$500 Euro Hatch: 1976 Opel Kadett

It’s a bit dizzying to learn about the multiple nameplates this 1976 Opel Kadett was sold under during its production run. Built by Isuzu and sold as the Gemini in other markets, the Kadett model sold in the U.S. was actually built by Isuzu and sold as an Opel. Confused yet? Well, the family tree gets weirder from there, as it was also sold under the Chevette nameplate in Brazil. Regardless of the rampant badge-swapping, it’s still rare to see survivors like this example here on eBay and sent in by Barn Finds reader Roger. 

It’s also listed on craigslist for an even $500. This Kadett does have rust, but you have to love the fact that it retains that cool period stripe kit down the sides. The original hubcaps are still accounted for, and all glass and lenses look good, too. The front and rear bumpers appear nice and straight, but there is some rust to contend with.

The rust areas are noted as the spare tire well, rear valance and h”…heel of the right-hand side front fender.” Not the end of the world, but it may deem this Kadett is best suited as a parts donor for anyone still trying to keep one of these oddballs on the road. It’s got far less rust than my 1986 Mercedes 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth project, but this is also a forlorn captive import with very little in the way of a following.

The seller notes it will need some work under the hood due to long-term stagnation from sitting. The carburetor sounds like it needs an overhaul, but surprisingly, the automatic transmission still goes into gear. I’m not sure the 3-speed slushbox is a selling point, as this car was likely ungodly slow as it was even when equipped with a manual. Regardless, if you love oddballs, this cheap Kadett would likely be the only one on your street.


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  1. Howard A Member

    I’m simply flabbergasted one of these survived, or better yet, someone decided to hang on to it. I think the German Opels were good cars and had quite a following, and many were disappointed when this is what took it’s place. These were, in some respects, probably better cars than the German Opels, but they never had a chance. I heard, dealer service on these was even worse than with the German Opels. I’d think you’d have to shut the A/C off to get over the hill.

    Like 4
  2. Scott Tait

    Details are wrong its a kadette C… it was badge engineered as isuzu and not built by isuzu over a million where made under different GM brands

    • Ralph

      I believe this is Isuzu built, these replaced the last German imported Buick-Opels.

      Like 5
      • Scanrps Member

        Yes, then sold later by Isuzu as a I-Mark.

    • Ernie the Dancing Weasel

      Ralph is correct: Body is Kadett C built by Isuzu under license (GM owned a big stake in Isuzu at this point) with an Isuzu designed and built engine.

      Poor performer because of tuning due to US emissions regulations.

      Poor service because, like the Honey Badger, Buick (and, by extension, GM) just don’t care…

  3. Chris In Australia

    And it’s not a hatch either. Australia got these as Holden Geminis, built with a mix of Izuzu, Opel and Australian made parts. Fun little cars, there’s two in my past.

    Like 5
  4. Craig Walker

    The saloon,wagon, sedan delivery & a hatchback all with a pointed nose cone where sold as the vauxhall chevette with only a 1256 ohv eng & 4speed manual or. 3speed auto in the uk along side matching flat fronted opel models with its own version of the eng as a 1156 ohv ( no interchangeable eng parts) & a coupe but no sedan delivery.

    Confused you will be!

    Oh & the Vauxhall hatchback (only) was avl in a run of 200 2.3 16v homologation specials plus 50 evolution versions to qualify for rallying.

    You should now be confused!

    Like 1
    • Derek

      No reason why the 2.3 and the 5-speed won’t fit, though (apart from their rarity). Manta drivetrain’ll perk it up a bit too.

      Like 1
  5. local_sheriff

    Anyone interested in this oddball vehicle is advised to check it out on Wikipedia,these came in MANY variants all over the world!Until today I’ve always thought the US-sold Kadett C was sourced from Germany.That’s why I like Barnfinds as I learn something new every day ,so I can find further comfort for my kinda ‘Asbergers’-ish needs…!

    This was my old man’s very first car so I have quite a few memories of these as a kiddo. As for any Opel of this vintage these were notorious rusters! The Isuzu/Opel in question here has shockingly little rust(and that says a lot!). Opel had SERIOUS rust issues all the way well into the 90s, makes me wonder how GM Europe could tolerate or even survive that image. It got to the point it became a national saying ‘all cars will rust, but Opel has the Rekord’ !

