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Opel Monza GSE and Mercedes 280 CE driving report: Two hot cafe racers of the 70s

Rossen Gargolov
Opel Monza GSE and Mercedes 280 CE driving report
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O pel Monza GSE and Mercedes-Benz 280 CE - as different as these two coupés are, they both reflect the time of their creation - the 1970s. An Opel called Monza seems somehow over-the-top: the Italian Formula 1 racetrack as the name for a large hatchback coupé from Rüsselsheim, where cadets have previously been used in record time for the Commodore, Captain and Admiral careers. Is that brave or musty? We'll try it on the Autobahn.

Three-liter straight-six with 180 hp

This Opel Monza GSE has 25 years on its elegant fastback hump. Since its market launch in 1978, the top version has been working under the bonnet with a powerful six-cylinder in-line engine with a displacement of three liters. Its 180 hp allow the straight-line coupé to cruise surprisingly effortlessly on German autobahns. The ideal travel speed in the Opel Monza GSE is 160 km /h at a moderate 3,500 rpm in fifth gear. If you want to quickly overtake a few family SUVs and vans in the third lane, shift down to fourth, turn up to 5500 rpm, now the casual sonorous hum changes to a high, metallic growl - and pushes at a good 180 km /h down fifth gear.

At 211 km /h we easily pass pale children's faces, who look after us puzzled: What kind of bowl was that? Now an Opel Monza GSE, which also fully deserves the prominent racing name due to its exciting digital displays in bright squeaky colors. The driving speed can hardly be read more precisely, and a tachometer like a temperature curve in the intensive care unit delights the sports driver, as do Recaro seats and sweeping spoilers.

The Mega-Manta is a real apron hunter

No question about it, this Opel Monza GSE is a front and rear apron hunter, a mega-Manta for wealthy Opel fans who, for example BMW 628 CSi wanted to show the red tail light strip: It only ran 212 instead of 215 km /h like the Opel Monza GSE. The eventful career of the Opel Monza actually began as a luxury coupé with traditional chrome trim on bumpers, window frames and protective strips on the sides. The Opel Monza came in 1978 together with the new Commodore and the Senator, who replaced the great battleships Diplomat and Admiral. The three new ones were technically based onthe Opel Rekord E, which was introduced in the previous year. The most important difference: Senator and Opel Monza had a semi-trailing arm rear axle instead of a rigid axle and were initially only available with large-volume six-cylinder engines.

Little competition for the Rüsselsheim-based company

The Opel Monza 3.0 E Coupé with its wide, always black B-pillar encountered little but illustrious German competition back then. After the demise of the Ford Granada Coupé (1977) and Audi 100 Coupé (1976), only the BMW 630 CS and the Mercedes 280 CE from the W 123 series, which had been available since 1977, remained as befitting coupé rivals. With around 180 hp, they offered almost identical engine performance.

In Baden-Baden, where the highway trip in the white Opel Monza GSE took us, we meet one of the two contemporaries: an extremely rare, black Mercedes-Benz 280 CE Coupé color code 040 from 1981, the was built in this form until 1985. Although the two types come from the same era, they look as different as a tennis racket and a violin.

Completely different philosophies of design

Even the basic features of the body show two completely different philosophies. Here the Opel Monza GSE in the then hip, ruler-style greenhouse look with lowered belt line, there the Mercedes-Benz 280 CE in a dignified, well-proportioned notchback design that avoided any extreme. Also that of the predecessor (W 114 series) with an extra-long rear and pagoda-like roof. Only the sweeping chrome border of the postless Mercedes roof looks strange today.

The Opel Monza GSE body, on the other hand, is strange because of the extensive plastic components on the rear and front of the car, under which the sheet metal of the original variant from 1978 is hidden. The aerodynamic and parking aids are part of a facelift carried out in 1983, with which the Opel Monza received the face of the E2 record at the same time. From 1984 the former Prestige Coupé was even available as a 2.2i with a 115 hp four-cylinder engine.

Angular Bauhaus design versus baroque noble look

The differences between the Opel Monza GSE and the Mercedes-Benz 280 CE could hardly be greater in the design of the interior. While the Rüsselsheim-based company relied on the matt black, angular technology look of cameras and hi-fi components for their Opel Monza GSE, which was not difficult with the already black plastic instrument panel from the record, the Mercedes-Benz 280 CE shines with fine wood and date-colored leather. The three round displays and equally round ventilation nozzles on the Mercedes-Benz 280 CE still look fresh and contemporary today. Two comfortable individual seats load into the rear. The doors close like those of a safe. The neat, pampering aroma of the solidly crafted Mercedes interior is, however, bought at a high price. Almost all units of flattery for comfort and safety come from theList of surcharges.

Long list of surcharges - endless extras

Mercedes-Benz 280 CE owner Ingo Fiedler has meticulously listed the additional equipment for his black diamond. We discovered an ABS system for 2,519.90 marks, an automatic air conditioning system for a whopping 3,932.40 marks, electric and four-way window lifters for 1,293.85 marks, plus automatic transmission, leather, cruise control, light alloy wheels and more. The base price of the Mercedes-Benz 280 CE of 38,713.80 marks rose to a staggering 56,590.40 marks.

The Opel Monza GSE from 1986, on the other hand, was available for 47,915 marks. In addition to the Recaro sports seats and digital instruments, it also offered an on-board computer, leather steering wheel, central locking, light alloy wheels, five-speed gearbox and a striking rear spoiler on the large tailgate made of a framed glass pane as standard.

About the driving behavior of the Mercedes Benz 280 CE can only say good things because of the heavily modified chassis. Owner Fiedler fitted his Coupé with 205/60 tires on appropriate Fuchs rims, as well as sport springs from H&R, which lower the body by 20 millimeters. The old Mercedes-Benz 280 CE circles corners almost as confidently as a new BMW. The Opel Monza GSE, rolled in from Rüsselsheim in its original virgin condition, on the other hand, looks like a well-coordinated SUV today: it acknowledges quickly changing lanes on the autobahn with a slight body sway. Thanks to the lightly loaded rear axle and the powerful machine, spectacular turning drifts are also on the agenda. Another proof that this Opel Monza GSE has exactly what it says on the back.

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