The Opel Rekord Series C was a large family car introduced in August 1966, by Opel as a replacement for the short-lived Opel Rekord Series B. It was slightly larger all round than its predecessor, from which it inherited most of its engines. It continued in production until replaced by the Opel Rekord Series D at the end of 1971.
The Rekord C's 4½ year production run was longer than that of any previous generation of Opel Rekord, and during that period 1,276,681 had been produced. This made it the first "middle-class" Opel to exceed the one million mark. Cars based on the Rekord C were also built at other General Motors plants both inside and beyond Europe, notably in South Africa and (with Chevrolet engines) Brazil.
After less than a year of production, in August 1966, the "stopgap" Opel Rekord B was replaced with the Opel Rekord C, featuring completely new bodywork. Hans Mersheimer, Opel's Technical Director and Chief Engineer, until his retirement in 1967, had set down the parameters for the new Rekord back in 1963.
The design of the Rekord C has been characterised by some enthusiasts as "erotic" on account of the "hip-curve" („Hüftschwung“ ) on the lower window-line ahead of the C-pillar, which reminded some observers of a Coca cola bottle and so gave rise to this becoming known as "Coke-Bottle line" Rekord ("(Cola-Flaschen-Rekord)". The "Coke-Bottle line", which was also picked up by GM's English, subsidiary, with the Viva HB and seems to have originated in the USA with one or two mid-1960-s "muscle-car" designs: it was also picked up for a sedan design by the 1968 Chevrolet Chevy II. There was a concern at Opel throughout this period that their designs might be rejected by European buyers as being simply "too American", and it was presumably a reflection of this that an alternative design without the "hip-curve" line on the back doors was also prepared by Opel designer Herbert Killmer.
There was certainly a perception that Opel's great rival fell foul of the "too American" complaint with their Ford 17M launched in 1967 featuring a variation on the "hip-curve" which then had to be relaunched with a simplified form less than a year later because of poor sales which, rightly or wrongly, were attributed to an excessively American design. Ford's stumble with their 1967 17M model was Opel's gain in the market place, however, and there was no sign of market resistance the exceptionally well balanced overall design of the Opel Rekord C, hip-curve and all.
The new Rekord again offered a relatively extensive range of body types. Top seller was the saloon/sedan, available with either 2 or 4 doors. The was a 3-door "Kombi" station wagon, and now, for the first time, a Rekord station wagon with five doors. Opel also offered a three door delivery van which was essentially identical to the station wagon except that the rear side windows were replaced with metal panels. In addition, from 1967 a factory built coupé was again offered. This version had no fixed B pillar and excited positive reactions to the stylish "pillarless" profile on show when both side windows were fully opened.
A cabriolet version was also available. Based on the Rekord C coupé, this was a coach-built conversion produced by the body builders Karl Deutsch. The approach made them very much more expensive than other cars in the range: the cabriolet cost DM 4,000 than the coupé on which it was based. Not many Rekord C cabriolets were sold, amid increasingly concerns, during the later 1960s, that open topped cars (without roll-over bars) might be more dangerous in the event of a crash than cars with fixed roofs. An alternative cabriolet conversion, based on the Rekord C 2-door sedan, was developed by Karmann of Osnabrück. This never went into anything approaching volume production, although four pre-production examples are believed still to survive
Opel had introduced a new generation of engines a year earlier with the Rekord B and these were the engines that reappeared in the Rekord C. The engine featured an unusual Camshaft in Head (CIH) engine configuration. The chain-driven camshaft was positioned directly above the cylinders but this was not a conventional ohc design. The camshaft operated the valves using rocker arms because the camshaft itself was positioned too low above the cylinders to permit direct action from the camshaft on the valves heads. One reason for this may have been cosmetic. Other automakers such as and BMW with their 1500 launched in 1962 and Volkswagen with their NSU designed K70, which finally made it to the showrooms in 1970, squeezed vital centimeters off the height of the engine unit by canting it over at an eccentric angle in the engine bay. Opel's so-called (CIH) engine configuration similarly enabled the Rekord to incorporate the low bonnet/hood lines that style-conscious product development departments demanded.
The four cylinder water-cooled 1492cc unit, known as the "1500", and which first featured the previous year in the Opel Rekord B was now carried over with few significant changes, although an in-house "Carter Licence" carburetter briefly returned (having, in the Rekord B, been replaced by a bought-in carburetter from Zenith or Solex). The "1500" was the entry-level engine in 1966 and came with a claimed maximum power output of 58 hp which in 1969 was raised to 60 hp (44 kW) when the old GM "Carter Licence" carburetter was replaced by a bought-in Solex carburetter. Acceleration figures for the 1498cc cars were a little slower than on the predecessor model which presumably resulted from the increased weight of the Rekord C. Fuel consumption looks heavy by modern standards, but this was nonetheless the most fuel efficient model in the Rekord line-up, and published data indicate that it was also more fuel efficient than the contemporary Ford 17M and Volkswagen 411. Early in 1970 the 1492cc unit was withdrawn. Presumably it had cost much the same to produce as the more powerful and more torquey but in most respects identical 1698cc engine which now-became the entry-level power plant.
