Not too long ago, I got a chance to drive a lovely Opel GT owned by one of my favorite fellow car-thought-writer-downers, Elana Scherr. The thing was an absolute little charmer, an eager little nimble car that felt a little bit like Opel employed some kind of Dark Magick to inject the souls of really happy dogs into the car. Elana also pointed out something under the hood that, once I saw it, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. And, as you know, when this happens, my job is to get it into your heads, too. Like a virus.
This Opel GT seems to be quite stock, so what I’m going on about here isn’t some goofy one-off bit of idiosyncratic engineering. This is Opel factory stuff.
Because you have some superpowers, I bet you can use your X-ray vision to see inside the car, if that helps. Here, give it a try:
See? I knew you could do it. Of course, that doesn’t really highlight what I’m interested in. Here’s the bit in question:
See what we’re looking at here? The power brake booster and the windshield washer fluid reservoir.
See what’s weird yet?
On nearly every car I can think of, if it’s front-engined and has a power brake booster, that booster/brake fluid reservoir/master cylinder is almost always mounted right at the firewall, with a pretty short shaft from the brake pedal actuating the unit. This is almost a universal thing.
Washer fluid reservoirs, on the other hand, can be in a variety of places, but it’s not uncommon to find them way up front, tucked into a fender or crammed into all kinds of little nooks.
The reasons for this are pretty simple: brakes are pretty important. So why not reduce the chances of issues by keeping that actuating rod short and keeping the brake booster safe from minor wrecks by locating it mostly out of harm’s way, nestled up against that firewall?
The washer fluid can hang wherever, because, let’s be real, nobody ever was stranded because their washer fluid reservoir was cracked. I mean, I bet someone has, but that story probably involves a lot of bat guano or some other kind of unlikely criteria.
So, what’s baffling on the Opel GT is why did Opel choose to swap the positions of these two common parts? Why would they want the brake booster so far forward, requiring that insanely long actuating rod to operate it? Why did they think they needed the washer fluid so close to the firewall?
What was the thinking here? It all seems so much more complicated than doing it the established way, and I can’t really see any actual space issues—it really seems like they’d have room to swap the washer fluid and brake booster positions without any trouble, really, and they wouldn’t need that long brake pedal rod.
Just to drive the point home, that’s an Opel GT brake booster with the rod that connects to the pedal next to a Mercedes-Benz 200 setup from around the same era. Note that, because the Mercedes one mounts to the firewall, the pedal assembly can just about mate right to the booster, nice and tidy.
I just can’t figure out why Opel’s engineers would have decided to lay it out this way. It’s not like this way saves any money, or makes anything better, experientially. It’s worse in a minor wreck, it’s more complicated to maintain—if there’s some arcane benefit here, it’s lost on me.
Which is, of course, why I love it so.
I’m curious to hear anyone’s guesses on why this is. As a reward, here’s a video of the GT’s wonderfully clunky all-mechanical roll-open-and-shut headlights in action, complete with my goofy laughs: