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Middle class comparison: Ford 17 M, Opel Rekord 1700 and VW 1600 L

Uli Jooß
Ford 17 M 1700 CS, Opel Rekord 1700 and VW 1600 L
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S o one I had it too, is the melancholy refrain that accompanies the middle-class trio on their spring trip. You can hear it quietly on the go at the beverage market, at gas stations and sometimes as a spontaneous shout when maneuvering for the photos on rural roads and turning in hiking parking lots.

The cars of the family - of course from Opel, Ford and Volkswagen

Everybody's cars like Ford 17 M, Opel Rekord and VW 1600 are technical and stylistically not very spectacular. They weren't good for favorite model cars. You had her, more out of duty than inclination, and of course from Wiking. All three in pebble gray, which VW likes to use as a police or fire brigade on the model railway plate in 1:87.

The three Everyman's cars carry the collective memory of former street scenes vividly. The family chronicles of people who have long since died can also be easily read from them. Would any relatives be remembered at all without their cars? Uncle Bernhard had a VW 1600 LE in savanna yellow. He had bought the advanced Bosch D-Jetronic for 585 marks, without the slightest extra power compared to the carburettor model. Still, he was very proud of it. For almost a decade, Grandpa Kurt drove the exact Ford 17 M that only danced for one summer. White with red pads.

Aunt Irmgard, already a resolute bank clerk at the time, managed the picture-perfect economic miracle ascent from A-cadet to C-record. A two-door 1900 L with automatic in bold red, which she courageously steered to distant family celebrations. On vacation she always went to the Salzkammergut, to the bank branch by tram. In six years, almost 39,000 kilometers came together.

The father's purchase decision also influenced the three Everyman cars. auto motor und sport put in a lot of effort with its extensive middle-class comparison tests based on numerous measured values. They were an event - the readers were looking forward to the second part with the overall rating. Audi 100 LS and VW K 70 made the decision to elect mayoral later even more difficult.

Sporty long schnauzer - VW 1600 L

The VW 411 LE tragically not. With the self-supporting hatchback body, the strut front axle and the D-Jetronic, which is atypical for Volkswagen, it had the stigma of misunderstood genius. His little brother, the VW 1600 L, was and is a popular figure. Unlike the exotic 411, it shaped the streets of the sixties and seventies. That's why he's allowed to play here - and the 411 isn't. It was only understood as a variant. Our 1600 L is marina blue, from September 1970. The two-door notchback sedan is discreetly called Type 31. It still has the classic VW steering wheel with horn ring and not yet the four-spoke baffle plate with the peculiarly flat finger levers behind it. In Type 3 circles it is casually called Long Schnauzer, which sounds like a good-natured breed of dog - and this is exactly how a VW Type 3 looks: loyal, good and almost a little cute. Go to IAA In 1969 the pontoon Beetle with the chubby 50s charm was thoroughly modernized.

VW 1600 L - almost a sports car

Melodic boxer noise stimulates the driver, the engine with the flat blower box sounds more sonorous than a basically similar Beetle engine. Its ingenious chassis with pleasantly neutral roadholding more than compensates for the performance deficit compared to the two pronounced understeering rigid axles. The 54 hp need to run out and want to turn - even if the limit of 5,000 rpm is unfortunately quickly reached. The gears slide smoothly through the shift gate, there is only a bit of elasticity in the shift feel. The steering also feels pleasantly direct, it is smooth-running anyway. The seating position fits much better than in the Beetle, the 1600 fits like a tightly cut suit. You quickly got used to the stationary pedals, only the wheel arches in the footwell are a nuisance. Type 3 drivers always have some ballast in the front of the trunk. Or they fill it40 liter tank up to the collar, that pushes the limit area with the pronounced tendency to oversteer. It would be wrong to describe the VW 1600 L as sporty, because it lacks performance - but it has the facilities to make a sports car.

Technically, apart from the front axle, it is not too far removed from a Porsche 912. And as a preliminary stage there is still the big Karmann, Type 34.

The casual one: Opel Rekord

You encounter a completely different automotive culture in the Opel Rekord. Sitting position and feeling of space are decidedly casual. You have the feeling of moving a huge car inside and out, feeling almost lost in the flat contoured driver's seat. Braking, shifting, steering and clutch are almost playfully easy. What is missing is the short, dry dialogue or even the challenging argument that the forcefully moving VW 1600 maintains with the driver. The white Rekord C in the 66 PS normal version wants its owner inconspicuously.

The sluggish four-cylinder purrs at least up to 100 km /h in the typical Opel nasal, then it gets grumpy. He develops his 66 hp tough and a little unwillingly at the top, and the pulling power from the low revs is not exactly his favorite discipline. Its real talents are more of the refined running, ease of maintenance and durability. Perhaps the camshaft is not yet high enough in the cast iron cylinder head, short pushrods cannot be avoided with Opel's own c.i.h. design (camshaft in head).

The Opel Rekord embodies the American philosophy of the easy-to-use and undemanding commercial vehicle, only reduced by the cranesbill. Its styling with the side coke bottle line comes from the Chevrolet Chevelle, the technology has been adapted to European conditions - a four-cylinder instead of a V8 engine, the chassis optimized.

