Opel Diplomat V8: an extinct form of luxury

Opel Diplomat V8: an extinct form of luxury


Even before the Second World War, the Opel Admiral was a car compared not only to Mercedes, but also to cheaper Horch models. In addition, the same engine and many other mechanical parts were installed in the mass-produced Opel Blitz truck – which is why many Wehrmacht and SS officers preferred to have the Admiral as a company car because it was easy to carry.

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In a post-war economic miracle, Opel attempted to return to the premium segment with models that featured Chevrolet V-8 engines. The first generation of the Diplomat was produced between 1964 and 1968, the second between 1969 and 1977. The year 1973 saw the extension of the model with a version with an extended wheelbase, which competed with the similarly extended Mercedes limousines.

For many car fans, the models of the Opel Diplomat are still incomprehensible – and yet there was a Coupe according to its proportions. It’s a pity, because these cars combined the advantages of a proven and very durable mechanical base with relaxed and durable American engines. I’ve always wanted to see how they drive, and a dozen or so years ago it became possible.

Opel Diplomat V8 photo by BARTLOMIEJ SZYPERSKI

In the depths of the Opel factory, I found one Diplomat

It turned out that in the collection of old Opel cars hidden inside the Russelsheim plant, among many beautiful Diplomats, there is one registered and insured that will be available to me. The long-wheelbase blue Diplomat V8 stood out against the background of a collection of several hundred rarely seen in public cars.

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This art was used by the Swiss ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany, whose capital was Bonn. Under the deck of the aircraft carrier was a V-8 engine, which produced 230 horsepower and provided enough torque to the rear wheels of the car through a Hydramatic automatic transmission (at the same time Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow too. he used a Hydramatic transmission). so nothing to laugh at).

The cabin was the size of an alpine holiday home, and in the summer it was cooled by American air conditioning with the efficiency of a restaurant fridge. The wide and very comfortable armchairs were upholstered in velor, which in the 1970s was higher than leather on the list of premium options, although it may seem impossible to younger readers.

The trunk could easily carry the vacation luggage of a family of four, but this time I found only consular pennants, which were promptly and thoughtlessly placed on the front fenders of the Diplomat.

Opel Diplomat V8Opel Diplomat V8 photo by BARTLOMIEJ SZYPERSKI

In some respects, the Opel Diplomat can compete with the Mercedes S-Class

When driving, I was completely happy with the inaccuracy of the rubber steering gear, the high wall of the tires, and the deep bends in the bend: these are the characteristics that make this car stable and resistant to small, accidental events, such as drivers sneeze while driving on the highway.

Yes, the ergonomics of the very American dashboard is more akin to Las Vegas gambling than any kind of expertise, but so what. When this car was made, all manufacturers assumed that the driver must have limited mental capacity and must be able to read.

Driving through the streets of Frankfurt, with the faint sound of a velvet eight somewhere in the background, was more like relaxing at a playground than fighting today’s traffic. There was also a look of disbelief at the Swiss posters spread over the cages. I certainly didn’t look like the driver of the Swiss Ambassador from the Cold War.

In fact, the hard-to-identify blue car was more attractive than the latest models of Porsche or Ferrari. Maybe the people of Frankfurt really believed that we were diplomats, dealing with some hellishly important things, driving around the city in an old Opel? I’ll never know that.

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Let’s go back to the main point at the beginning of the article: What? Can the Opel V8 Diplomat compete with the Mercedes W116 in time? In terms of the car, suspension work and driving comfort, it was definitely inferior in terms of cabin ergonomics and quality of details. However, since it was chosen by the ambassador of the country, which for many is a benchmark of reliability and quality … If you find a good copy, buy it. It is a perfect combination of simple American technology and German economic miracle.

Opel Diplomat V8Opel Diplomat V8 photo by BARTLOMIEJ SZYPERSKI

*****

The photographer for this text was Bartek Szyperski, my untimely friend and longtime collaborator; and this is the one dedicated to this article.