A refined and brawny rear-drive coupé – what’s not to like?
The Monza was a part of the prestigious Opel Senator range from the car’s launch in 1978, and marketed as the luxury grand tourer of the line-up. Engines were almost exclusively six-cylinders, with early 2.0 and 2.5-litre mills soon supplanted by more powerful 2.8 and 3.0-litre engines.
Around 40,000 Monzas are thought to have rolled off the German production line, although relatively few survive today. With a powerful straight-six engine and excellent refinement, the GSE was capable of transporting four adults in long distance comfort, but could also play the role of performance hatch if the driver was in the mood.
1984 Opel Monza GSE 3.0
Power (bhp@rpm) 178bhp@5800rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 183lb ft@4200rpm
Top speed 133mph
Gearbox 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
With the last models now a quarter of a century old, it comes as no surprise that any used purchase needs to be checked carefully for rot. Pay particular attention to the the bottom of the A-pillar where it meets the inner wing, the rear wheelarches, around the sunroof aperture, and the rear of the sills where they meet the bottom of the wheelarch. The rear of the chassis as it passes over the rear axle is another weak point, as is the rear valance beneath the bumper. Take a good look under the bonnet as the top mountings for the suspension struts and the front chassis rail around the steering box are known rust spots, and the latter is a tricky and potentially costly repair. Watch too for signs of rust around the windscreen as water leaks here can cause electrical problems. Bear in mind that Monza-specific parts such as light units and body panels are getting rare now – owners clubs can help with tracking down replacements. Paint colours were limited but Carnelian Red and White are probably the most popular and combined with the lovely anthracite alloys suit the big coupé well.
The 2968cc straight-six engine with its ‘cam in head’ OHV layout was a strong and fairly simple unit and poses few problems if looked after. It was also relatively under-stressed and is easily capable of 130,000 miles before major work is necessary. Oil leaks tend to be limited to a failed cam cover gasket but what you do want to see is evidence of regular oil changes as these are key to preventing expensive failures of the timing chain tensioner and excessive valve-train wear. Leaks from ageing fuel injection system pipework can be common so a thorough check is needed here, while any signs of overheating should also be treated with caution as a high-mileage example could have succumbed to head gasket failure. While availability is limited, parts are relatively cheap so major engine work is well within scope of the home mechanic.
Most GSEs were specified with the smooth-shifting 4-speed auto gearbox. These are largely trouble-free so it is just a case of checking for any jerky gearchanges. Rarer and more desirable is the 5-speed manual Getrag gearbox. These are robust units that should be slick in operation, and while specialists can rebuild them, it isn’t a cheap job. A mechanical limited slip differential was standard on the GSE so listen out for clunks or whines as a replacement is costly. The brakes were well up to the job, and while replacement brake parts are scarce, seized rear calipers are the only other issue to watch for. Rust can break through around the mountings for the rear trailing arms, and failure of the steering column’s tilt mechanism isn’t unheard of – the latter can be repaired though.
Opels of the period were renowned for their solid interior quality. The most striking part of the dash is the LCD instrument pack and this is generally reliable. The superb Recaro sports seats can wear on the bolsters, and there is a weak spot where the seat’s backrest pivots to let passengers into the rear which requires a strip-down of the seat to remedy. The only other issues of note are failure of the heater blower motor due to worn bearings, and failed electric windows.
Anyone after a refined and well-equipped car capable of long-distance comfort should have the Monza GSE on their shopping list. Solid build quality and a decent turn of speed are pluses and careful checking will avoid the tired examples lurking on the used market. The GSE offers good value at the moment but prices are rising, so this is the time to buy.