“I’d rather drive my Vectra than any company car. I’ve been able to rely on this vehicle for years.”
— Kai-Uwe Wehrheim —
The community of Heidenrod stretches out over 19 districts in the forested hills of the moorland surrounding the town of Kemel. It’s no wonder that the area is home to many passionate hunters, and walls adorned with the antlers of red deer make for a familiar sight. But Kai-Uwe Wehrheim’s greatest treasure is no hunting trophy; it’s a memento from his former car, a panel with an odometer boasting over 360,000 kilometers.
The man from Heidenrod-Langschied removed it from his Vectra A before it embarked upon its final journey. He drove that Opel until 2006. Today we are visiting the Rheingau-Taunus area of Southern Hesse to catch a glimpse of one of Mr. Wehrheim’s other trophies. This one’s not hanging on the wall just yet. The Vectra C is parked in the driveway, soaking up the rays of the winter sun. This vehicle is one of Opel’s true long-distance champions, with over half a million kilometers under its fan belt. The owner won’t speculate as to how many more it has left, saying only, “I’m TÜV-certified until 2020, so I guess we’ll see after that.”
The 2004 1.9 CDTI will only be retired “when the transmission falls apart.” Or, says Wehrheim, “if the repair costs ever exceed €3,000.” But he doesn’t think the situation will ever get that dire. After all, he is scrupulous about bringing his vehicle to the Bad Schwalbach workshop for regular inspections,
and he always makes sure that it is filled up with high-quality fuel and lubricant. According to Wehrheim, that is the secret to vehicle longevity. It was a tip given to him by the dealer who sold him his very first Opel, ‘Auto-Göttert,’ a favorite among customers in and around Heidenrod, thanks to its excellent service. There’s Opel the Reliable for you.
That was back in 1984. Over the next 34 years, Kai-Uwe Wehrheim would drive only four cars – alongside the two Vectras were a Kadett D and a Kadett E. “My parents always drove an Opel,” he says. That’s the definition of brand loyalty.
Opel Vectra: Mid-range moderniser
Everything about this car was new: the name, the technology, the shape. In autumn 1988 Opel presented the Vectra. The mid-range model replaced the Ascona, introduced in 1970 and manufactured in three generations. The company had invested over five million hours of development work in the design of the Vectra, including 20,000 hours of aerodynamic development of the body alone. With a cW value of 0.29, the Vectra was among the best in its class. The Vectra, designed for the European market of the 1990s, is “progressive in
design, leading in aerodynamics, advanced in technology”, is what the press kit from back then says. The design innovations were manifold. In addition to an optional, electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission, the Vectra was the first Opel passenger car to be available ex works with four-wheel drive. The luxurious Vectra V6, the first Opel model in its class to be offered with a six-cylinder engine, appeared in spring 1993. There were three generations (Vectra A, B and C) before production of the Insignia was discontinued in 2008.
“My Opel has never left me hanging. I’ve only ever had to replace the exhaust pipe, even after 470,000 kilometers.“
— Kai-Uwe Wehrheim —
So how does he rack up all those kilometers? Kai-Uwe Wehrheim works for Telekom in Mainz. He commutes around 40 kilometers to Gutenbergstadt along the famous Bäderstraße during the week. According to Wehrheim, that is in part thanks to the longevity of the vehicle because it “warms up the motor every morning.” As a network engineer, he is always out and about in the Rhine-Main area, and, as he claims, “I make about 40,000 kilometers a year with my business travel alone.” Wehrheim would certainly qualify for a company car, but he prefers to take the flat rate per kilometer offered by his employer, saying, “I just have more freedom that way.”
“My Vectra is TÜV-certified until 2020, so I guess we’ll see after that.”
— Kai-Uwe Wehrheim —
Sometimes Kai-Uwe Wehrheim is inclined to take some major trips of his own, too. He has taken his Vectra along to Chamonix, France, as well as to Munich and Berlin, and each journey has been carefully and conscientiously documented in his logbook. His Opel has never let him down, and not including wear parts, the exhaust pipe is the only component that he has ever had to replace – after 470,000 kilometers. “That sort of thing can happen,” says Wehrheim with a grin.
But what if his faithful friend finally gives up the ghost one day? Wehrheim doesn’t relish the thought, but he has a plan should that day ever come to pass. The Insignia set to replace the king of kilometers has been quietly – and secretly – configured for when the time comes.