    However, the few surviving Kadett C’s of any body style have become classic old-timers all over Europe and also highly popular drifting and rally cars. They are extremely light FR layout cars that will swallow any size Opel I-4 made for such layout, some have also received newer Cosworth or Hayabusa engines , also with forced induction!

    Unfortunately I fear there are too few enthusiasts in the US to snap this car’s potential. It could be turned into a KILLER wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing sleeper!

    Like 4
  6. Bob C.

    This looks an awful like the early Isuzu I marks. The next generation would be badge engineered as the Chevy Spectrum.

  7. Dave

    This is a 1976 Opel by Isuzu (‘Buick’ was added in 1977, ‘by Isuzu’ dropped in 1979. It was built by Isuzu in Japan and fitted with a G180 1817cc OHC four cylinder and, from what I’ve worked out, a GM Hydramatic 200 auto gear box.

    They differed from the Aussie Geminis in several ways; driveline (Aussie Holden Gemini was 1584cc), auto (was a Trimatic, where fitted) and other details such as the radiator and rear brakes, which were Australian sourced on the local cars.

    I have one of these Opel by Isuzuss at home in Australia. Drives well and looks cool!!

    Like 2
  8. Mitch Ross Member

    With the big Isuzu engine , this car was a great performer compared to its competition. Won a few showroom stock races in its prime

    Like 1
  9. Miguel

    I don’t remember ever seeing the name Kadett on these nor them referred to as that.

    I only remember the Buick/Opel name on them. I didn’t know they actually had a model name.

    Like 1
  10. P Wentzell

    An employer of mine back in the day had a diesel variant with a 5 speed. Glaciers moved faster. She got rid of it and bought a Jaguar XJ.

  11. Rod Irwin

    I can confirm the car was built in Japan by Isuzu, I own a 77 model, I am the 3rd owner and I am still in contact with the 2nd owner, he owned the car from 1980 until I bought it about 5 years ago, it has 148k miles on it, with a 4spd, my car is actually badged as a Opel by Isuzu, the 76 model was the 1st year of production, it has an Opel stripe on it, mine originally was red with a black stripe with Buick/Opel on it, later models had square headlights and some were badged as an SC (sports coupe) with extras like center console with gauges , 3spoked steering wheel ETC. It is not badged a Kadett C, but I do call it a Kadett ,I actually own both German/Japan built cars although my 2 German built cars are still in my native N. Ireland in storage, my 1st car was a 78 Kadett C 4 door Special model so hence I have the interest in them,(1.2L S with a high lift camshaft, ported head ETC) I did find however that the Opel clubs here in the USA have a snobbery against them and don’t count them as true Opels, I disagree, it has the same basic styling/body shape albeit with different running gear so in my view they are the same. I have had mixed views on the car, from the typical “oh so does it still have the tiny 4 banger in there?” to the “wow ,an Opel , I had 1 of those years ago ” I also like the rarity of the car, here in the USA you see thousands of Corvettes, Camaros , Chevelles ETC , I have been told theres less than 50 on the road now, so its actually rarer than a Ferrari

    Like 2
  12. Dave

    Hey Rod,

    I’m glad that someone else in the world likes them! I have really only found one other enthusiast through the wonders of Facebook; a guy named Geert who exported his car to the Netherlands! I exported mine to Australia as a bit of a laugh; it’s so recognisably a Holden Gemini, except with huge US bumpers and, of course, LHD.

    Great fun on car runs; a while back, my wife was sitting in the passenger seat talking to me on the phone while my friend drove it (I was in my Holden Gemini) and she got pulled over for being on the phone!

    Pic is with my Australian-built, 1978 Holden Gemini van. The van and wagon versions used rear quarters, doors and hatch sourced from Opel/Vauxhall, mated to the Isuzu running gear. Unique to Australia, as the Japanese version was offered in sedan and coupe only (much like the Buick Opel). Cheers!

    Like 2
  13. Rod Irwin

    Love the pic! Hit me up on FB, my 1st name is Rodney, FB pic is me and 2 kids beside a black Opel rally car, send me Geerts detail on there too, I can see Opel and GM parts on your van alright, hell yes the US spec bumpers are horrendous! Euro spec are much prettier, considering importing my 2 Kadett C coupes to the US , will have to see though

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