Wow. Just wow. I’ve been waiting for the chance to get hold of one of these for some time and now I’ve got one in hand I’m thoroughly in love. And it’s in keeping with my recent tales of models from South America. This is the 1972 Chevrolet Opala SS from BR Classics.
Built by General Motors do Brasil (GM’s subsidiary in South America) the Opala debuted at the Sao Paulo motor show in November 1968. The Opala was styled locally in Brazil but utilised a platform shared with the Opel Rekord C and Holden Commodore A and engines sourced from GM’s North American models. A 153cu (2.5 litre) inline-four from the first generation Chevy II/Nova and a 230cu (3.8 litre) inline-six from the 1963 Impala were the two engine choices available at launch and for the first three years the Opala was only offered as a 4-door in two trims: basic or “Luxo”. By 1971 the SS model arrived and the 3.8 litre had been reworked and enlarged to 250cu/4.1 litres.
The SS offered 170bhp and a top speed of 108mph which may not sound Earth shattering, but this is from an era where the standard car of choice in Brazil was the Volkswagen Beetle. The 2.5 and 3.8 blocks had proved incredibly strong engines and the 4.1 was no exception. The Opala SS became a popular fixture in motorsport and also a highly popular car for tuning, with drag racers in particular enjoying the huge amounts of power they could unlock from the 250cu. Even in the modern era the Opala is still a common sight on Brazilian drag strips with some turbocharged examples putting out 1000bhp+. Other models in the Opala range included the station wagon “Caravan” model that arrived in 1975 and the “Comodoro” and “Diplomata” luxury versions arriving in 1970 and 1979 respectively. Major facelifts came in 1980 and 1988 and production of all Opalas ended in 1992 when the model was replaced by the Chevrolet Omega.
Regardless of trim or model, the Opala is engrained in automotive culture in Brazil. Over one million were sold and it remains a very important car nationally.
But there aren’t many Opalas in diecast, certainly not in 1:64 scale. 1:43 Ixo/Salvat cars are available easily, but if you’re collecting habits are in 3-inch land then there are only two brands that can help. One of those brands is Hot Wheels, who replicated the Opala between 2012 and 2017, with the Phil Riehlman design sold on the pegs as the Chevrolet SS. A 2017 multipack exclusive is part of my hoard but is not exactly my favourite colour scheme for it; that honour goes to the 2012 debut casting in green. What it is in my hoard for is as a base for a custom which by the time this article is published will be well under way.
The proportions are a very good but are spoiled by the overblown rear tyres which are far too big. But the Hot Wheels SS was a great model and surprisingly almost exactly 1:64, and is only a hair’s breadth longer and wider than the BR Classics car.
But since the last examples vanished from the Hot Wheels line up there has been no Opala in small scale. That was until the arrival of BR Classics. I’ve been aware of this brand for a couple of years but haven’t been able to acquire one of their models until now, when they are on their third series! But man it’s been worth the wait.
It’s a stunning model, beautifully proportioned and bang on 1:64 scale. There are two variants of the SS in BR’s third series; a Blue 1974 model and this 1972 version finished in “Laranja Boreal”.
It’s a fantastic shade for the Opala and looks great offset with the matt black stripes.
It rolls perfectly on treaded rubber tyres and the detail is all there: sharp decals, clear plastic head and taillights, door locks and chrome parts picked out, a set of windscreen wipers and an accurate exhaust backbox.
I love these unique diecasts especially when they are executed so well. With the end of year fast approaching, so too are the Lamley Awards. This is definitely not the last you’ll be seeing of this thing.