
The second generation Opel Ascona B was presented in the 1975 Frankfurt Motor Show. It was available as a two or four-door sedan. There were related two and three-door coupé models in the Opel Manta range. There was no estate body.
The Ascona B retained the same engine range as its predecessor, although the 1.9 L was increased to 2.0 L in 1978, and versions with higher compression ratio and needing 98 octane petrol, dubbed S, were available alongside the 90 octane models. The 2.0 E model had a Bosch L-Jetronic electronic fuel injection, and a 2.1 L diesel motor was added to the Ascona B range in 1978.
In the United Kingdom, the Vauxhall Cavalier badge was used on both saloon and coupé models, which came out of the same factory in Belgium—the first Vauxhall to be built abroad. The front ends were different, featuring Vauxhall's trademark "droop snoot", as designed by Wayne Cherry.
A version of the Mark 1 Vauxhall Cavalier was sold in South Africa as the Chevrolet Chevair. This was in addition to a Chevrolet Ascona, identical in most respects to the Opel.
Over 1.2 million Ascona B units were produced worldwide until 1981.
- August 1975 – Start of production of the Ascona B.
- January 1976 – Laminated window glass available as an option without extra cost.
- January 1978 – New 2.0 Litre engine (20N with 90 PS) introduced. All models now have electric windscreen washers.
- January 1979 – Introduction of the Ascona 400 with 2.4-liter engine (16 valve, 144 bhp). This was the street legal version.
- February 1979 – The 1.3 OHC engine replaces the previous 1.2 OHV engine.
- September 1979 – A minor facelift, including plastic bumpers and grey front grille
- January 1980 – New fuel-injected 2.0E engine with 110 PS (81 kW) now available in the Ascona.
- January 1981 – Adjustments made to the 16N and 20N engines. 1.6 N engine only available with an automatic transmission
- August 1981 – Production ends.
- 1.2 N – 1,196 cc, 55 PS (40 kW)
- 1.2 S – 1,196 cc, 60 PS (44 kW)
- 1.3 N – 1,297 cc, 60 PS (44 kW)
- 1.3 S – 1,297 cc, 75 PS (55 kW)
- 1.6 N – 1,584 cc, 60 PS (44 kW)
- 1.6 S – 1,584 cc, 75 PS (55 kW)
- 1.9 N – 1,897 cc, 75 PS (55 kW)
- 1.9 S – 1,897 cc, 90 PS (66 kW)
- 1.9 E – 1,897 cc, 105 PS (77 kW)
- 2.0 N – 1,979 cc, 90 PS (66 kW)
- 2.0 S – 1,979 cc, 100 PS (74 kW)
- 2.0 E – 1,979 cc, 110 PS (81 kW)
- 2.1 D – 2,068 cc, 58 PS (43 kW)
- 2.4 E – 2,420 cc, 144 PS (106 kW)
Ascona 400 rally car
Built in 1981, the 1980 world champion Walter Röhrl took the rally car to victory and won the World Rally Championship drivers' title in the 1982 season.
The car was developed by Opel alongside the Manta B 400 model which consisted of the same changes. Irmscher and Cosworth were hired as partners for the project, Cosworth to deliver a 16 valve double cam crossflow head for the engine, and Irmscher for the exterior and interior styling. Cosworth delivered the heads to Opel and Opel soon discovered a major mistake. The plan was to use the 2.0 litre engine block but this did not produce enough power. Time was running out and Opel badly needed to do something. Opel took the 2.0E block and gave it an overbore, installed larger pistons, other pistonrods, and installed the crankshaft of their 2.3 litre diesel CIH style engine. Results was a 2.4 litre engine. The 2.4 litre engine gave way to some massive power outputs using the 16 valve head. The street versions of the 400 therefore came with came with 144 PS (106 kW) engines, using the Bosch fuel injection of the Manta GSi and GT/E series. However in race trim they were delivered putting out 230 PS (169 kW), which could be improved further to 340 PS (250 kW), while still using normally aspirated engine components.
Irmscher delivered the rally trim for the exterior. Large and widened wings, light weight doors, hood, front wings, rear boot lid and doors were installed keeping the weight down.
In 1984, the Audi Quattro appeared more powerful than ever and the Ascona 400 was rendered obsolete. But the Ascona 400 still has some remarkable records. The Ascona 400 was the last rear wheel drive rally car to win the drivers world championship, ensuring its place in the motorsports book of history.
