Opel GT

Opel GT in a fetching bright red, based on the Pontiac Solstice.

09-10-2019Adrian Gillet

Sometimes I think it would be very useful to have membership of the equivalent of the the AA on the island. Not the drink related one, the automobile one. Although in the case of both breakdowns during last week’s Classic Car Club rally it would have ended up with a tow truck anyway. And we did need a drink or two after we’d limped home. Neither car was fixable by the roadside, even with all the great mechanics we had with us competing in the rally. Of course there is an equivalent of the AA here, the RACC, similar to the British RAC in its Royal origin, but the livery is predominantly yellow and black like the AA. And there is Green Flag and so on.

Anyway, last Wednesday night at The Boat House, I had an update on the Camaro, having coincidentally just collected the Blonde’s Merc after it’s adventure and sojourn at the garage, so immediately took the car for a test run to the meeting. The Camaro ignition failure was diagnosed as a faulty rev limiter. Designed to stop the engine over revving, it decided that it didn’t like any revs at all and the 5.7 litre injected motor just didn’t want to run. Now fixed and burbling away happily.

Onto the Blonde’s Mercedes SL. We’ve been with this car for around 30 years, so it’s close to our hearts. Seeing it belching white smoke from the exhaust wasn’t one of our happier moments. And being a Mercedes you can imagine that breaking down wasn’t something this car is used to. Not that it actually stopped, the engine was absolutely fine apart from ingesting oil from the auto box via a broken vacuum modulator. Eventually we almost lost drive because the gearbox oil dropped too low. Fortunately just round the corner from the petrol station at Son Bugadelles.

The Blonde's Merc.

Stuck two litres of ATF into the gearbox and off we smoked again, just making it home. At the garage to which I limped a couple of days later, the diagnosis was as we had guessed. So that was straightforward, but getting a new modulator certainly wasn’t. Enquiries with Mercedes revealed that it was a discontinued part. One can still buy a complete rebuild kit for the transmission but it doesn’t include the modulator.

An updated version of the modulator exists but also discontinued. Now it was a search around Merc dealers and the Internet. Two days on, the part was unearthed at a Mercedes specialist in Latvia and 176 euros later was winging its way to Majorca via UPS. At the exorbitant transport cost of an extra 9 euros. The modulator wasn’t cheap but its not a huge cost, just a slightly more expensive afternoon. Not that I believe in scrimping on classic cars. Quite the opposite, I think money spent on comprehensive maintenance and genuine parts is well worth it.

Oh, we also had to replace the spark plugs because they were ruined by over oiling and even after a longish drive still misfired. Another set of Platinum Bosch plugs, again not cheap, but the engine is going like a well oiled rocket and pulls like a train. As only a Mercedes V8 can, there’s something about the fluidity that’s unique to the three pointed star, sort of winds up and just goes faster. Hopefully that’s a happy ending to that little escapade. I prefer happy endings being a bit of a softie at heart.

As a small aside, I’m always on the lookout for interesting or rare cars on the street, normally spotting something zipping past going in the opposite direction and its frustrating not to get a photo. This time my subject was totally still, there’s a pic somewhere here of the red Opel GT parked. Quite a good looking little sports car, very similar in overall style to the Vauxhall VX220 and Opel Speedster equivalent. Both of those were built by Lotus in Norfolk from 2000 to 2005 and were based on the nimble, mid engined, advanced chassis of the Elise from 2001 to 2005.

The GT pictured above, made from 2007 to 2010, is a different kettle of fish, still good looking, small but not so nimble, made in Delaware and based on the Pontiac Solstice. Which followed on from the rather interesting Pontiac Fiero. Interesting but without the pedigree of Lotus engineering.

So there you have it, another car feature full of useless facts, at least I hope it’s reasonable fun to read and look at. See you next time.

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