Whimsical grief fold - Ford 17M 1700 S

On its debut in 1966, the Rekord C took over the new generation of engines from its short-term Predecessor B, but made special efforts with the chassis. The rigid rear axle is precisely guided by trailing arms and a Panhard rod. Instead of leaf springs, there are finally coil springs. Front disc brakes with dual-circuit hydraulics and brake booster are now standard on the Rekord C. The nicely shaped mid-range Opel drives comfortably and effortlessly, nowadays you can swim along in traffic at least over land: The cool steering wheel gearshift fits the character of the car very well. For this reason alone, the driver likes to switch gear and often. Sometimes you bowl through the landscape in a somewhat uninspired way, don't find the right support in the wide seat and lean slightly at an angle on the cushion. If you are in a hurry for a change, you will find that the recordcan also be different.

The chassis is hardly required by the 66 HP petrol engine

The tame 66 HP of the 1700 normal gasoline engine in no way demands the properly tuned chassis , if necessary it is Commodore GS /E-compatible. What remains is a pronounced tendency to understeer, which requires large steering wheel angles. The steering itself is not particularly direct because it should be as easy as possible.

Unlike the VW 1600, the record is not suitable for animating a good driver. Like the Ford 17 M very much on feeling and security. If it was a question of driving from Copenhagen to Palermo now, the Opel or the Ford would be the first choice, not just because of their huge luggage compartments. Their sturdy motors sing the song of eternal life, they take you everywhere, on the go on cool nights they donate cozy warmth.

And if the elbow should tear off, which will not happen, every village blacksmith will weld it back on. There is something fascinating about the great simplicity of these conventional cars, even if technology gourmets smile wearily. That is precisely what we have lost today - and that's why we long for it in the classic car.

A MG B is basically nothing else, only it is still open. The Ford 17 M 1700 S goes one better, it reinforces the virtues and weaknesses of the Opel Rekord. With him, the honest turns into the bizarre. So it is fitting that it was only built for one year in this form as the P7a and after a thorough facelift and with two additional trailing arms on the rear axle it was still a success. In 1967 the Ford dealers scolded him “Kummerfalte” - because of his hip bend over the rear axle, which was so popular with the Rekord C.

After 40 years, the way things are viewed is changing

The P7a unfortunately broke with the aerodynamic and functional line of reason that began with the 1960s Bathtub 17 M P3 began and was further cultivated in 1964 by the successor type P5. It almost involuntarily turned into a mini Lincoln, expansive in shape and size, emphasized angular in the basic layout and for the 20 M decked out with stylistic antics. For the first time, the Cologne residents renounced the Taunus name. Today the first P7 in particular gains its charm from its stylistic imperfection.

The black roof of the two-tone paintwork, which is subject to a surcharge, emphasizes the light structure with the narrow posts. The Cologne Ford designers under Lesley Hoover succeeded in creating the beading on the flanks. The wide arrow-shaped taillights happily enliven the functional rear. The C-pillar is inclined almost like a coupe. The hub rings, on the other hand, look kitsch, but if you wanted to improve the proportions,could even order 14-inch wheels for a surcharge. A solo trip with the 17 M feels like being in an empty bus. The driver loses himself on the contour-free single reclining seat in the depths of the room. If the door is slammed, the resonance body reverberates - as with the record. Only the VW has the solidity of a real quality car.

The world of the 17 M is all right again when the compact V4 engine shakes itself up close in front of the bulkhead after turning the key and rises its familiar voice, gurgling and whistling. This bustling, unique machine is so successfully tamed by a balance shaft that it runs surprisingly quietly and with little vibration, and it also comes to the point with elasticity. Despite the central camshaft and long push rods, it clearly surpasses the only four hp weaker Opel engine in temperament.

Driving in the 17 M is also more fun because the steering wheel shifts so playfully and effortlessly through the flat torque curve. You switch more often than necessary, and when you reach for the lever, the eye briefly touches the bizarre instruments in the Art Deco look, including the playful arabesque of the P7a. At first, you have to respect tight bends on fast country roads and carefully maneuver the large, but surprisingly light ship around the bend with the steering wheel. There is quite a bit of play around the central position, and the rear axle also gets nervous with ruts and bumps.

Even the modern McPherson front axle suspension cannot compensate for that. Precise road holding is just not the thing of the 17 M, the record is much better there. And the VW even mutates into a 911.

The test result: Opel ahead of Ford and Volkswagen

Forty years ago, a comparison test of the three Everyman's cars would be in auto motor und sport in the following way: First - Opel Rekord, pleasing and spacious body, firm chassis, tough engine, very good handling. Second - Ford 17 M, spacious body, flexible, revving engine, good handiness, imprecise driving characteristics that take getting used to, good driving comfort. Third - VW 1600 L, very well made, but narrow body with too small a luggage compartment, loud, inelastic engine, very good handling, driving characteristics that take getting used to.

Today Motor Klassik judges the cars the other way around. First: VW 1600 L, second Ford 17 M, third Opel Rekord. After all, there are 40 years in between. And the price index gave way to the emotion rating.


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