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What springs to mind when you hear the name “Ascona”? Manta fans would say “It’s just the Manta’s boring brother.” And Ascona aficionados would argue that the Manta “Wouldn’t even exist without the Ascona.” One thing’s for sure – while one faction is expressing a subjective opinion, the other is stating an objective fact. And that’s because the Manta is merely the coupé version of the Ascona, which means it wouldn’t exist without its basic model.
The Manta may have won the hearts of the public, but the Ascona – especially its “B” model – made history. The B model came on the market in 1975, and looked very different to its predecessor. With a 20 centimeter longer and four centimeter wider chassis, the Ascona B was significantly roomer and just half a centimeter lower. The axes lay 8.8 centimeters further from each other, while its smooth, flat look was typical for the style popular in the 1970s.
It paid off. 1.5 million models of the Ascona B had been sold by 1981, making it the most-sold Opel of all time back then. Its Vauxhall version, the “Cavalier Mk. 1,” is lauded to this very day for having rescued the struggling British brand from an economic trough. The Ascona B’s many successes as a rally vehicle are also legendary. Walter Röhrl celebrated his greatest triumph in an Ascona 400 – which served as the technical blueprint for the second generation of the Ascona – when he became the World Rally champion in 1982.
“I’ve been a fan ever since I saw it for the first time.”
Things are often complicated between “siblings.” You squabble, but you’re never really angry with each other – or not for long, at the very least. And there’s no denying you’re related when you’re in public. That’s why friends of the Ascona are always welcome at Manta meet-ups. The Ascona fan Holger Fuchs is even an established member of the Manta Team Kaiserslautern founded in 2017.
Holger Fuchs’ Opel Ascona B
Year of production 1980
Engine 2.0 E
Displacement: 1,979 cm³
Max. power at 5,400 rpm 81 kW/110 hp
Torque at 3,400 rpm 159 Nm
Wheel base 2,518 mm
Length 4,321 mm
Width 1,670 mm
Height 1,380 mm
Maximum speed 182 km/h
Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h 10.5 seconds
The Group Leader in the Transport and Dispatch department at the Kaiserslautern plant made a dream that he had harbored for over 20 years a reality last year – he finally owns an Ascona B again. “I’ve been a fan ever since I saw it for the first time. Back when I was about 20, an acquaintance of mine had an Ascona B – but unfortunately he totaled it,” recalls the now 44-year-old. “Then I was able to get my hands on an Ascona B myself. But we had to get something bigger when we welcomed a new addition to the family.” That was back in 1998.
Since then, his son has grown up and moved into his own home. This has given his parents the opportunity to look for new hobbies – and even rekindle old passions. And that’s when Holger Fuchs began his search for an Ascona B. He managed to strike gold in Saarbrucken. However, the Ascona B that he got his hands on – produced in 1980 – was in a pitiful state. Last winter, Fuchs completely dismantled it, reassembled it, and gave it a new paint job.
Opel Ascona B
The successor to the Ascona A (which was produced from November 1970) was presented at the IAA in September 1975 and manufactured in Bochum and Antwerp. The two-door and four-door sedan had the same technology as the Opel Manta B coupé presented at the same time. The right-hand-drive version was sold with a front end similar to a Manta B as the “Vauxhall Cavalier Mk. 1” in the United Kingdom. The model was available as the Chevrolet Ascona and Chevrolet Chevair in South Africa.
Now the car looks flawless. It caused quite a stir in May at the first Manta meetup in the Palatinate region, among about 120 Manta and Ascona models from Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. People were astounded in particular by the love of detail that Fuchs exhibited in restoring his model. For example, he installed camshafts and a contactless ignition system, which had also been used in the “i2000” – Irmscher’s interpretation of the Ascona B – back in the day.
However, the 2.0 liter injection engine at the heart of his most prized possession is what brings its proud owner the greatest joy. The 81 kW/110 hp unit was only installed in the Ascona B in 1980 and 1981, and originates from the so-called “Family II” – the engine series produced by the company that is now his employer. This means that Fuchs’ classic also serves as a reminder of Opel’s history in Kaiserslautern.
And as if someone out there wanted to reward him for his hard work, another opportunity came on the horizon a few weeks ago: Another Ascona B had been put up for sale. This model was also produced in 1980, but was perfectly assembled and painted in gleaming, immaculate white. “The previous owner was an automotive painter,” says Holger Fuchs. It was a real bargain. Fuchs pounced on the opportunity, and all he had to do was tinker with the engine a little.
His wife Irene has now come to enjoy the pleasures of sitting behind the wheel of her very own Ascona B. She’s just as impressed by this old school Opel as he is. After all, it was released in 1975, the year that both her husband and the first Ascona B first saw the light of day.
They’re initially unable to say exactly why they’re so captivated by this model off the bat. Maybe it’s the pizzazz of the successful rally champion – which the couple have played up on their vehicles with a number of stickers. But maybe it could be the feeling of driving a car that is becoming rarer and rarer. The one-time bestseller is hardly ever seen on the road these days. According to Holger Fuchs’ research, only five Ascona B models are registered in the district of Kaiserslautern, while only one model is driven in the nearby district of Kusel.
“We are met with flashing headlights and thumbs up almost everywhere.”
Holger and Irene Fuchs especially like going on trips with their Manta family in small convoys travelling at max. 130 km/h. They recently went to Thuringia in central Germany. “We are met with flashing headlights and thumbs up almost everywhere – people just seem to really like these cars,” says Irene Fuchs. Apparently going without the comforts of a modern Opel on long journeys took some getting used to at first. But it’s quickly developed a charm of its own: “It stinks, it rattles, it’s loud – but it’s wonderful.”