Retropower has a long and storied association with retro Opels of all shapes and sizes but no model is as intrinsically intertwined with our story as the Ascona B. We’ve made three of these cars over the years, plus an impressive array of closely related models like the Manta 400 and Kadett C GTE, and yet it’s the news of an incoming Ascona project that gets everyone at Retropower extra excited.
The Ascona C shown here is easily the most recognisable Retropower project to date (at least until the Murray Mk1 Escort is finalised), and that’s despite it having been completed a almost half a decade ago! Built for Jason Johns, this is a car indelibly linked with another Retropower Ascona, that of Curt Pattinson, actually our very first ground up restoration project. The success of his long time friend’s Opel build convinced Jason to take the Retropower plunge in the September of 2013.
One of the odder coincidences associated with this build was that, much like his friend Curt, Jason already owned a shabby, ever so slightly down-at-heel Ascona B two-door rolling shell, which is quite something when you consider how spectacularly rare these cars are in the UK nowadays. Said shell was exactly as you might expect of an Opel of this vintage, with a fair amount of rot in most of the usual areas – though nothing insurmountable. The customary strip down, bare-metalling and media-blasting process was set in motion, before fresh metal was added to the areas in need (plus the all important 400 bodykit) and any trace of rot banished.
The solid shell, now wearing a coat of Signal Orange selected from a Ral colour chart, was soon wheeled into the assembly portion of the Retropower HQ. Jason had already decided that while far from a dedicated circuit car, he did want to be able to drive the Ascona on track in a competitive fashion. This had an direct impact on his choice of engine, or at least its state of tune – a rebuilt C20XE with an Eaton M90 supercharger (liberated from a Jaguar XJR) bolted to the side. This was paired with another one-off Retropower offering, a charge cooled inlet manifold with its own, standalone water circuit, totally distinct from the Ascona’s ‘regular’ one.
The result of this Redtop fettling is nothing short of spectacular, the Ascona making a full 300bhp of power at 1 BAR of boost, not to mention an impressive spread of both power and torque. It’s a setup that’s proved to be as potent as it is reliable, so much so that it’s by no means uncommon to see Jason’s Ascona humbling cars which (on paper at least) should have it licked.
The Ascona’s reliability has no doubt been aided by its transmission and driveline assembly, with a Getrag dog-leg ‘box leading to a Salisbury 4HA rear axle. The latter is home to a Jaguar Limited Slip Differential, soon to be treated to custom 30 degree ramp angles in place of its current, 45 degree setup.
This build has always been a little more unique than your average 400 replica, a trait reflected in many of its exterior details. There’s a full 400 kit with GM Dealer Sport graphics, true (although these have been re-worked in black, silver and gold), but there are also decidedly un-rally-like BBS wheels – 8x15in at the front and 10x15in at the rear.
The interior is far more conventional, with a bolt in roll-cage, Momo wheel, Sparco bucket seats and a flocked, standard dash the only clues to this Ascona’s Porsche-bothering performance potential.
Those 400 arches are home to an overhauled brake and suspension setup, with a Wilwood six-pot front setup with suitably enlarged discs. Jason’s car now sports. Bilstein dampers at all four corners, a full set of polyurethane bushes and custom poundage front springs.
It’s by no means one of the more extreme Retropower projects, it isn’t even close to being the most powerful, yet this build remains a firm favourite with both customers, the wider car community and the Retropower team.