Opel Monza

A 2-door sports coupe, the Monza was the successor to the Commodore Coupé. German automaker Opel was looking to phase out the 2-door version Commodore C model, a sedan type vehicle. Opel did have a regular coupé currently in the production line, the 'A' series Commodore, but they desired a newer version of their large luxury model. Introduced in 1978, the Monza was meant to compete with the BMW 6 Series C models (coupe models) and Mercedes W126 coupé. The Monza A was renamed Vauxall Royalle in the U.K since the Opel brand wasn't well known there. Considered by many to be a variation of the Opel Senator, the 'car of ministers in Spain', the Monza was prestigious enough to compete with big marques like BMW and Mercedes.

Introduced at the 1977 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Monza A featured large comfortable seats and plenty of trunk space. Measuring 4.67 meters long, the car was nearly as long as a Mercedes CLK or Audi A5, and considered quite large for the time period. The Monza A featured fully usable rear seats, comfortable suspension and a roomy trunk. Without all the extra finishes that would make the car luxurious, the Monza A was a big car with plenty of room and enormous seats.

Many of the interior parts were borrowed from the Rekord E1, and later the E2. The seats were cloth and there was lots of plastic featured on the dashboard and inner doors. The interior was so similar to the Rekord E that it was actually confusing since the rev counter and tachometer were taken completely from that model.

The Monza A was powered by a 2.0E (117cv) 2.5S (138cv) 2.8S (140cv) and 3.0E (150cv/180cv) engine. The engines were sold in its entirety throughout all European countries, with the UK being the most powerfully commercialized country. Unfortunately for Opel, the Monza suffered from gearbox problems. The 3-speed Borg Warner automatic transmission from the Commodore range had to be modified to handle the improved power outputs. Opel's 4-speed manual gearbox wasn't able to handle the job, so rather than install a more modern 5-speed manual gearbox, Opel installed the Getrag 264 4-speed manual gearbox in early models. Eventually the Getrag 240 (for the 2,5 and 2,8 engines) and the Getrag 265 (for the 3,0E) both 5-speed manual gearboxes would replace the dated 4-speed gearbox.

Sharing the Senator A1 layout the Monza was equipped with excellent driving and handling. The newly developed McPherson strut system handled the front of the car and the new independent rear suspension made the Monza A a joy to drive with its firm yet capable control, a surprise for such a large car.

Though not considered very economical, the Monza engine range was decent with very little issues, even today.

The 6-cylinder engines were the camshaft in head type and were basically a 2.0-liter straight 4 with just an extra 2 cylinders. A variety of the engine parts, like the water pump and drive train were the same ones found on the 4-cylinder version. After many years in the Commodore range, this engine had proved to be very reliable. Despite overheating problems when standing still, the first generation of 3.0E engines could be easily fixed with the addition of an oil-cooler.

Opel wanted to keep the customers happy, and when they realized the dislike was over the Rekord interior they rolled out the 'C' package. This package included a variety of new colors, either dark blue, red, green or brown, and additional instruments like oil pressure and voltmeter. This package greatly updated the interior and added a little luxury where needed.

A sports package or 'S' package was also offered for the Monza A1 range. Featuring a 'S' on the front wings, the package included 15' Ronal alloy wheels, manual gearboxes and a 45% Limited Slip Differential. The 'S' was fitted with a small rear spoiler on the trunk and came equipped with an extra set of fog lights. Considered sporty at the time, the interior was completely black.

Equipped with the 3.0-liter engine, the Monza was the fastest Opel car ever built at the time. Featuring a top speed of 133 mph, the Monza A could hit 0-60mph in just 9.5 seconds. Though not a huge success, the Monza A1 was an inexpensive model with plenty of space for 4 well-sized adults.

An update was in order for the Monza, Rekord and the Senator in 1982. The Monza became A2 and only featured minimal tweaking. The size of the headlights increased quite substantially and the front look began to look more streamlined than the previous generation. The chromed areas received black matt finish, or plastic parts. Giving the Monza a sportier look, the bumpers were now made of plastic. Despite the huge variance in size, the Monza now looked similar to the Opel Manta. White glass front indicators replaced the orange front ones and the rear lights were darkened, all in all giving the car a more updated modern look. The updates were greeted with much more success by fans.

Fuel efficiency was on everyone's mind at this time, so Opel chose to change the engine specifications of the Monza. They introduced both the straight 4-cylinder CIH 2.0E and the 2.2E engines from the Rekord E2. Unfortunately the Monza weighed nearly 3,086 pounds and the 110 or 115 bhp of the two engines rendered the Monza underpowered and disliked. The 2.5E engine received a new Bosch injection system and was able to produce 135 and 140 bhp. The 2.8S was removed while the 3.0E and the new 3.0H engines remained at the top of the range. The 3.0E received an upgraded Bosch fuel injection, which gained a small distance on a liter of fuel, though it may have removed 3 bhp from the original 180 bhp. Producing only 150bhp, the 3.0H had a very low compression ratio and the fitting of a catalyst.

The Monza A2 featured much more luxurious interior with heated seats, an on-board computer that recorded fuel consumptions, speed and range, and electrically controlled side mirrors. In 1984 the Opel Monza cost 18,000 euros in Spain.

In 1983 the final version of the Monza, the GSE edition, was introduced. A high-specification model similar to the A2, the GSE featured plush Recaro sports seats, an updated all-black interior and digital LCD instruments. Sporting a large rear spoiler on the truck, all GS/E models were equipped with a 40% limited slip differential, which had only been a separate option on earlier 3,0E models.

Though it was a good effort, the Opel Monza was cancelled once the Senator was updated to the new Senator B. 47,008 Monza's were constructed during its production run and there would be no direct replacement for the Monza. It's important to note that there was also a South African Opel Monza that was separate from this one and was a saloon version of the smaller Opel Kadett. The Monza named was also used on a Chevrolet model in Venezuela and Brazil, a version of the '81 German Opel Ascona with a special three-door fastback body unavailable anywhere else. To even further confuse the use of the name there was an unrelated Chevrolet Monza sold in the United States as well.

Opel unveiled a four-seat coupe plug-in hybrid concept of the Monza in 2013 that is destined to become a classic. Debuting at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2013, the concept with gullwing door shares a same basic hybrid format as the Opel Ampera and the Chevy Volt. The main different with the new concept was the use of a turbocharged 1-liter 3-cylinder natural gas-powered engine as its range extender rather than the GM's current 1.4-liter gasoline Voltec engine. This is also the first Concept to feature innovative LED projection infotainment. According to management of Opel, the Monza Concept is the 'role-model' for the future of Opel cars that would be able to accommodate electric power, gasoline and diesel.


By Jessica Donaldson

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