The Ascona C was launched in August 1981 as part of General Motors' J-car project. This was Opel's second front-wheel drive car since the introduction of the Kadett D in 1979. This car was manufactured in Rüsselsheim, Germany, Antwerp, Belgium and Luton, England, and was sold in the UK under the name Vauxhall Cavalier and Chevrolet Monza in Latin America. The Cavalier Coupé was phased out, but the Opel Manta was retained in the UK (the last car to be badged as an Opel in the UK before the brand was phased out there in 1988). There were no longer sheet metal differences between Opel and Vauxhall models after 1982. The Ascona C won the "Golden Lenkrad" at the end of 1981 and was West Germany's biggest selling car.
It was narrowly beaten to the European Car of the Year award by the Renault 9. The Ascona C underwent two notable facelifts during its term of production.
The range added an option of a five-door hatchback bodystyle, named CC in a few markets. All engines were now SOHC. The base model was the 1.3 L introduced in 1978 in the Ascona B, with 60 PS (44 kW), followed by a 1.6 L with 75 PS (55 kW). "S" versions with higher compression ratio had power increased by as much as twenty percent. The top of the line was the sporty GTE model, with electronic fuel injection, pushing power to 130 PS (96 kW) in the last two model years. Diesel power came from an Isuzu-developed block, with 1.6 litres. Catalytic converters were optional in the larger petrol units starting from 1986.
As before, there was no station wagon version of the Ascona, although Vauxhall in the UK brought in the rear ends of the Holden Camira wagon and adapted them to the Cavalier. Opel continued to use the Ascona nameplate until the Vectra was launched in 1988, while the Cavalier name was retained by Vauxhall until 1995.
- Latin America
In Brazil, the Ascona C was sold as a coupé, hatchback and sedan from 1982 to 1996 as the Chevrolet Monza, receiving various facelifts. In Colombia the sedan version was sold from 1987 to 1992 as the Monza Classic, two version were available: a five-speed manual 'Sport', and a DeLuxe equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission. In Venezuela it was sold from 1985 to 1990. Originally it was equipped with a carburetted 1.8-litre engine, but this was later replaced with a fuel injected 2-litre unit.
- South Africa
In South Africa, the Ascona C was sold as a sedan and hatchback from 1982 to 1986, when it was replaced by the sedan version of the Kadett E, known as the Opel Monza (In Europe, this name was used for a coupé version of the larger Senator).
- September 1981 – Introduction of the Ascona C as the successor for the Ascona B. This, the original version, is usually referred to as "C1" to distinguish it from the later, facelifted versions. Available bodystyles for the Ascona included 2- and 4-door Sedans, a 5-door Hatchback (the CC) and later on a 5-door Estate. Initial engine choice included the 1.3N (60 PS), 1.3S (75 PS), 1.6N (75 PS) and 1.6S (90 PS), all of which had a four-speed gearbox or optional three-speed automatic transmission for all except the 1.3 N. Trim variations included Base, L, Berlina and SR.
- 1982 – Introduction of the Ascona Diesel with a 1.6 (55 PS) engine. Introduction of the Ascona CD with higher level of equipment. New 1.8E engine with LE-Jetronic (115 PS) and five-speed gearbox. Optional power steering, electric windows, electric mirrors and computer available at extra cost.
- 1983 – Modified ignition switch and door locks. Improvements made to water pump, valve seals and radiator hoses. Aftermarket convertibles were now available from Keinath (later also by Hammond & Thiede). Optional central locking and heated mirrors. Optional Sports suspension available for SR and 1.8 E engine. Automatically adjustable rear brakes now standard.
- 1984 – C2: All models have facelift with new CD-style radiator grille, new wheel trims, new front seat mountings, modified center console, remote-adjustable door mirrors and height-adjustable steering wheel. 1.3S engine now has new start-stop system. Improved clutch damping and headlight seals. Model names also changed: Base becomes LS, L becomes GL, Berlina becomes GLS, and SR becomes GT.
- 1985 – 1.8i engine with three-way catalyst introduced (100 PS). One-way catalysts available for all engines. Modified clutch lining and door seals.
- 1986 – C3: All models have facelift, this time with clear front indicator lenses, dark taillight lenses, colour-keyed radiator grille, air vent, and front spoiler. GT now has front and rear spoilers. New engines were also available: 1.6i and 2.0i with three-way catalysts. 1.6 has Multec-central Injection system and 75 PS (55 kW), while 2.0 has Bosch Motronic Injection system and 115 PS (85 kW), with or without catalyst.
- 1987 – Non-catalyst 2.0i replaced by 130 PS (96 kW) version, only available with GT trim.
- August 1988 – End of production for the Ascona C, replaced by the Opel Vectra A.