A is for Omega.
The other day when digging back into my Car collection I stumbled or fell or happened across an article by LJK Setright dealing with the Opel Omega B. In that article he chanted the praises of its predecessor, the Omega A. And this is the car we have for you today, photographed in Hamburg in July, as the thermometer managed to nudge past 40 degrees, centigrade. This one is one of the later models from a run that spanned the years 1986 to 1994.
As I return my gaze to the photos, I have a hard time seeing a car whose roots probably go back to 1981. Like other products from German industrial titans from this period this car draws from the later years of the Ulm school of design. The mode of aesthetic expression is derived from the same aesthetic ethic that Dieter Rams expressed in his ten principles. Those in turn draw from a deeper vein that has always existed in German architecture, furniture and product design.
The same year Opel presented the rationalism of the A, Rover were serving up a Honda Legend dressed in more stripes than a Saville Row suit. And the Opel Omega was also a car which makes the provision of high-minded design concepts to the mainstream all the more noble and pleasing.
The Omega replaced the long-serving Rekord (née 1978) and its long line of predecessors which extended back to the end of the Schmalkaldic wars. The styling is based on aerodynamic principles, and its appearance strongly followed the template of the 1985 Opel Astra E (1984). Product planning did not allow this theme much of a chance to expand into other parts of the Opel catalogue.
The Corsa A adhered to the styling established the late 70s cars such as the Rekord (even if the Rekord inherited Omega-like facelifting in 1982) and endured for a fearsomely long time, to 1983). And the Ascona’s 1988 replacement, the Vectra A looks like it is a softer, less geometrical shape, verging on the organic.
That means the last Kadett and the Omega A were the only two cars to have this exact styling theme deployed. The very next car moved on, bringing to Opel the organic shapes that were beginning to predominate in car design around that time – and lo, the year before the Omega B left the order books, the Corsa B turned up, looking even more organic than the Vectra A and leap-frogging Opel’s aero-geometrical phase completely.
The aero-geometrical phase could be considered as evolution of the trend begun with the more visually consistent predecessor cars in Opel’s range, a refinement of design based on flatter panels. It could conceivably have lasted long enough to make more of a mark on the Vectra A – I can only suppose there were good marketing reasons for this and, indeed, the Kadett and Omega A are unusually high-concept for a brand like Opel that worked more in the vein of contemporary vernacular.
It’s not at all clear why the Opel Omega A did not achieve the same level of design acclaim as the Mercedes 190E of 1982 – it’s a fine bit of work on every level but it still retains the recognisable baroque feeling of earlier Mercs. The second generation 5 series, E28 (1981-1988) was still very much an Italianate shape, born in the years of Abba and kipper ties. The Omega A managed to deliver a low cD while Citroën’s much-lauded and highly gorgeous CX only appeared aerodynamic.