Table of contents:
- Rumor has it that over time, every German car turns into an Opel. We don't know which one, but definitely not in Frontera. Because this model was born in Japan, matured in the United States, produced in the UK, and became a hit in Germany and Russia. And in 2021 she turns 30. And what is interesting - such off-road vehicles, neither before nor after, the company with a lightning bolt on the emblem did not produce
Video: Opel Frontera Celebrates 30 Years! We Remember What They Were
2023 Author: Natalie MacDonald | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-26 13:59
Rumor has it that over time, every German car turns into an Opel. We don't know which one, but definitely not in Frontera. Because this model was born in Japan, matured in the United States, produced in the UK, and became a hit in Germany and Russia. And in 2021 she turns 30. And what is interesting - such off-road vehicles, neither before nor after, the company with a lightning bolt on the emblem did not produce
However, this does not mean at all that Opel has never made an attempt to create an SUV. In the mid-1950s, when West Germany was removed from the occupation regime by the Paris agreements, Opel participated in a state competition for the construction of a headquarters all-terrain vehicle for the Bundeswehr. But the Blitz Prototyp, vaguely reminiscent of the Lamborghini Cheetah and LM002, could not win it: the car turned out to be technically outdated. In addition, there were certain complaints about its driving performance. But Blitz's reliability was first-class.
Opel Blitz Prototyp, 1956
Since then, the German firm has decided to keep a respectful distance from SUVs. After all, Opel sedans, hatchbacks and coupes sold well. But in the mid-1980s, the automotive landscape in Western Europe began to change rapidly. And Opel, at the suggestion of the head office of General Motors, had to respond to the challenges of the time.
Chapter 1. Foreign roots
If after World War II Germany mastered the creation of SUVs a year by a teaspoon, then Japan churned them out faster than TikTok of underage millionaires. There were reasons for this: firstly, there were much fewer asphalt roads in the country than in the United States or Western Europe, and secondly, such machines were badly needed by the armed forces.
When their own needs for all-wheel drive were more or less satisfied, the Japanese began to send unpretentious SUVs (for example, ToyotLand Cruiser) for export to America. To everyone's surprise, the Americans did not kick a heel in the chest and remember past grievances - the "invasion" took place safely, and the conquest of Europe, which was recovering from the war, looked like only a matter of time. A large redistribution of the world market was envisaged, in which every Japanese company wanted to participate.
Including Isuzu - one of the oldest brands in the Land of the Rising Sun. She worked with General Motors even before World War II, and in 1973, when the American concern acquired 34 percent of the company, came under its direct influence. The Japanese decided that it was time for them to take a bite of at least the local pie of compact frames, using the aggregate base of the Isuzu Faster pickup truck. General Motors, recognizing the growing demand for SUVs in the world, gave the go-ahead.
And in 1988, along with the third-generation Faster, the three-door MU (Mysterious Utility) debuted. Technically, it completely repeated the Faster pickup, but was designed in the SUV form factor popular among young people. It would seem that a real hit is ready, but …
Despite the decent equipment, the car sold poorly at home: Isuzu ignored the moment that, with its dimensions and engines, the SUV fell into a tax class that was unbearable for Japanese youth. The five-door MU Wizard modification with an extended wheelbase, which appeared a year later, had even less chance of success. Fortunately, General Motors quickly got their bearings and began selling the Japanese SUV in countries where they found less fault with the dimensions and engines of cars.
So, at the end of 1989, the Chevrolet Rodeo appeared (which was sold in the United States in parallel with the twin Isuzu Rodeo), and later, in other markets, - Isuzu Cameo, Isuzu Vega, Chevrolet Frontera, Holden Frontera … a three- or five-door SUV, which has not won much success at home. By the way, in order to cheer up its local sales, since 1993, MU began to sell under the banner of Honda, where it was called … HondJazz!
This is how HondJazz looked in the 80s …
Although, it would seem, what could be common in the Isuzu pickup, the compact Hond hatchback and the Opel brand? Opel Frontera, which will be discussed further, is also the twin brother of Isuzu MU. But with its own "features" and "troubles".
Chapter 2. More Vauxhall than Opel
When Isuzu MU was just getting ready to appear before the Japanese public, on the sidelines of General Motors were already thinking about how to bring it to the European market. The growing popularity of the Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz G-class, the successful launch of the Japanese ToyotLand Cruiser, Nissan Patrol and Mitsubishi Pajero - all indicated that Europe was hungry for outdoor cars. It was necessary to act proactively before other European brands struck.
