40 years of Opel Corsa (A to F): Playing with sport, Spider and Queen

In Japan, the smallest are traditionally the most successful in sales, clever kei mini-cars are simply best suited to metropolises and megacities. Opel’s first true mini-runaway, the Corsa (A), which was unveiled in 1982, also turned out to be a bestseller – and the best-selling Opel model series of all time. While the Corsa initially tried to use the edges to stay ahead of the long-overcrowded small car field, Japanese designer Hideo Kodama in 1993 gave this charming racing lightning bolt a rounded, organic design similar to what already characterized iconic Nippon models such as Mazda 121 and Nissan Micra. However, Kodama made the Corsa (B) look more confident than the Japanese competition. Not only was Opel built with these iconic contours on all continents, it even won the pole race as the world’s best-selling car in 1998 – true to its Italian name (Corsa = race). Today, after six generations and 40 years, the Corsa’s production counter is already more than 14 million units, mostly from the European plants in Zaragoza and Eisenach. Even the Opel Astra or Kadett cannot beat this figure. The award for the most traditional model name in the current Opel portfolio also goes to the Corsa. At the same time, it is future-oriented, as shown by the fully electric, successful e-Corsa (F).

Such a career for the Corsa was unthinkable in the late summer of 1982, when the first 3.62 meters of a three-door, three-door model rolled off the assembly lines of a purpose-built factory in Zaragoza, Spain. The largely automated plant only needed 10,000 workers to deliver up to 300,000 Corsas per year, making Spain the fourth largest automotive country in Europe. The place that the United Kingdom has occupied so far, as the unions tried hard to prevent the smallest product from the then-parent Opel / Vauxhall General Motors (GM) from being imported into the island kingdom. In Germany, too, Opel employees would welcome it if a VW Polo, Ford Fiesta or Fiat Uno contender were built in Rüsselheim or Bochum. In fact, the first Opel Corsa and Vauxhall Nova appeared on the home markets of GM subsidiaries with the Blitz or Griffin logo only in the spring of 1983. By then, the Corsa had become the new favorite in southern Europe’s smallest family car segment, not least thanks to the unconventionally contoured two-door Corsa TR that was only popular there.

Not only advantages, such as high product quality and lower prices than, for example, the Polo or Peugeot 205, made the Corsa the best-selling Opel model of all time. The 735 kg lightweight won the sympathy of “I want fun society” in the 1980s even before series production began thanks to the Spider studio, which whetted the appetite for the revival of the extinct little roadster. The open Opel has become a reality with tuners like Irmscher and Michalak whose Spider conversions have found a surprising number of fans. But even when the Mini-Opel was closed, it guaranteed a lasting smile on the faces of racing enthusiasts as the Corsa Sprint series of approval for motorsport. On the other hand, editions such as the Corsa Swing and Joy targeted young female buyers in particular, and in 1988, the ‘Steffi Special’ special series, which tennis legend Steffi Graf celebrated perhaps the year of its greatest success, matched perfectly. . Sport and Corsa this combination has almost always won. The 74kW / 100hp Corsa GSi, unveiled in 1987, showed off its heavily flared fenders for the sharpest Fiesta XR2 or Metro MG in sprint duels, and even animal comic heroes Tom and Jerry put their trust in the agile little car in their fast-paced duels mice in cheerful commercials.

The first Corsa since 1985, also with the optional five-door hatchback or four-door hatchback, has managed to leave the others behind. Overall, the variety of body concepts was one of the secrets to the success of GM’s smallest product. Were there any increases? Since 1993, the Corsa (B) has shown that the variety of the world’s car can be almost limitless. This Blitz, set up in Rüsselsheim, was built on five continents, briefly with an annual production of about a million units. This was possible thanks to the Hideo Kodama bioforms that adorned hatchbacks, notchbacks, South American station wagons, pick-ups, Australian convertibles and cargo ships; with Opel, Buick, Chevrolet, Chevy, Holden, Jilin Jiangbei, Vauxhall and even Suzuki logos, depending on the market. This was accompanied by a colorful array of model names ranging from Corsa to Vita, Lite, Sail, Meilu, Montana, Tornado, Celta, Prisma and Monza. And then, from 1994, the agile Tigra sports coupe and Combo high-roof estate car appeared, for which the Corsa also provided the technical basis. While the Tigra with 2 + 2 seats has also made a name for itself in Latin America and Australia, this combination has been particularly successful with European craftsmen and families. In contrast, the traditional British people’s car, the Ford Fiesta, could not defend the sales champion’s throne against the charming Corsa (B). Even Queen Elizabeth appreciated the advantages of this Opel, as the 1995 TV ad suggested. In this hilarious place, the Queen Double used the dynamic Corsa to secretly escape from royal duties.

The third and fourth generation Corsa (C / D) have retained their sporting spirit, especially as the chic Tigra Twin Top convertible coupe (since 2004) and as the hot-blooded, beefy Corsa OPC (since 2007). It was the 141 kW / 192 hp red OPC, which was delivered in Zaragoza in 2007 for the Corsa’s 25th anniversary as the eight millionth unit of the series. Soon after, the toddler passed the ten million mark, but then the new Mini from Japan and Korea put a lot of pressure on Opel. A difficult situation from which the Opel management could not free itself, as evidenced by the rather bland but all the more arbitrary Corsa (E) from 2014.

This was an era when the future of the Rüsselsheim-based car maker was generally unclear. It wasn’t until the Hessians passed under the umbrella of the Stellantis group that the long-acting Corsa was able to reinvent itself. With the Ampera, Opel was one of the pioneers in the production of modern electric cars, but only the sixth Corsa (F), the small, all-electric Opel, entered mass production in 2019. That’s not all, the current Corsa is also proving to be the hottest spark in electric rallying. Only one European small car sold better than the Corsa in the first half of 2022: the technically related Stellantis Group mate Peugeot 208. Hessi are following in their footsteps. For the 40th birthday of the Corsa Jubilee Edition. According to the year of birth, there are only 1982 copies, but these also draw attention to the unlimited versions of the viceroy among city speedsters.

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