“Seems it never rains in Southern California
Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya
It pours, man, it pours”
From ‘It Never Rains in Southern California’ (1972) by singer-songwriter Albert Hammond
Singer Albert Hammond was obviously there, while the band members of ‘The Mamas and the Papas’ merely dreamed of California (California Dreamin’, 1965). Jens Cooper no longer has any need for that on this late summer weekend. In the south of San Francisco, Cooper rolls along one of the most beautiful coastal routes in the world in one of the most extraordinary Opel vehicles ever built.
It neither rains nor pours. The sun shines down on him while the Pacific laps the shoreline below him. This is definitely no dream. Inevitably Albert Hammond’s legendary, catchy song starts to ring in the driver’s ears…
Jens Cooper and the GT Conrero
OPEL CLASSIC IN THE U.S.? GIL WESSON MAKES IT HAPPEN
Jens Cooper is piloting an Opel GT Conrero – or actually a replica of the classic, true to the original from the forge of Italian designer Virgilio Conrero. It was built by the American Opel fan Gil Wesson. Opel Post readers are already familiar with the electrical engineer and his lightning bolt fixation: He is the primary contact for friends of Opel classics in the U.S. and indispensable for the procurement of replacement parts in the scene – largely part because he is well networked with Jens Cooper from Opel Classic Europe and other brand experts in Rüsselsheim, Germany.
Gil Wesson allowed his German guest to take his automotive work of art for a cruise along the famous Bodega Bay – a sign of the great esteem the 48-year-old enjoys with his American friend. It was also Gil Wesson who invited Jens Cooper to the 35th anniversary of the Opel Motorsports Club (OMC) in Sonoma, California.
The route along the Pacific coast is lined by
Opel models on this day and by a paraglider.
Susie and Gary with their GT
THE MAJORITY OF GT FANS LIVE IN THE STATES
For three days the U.S. association in Napa Valley, one of the world’s largest wine growing regions, pays homage to the lightning flash – especially the Opel GT, of which the first prototype was presented 50 years ago at IAA in Frankfurt, Germany. This is the sort of thing the fan community of the legendary beauty with its pop-up headlights will never forget. Even back then it was bigger in the United States compared to other regions of the world. Of around 100,000 Opel GTs built between 1968 and 1973, the company sold about 70 percent in the U.S.
Around 40 GTs came to the Opel gathering in Napa Valley. A few Manta, Ascona and Kadett models are here as well. All of them found their way to the U.S. between 1968 and 1975. While they certainly did not sell by the millions there, the defining factor of the fan community they developed is this: Most of the current owners are also the first ones, as Jens Cooper notes during his tour.
Of around 100,000 Opel GTs built
between 1968 and 1973, the company sold
about 70 percent in the U.S.
The Supersport GT
The most spectacular example: Bill Ward’s GT which broke numerous speed records in the US a few decades ago. For example when it raced across a salt lake at 250 mph (402 km/h). Usually piloted by legendary driver John Paxon who, adapted from Elton John, is known as ‘Rocket Man’ in the scene
Meet Ed Coleman
“The Kadett never let me down.”
– Ed Coleman –
THAT’S OPEL: GERMAN ENGINEERING AND MANY MILES PER GALLON
Suddenly someone taps him on the shoulder. An older gentleman introduces himself, “I’m Ed Coleman. We were in touch by e-mail some time ago.” Cooper remembers: Coleman? That was the man who sold his 42-year-old B-Kadett 1900 Caravan to Germany two or three years ago. Gil Wesson and Cooper served as intermediaries between the business partners. It’s a small world.
Why did he acquire a Kadett Caravan back then in 1969? “I was an antique hunter and traveled all around the U.S.,” Coleman reports. “So I needed a car that would do the job, with plenty of room, that would take me a long way on a full tank of gas. Opel – that meant reliable German engineering at a fair price. The Kadett never let me down.” Jens Cooper hears many such stories.
Visit to Murad Nasr
FLYING VISIT IN L.A.: MURAD NASR STILL DRIVES A GT
Another highlight also awaits him during his trip to America. In Los Angeles, he finally gets to know Murad Nasr in person too – one of the designers who launched the Opel GT in Rüsselsheim in the 1960s. “He is in his mid-70s now and still in good health. Chatting with him was incredibly fun,” Jens Cooper recalls. And of course Murad Nasr still drives a GT.
In the meantime the 48-year-old is back home again and everyday life has long since resumed. As an Opel Classic specialist with body and soul, he not only explores the model history constantly but has already followed the trail of the lightning bolt to many places in the world. “But this trip will always be something really special for me,” he is convinced. And when the leaves change color in Germany and the skies turn gray, he is sure to hum the hit by The Mamas and the Papas every now and then.
Text: Eric Scherer; photos: Jens Cooper / Maurice van Sevecotte