Since there was only one European brand in the General Motors deck - Opel (and its British "mirror" Vauxhall), it was decided to promote the "world" SUV through it. Moreover, Opel just had a reputation suitable for the model as a manufacturer of inexpensive, but comfortable and hardy cars.
It was not very profitable to transport SUVs across half the planet, so GM decided in favor of localizing production. For these purposes, an old plant in Luton, north of London, also known as IBC Vehicles (Isuzu Bedford Company), was quickly converted. Since 1986, a joint venture with Isuzu has been formed here, which, in addition to producing Frontera, was engaged in the production of commercial vehicles. Popular vans like the Opel Vivaro, Renault Trafic, Nissan Primastar all come from here.
The choice in favor of a British plant over a German one was due to several reasons. The first (and probably the main one) is a cheaper labor force. The second is the initial focus of the plant on the creation of utilitarian equipment. The third is the close proximity of Great Britain to continental Europe. And fourth - the close ties of the United Kingdom with Australia: in addition to the Vauxhall Fronter and Opel Fronter, Holden Frontera were also produced here, which sailed to the other end of the Earth from the UK.
Chapter 3. FronterA
The SUV, known in continental Western Europe as the Opel Frontera, made its debut at the 1991 Geneva Motor Show. The model was greeted very warmly: a modern appearance, a moderately utilitarian interior, impressive ground clearance, German engines, a nice price - the market simply did not offer anything like that at that time. Therefore, when the first generation Fronter went on sale, and it happened at the end of the same 1991, it quickly became a hit. And no one was embarrassed that the differences from the Isuzu MU three years ago were limited only to new engines.
Opel FronterSport 2.0i Cabriolet (A)
There were three of them at the start of sales. The short-wheelbase FronterSport with a pair of side doors and a quick-detachable plastic cover over the luggage compartment was offered exclusively with a two-liter "four" with a capacity of 85 horsepower. Their 4.2-meter SUV weighing almost 1.6 tons was clearly not enough: the outdated engine, which had seen the best days of the Opel Manta, did not take much anywhere, but it had a heroic appetite.
Opel FronterKombi (A)
As for the long-wheelbase version of the Fronter with five doors, two engines were available for it - a 2.4-liter "gasoline" from Omeg with 125 horsepower, and a 2.3-liter turbodiesel with 100 horsepower. As with the Sport version, both engines were in four cylinders. There was only one transmission for all versions - a five-speed "mechanics", and traction was distributed to both axles - the front wheels were connected by freewheel clutches. There was also a lowering and a rear differential lock.
Surprisingly, it was German power units that caused the Fronter to be remembered with a grin in the UK: they did not have time to make good friends with Japanese electronics, which is why glitches and system errors became commonplace for early cars. Otherwise, the Fronter has been and remains an outstanding member of the SUV family. For a variety of reasons.
Firstly, contrary to the stereotype prevailing about Opel, the Fronter does not rot: almost all body panels were double-sided galvanized, the spar frame was primed and painted with epoxy powder paint, and its cavities were treated with wax.
Secondly, by the standards of SUVs, the Fronter was a comfortable car. Even the first generation cars with rear axles proved to be relatively comfortable for day-to-day use. Thanks to generous sound insulation, thoughtful aerodynamics and comfortable seats. Finally, thirdly, Fronter was really talented outside the tarmac. Yes, due to not the most powerful motors, she made her way through obstacles slowly, but she did it with the stubbornness of a donkey. To plant this car tightly, it was necessary to try.
Thanks to this simple recipe, Fronter has become a hit and a regular at car awards. In 1992, the model was named "SUV of the Year", and in 1993 and 1994 it was recognized as the best-selling SUV in Europe. In order to consolidate the success, by 1995 Opel is preparing a large restyling of the model, which will eliminate most childhood illnesses and make Frontera even more comfortable.
One of the obvious features of the updated cars is the new tailgate, on which the spare wheel was now attached (previously it was located in the luggage compartment). The less obvious ones are the improved rear suspension, in which the springs have given way to springs, as well as a completely updated line of power units.
Opel FronterSport 2.5 TDS Cabriolet (A)
So, for the short-base version of Sport, from now on, a two-liter gasoline engine of the X20 family was offered, which developed 115 horsepower, and a 2.8-liter 4JB1-TC turbodiesel with a return of 113 hp. This same engine was available for the five-door, as was the 136bhp 2.2-liter petrol engine. But that's not all.