More significantly, at the end of 1970 Opel would introduce the Opel Ascona, which, being slightly smaller and more modern than the Rekord, would compete more effectively in the 1500cc class than the relatively underpowered base-level Rekord.
A four cylinder water cooled 1698cc unit had also first appeared in the Rekord B, but only in high compression form. Launching the Rekord C in 1966 Opel introduced a 1698cc unit with the same lower compression ratio of 8.2:1 as the 1492cc engine: in this form the engine was known as the "1700". As with the "1500", Opel returned to the old home produced "Carter Licence" carburetter for the first year of production, giving rise to a claimed power output of just 60 hp (44 KW). As with the "1500", so with the "1700", Opel gave up on the self built carburetter after a year, and with a bought-in Solex carburetter, though still with the 8.2:1 compression ratio, claimed power with the "1700" unit was increased to 66 hp (48 kW) in 1967. The "1700" engine powered more Rekord Cs than any of the other engines available for the car. Also offered was a "1700 S" using the same engine block butwith a Solex 35 PDSI carburetter and a compression ratio raised to 8,8:1. Powered by this unit, the Rekord came with a claimed maximum power output of 75 hp (65 kW). This, in effect, was the same unit that had been launched in 1965 in the Rekord B 1700S.
The four cylinder water cooled 1897cc unit, providing a maximum 90 hp (66 kW) of power known as the "1900 S" had also first appeared in 1965 in the Rekord B. With a compression ratio of 9.0:1 and a Solex twin chamber 32 DIDTA carburetter it powered the fastest four cylinder version of the Opel Rekord C at its 1966 launch. However, in November 1967 a new version of the 1897cc engine appeared with a modified "high efficiency" cylinder head and with the compression ratio further raised - now to 9.5:1 - and, for the first time in a Rekord, two Italian twin chamber Weber 40 DFO carburetters. This engine version, known as the "1900 H", came with a claimed maximum power output of 106 hp (78 kW) which made the car that it powered the most powerful Rekord yet. This was branded as the Opel Rekord Sprint and was initially available as a sedan or a coupé. In January 1969 Opel reported that the Rekord Sprint Coupé had sold much better than the sedan/saloon version, and the sedan/saloon version was withdrawn.
In March 1964 Opel had introduced Rekord customers to the option of a six cylinder engine, installing a well tried unit that was already powering the larger Admiral and Kapitän models and could trace its origins back to 1937. The Rekord C range was broadened in December 1966 with the option of an entirely new six cylinder engine, featuring the (CIH) valvegear and camshaft configuration of the new four cylinder engines introduced in 1965. In fact the new six cylinder engine shared its cylinder dimensions with the entry level Rekord's 1492cc unit which will have reduced usefully the variety of components needed. However, the six cylinder engine naturally had an engine capacity 1½ the size or the four cylinder unit, which gave rise to an engine size of 2239cc. Claimed power of 95 hp (70 kW) was slightly higher than that of the (at launch) most powerful 4 cylinder Rekord C, the "1900 S" and the six cylinder engine also provided a small dividend in terms of improved torque. Performance of the new "2200" Rekord was therefore ahead of that of the "1900 S", but the engine was also relatively heavy and there was a penalty in terms of fuel consumption. The 6 cylinder Rekord C sold only in small numbers, and in August 1968 it was withdrawn from sale. After this there were no more six cylinder engined Opel Rekords.
By this time they withdrew the six cylinder Rekord Opel had launched, in February 1967, the Opel Commodore. This shared the Rekord's body but provided more luxurious trimmings, and it came with a choice from three different sizes of six cylinder engine. The "2200" engine first seen in the Rekord C in December 1966 was also offered in the new Commodore when it was launched in February 1967. However, most Commodore buyers chose other (larger) engines, leaving the "2200" version a slow seller in both the Commodore and the Rekord ranges.
The standard transmission package for the saloon/sedan and estate/station wagon bodied Rekord Bs featured a manual all-synchromesh gearbox, controlled by a column mounted lever. Customers could choose between three or four forward speeds until 1970 after which only the four-speed transmission was offered. The coupe came with a central floor mounted gear lever, which was also offered as an option with other bodies.
As long as the three speed transmission was offered customers could specify with it an "Olymat" automatic clutch provided by Fichel & Sachs. The system was similar to the Fichel & Sachs "Saxomat" automatic clutch available in the 1960s from several German automakers.
