Here’s A Big, Fat 80th Happy Birthday To The Opel Astra

Before the first Astra debuted in 1991, Opel used the term Kadett to refer to its compact car, which has been around for the last 80 years.

Described as “a minor sensation, both technically and in terms of price”, the first Opel Kadett saw the light of day in 1936, and it was referred to as “not an ordinary vehicle in this price range”, by a German newspaper of that era.

The car used the chassis with Dubonnet independent front suspension and leaf-sprint rear axle from the Opel Olympia, and power came from a four-cylinder gray cast-iron engine, taken from the Opel P 4, which allowed the four-seater to reach a top speed of almost 100 km/h (62 mph). Two years after production started, the Kadett has been given a mid-cycle facelift, during which a new radiator mask was added, in the art-deco style.

The second generation Kadett received the ‘A’ suffix and came in 1962, 22 years after the original model left the assembly lines, and Opel built almost 650,000 of them up until 1965, when the Kadett B was introduced, and it became so successful that the automaker sold over 2.6 million units. The Kadett C was introduced in 1973 and it remained in production until 1979. It was topped by the GT/E, which debuted at the 1975 IAA, with 105 horsepower and the ability to reach a top speed of 184 km/h (114 mph).

In 1979, at the same IAA, Opel debuted its first front-wheel drive model – the Kadett D. It came with enhanced interior space, an updated exterior design and a 1.3-liter OHC engine, in two outputs: 60 HP or 75 HP. In 1983, the range-topping GTE followed it, with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 115 HP, which allowed it to reach 187 km/h (116 mph). 2.1 million units of this generation Kadett were produced until 1984.

The sixth and final Kadett was produced in 3,779,289 units between 1984 and 1991, and upon its introduction, it was named ‘Car of the Year’. The ‘E’ was the most aerodynamic hatch in the world, and besides this body style, it was also launched in station wagon and notchback versions. The most appealing model, however, was the GSi, which came in 1987, with its 16-valve engine.

From 1991 and 1997, the Opel Astra F became the brand’s best-selling model ever, with 4.13 million units delivered, and it was replaced by the Astra G in 1998, and the Astra H, six years later. In 2009, the J was introduced, which remained in production until last year, when the modern Astra K came to steal the ‘Car of the Year’ title.