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Opel Diplomat A Coupe. A Gran Turismo from Rüsselsheim

Opel Diplomat A V8 Coupe 1965 1967 front left 2008 07 17 U
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Welcome aboard. The huge door closes with a reassuring thud. You sit on wonderfully soft, leather-covered seats. All around you is chrome and wood veneer. Everything is beautifully and tastefully finished. The large windows are all domed and have a soft green tint. The beautiful, two-tone steering wheel has a chrome-plated horn ring. The elongated speedometer goes up to 250 kilometers per hour.

When you turn the ignition key, far away, under the meter-long hood, the sturdy V8 comes to life. A soft hum from the two exhausts and the moving hands on the dashboard indicate that the engine is running.


You put the selector lever in D and accelerate. With a small squeak from the rear tires, the heavy car shoots forward. The hood lifts up a few inches and you are pressed firmly into your seat. After nine seconds, the meter reaches 100 km/h and engages the second, and immediately highest, gear.

You are in the biggest flop Opel has ever made.

opel diplomat v8 coupe 6

Opel's Big Three

The year is 1964. Until then, the Opel Kapitän had always been the flagship of the post-war models, and with the enormous success of the Kapitän P2 – the most successful six-cylinder in Europe – the management decided to upgrade the luxury line a bit more. by pulling. After all, there was a Wirtschaftswunder in Germany! The country, which had been completely bombed out just twenty years earlier, had been rebuilt at lightning speed, poverty had almost been overcome, food was no longer on the receipt and every year things got better and better. Always better! The Kapitän now became the entry-level model of the 'Big Three from Opel': above it came the Admiral and the Diplomat. The KAD-A series debuted in 1964 and received a warm welcome from the press. What a beautiful model, what a space, what comfort!

Opel had been allowed to do a lot of shopping in Detroit, its own design department had its hands full in 1964 developing the eight bodies of the B-Kadett and the all-new Rekord C. That is why the new triplets had an American basis: the Chevrolet Chevy II. 'Nova' from 1962, a then very modern car, successor to the Monza, with rear engine. With that 'GM X platform', the Opel got a five-meter long body that was as sleek as a Frigidaire refrigerator, which was also a GM product. The top model was the Diplomat 4,7 V8, intended as an alternative to the Mercedes 300SE / SEL.

The Coupe

In 1966 the Diplomat Coupe appeared. There were also some coupés of the predecessor Kapitän P2 made by the company Autenrieth, but now it was time for a really super luxurious two-door touring car based on the Diplomat. Opel set special requirements for it. In order to move in the top segment, this member had to offer the ultimate indulgence, with even more wood, a split rear seat with bucket seats, a hardtop effect due to a window-swinging B-pillar (very nice in combination with a vinyl roof ), sun-resistant glass and a tuned engine. That engine was the regular General Motors 283 (4,7 liter) small-block V8. In the Coupé, with some tickling, it delivered 230 hp and a top speed of just over 200 km/h. And Opel, for the sake of competition, had demanded that their Coupé could be driven at a cruising speed of 200 km/h.

1965 Opel Diplomat V8 Coupe 6

Quarrel with Detroit

And he couldn't. On the Dudenhofen test track and on the Autobahn, the 283 V8 was driven day after day with gas kicked to the bottom and died. Severe thermal problems, worn cylinder walls and burnt valves were his lot. The Germans were “Nicht Zufrieden” not to say “schwer enttäuscht”. And the Americans were furious about that. This was one of the best engines in the world, they found in Detroit. It was the engine Checker built into the taxis that drove up to half a million miles day in and day out in heavy city traffic without breaking down. The GM small block was and is proverbially reliable and strong.

But the Opel Diplomat Coupé was simply not a city taxi. Nor an American family car that never went faster than 55 mph. Therefore, after a long tug-of-war, the competition version of the 327 (5,4 l) V8 became available, which was given a significantly lower power in Germany to avoid thermal problems on the Autobahn. An engine with hard chromed cylinder walls and heavier heads, mated to a Powerglide two-speed automatic transmission. In short: the Diplomat Coupé received technology from the Chevrolet Corvette on board.

From the wrong family

The Opel Diplomat Coupé went into production in the summer of 1966 at Karmann in Stuttgart. The modified engine had 270 horsepower on board. The top speed was 210 km/h. The price tag was 25.500 DM. An amount for which the customer could also buy a Mercedes 300SC. Which the customer promptly did.

