• VAUXHALL T CAR - CHEVETTE IN GERMANY
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In October 1979 Vauxhall announced that it would not be renewing the dealer contracts for all the Vauxhall distributors in mainland Europe and by the end of 1980 all Vauxhall badged exports would stop. In view of the fact that the specific Vauxhall styled versions of the Astra D and J Cavalier had been cancelled it meant Opel and Vauxhall would be identical versions of the same car so there was no point in a two brand operation selling the same car in Europe. However, within a few months of the news about stopping exports, Vauxhall then announced that it would be exporting the Chevette to Germany for Opel to sell.
The original plan for the Vauxhall Chevette in 1978 was that, like the Opel Kadett C, it was to be replaced by the fwd T79 Astra / Kadett D but was initially to be imported from the Bocham plant in Germany, this put Vauxhall on a collision course with the TGWU union who were immediately concerned over the future of the Ellesmere Port plant which had been under threat for some time and was seen as the poor relation of the Luton plant, ironically the Luton car plant would eventually be the one that closed.  A compromise was reached whereby it was decided to give the Chevette a makeover for the 1980 MY in order for it to continue in production until 1984 by which time UK Astra production would supplant that of the Chevette. The 1980 update could have been very different, as you will see in an upcoming section, there were plans to rename the Chevette as a Gemini featuring a completely different front end and also a Coupe version imported from Isuzu in Japan. In the end a cheaper update was chosen which tried to address the weaker areas of the design. The front seats were redesigned to improve rear legroom by carving out a section at the rear of the seat back, flush headlamps gave the front a refresh and in fact had been planned from the start but costs had prevented them being introduced at launch in 1975. Side window demisting
was improved by side vents at each end of the dashboard, the gear lever throw was shortened making an already good gear change even better. The Stromberg CD150 carburettor was revised to improve economy, Opel insisted on a change to a Bosch distributor to replace the previous Delco unit, the metal rear pillar vents were replaced by black plastic versions and new bold badges front & rear. Automatic transmission was also available for the first time on L & GL versions. The Chevette had been in production since 1975 and so all the production and tooling costs had been amortized which meant, even with the 1980 changes, it could be sold at a price considerably less than the fwd Astra / Kadett and in any event in the UK the Chevette was still a strong seller and was nearly always in the top 10 best sellers. In Germany Opel had launched a complete range of the fwd Kadett but at a considerable jump in price and there was still some market resistance to fwd amongst older buyers who liked Opel's previous conventional engineering. Opel were also concerned that an automatic version of the Kadett would not be ready for another 2 years. They perceived a gap in the market below the new Kadett that the updated rwd Chevette, available as a manual and automatic, was ideal to fill. The German version of the Chevette was sold through Opel dealers but did not feature an Opel badge anywhere on the car, the front panel just had the name Chevette on the left hand side and the same at the rear. The only Griffin logos were on the hub caps, or centre caps on the GL Rostyle wheels, and in the middle of the steering wheel. The rear panel of the Saloon was unique and featured a cut out for the number plate, the rear bumper was changed with the number plate light on top not below, the Hatch also featured a unique plastic handle on the lip of the tailgate. The range of models was a lot less than the UK and comprised of: 2 door L Saloon, 3 door Hatch & Estate and a GL 4 door Saloon. Only 5 colours were offered, Polar White, Flamenco Red, Jamaica Yellow, Hazel Brown metallic and Silver metallic. Engine wise Opel curiously listed the size as 1233cc, in fact it was the usual 1256cc but with a 7.3:1 compression ratio giving 53bhp, the Automatic models used a high compression 8.7:1 57bhp version as fitted to the UK cars. Launched in Germany during October 1980 a total of 12,332 Chevettes were sold in about 18 months.

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