Greeting, everyone, and welcome to the first post of the new Feijoada Friday series! The title reads “The first truly Brazilian Chevrolet” in good english. As you had discovered from yesterday’s Brazilian Breakfast, the first car I’m featuring is the 1976 Chevrolet Opala. A bit of history after the jump.
GM installed its first factory here in 1925, as Companhia Geral de Motores do Brasil (roughly a literal translation of Brazilian General Motors Company), but only for assembling and producing trucks and utility vehicles, like the Chevrolet Amazonas, Chevrolet Boca-de-Sapo and Chevrolet Brasil, which will be featured in this series in the future. Finally, in the 60’s following the big incentives to the (then very small) automotive industry by president Juscelino Kubitschek, Chevrolet began the projects for the first Brazilian-made Chevrolet car.
There were two main option on what to be based on: The big, large, muscular, powerful and thirsty American V8s or the rational, nimble, economical European Opels. They were very aware of the (relative) success of the few imported Impalas, but also for the cheaper imported Opel Kadetts, Olympias and Rekords. My grandpa had an Opel Kadett on the 60’s! The best theory for the name of the car is precisely the fact they couldn’t decide between the successful Impala and the Opel Rekord, so Opel+impala = Opala. There are some people who say the name came from the precious stone Opal, which is called Opala in portuguese, but nobody knows for sure.
The project began in 1966, with the first car being shown in the 1968 Salão do Automóvel with the venerable presence of Sir Stirling Moss, in 4 versions, all of them with 4 doors. The regular Opala with inline 4 or 6 cylinder engine and the Opala De Luxo (deluxe) also with the I4 and I6 engines. The inline 4, was a 2.5l (153 cu.in) with 80 cv while the inline 6 was 3.8l (230 cu.in) with 125 cv. Both versions had 6 places, with two bench seats, and a 3-speed manual gearbox on the column.
The Opala Cupê (coupé), with two doors like this model, only came in ‘71. Alongside with the Cupê, Chevrolet also introduced the immensely successfull, awe inspiring, boy’s dreaming, everybody’s dream Opala SS. But now the I6 engine was upgraded to the absolutely legendary 4.1l (250 cu.in) engine with 140 cv @4000RPM!
With the introduction of the 4.1l seis canecos engine (six jugs, in reference to the 6 cylinders), Chevrolet also introduced a 4 speed gearbox in the floor. A facelift came in ‘75, with the introduction of the two round tail lights, a central groove on the hood, the round front lights received a square frame and the blinkers were installed on the edges of the fenders. Also in 1975, the wagon version, Opala Caravan was shown, and the luxury version of both was rebadged as the Comodoro (Commodore, in Portuguese). The Caravan could also have that sweet 4.1l engine, and the SS trim:
(sorry, no model photo...)
In 1980 the new Opala Diplomata (Diplomat) was introduced, the new top-trim version. In 1983, the full line gained the 5-speed gearbox option. The Opala and the Caravan, in all trims, received a major facelift in 1980, and the option for sugarcane ethanol powerplants, but the story of the Opala after this year will be told in the future, because I have this model too :)
For now, enjoy the rest of the photos!
This is it! I hope you like both the model and its story. When I was a kid in the early 90’s there were still lots of Opalas on our roads, and I simply adored them. Today they’re a lot rarer, because parts are now expensive and not many of them survived years of abuse.
Sources (in Portuguese):