May 1, 2013
In 1980 I visited the Motor Show to admire the cars (and the girls handing out the brochures) I would like to own when I was older/richer. I was particularly attracted to the Opel Monza. Based on the Senator saloon this big 3 litre coupe looked fantastic inside and out. Unfortunately it was well out of my league, then costing the equivalent of three normal new 1300cc hatchbacks. Years and numerous cars passed until in 1997 I spotted a Monza on a local forecourt. I was fed up with my current Rover SD1 3500 which kept breaking down/running out of petrol. The fuel guage was forever sticking and it was only doing 10 mpg so I was constantly being caught out as the car ground to a halt in unfortunate places. I asked if I could take the Monza for a test drive and was surprised when the keys were just thrown my way without a second thought. The Monza rode superbly with a soft suspension and responsive engine. Of course as I turned back onto the forecourt the car died. It had run out of petrol too !! I bought the car nonetheless and had years of happy Monza motoring.
The car was a 1980 Series 1 painted in moss green, just like the brochure of the car I’d collected from the Motor Show all those years before. The interior was an opulant green velour finish with a hint of plastic wood on the dashboard and doors. The first problem that presented itself was the fact that the sunroof leaked. Water somehow collected in a gap between the sunroof and the headlining. I only found this out when I stopped suddenly at a junction and got a pint of water poured directly down my neck!! The second problem was a front spring snapping with such a loud noise that I thought I’d driven over a land mine. One hot summers day (remember them?) the rear window spontaniously combusted into a million pieces and unencumbered by the glass the struts shot the (heavy) bottom edge of the tailgate backwards and embedded it into the front grille of my Bond Equipe parked behind it! Problem number four came some 6 years later when the car failed its MOT on rust in its nether regions.
Another car had to be found immediately. Much money was lavished on another 1980 Series 1. Brown wouldn’t do. It was resprayed moss green to match my previous car. The engine was replaced for a later/lower mileage one. At the same time the 3 speed auto box was changed for a 4 speed version and the dashboard was replaced with the improved Series 2 type turning the car into a Series 1½ !! Actually there really were some series 1½ cars. They had the original Series 1 front with chrome bumpers yet benefitted from the uprated interior that would become standard for the Series 2 cars. Of course from 1984 to 1987 the more sporty/boy racer Monza GSEs were produced but I still prefer the earlier models.
Just over 47000 Monzas were manufactured. I’ve no way of knowing the survival rate of these cars in Europe but alas there don’t seem to be an awful lot of Monzas of any type left in the UK. A look at this site:- www.howmanyleft.co.uk/?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=opel+monza gives me the sad news that only 26 Monzas were taxed and on the road last year (and another 65 GSEs). The total of all Monzas of any description Taxed or SORNed in the UK in 2012 was a mere 242. As the majority of them are bound to be the later GSEs this makes Series 1 Monzas rarer than many Ferraris.
PS: There was also a Vauxhall-badged version of the Monza available in the UK for a few years called the Royale coupe. “How many left” lists 46 Royales as surviving but doesn’t differentiate between how many of those are 4 door saloons and how many are the Monza-clone 2 door coupes.
PPS: So I backed the car out of the garage and was amazed to see that the tax disc had expired in 2008! Fresh MOT. Fresh oil etc and I’m all set……………..