Opel Monza GSE

Opel Monza GSE at Bungalow Diner, Marks Tey

The Opel Monza was in my opinion one of the classic cars of the Seventies and Eighties. It often seems to get compared to the Ford Capri but the Monza was a far superior car with better looks, performance and handling. When I first saw one and its Vauxhall cousin the Royale Coupé it was love at first sight and I knew I had to have one.  I owned a Series II Monza 3.0E for a couple of years in the mid-Eighties but then children came along and I had to bow to the inevitable and swap it for a boring family car with more than two doors. However the desire to own the top-of-the-range GSE with that cool digital dash never went away and after years of pondering and looking I finally acquired one (above) in October 2013.

In their day these cars were pretty quick but nowadays your average yobbo in a hot hatch will leave a Monza standing. However size – or rather speed – isn’t everything of course. I don’t really know why I like these cars so much but those are human emotions for you I suppose. I love the fastback styling and the understated spoiler on the back – so much more classy than that brash Essex Boy ‘whale tail’ thing on the Sierra XR4i. But I guess that above all else the car evokes memories of a significant period in my life. With its digital LCD dash the Monza GSE “truly was a child of the Eighties”, as James Richardson from the Autobahnstormers Midlands group once said to me.

My car is completely standard in that it is a five-speed manual and doesn’t have any of the optional extra toys like an electric sunroof, ABS or air conditioning. However being a manual it’s a bit more fun to drive than the more common automatic version.

Unfortunately Monzas were quite well known as being rust buckets and my car is no exception, being well afflicted with the tin worm after nearly thirty years. A mate of mine once described my car as “a good ten-footer”, i.e. it looks good from ten feet away (or three metres to my European friends). However once you got close up you could see that things weren’t quite so fine and dandy. Anyway the car now has a SORN declared on it and the poor old thing is currently up in the West Midlands in the process of being restored, so watch this space …

September 2016

Work has finally started on the old girl after a bit of a delay. My restorer has been inundated with horse boxes to refurbish of all things – I do hope he doesn’t get the two projects confused!

The car is in a bit of a bad way and it was a close call as to whether it was worth restoring at all apparently, but fortunately the restorer and his colleague decided that the answer was yes. I aim to go up and check up on her in another six months to see how she’s getting on.

Monza restoration, September 2016

It’s also becoming clear that some previous ‘restoration’ work done on the car before I bought it has in places been a bit of a bodge. There are parts of the inner wings where new metal had just been welded straight over the top of corroded areas, with the result that my restorer man is having to hack all of the bodged stuff out first in order to get at the rust.

March 2017

Some progress on the front of the car, mainly on the notoriously corrosion-prone suspension turrets. I want to keep that bracing strut on the suspension as I think it looks pretty cool!

Monza restoration, March 2017

Meanwhile the offside front inner wing has been repaired with a new hand-fabricated ‘trumpet’, and all rusty sections replaced with new metal:

Monza restoration, March 2017

September 2017

The repair work on the front of the car largely completed. The nearside wing now has its new trumpet as well. There’s some filling still to be done and the primer to go on but we’re nearly there:

Monza restoration, September 2017

Now to the rear of the car, and more horrors lurking under the covers – literally. It appears that the chump who carried out some previous ‘repair’ work just left the rusty metal in place, welded some new bits of metal over the top and then plastered over the whole lot with a load of fibreglass and filler!

Monza restoration, September 2017

The nearside rear wheel-arch and the bottom of the rotten rear wing have been repaired with a hand-fabricated section of galvanised sheet steel:

Monza restoration, September 2017

My restoration guy says that this is the worst Monza he’s ever worked on rust-wise. I did notice that he’s got a few more grey hairs compared to six months ago …

April 2018

The bodywork at the rear of the car completed:

Monza restoration, April 2018

… and now the underside of the rear, looking up towards the fuel filler inlet. Lots of anti-stonechip underseal stuff to protect everything!

Monza restoration, April 2018

Next job is to attend to the floorpan inside the car, as there are some fairly meaty holes there that wouldn’t look out of place in the Flintstones. Once that’s done we could be near to completion of the bodywork repairs. Then it will be the paint job, followed by putting everything back together and rectifying the various mechanical issues such as corroded fuel and brake lines etc. etc..

October 2018

More rot discovered unfortunately, this time with the rear suspension semi-trailing arms. For some reason the offside was in a far worse state than the nearside:

The brake disc backing plate had rotted through so much that there was nothing for the handbrake shoe retaining pins to grip on to. And yes you did see that correctly – somebody has welded a large half-inch-drive socket to the top of the arm to act as a spring seat!

With a great deal of effort and I suspect a lot of swearing (always helps in my experience) my restorer and his mate have managed to get the hubs to bits, replace the knackered offside wheel bearing and repair the semi-trailing arms. New spring seats have been fabricated and welded on to the arms. Finally everything has been coated with more of that grey anti-stonechip underseal stuff to hopefully keep out the tin worm in future:

Monza restoration, October 2018

Monza restoration, October 2018

Monza restoration, October 2018

I managed to source a new offside disc backing plate from GM6 Spares in Cornwall, but the nearside one is not nearly so bad. It’s perforated in places but is repairable.

Still to do is to finish off the front of the car (i.e. putting the wings back on), the replacement of fuel and brake lines and the refurb of the brake callipers. And not forgetting the paint job of course. But so long as no other horrors are discovered I think we could be looking at next Spring for completion of the car.