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Duder
Duder Reader
7/3/19 1:47 a.m.

So my friend Alex and I have started an ad-hoc club for Opel Kadetts - by which I mean we have three of them between us now, and we don't know anyone else who's willing to take the plunge.

Let me back up a bit. Alex and I both joined up with Black Iron Racing, our Lemons team, around the same time in 2012. Before getting involved with us and our silly BMWs, Alex campaigned the Geo Metro Gnome with storied success in the series. Prior to that, he had enjoyed all manner of vintage Euro stuff on the street, including an Opel Kadett Rallye. Alex had used the Rallye as its name suggested, in the California Melee vintage car rally where I believe he first met Jay Lamm, Lemons Chief Perp. I had no prior knowledge of the Opel affliction until the Buttonwillow race last fall when we saw a 1967 Kadett "Kiemencoupe" (gills coupe) that had been entered by an ambitious Angeleno, a guy who rescued this forgotten 54hp economy car, revived it, and built it into something that would pass tech. He drove it to the race, turned hundreds of laps, won the Organizer's Choice, and then drove it home. Alex and I were both smitten with this little thing despite the stately processional pace it had around the racetrack, but he really wanted it. After a few months of continuous contact with the builder/owner he worked out a deal to buy the Opel early this year (2019). Thus Black Iron Racing was made a 2-car team, with the balls-out E36 V8 camper fighting for the overall win on one end of the spectrum, and this elegant little fastback coupé tugging at heartstrings for the IOE in Class C on the other.

I signed up to help sort out the car before our maiden race with it at Sonoma in March 2019, which turned out to be pretty rewarding, and not super stressful. With Alex as the mastermind and several others in our shared workshop as his mechanical sandwich artists, the "Opile" was upgraded with an alternator, an aluminum radiator, front suspension tweaks (it had previously been hit hard), a scratch-built panhard rod in the rear, spec E30 wheels, transmission swap to one we suspected was in slightly better condition than the one with the blown input bearing, cage improvements, an oil cooler, tweaks to the driving position, radio, harnesses, and seat, and of course...lots and lots of carb tuning. The Opile is still street legal so we drove it up to the Angeles Crest area for a public road test session, which was great fun. The goal for Sonoma was to win Class C or bust. We had a crack 4-person team consisting of Alex, me, my wife (who has a few trackdays and one previous Lemons race on her resume) and Bitter Dan from Eyesore racing. We went for a one-stop stragety - a bold move for an 8-hour session - but it worked! Both days we only stopped once for driver change & refueling. My wife ended up driving for nearly 4 hours in her stint, and the rest of us were all over 3 hours. There was one mechanical issue, a chafed & leaking oil cooler hose which was starting to starve the engine in right turns. That was a quick fix but to our dismay there was a hellafast (in comparison) totally stock 1st-gen Honda CR-V that handed our asses to us in class C, so we had no chance of winning that prize. But - we managed to eke out a few more laps than the other weirdo, a Bitter SC (!) to end up winning the IOE and went home with even bigger smiles on our faces, and a free entry to the next race to boot!

Here's a nice writeup on the car and our first race with it: https://24hoursoflemons.com/blog/cheap-race-car-build-winning-lemons-with-55-horsepower/

In the ensuing months Alex continued his rigorous race development program, fully going through the cylinder head and carburetion situations to get the little Opile into fighting shape for its next big appearance, which will be Buttonwillow again this fall. We can go into all the detals but suffice it to say it's now making 60hp at the wheels so probably a good 70bhp at the flywheel, which is extremely noticable from the driver's seat. On paper this little 1.1L pushrod four has none of the attributes of a good engine, but when you start playing around with it you discover it has a really playful character and wants to rev and almost feels sporty. With a few more handling tweaks to get it to stop pushing in steady-state cornering I'm feeling pretty good that we can hurt some feelings in the next race.

Meanwhile, Alex being a cinematographer and on a non-traditional work schedule, he's been trolling ebay for Opel stuff apparently. So I get an email from him one day while I'm at work, which reads "WOULD DAILY!" and contains a link to a nice looking little red '67 Kiemencoupe on eBay for $1250 buy it now, or make offer. Geez. So we go back and forth about what a great deal this could be, and a few days passes. He texts me saying "I'm having a really hard time not buying that Opel" to which I think, "oh man, maybe need to buy that!" and I proceed to...make offer. The seller calls me to work out whether I'm a scammer or not, and upon satisfying the "real dude interested in this weird old car" criteria, my offer is accepted and now I have to figure out how to get a barn-find Opel Kadett from Phoenix to LA. Not a huge deal, but then we talk some more, and oh! There are loads of parts he's throwing in with the car. And OH! There's a parts car too! Another '67 Kiemencoupe, but this one's a Rallye. It's rough but complete. I can't commit to buying two of these things but I forward the photos to Alex and he's down, immediately. Full circle back to his old rally Rallye and now we have a trove of parts coming that will no doubt help the race program. And suddenly I'm adding car no. 11 to my personal fleet...oh man.

