Produced in three generations from 1970 to 1988, the Opel Ascona started out as a rear-wheel drive but ended up as a front-wheel drive J-body derivative.
Launched on 28 October 1970 as a competitor to the successful Ford Taunus (Cortina), the Ascona was available in two and four-door sedan form with petrol engines from 1.2L to 1.9L. Sold at a premium price alongside its counterpart, the Vauxhall Cavalier, the Ascona A remained in production until 1975, in which time almost 692,000 vehicles had been produced.
The Ascona B was presented in August 1975 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It retained the same engine range as the first generation Ascona but, unlike the Ascona A, the B was only available as a saloon, not an estate. In 1978, the 1.9-litre version was replaced by a 2.0-litre 100bhp version, capable of a 110mph maximum speed and 0-60mph time of 10.0 seconds.
Branching out into Group 4 racing, the Ascona 400 was officially born on 6th March, 1978. The homolagation regulations required the production of four hundred cars to be able to compete in Group 4. The Ascona 400 was derived from a 2-door Ascona B, but a number of aerodynamic features changed its appearance. There were large front and rear spoilers, skirts beneath the sills and widened front wings, but it was not only in cosmetic looks that the competition car differed from its production brother. The engine ran on 48 DCOE Weber carburettors achieving 240 bhp at 7,500 rpm with peak torque a staggering 2001b ft at 5,000 rpm.
Production of the Ascona B finished in August 1981, when the third and final generation of Ascona saloon was launched, although the front-wheel drive Ascona C wasn’t sold in the UK. Production of the Ascona ended in 1988.