For Rekords with the "1900 S", "1900 S" and "2200" engines it was possible to specify fully automatic transmission. The transmission fitted was a General Motors Powerglide system, well known in North America for more than a decade. The system was simple and durable, but had been designed for use with the larger engines and there were only two forward speeds. In 1968, the "powerglide" two speed automatic being seen as technically outdated, the manufacturer replaced this with the option of a three speed TH180 unit from the new General Motors transmission plant in Strasbourg.
Other technical developments
Under the all new body there were numerous technical changes. The wheelbase was 6 cm longer and the car was virtually 6 cm wider than the Rekord B. There was a newly developed front axle with double wishbones, coil springs and an anti-roll bar. The old fashioned simplicity of the rear axle on the previous model gave way to a system involving four trailing arms and coil springs which made for a much more stable ride and much less exciting cornering.
The Rekord B had introduced Rekord buyers to a dual circuit braking system the previous year, and this feature was carried over into the Rekord C along with the brake servo and front-wheel disc brakes.
Passive safety - protection of the driver and passengers in the event of a collision - was being pushed up the agenda in Germany at this time by Mercedes, while internationally some of the same themes were being pursued with evangelical effect by a future candidate for the US presidency called Ralph Nader. Other German and American auto-makers were responding as safety came to the fore as a selling feature. In place of the painted dashboard of the Rekord B, the Rekord C confronted the driver with a padded dashboard and a telescopically collapsible steering column. Furthermore, customers prepared to pay extra could now specify seats belts and head restraints.
The Rekord B had come with a curious "strip speedometer", featuring a coloured line that grew longer as speed increased, and which changed colour from green to red to orange as the most common speed limit thresholds of 50 km/h and 80 km/h were crossed. Opinions were divided on the strip speedometer, and with the Rekord C Opel reverted to a conventional dial format speedometer, suggesting that for them too, the expanding colour changing strip speedometer had fallen out of fashion.
The front and rear ends of the car were engineered to form crumple zones in order to minimise deformation of the relatively rigin central passenger section of the car in a collision. Specialist journals commended the lack of distortion of the Rekord C's central passenger zone following a succession of crash tests.
In October in 1967 a bargain basement special "Spar-Rekord" was introduced to the market with a reduced specification and available only in grey. The exercise must have been deemed a success because a second batch of the "Spar-Rekord" was offered, available now in either grey or blue.
Towards the end of the Rekord C's production run, in July 1971, a special edition "Rekord Holiday" appeared in the showrooms, attractively priced ans laden with a package of (normally optional) extras including a steel panel sunroof, supplementary front lights and even a heated rear window.
At launch the entry level Rekord C came with a domestic market manufacturer's recommended price of DM 6,980. At the other end of the range a factory built six cylinder Rekord coupé 2200cc could be purchased for DM 9,560. The 106 hp Rekord Sprint, when introduced in 1967, was priced at DM 9,775. The Rekord C was the most successful Rekord to date, and with 1,276,681 produced it was the first Rekord to break through the 1,000,000 units barrier. Another record arose in September 1971 when Opel produced their ten millionth car since the start of production in 1899. Opel number ten million was a Rekord C CarAVan/Kombi.
As before, the nearest competitor in terms of price, size, power and target market came from Ford. A new Ford Taunus 17M was introduced in 1967 and heavily face-lifted in 1968. Between 1967 and 1971 the Ford 17M (now know as the Ford P7) chalked up a total of 710,059 units. The Opel Rekord would never challenge the smaller cheaper Volkswagen Beetle for top slot in the West German sales charts, but the success of the Rekord C and its successors ensured that the Rekord's leading position place in its own class was never again threatened by Ford Germany or anyone else.
The Rekord C was produced for four and a half years. Following the success of the Opel Kadett introduced in the early 1960s and the development of the Opel Ascona introduced in 1970, Opel for the first time since the war had three top selling ranges in the German automarket. Nevertheless, the launch of the Opel Rekord D at the start of 1972 marked the end for the Rekord C.
The Ranger was a sedan assembled in small quantities by GM at their plants in Antwerp from 1968 and in Biel from 1970. There were two Rangers built in Europe, the first of which shared most of its panels and many of its underpinnings along, in Europe, with its engines with the Rüsselsheim built Opel Rekord C. The Ranger was also built at Port Elizabeth in South Africa in the early 1970s. South African Rangers came with Chevrolet engines.
After 1972 a second version of the Ranger, closely based on the Opel Rekord D appeared in Europe. This model also replaced the Ranger in South Africa: here it was now badged not as a Ranger but as a Chevrolet.
The Chevrolet Opala flaunted its Opel and Chevrolet origins with a name that combined the words "Opel" and "Impala". It was launched at the São Paulo motor show in November 1968, and combined the body of the Opel Rekord C (using a different front grill and lights) with Chevrolet engines. The Brazilian Opala had 2.5 litre or 3.8 litre engines. In 1970 the 3.8 was overhauled to 4.1 litres, which made it Brazil's fastest production car until that title was seized by a 5-litre engined version of the Ford Maverick.