The Rallye:

When it was a matter of transporting one car across the desert, I had a plan, no worries. We would drive out in my Land Crusher and tow it home. But two of them, loaded with parts... and only one tow vehicle between us. Our box truck is broken, and both of our trailers just got stolen from our shop parking lot. The shop is in unicorporated LA county between Compton and Carson, and there is a crime...situation there. Nothing ever too serious. Some guys flipping a car on its roof in the street, then jumping out and running away. Some joyride vehicle thefts. A few gunpoint robbery weed sale scams in our parking lot. You know, normal stuff. Anyway I was trying to work out a plan for transporting 2 dead Opels, when the seller texted me with the solution - he knows a Swedish ex-pro hockey player who exports classic cars back to the motherland and moonlights as a car transport trucker. $650 for both of them delivered to our doorstep. Sold!

 

Duder
Duder Reader
7/3/19 2:07 a.m.

The two red Kadetts showed up last Wednesday, and boy did we get a haul. Alex and I spent a few hours just poking around and taking inventory of the stash of parts that came stuffed into the trunks and interiors of the cars. My dark red "L" was last on the road some integer number of years ago, greater than 5, but I'm gonna say fewer than 10. Neither car is registered, but both have clean titles. The Rallye is sad; it was hit hard in the rear and someone really bodged the repairs. The rear quarters and rear fascia panel would need to be completely replaced. I'm not sure there's much we can do without a whole other shell as a donor for sheetmetal. But we do have another shell! It's nice enough that cutting it up would be a shame just to save the genuine Rallye, therefore it's looking like the Rallye will give some mechanical parts to the Opile race car, and some cosmetic stuff to my new red L street car.

Both of these cars have 1.1L pushrod cast iron four-cylinders. The L has the lowest spec, low compression, single carb version. The Rallye got higher compression, dual carbs, a better exhaust manifold, and maybe a hotter cam although I'm not sure.

My other friend Alex B. (of Viccup and Volvo 240 fame) helped me out last weekend with the L. We decided to get it running with nothing but some fuel, some ether, a freshly charged battery, a screwdriver, and some 1/4" fuel hose. It worked! Well, we did have to vacuum silt out of the float bowl, and rob the first part from the parts car - the hard line with integral fitting at the bottom of the fuel tank. On my car the fitting had disintegrated and the line was plugged. Swapping out parts and using some fresher hose, we got fuel pumping up into the bowl before too long, and it fired up and idles now. I drove it around without brakes - 4 wheel drums with no fluid in the system. The handbrake sorta works, but I only went a few mph in our parking lot and was super happy with that as the reward for an hour or two of puttering around under the hood.

More photos!

​​​​​​​

 

Duder
Duder Reader
7/3/19 3:00 a.m.
ultraclyde
ultraclyde PowerDork
7/3/19 5:55 a.m.

Sweet. Someone once gave me a field kept, nonrunner 1970 Kadett 2dr notch with a 4spd and the dual carb 1.1L. I tore into the engine enough to get the pistons worked loose but it was beyond my abilities and desire at the time. I gave it to a guy in Atlanta wo was an Opel fanatic.

Many times I've wished i had that little thing back. Knowing what i do now, it was begging for a Miata roller skate swap. 

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
7/3/19 7:31 a.m.

Cool little cars! I’d love to make it to a west coast Lemons race some day. 

EvanB
EvanB MegaDork
7/3/19 7:43 a.m.

Nice! I need to get started on my Kadetts sometime this year. I should just get the white wagon running since I have all the parts (theoretically) to see if it will run. I'd love to get a coupe to go with my wagons. 

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
7/3/19 8:25 a.m.

Another benefit of living in the dry southwest...all the Opels in Minnesota returned to the earth a long time ago.  smiley

Years ago I had a '67 Opel wagon with the 1.1 liter engine for my winter beater.  Rustiest car I've ever owned - if I opened the driver's door it would fall off the car, so I just got in and out from the passenger side.  However, it would start every day no matter how cold it was outside, and was surprisingly good in the snow.