A year later, during the next mini-restyling, Fronter received a 2.5-liter Italian VM41 turbodiesel. But on Opels, it is quite rare, unlike British Vauxhalls.
The first generation of the Fronter was completed in 1998. Despite its controversial reputation, the model earned money for the company. Therefore, in the mid-1990s, the Opel FronterB was given the green light - the second generation of the Japanese-Anglo-German SUV. Moreover, the new Isuzu MU was also in development.
Chapter 4. FronterB
Before preparing for production of the FronterB, which was to be much more comfortable and passenger-friendly, General Motors was considering relocating the Fronter assembly lines to the Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. The logic was clear: Frontera, being a family car, should be assembled next to other family cars, for example, with Astra. And let the Luton plant rivet commercial vans.
But the temporary closure of the Ellesmere Port plant put an end to these plans. In addition, since 1998, the IBC Vehicles facility in Luton has come under the full control of General Motors: there was absolutely no need for unnecessary movements.
FronterB was released in 1998. The recipe has not changed: take the MU, comb it in the Opel style, put our engines on, and you're done.
Opel Fronter2.2 DTI Limited (B)
Despite the external similarity with the previous generation, the FronterB had almost nothing in common with it: the track became wider by 60 millimeters, the wheelbase of the Sport version increased, and the five-door version, on the contrary, decreased. The rear drum brakes gave way to disc brakes, and the rear suspension to a five-link passenger car. Even all-wheel drive was different: thanks to the No-Stop-Allrad vacuum system, the front axle could now be connected directly on the go, at the push of a button.
The interior has also been significantly updated: the ergonomics and quality of plastic have improved, an air conditioner has been included in the list of basic equipment. The list of options has grown so much that the Fronter could be equipped no worse than a premium sedan: a GPS navigator, a Nokia GSM phone, cruise control, an on-board computer - such a set is not always found even in modern cars.
And of course, there were changes under the hood: the company to gasoline and diesel 2.2-liter engines with 136 and 115 horsepower, respectively, was a 3.2-liter V6 with 205 horsepower. With such an engine, the Fronter accelerated to 100 kilometers per hour in less than 10 seconds, and the maximum speed was very close to 200 kilometers per hour … Unless, of course, a four-speed automatic transmission was installed, which came as an option: with it the SUV was no longer the same frisky.
Opel FronterSport 2.2 16V RS (B)
Although FronterB was better than its predecessor in all respects, it could not repeat the success of the original. And not because the first generation had flaws that tarnished its reputation. There are simply too many SUVs on the European market. And the crossover boom was also beginning, the peak of which, it seems, has not yet been passed.
However, Opel regularly updated the Fronter until its retirement. Since 1999, all SUVs have been equipped with ABS as standard. In 2000, the Frontera engines were modified in accordance with the Euro-3 environmental requirements, and without sacrificing power. The commemorative Edition 2000 series was released in the same year.
Finally, in 2001, the model underwent a major restyling, which updated the headlights and lights, the radiator grille, and the dashboard. In this form, the FronterB was produced right up to 2004, occasionally indulging in special versions like Olympus, dedicated to the 2000 Olympics.
Opel Fronter2.2 DTI Kombi (B)
The model did not receive a direct successor: Opel focused on the production of crossovers like the Antar, the revamped Chevrolet Captiva. Will the situation change within the new Stellantis concern? Hardly anyone would dare to hang the Opel emblem on the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer …
Chapter 5. Fronter and Russia
Auto.ru now sells more than a hundred Fronter SUVs - more than at the largest German sites. And this is explained not only by the desire of the Germans to quickly dump automobile junk somewhere else besides the landfill. It's just that Frontera, like the heroine of Fight Club, appeared in a “very strange period” for our country.
Put yourself in the shoes of a person who has just discovered the benefits of the West. A person who is not ready to go to crime in order to survive, is not ready to spend cosmic sums, but at the same time wants comfort for himself, his family and respect in the stream. What kind of car should he take, given the state of the roads? Probably something tall, brutal, easily repairable, spacious. There is no need for this car to be fast - you won't have to get away from the chases. But she is better off being cheaper than her classmates.
Fronter fit these criteria perfectly. And it is for this reason that thousands of these cars entered Russia. Now their condition varies from specimen to specimen, but the fact remains: Fronters are not uncommon on our roads. And so, in 2021, when she entered the league of young timers, there were a little more reasons to love her (or even invest in her).
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