Sunday, October 7, 2007

Under the dings and rust is

A Beautiful Car Waiting to Get Out...

It was after 8PM and dark outside when Gary Chitwood delivered the Opel GT to my house. I had to ask a neighbor from across the street to help Gary push the car up my driveway and into my garage. As it was a Thursday night, when I had to turn in early for work the next day, I didn't have the time to really look my 'new' car over. But it looked pretty darned good at first glance.

Although I knew I was getting this car for free after talking to Matt, I didn't want to tell my coworkers until I actually had it sitting in my garage, for fear of somehow jinxing the whole deal. When I did tell them, they couldn't believe it. Some of the guys wanted me to give it to them! I told them no way, I'm keeping this car for as long as I'm able to drive (can you imagine me at 75 or 80 driving this little va-va-voom sports car that'll be over 50 years old then?? LOL).

I finally got my chance to inspect it thoroughly when I got home from work that afternoon, and was extremely pleased (and surprised) with what I saw. As most people know, rust is the cancer that is most feared by all car owners, especially those with classic and vintage vehicles, and nothing's sadder to see than a once-beautiful old car completely consumed by rust. Not this one! Of course, my Opel has rust, but surprisingly, not that much.

The only truly significant areas are on the rear fenders, where it's eaten through the metal, but the rest of the body is almost completely untouched, and what there is is just surface rust. The floor is amazingly solid as a rock. And yes, it's got a few dings and dents, but again, not much; the biggest dent is the right front fender, directly over the tire. I have a feeling the body is going to be the easiest part of the restoration process. The glass is all good (the passenger door doesn't seem to have the glass window). The interior, though, is a different story altogether....

Looking at the inside of the car, even a kid could tell you at a glance that the interior is shot, and I mean shot. It's not as bad as I've seen in some cars, where the springs are poking up out of the upholstery and mice and rats have set up housekeeping in there and whatnot, but it's nothing to brag about, either. The headliner is ripped and hanging in places. The carpeting's not all there, and the passenger seat is gone along with the radio. The floor console, with the parking brake (which, by the way, is still very good), gear shift and headlight lever, is not firmly in place.

And the dashboard.... it looks like a dried-up lake bed, with long cracks running all over it. The steering wheel, which is made of wood (very cool), looks good, and the driver's seat is pretty decent--but it's scary at the same time. When Gary and my neighbor were pushing the car into the garage, I had to sit in the driver's seat and steer it. Going up the driveway, the driver's seat suddenly flew backwards, making it impossible for me to reach the brake pedal. Imagine that happening just as you're approaching a red light and all of a sudden being unable to reach the brake. Scarier than a horror flick! For sure, I'm not driving this baby until it's got new seats (and seatbelts) that stay firmly in place.

One thing I found somewhat disconcerting about sitting behind the wheel of this car is the fact that I can barely see over the hood. I don't remember it being like that when I had my first Opel, but then again, that was a good 30 years ago too. The Opel is only four feet in height and the seats are low (I'm just 5'2" tall) and for the seats to be any higher than they are, the driver's head would be touching or nearly touching the roof. I think I'm gonna need a booster seat for this one, ha ha.

I don't know how it is mechanically. Matt told me that when he first got it, he drove it once around the block and that was it. I'm sure that the gas tank will need to be drained completely and fresh gas put in; maybe new spark plugs and a battery, etc., etc. I do know the brakes need work and the tires replaced. As someone on the Opel Yahoo group pointed out, you have to be able to stop before you can go! I don't know what's up with the godawful green paint that looks as if it were smeared all over the nose, but it's gonna be GONE one of these days....

Overall, this little car, in spite of the rust and dings, is a real eye-catcher. I can see it for what it was once, a beautiful, curvaceous and sexy machine.. and hopefully will be again in time. On eBay, someone had a gorgeous canary yellow Opel GT up for auction, with TONS of info about the car itself and the Opel GT history (didja know that GM bought Opel about the time WWI was starting, and that it's owned it ever since, and still does? In spite of that, the Opel GT, and other models, like the Manta and Kadett, are 100% German made cars).

In that auction listing, the seller had posted a photo of the Corvette made about that same time for comparison purposes with his car. It's clear which one has the true sex appeal :-D as the Opel's curves are graceful and sinuous like a flamingo's neck, while the Vette's are sharp and angular.

When I do get around to having this car restored, I want to keep it 100% original. When it comes to old things, like furniture and cars and so on, I'm a purist at heart. I don't like the idea of customizing or modifying something just to make it more 'modern' or whatever, because I feel it devalues the item. For a truly rare vehicle, like the 30's-era Chrysler Airflow (only three in existence, and The Tonight Show's host, Jay Leno, has one), any kind of customizing or modification is a NO-NO!

Case in point: I've learned a lot about the preservation of antiques on the "Antiques Roadshow", and a lot of people find out their treasured early American highboy or blanket chest is worth far less than it would be, had the original finish not been stripped off. A hard lesson to learn, but one that I've taken completely to heart. I saw this one Opel GT on eBay that, in my opinion, had been ruined by this HUGE spoiler welded to the back end. *puke*

The only thing I might do differently in restoring this car is having red piping accent the seats and upholstery, but that's it. I want to keep everything else original, as if the car had just rolled off the assembly line in Germany back in 1972. I'd like to have it painted fire-engine red with a black interior, which I think would look soooo sharp and eye-catching.

1 comment:

sinuse jill said...

I am really impressed by the way you detailed out everything. It is really going to help me a lot.

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