EvanB
EvanB MegaDork
7/3/19 8:33 a.m.

In reply to stuart in mn :

My blue 67 wagon has a fairly recent Minnesota plate on it. Not sure if that means it came from there or not. It is rusty but not too bad. 

The white 67 from New Mexico is much more solid. 

Duder
Duder Reader
7/3/19 11:30 a.m.

More Kadetts - yes! Glad to hear there are a few others out there. I know they weren't really rare in their day, but now it's much more common to see an Opel GT than the lowly plucky Kadett.

These being Arizona cars, the only rust we've found is a bit on the passenger front quarter panel of mine, behind the wheelwell. Looks like someone "fixed" the battery tray long ago as well, which I may need to re-do. There's a 1973 university parking sticker on the windshield from Texas; I forget which school. But baking in the sun in Phoenix causes some interesting symptoms we don't see out here in LA. The window rubber gaskets are like old stale graham crackers, just crisp and crumbly. The front seats in my car were reupholstered not too long ago - the foam is still fine - but the tweedlike outer covering is literally turning to dust where it's had the most UV exposure. Like a blue tarp that's been outside too long.

AngryCorvair
AngryCorvair MegaDork
7/3/19 12:55 p.m.

best thread starter in a long time.   can't wait to follow along.   also, the viccup is still 10/10, would daily.

Duder
Duder Reader
7/3/19 2:16 p.m.

:-) Best Car, Would Daily

Thanks man; it should be fun. Your old buddy Dan doesn't really get our newfound enthusiasm for these old econoboxes but he hasn't driven the race car yet, so maybe we can convert him to the dark side.

Your latest Angry Corvair project looks super sweet too dude; I just caught up on that one a few days ago.

OjaiM5
OjaiM5 New Reader
7/3/19 2:21 p.m.

Kool Kadetts! Looking forward to the progress.

I bet that beer can has more liters than the engine :)

Duder
Duder Reader
7/4/19 12:53 p.m.

Sadly, the Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn can was empty. Maybe I'll use it as an radiator overflow like all the cool kids do with whiskey bottles. But probably not!

AngryCorvair
AngryCorvair MegaDork
7/4/19 1:20 p.m.
Duder said:

:-) Best Car, Would Daily

Thanks man; it should be fun. Your old buddy Dan doesn't really get our newfound enthusiasm for these old econoboxes 

I predict he will come around.

Your latest Angry Corvair project looks super sweet too dude; I just caught up on that one a few days ago.

The Viccup is one of my inspirations.  And I’ve already had more than one “I wish I had done that differently” moment, so I guess I’m learning.

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia HalfDork
7/4/19 1:52 p.m.

We're they racing these in Germany in the late 60s ?, 

If so it might be cool to copy some of the unknown company names / logos. 

Here is one from NHRA drags

Duder
Duder Reader
7/4/19 2:55 p.m.

A company called Steinmetz and another called Irmscher Tuning prepared a bunch of the Kadett Bs for rally and road racing over the years. Not sure of the details of all of these but here's a smattering of what I've found.

 

The pushrod engine below made about ~110hp on the dyno according to the Steinmetz facebook page!

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia HalfDork
7/4/19 3:39 p.m.

Wow , that's a lot of HP for an 1100 cc motor back then ,

I will keep my eye open for any free Opel stuff , I am nearby just off Artesia

Duder
Duder Reader
7/4/19 3:53 p.m.
californiamilleghia said:

Wow , that's a lot of HP for an 1100 cc motor back then ,

I will keep my eye open for any free Opel stuff , I am nearby just off Artesia

Awesome - thank you!

AngryCorvair said:

The Viccup is one of my inspirations.  And I’ve already had more than one “I wish I had done that differently” moment, so I guess I’m learning.

Thanks man! We will get back on that project soon I'm sure. The bed is just begging to be finished off now, plus it needs a lot of the "little stuff" like the wipers, horn, carpet, headliner, HVAC controls, radio...ad nauseam.

Duder
Duder Reader
7/6/19 12:04 a.m.

More Kadett stuff today. I had to bring my red car into the shop a few days ago so it's been enjoying the indoors for the first time in its existence, probably. The GTV in the background wishes it were this cool...