What was wrong with the Opel? Well, nothing really. Now we think it is a very cool, sleek car with typical 60s style elements such as the sharp lines, the rich chrome and the 'mid century modern' interior. Technically, there was also little to criticize. But it was clearly an American. The handling was not sporty or even European, but soft, buttery and above all comfortable. Nice and sharp at high speed to the bend, this Opel did not like that with its rigid rear axle and leaf springs. The huge dimensions were also purely American. It did not or hardly fit in the German parking spaces and garages. In addition, a fuel consumption of 20 liters per 100 kilometers. 1:5. Super petrol. At full throttle there was a vortex in the tank.

With the Diplomat Coupé, Opel learned the lesson “shoemaker stick to your last”. People who had the money and the ambition to buy an expensive Gran Turismo would rather see a star or jumping leopard on the hood than a blitz. Opel's strength lay in making a lot of affordable and high-quality workhorses. Rich people looked down on it: Opel was not part of the family.

After 347 copies produced, Opel pulled the plug in 1968. The whole Coupé project had only cost money. The KAD B-series introduced in 1969 would no longer be made as a Coupé. Which gave the Swiss car importer Erich Bitter the opportunity to develop his own Coupé Diplomat, which saw the light of day in 1974 as Bitter CD. That B-series got a refined chassis, a slightly shrunken body and the standard 5,4 liter small block or the 2,8 liter six-cylinder CIH. The Powerglide disappeared into the museum and was replaced by a Turbo-Hydramatic with three transmissions. The B-series was without a doubt the better car. But without the charm of the Diplomat Coupé.

Most expensive post-war Opel

Stunning, truly exclusive, wonderful to cruise in, technically indestructible and a solid investment object. Many good qualities for a classic are united in this car. About half of the 347 Coupés still exist. Perhaps sixty of them are in really good or new condition, such as the factory museum copy that the Opel management used to drive around on occasions for years.

A good Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud of those years is now cheaper. Without 100.000 euros in your pocket, you can forget any driving Diplomat Coupé. For a good and beautiful copy, the prices depend on the mood or degree of recklessness of wealthy investors at exclusive auctions. And so this Opel has still reached the intended target group.

 

5 Comments

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  1. I got my driver's license in an OPEL commodore. a box of a car, but a nice one with steering gear. turn backwards with pins in the reverse rubber as an aid to turn back.
    turning backwards is no longer possible, because then you immediately have a panting Audi driver on your suitcase.
    those where the days, silk, soft, six-cylinder. sigh. 1967.

  2. yes with such an american v8 you should never drive full throttle except maybe to catch up. I don't drive anything else for 45 years and I don't want to. Because then I will also be such an MB, BMW or Audi guy, I will not be seen! Even the HD 74 does not want to be driven at full throttle, then they break just as fast as a V8. You have been warned.

  3. A friend of mine was driving a Chevelle at the time, as far as I'm concerned the original model on which the Opel Coupé was built. The joke was that the Chevelle was considerably cheaper and years later still drove around on the Dutch roads.

    Once I drove a Diplomat V8. Must have been sometime in the 70's. Experience: great! Although the 6-cylinder Admirals also drove very well. By the way, they were driven in Arnhem as a taxi with steering gear. Real small Americans.

    PS Olav, you write well, but we already knew that. Cheers for your knowledge!

  4. After the two oil crises of the 70s, the sales of the “big three” fell rather quickly, because they were not economical. In 1978 the last mastodon left the factory to be succeeded by the Senator and Monza.

    They were indeed very high quality cars.

    But even in 1980 you didn't stumble upon a Diplomat Coupé. I myself have only ever seen one in my life, during a big Opel meeting around 1985. I fell in love with it immediately and that has not gone away.

  5. At the end of the 80s I saw them regularly in Belgium (mainly the Admiral B model) for less than 10.000 Bfr (250 euros). These were mainly cars (in good condition) that were traded in with another brand and therefore could no longer be worn on the paving stones, although an Admiral/Diplomat was of better quality and less susceptible to rust than Mercedes and BMW. The fact that I didn't have a place to put them away at the time always prevented me from making a purchase. In 1987 I left a rust free 1959 Chevrolet Impala for 250 euros and in 1993 I left a 1957 Chevrolet Bel air for 3500 and a very nice 1960 Ford Zodiak for 3000 euros (1998).
    I still regret that I left them all then, but yes, common sense comes with age and in Belgium it was all scrap iron back then.
    In 1997 I did buy a Ford Capri 2.0 V6 at a fair in Ghent in new condition with 18.000 km for 1800, - (this is still MOT approved)) This was next to a Datsun 280 for the same price.
    Other times!

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