Thursday December 6, 2018
40 years ago, British motorists were introduced to a coupe that was not only one of the most luxurious cars to bear the Opel badge and a fastback alternative to the Senator saloon but the ideal grand tourer for the professional who could afford a BMW – but who decided not to.
It was, of course, the Monza, and this PR film will give you an idea of the impact they made to NEC visitors in 1978 -
N.B. Readers should be warned that this footage contains excessive amounts of “Euro-Funk” music.
The Monza debuted in the twilight era of separate Vauxhall and Opel dealerships and so to further differentiate the two marques, it was only available in the UK in fuel injected 3.0-litre guise, while a 2.8-litre engine powered the Royale Coupe.
This was a logical decision, for a while some German motorists may have complained that the fascia was too reminiscent of the average Rekord saloon, not a few British drivers tended to regard Opel as slightly more ‘exotic’ that Luton products.
Given that a Monza cost £10,250 – around £2,000 more than the Royale – this was just as well but then the top of the range Opel was aimed at Mercedes-Benz owners and even Jaguar enthusiasts who mourned the demise of the XJC.
By late 1979 the Monza could be ordered with either automatic or five-speed manual transmission, and in the following year it was available was the “S” pack, which included a limited slip differential and modified suspension.
In 1982 the Royale was discontinued and the Monza, together with the Senator, was facelifted as the A2 range – and in 1983 the magnificence that was the 133 mph GSE made its debut.
Put simply, the new flagship Monza with its LCD instrumentation, Recaro seats, dark-coloured alloy wheels, tail spoiler and (shades of Hotblack Desiato’s spaceship) all-black interior was not a car for a chap who bought his medallions from Woolworths.
The motoring press of the UK raved about the Opel, with Motor Sport finding that ‘It is in chassis behaviour that the Opel Senator/Monza range excels most, to the degree that makes it outstanding even in the company of its compatriots BMW and Mercedes.’
In 1981 Car magazine asked, ‘why do some coupe buyers pay so much more money for cars which can do so little better than a Monza?’ In 1984 What Car compared the GSE with a Toyota Supra, and while they noted the Opel’s then very high price of £13,801 it was ‘a beautifully-built, high-class Autobahn express, but also a very desirable driver’s car with looks and performance to match’.
The Monza ceased production in 1986, by which time GM had decided to focus on the Vauxhall brand in the UK; by that time the Senator already bore the Griffin badge. The last examples were sold in 1987 when the nine-year-old design was still able to compete against cars several years its junior.
1985 saw Motor test a GSE opposite a Supra and a Mitsubishi Starion and concluded that ‘No matter what hot hatchback you drive, it’s a car to aspire to’. We could not have better expressed it ourselves.