Alex brought the race car in to futz around with the rear axle flange seals and adding some front shock bumpstops. He's trying to get the handling more neutral - it has always pushed as long as we've had it. The super-custom circle track front sway bar certainly helped, as did some rear geometry changes. Apparently our buddy Dave Coleman thinks it may be too harsh in the front bump stop department - meaning the outside front bottoms out and the wheel rate goes sky high. Alex says adding some of those soft foam rubber stops on the shock shafts today did help make it more progressive.

I played around with the brakes on the red car. Someone in the past thought to upgrade the master cylinder with a Japanese one of unkown provenance. No discernable part numbers on it so I'm not sure what application it's from. Anyway the MC reservoir was completely dry. We poured some fluid in and I worked the pedal until something... started happening. That something was fluid leaking past the rear seal of the master, into the firewall / pedal box area. So I pulled the master and started rounding up parts to fix the brakes. My car has drums in the front; no sense getting this setup working when I have nearly everything here to upgrade to discs. From the Rallye parts car I'll harvest the dual circuit larger MC with vacuum booster, and probably the hard lines from master to junction block.

Rallye brake setup:

My car came with lots of spares, including disc brake spindles and hubs. Rock Auto has the rotors, pads, and hoses - cheap. I have one crusty caliper in a box, so may need to rob the calipers from the Rallye too. In our boxes of parts I found a dual-circuit master rebuild kit for a GT, which I hope is compatible with the Rallye parts. Also found tons of badges and some NOS parts in there, and even a printed photo of the Opel Bros. standing next to an old timey bicycle built for five.

In our shop's storage loft I found another set of stock 13" Kadett steelies, with Michelin XZX tires mounted on them. White stripe out! They appear to be pretty old but not badly dry rotted or cracked. The tires that came on my car are 14 years old and are very severely cracked and dry rotted so I think these Michelins are in better shape. They are 165/80R13, so slightly taller and wider than the 155/80s that were on there. We'll see if they're trash or not.


Duder
Duder Reader
7/9/19 10:55 p.m.

I'm gathering parts for the front disc brake swap and master cylinder upgrade now. Man, I heart RockAuto! And Kadetts are still cheap to operate! Look how reasonably priced this stuff is.


The outer tie rods are completely trashed on this car. Like, maybe even original 52-year-old parts. The car has relatively low mileage from the looks of things... ~85k on the odo which may be correct. Seems like it did those miles early on and has sat a lot since then.

My plan is to pull as much of the front end apart as I reasonably can in a weekend, clean, paint, and reassemble with the power disc brake upgrade. This is all assuming the Rallye parts car's master cylinder isn't complete junk, and that I can rebuild it with one of the kits we already have.

Duder
Duder Reader
10/30/19 5:18 p.m.

Reviving the thread... lots of good stuff going on with the race car, which I'll catch you guys up with soon. Custom engine work. Modern internals going into a 1960s cast iron lump. High revs, ain't care.

My street car project has been defined so I'm in the early phases of getting it back on the road. Once it has functional hydraulic brakes again and some lights (literally none of them work at the moment), it'll get some miles under its belt and get registered & insured. Then the real fun begins!

I'm experimenting with diluted CLR and a green scotch brite kitchen scrubbie pad to get the worst of the grunge and crust off of the exterior. So far, so good... it brought some color out and a little bit of shine but didn't RUNE the patina at all.

 

And a teaser... I really like the look of this Elan Sprint as aesthetic inspirado.

Duder
Duder Reader
10/31/19 3:12 a.m.

Although I got the red car running pretty soon after it got trucked out from Phoneix and showed up in Compton, we let it sit for a few months. It didn't like that. Fuel & spark both needed some attention. I got the car starting up reliably again last night and made this silly little video.

Carb needs much tuning still - it goes way lean in transitions as the throttle is cracked open, as you can hear.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ji5ak42fVI

EvanB
EvanB MegaDork
10/31/19 4:14 p.m.

I pulled one of mine out of the back yard last week to get started on this winter. Hopefully I'll make the challenge in 2020.

Duder
Duder Reader
10/31/19 5:43 p.m.

In reply to EvanB :

Awesome. You have a few wagons, right? There was a blue 1.1L wagon here in the LA area earlier this year. It was cheap. I should've snagged it.

EvanB
EvanB MegaDork
10/31/19 6:06 p.m.
Duder said:

In reply to EvanB :

Awesome. You have a few wagons, right? There was a blue 1.1L wagon here in the LA area earlier this year. It was cheap. I should've snagged it.

Yea, i have two 67 wagons. I'm excited to see the progress on your coupe.

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