In the best of hands: Christof Scherl has spared no effort to get his 1995 Opel Calibra in top condition.

Calibrian Rhapsody

There it was. The model Christof Scherl had been looking for. However, it was not exactly in the condition that the buyer of a “used” car would wish for: defective sunroof, worn clutch and shock absorbers, and it was more than likely that there would be more unpleasant surprises when he got to know the car better. But: the bodywork looked largely rust-free, the car appeared to be “unmodified” overall, i.e., in its original condition. And it was a “Calibra 2.0 16 V Keke Rosberg Edition”, built in 1995, a coupé where the music still comes from the engine and not from the exhaust. One that hardly anyone else owns. One to which he has a personal connection. And to make it perfect – an Opel: this fulfilled all the Opel engineer’s criteria. So it was a done deal.

At the turn of the year 2016/17, the now 52-year-old transported his new acquisition from Gelsenkirchen to his home in Frankfurt. After all, the dealer had made it TÜV inspection compliant. Before that, however, the limited Calibra special model for sporty, dynamic driving had been idle for ten years. And the feared unpleasant surprises were not long in coming: a piece of garden hose had been used instead of an original part in the exhaust gas recirculation system, the gearbox had been tampered with using sealant, various heating hoses were porous, the cylinder heads were leaking, and, and, and…  If the car had not been in the best of hands with Christof Scherl, the sports coupé would probably still be parked in the garage today.

Legendary silhouette on Frankfurt’s Westhafen Bridge: Elongated bonnet, low roofline and a C-pillar pulled far back – the revolutionary cd value of 0.26 made the Calibra the aerodynamics world champion.

“You want to go cruising – and find yourself in places you’ve never seen before.”

Christof Scherl is what you call a Car Guy: At Opel he is responsible for innovations and working on youngtimers is the perfect way for him to spend his free time.

The man for innovations

Christof Scherl says he grew up “with the Opel pacifier in his mouth”. Father Theo once set up the first robot assembly line in the body shop of production hall K130. The junior Scherl has worked at Opel for 35 years. The basis for this was an apprenticeship at Opel Schäfer in Wiesbaden – as an engine mechanic, as it was still called back then. After his subsequent studies in mechanical engineering, he was almost continuously responsible for technical innovations, including fuel cell development, at the headquarters in Rüsselsheim,. Christof Scherl currently works as a planning engineer for the next Astra generation. For someone who is always looking to the future in his job, “a youngtimer like this is the ideal way to spend my free time,” says the Car Guy.

This one, however, put more strain on him than he would have liked. Also financially. And without the support of the experts at Opel Autohaus Karl Meyer in Frankfurt, the Calibra would hardly have been roadworthy again. The experienced mechanics around the corner not only had the idea, but also an Omega damaged in an accident that had a suitable engine: instead of the time-consuming repair of the cylinder heads, the entire 136-hp unit was replaced. But even after its installation, there was still a lot to be done: the interior had to be cleaned, dents and scratches removed, and the bonnet and bumpers painted.

Four-valve technology meets the cassette tapeVierventiltechnik trifft auf Kassette

His love of historical detail went so far that the engineer obtained an old cassette radio to use as a spare parts unit for repairing the original built-in stereo cassette radio Philips SC 804. At the same time, he recorded parts of his CD collection back to cassette tapes. Now, when the beefy sound of the four-valve technology meets the rock classics of, say, “Queen” on magnetic tape, the time machine flair is perfect and “Bohemian Rhapsody” becomes the “Calibrian Rhapsody”.

High-tech with a sporty flair: White BBS alloy wheels with 205/50 tyres are standard equipment, as is the electric sunroof. Keke Rosberg, Formula 1 World Champion in 1982 and DTM driver, was the inspiration for the youngtimer.
A determined look: The slim headlamps measure just seven centimetres in height.
Sporty look: The Opel motorsport emblem on the rear…

Model: Opel Calibra
Model year: 1995
Length: 4492 mm
Width: 1688 mm
Height: 1320 mm

Price, new model:
ca. 49.000 DM

“The Calibra continues to fascinate – I’m often approached about it.” 

It was only last year that the restorer ventured back onto public roads with his rebuilt vehicle – and since then he has enjoyed the attention he gets from car enthusiasts all the more. “The Calibra continues to fascinate – I’m often approached about it at petrol stations in particular.

Initial spark in the 1990s

The first drive was a special experience. Because he, the coupé fan who also drives an Opel Tigra TwinTop, had only been behind the wheel of a Calibra once before – “a customer vehicle, during my apprenticeship.” In 1995, however, when he started at Opel in the engineering department, two desks away sat Werner Renneisen, who was drawing sketches for the exciting “Opel Calibra V6 4×4” – which was to win the International Touring Car Championship a year later. “That’s where project manager Volker Strycek, later Opel’s head of motorsport, and the drivers often dropped in,” Scherl recalls. He soaked up the moments of enthusiasm on these occasions that kept him going even later when his restoration project became more and more time-consuming and elaborate.

… and on the driver’s wrist.

He still remembers when he was a student how Fritz Indra, then head of engine development at Opel, and racing driver Keke Rosberg presented the DTM version of the Calibra at the technical college. Indra first praised the car’s aerodynamics and then jokingly lamented: “But then Rosberg opens the side window on the straight and it’s all over with the optimal aerodynamics.” Rosberg countered dryly: “Well, there’s no air conditioning in it.”

Youngtimer in demand: Lavishly equipped special models such as “Keke Rosberg” – the leather steering wheel, sports seats, control and operating elements with a white dial are standard equipment – are rare and correspondingly sought-after.
Namesake: In the centre console there is a plaque with Keke Rosberg’s signature and the consecutive number of the limited edition.

“The Calibra is only 1.32 metres high – an anachronism that makes the sports coupé all the more distinctive today.”

And what is the driving experience in the Keke Calibra like for Christof Scherl? “You experience speed completely differently in a car like this,” he says after a moment’s thought. And the 215 km/h top speed doesn’t even have to be reached, “that’s not advisable either, because the engine has to be revved up to 6,000 rpm for that”.

The low seating position in particular takes even more getting used to for the driver today than it did 25 years ago: “After all, the Calibra is only 1.32 metres high – in times when many are driving SUVs, that’s an anachronism, which makes the sports coupé all the more distinctive nowadays.” Scherl adds that getting out of a Calibra with his 1.90 metre height is literally “a step up”.

New under the bonnet: The 2.0 unit with 16 intake and exhaust valves/4 cylinders comes from the Omega.

Engine: X20XEV
Cylinders: 4
Displacement: 1998 cm³
Max. output 100 kW/5600 min-1
Torque: 185 Nm/4000 min-1
Max speed: 215 km/h
Acceleration: 0-100: 9,5 s

Suitable for everyday use: The luggage compartment can hold a lot, even more so with the rear seats folded down.

Discovering the world
with a modern classic 

What fascinates him most, however, is that he not only rediscovers driving, but also the world. “With a youngtimer like this, you want to cruise around, you don’t drive on motorways, but exclusively on country roads – and suddenly find yourself in places you’ve never seen before.” His next big goal: to go to the „Classic Expo“ in Salzburg in October, over the German Alpine Road – accompanied by the sound of 16 valves and rock classics from the cassette deck.

Timeless beauty: Christof Scherl with his sports coupé on the banks of the Main River in Frankfurt.  

June 2021

Text: Eric Scherer, Photos: Alex Heimann