Without four-wheel drive, the Mantas couldn't really compete at World Rally Championship (WRC) level, but both Jimmy McRae and Russell Brookes won British Rally Championships in them. Efficiency was the name of the game, and the opel engineers certainly hit the jackpot in 1984.
Based on the engineering of its predecessor but with a completely new hatchback design, the Kadett E was set for an enormous career. Buyers took to the new form after only a few months, paving the way for a new success story that provided the Kadett E with 625,000 new registrations across Europe in 1987. By this time, the station wagon version already had climbed to the top of its class. In the fall of 1985 the notchback made a comeback, making it the first true sedan in opel's compact class line up since the Kadett C. Moreover, the sporty GSi variant was an icon in the making. When the legendary 16-valve engine arrived on the scene in 1987, it left its competitors eating dust.
Auto journalists recognized early on that the new model was destined for success: The car was voted "Car of the Year 1984" by European automobile journalists and, like its predecessor, also received the "Goldenes Lenkrad" (Golden Steering Wheel) from bild am Sonntag. Jury President, Professor Max Danner, noted: "A follow-up model to a successful series must have some clear plus points compared with its predecessor. Opel's engineers have done a really good job there." From the very beginning, Opel's development team kept an eye on motor racing.
When the GSi was presented to the press in Corsica, a prototype of the rallye model with 170 hp was also available for test drives. In the two-liter class, the Kadett remained almost unbeatable on the race track for several years. But Opel had even greater ambitions: After private driver Heinz-Friedrich Peil, nicknamed Bimbo, achieved initial success in 1988, Opel entered a works team in the german Touring Car Championship (DTM) in 1989. The Kadett GSi developed around 270 hp at 8,100 rpm in the DTM trim, weighed only 800 kg and quickly became the fans' favorite with drivers Markus Oestreich, Peter Oberndorfer and Volker Strycek.
Going less for speed but more for the endurance, two 54 hp diesel station wagons set out in 1987 on the 30,000 km route from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. the torturous tour in the thin air of the Upper Andes nearly sapped the strength of the still non-turbocharged diesels. Despite this, both cars reached their destination, proving that it's not easy to stop a Kadett.