August 11, 2020 By Francis G. Pallarco Photos: EZ Ligaya

Tuner: Retro Racer

Something different for street or track duties

Even with numerous car-show-winning, restored and modified builds under his belt, Reybel Melendrez had yet to embark on his dream build. This was to build a fully functional and car show worthy, classic racecar from the seventies. Despite having owned popular Japanese classics such as, Corolla Trueno, Celica, Lancer and more, he couldn’t bear hacking up such rare cars. That is until he stumbled upon a rusted body shell. The rust bucket was missing an engine and whole lot of interior/exterior parts. Call him crazy, but Reybel instantly envisioned his dream build the moment he saw it.

It does look like 2-door Isuzu Gemini coupe, but it’s actually a 1979 Opel Kadett C, that’s also known as the Holden Gemini in other countries. Born as a result of General Motor’s grand scheme of platform sharing, the Kadett C wasn’t sold locally, unlike the ubiquitous Isuzu Gemini back in the day. Reybel’s build plan entailed transforming the basic Kadett into a functional racecar. More specifically, a Kadett GT/E that was a souped-up version Opel did for homologation purposes. No less than Walter Röhrl drove a GT/E from ’75 to ’77 under the Opel Euro Handler Team in the WRC. The street-going version of the GT/E was even dubbed as,” The Rallye Specialist” in their ads.

With plans of unveiling the car at the Transport Show, Reybel took note of what he needed and ordered parts as far as Greece, Germany, Australia, and the States. Ensuring the level of detail, the body was placed on a car rotisserie as Reybel adds, “I employed two tinsmiths who worked on either side just to make things faster. They also hand formed the fender flares, front and rear spoiler from bare metal, which I personally designed.” It wasn’t without its own set of challenges as they went through several pieces before they got it right. The paint scheme is based on the white over yellow GT/E scheme using Cromax paints where it was also laid out on the inside body panels of the car, for a more detailed approach.

The original GT/E used a 2.0-liter, Opel Rekord engine, but this one sports a late model Opel engine. Retaining its performance factor, Reybel managed to source a C20XE “Red Top” engine, co-developed by Cosworth from Germany. Given that it can be found on the late eighties to early nineties Opel Calibra, Astra and Vectra, it’s not something that’s readily available. With the exception of machine shop work on the heads and block, Reybel and his son Nico rebuilt the engine themselves with power generating mods. Despite the great work done by Cosworth on the 16-valve head, it was further ported and polished, especially on the port to throat area to ensure a smooth unrestricted flow. Aftermarket camshafts were also required to enable the engine to ingest and expel more amounts of fuel and gases. An Individual Throttle Body (ITB) setup replaced the twin Webers that the engine came with. Not only does it offer more power but also easier to tune. The custom header and stainless-steel side exhaust were also done in-house as Reybel adds, “Most of what you see here were built and not bought.” Engine management duties are handled by a fully programmable Microtech ECU, tuned to put out over 200 horsepower by noted race engine builder/tuner Pam Tolentino with the help of Mario Manzanero. Nothing still beats hearing those velocity stacks that make all the right intake noises.

Suspension bits employ Bilstein struts and dampers, as one should expect from a German car. Four-wheel disc brakes with a custom dual power brake booster setup allow it to stop. Adding greatly to its looks are the polished wheel barrels, which are Volk Rays Artisan Spirit wheels in a staggered setup that fill up the wide wheel arches. Inside, the racecar theme is very evident with all the required safety equipment that’s enough to surpass current race rules. The well-laid aluminum dashboard including the lightweight door cards and fuel cell were all custom-done in house. Overall, this custom build presented its own set of challenges such as sourcing rare items where Reybel notes that most of the pieces he bought were the last ones in stock. Aside from the parts sourcing, Reybel’s creativity was also put to the test into this clean and detailed build, stressing him out for months. But his hard work finally paid off, bagging three major Transport Show awards, depicting the quality work put into his dream build. The only thing I can’t wait to happen is seeing it tear up the racetrack.


1979 Opel Kadett C GT/E

Mr. Reybel Melendrez

RPM Autoworks

Engine: OPEL C20XE

Engine Type: 2.0-liter, DOHC, 16 valve,

Engine Mods: Polished & Balanced Crankshaft and Connecting Rods, High Lift Camshafts, Adjustable Cam Gears, Ported & Polished Cylinder Head, Oil Cooler, Custom header & side exhaust by RPM Motorworks,

Induction: EFI Hardware Individual Throttle Body (45mm) Aluminum Velocity Stacks, SARD Fuel Pressure

Other Stuff: Custom Aluminum Radiator, Slim Fans, Samco Hoses, Remote Oil Filter Relocation Kit, Cusco Oil Catch Can,

Engine Management: Microtech LT9C with Microtech X4 Individual Coil Packs, Tuned by Pam Tolentino and Mario Manzareno

Horsepower: 250 whp (estimated)

Transmission: Getrag 240, 5-Speed Manual Tilton Cerametallic Clutch an

Differential: Opel Solid Differential with 3.9 Gears

Brake Mods: Cross Drilled Rotors, Custom Twin PBR Brake Booster Set-Up Wilwood Brake Master, Custom Hydraulic Hand Brake Set-Up

Suspension Mods: BIlstein Dampers, Anti-Roll Bars, Panhard Rod,

Rollers: Volk Rays Artisan Spirit (2pc.) Wheels (F: 14×8.5, R: 14×9.5) TOYO Proxes TR1 Tires (F: 195/45R14, R: 225/45R14)

Interior Mods: Custom Dashboard w/ Auto Meter Gauges, Sabelt Pedals, Custom Steering Column w/Sabelt Steering Wheel, Works Bell Tilt Steering Adaptor, Electrical Cut Off Switches, Custom Aluminum Door Cards, Door Handles, Floor Mats, Ron Francis Fuse Box & Relay Switches, 6-pt. Roll Cage, Custom Fuel Cell (rally type), Fuel System, Battery Tray

Exterior: Custom Hand-Formed Steel Overfenders, Front & Rear Spoiler, Hood Pins, and Rear Trunk Latch, NOS Front Grille, Side Vents, Tailights, Clearance Light, RPM Tow Belt,

Body & Paint: Bodywork by RPM Auto works using Cromax Paints, Opel Kadett GT/E Livery (Polarweiss over Brilliantgelb) GST glass shield tech of Louie Salta

Kudos To: My team RPM autoworks, Mid-south old schooler Nico Melendrez, Bianca Ramos, Noel Escueta, Ariel Carlos, Jose Carlo Martinez, Mario Manzanero, Manny martinez Romel Sabino, Neil Monzones,

Trans Sport Show Awards: Reserve Best of Show Nostalgic, Best of Classic Restomod Best Engine Display



“The Rallye Specialist”a

This was Opel’s response in retaliation to the newly released Volkswagen Golf GTi back in the mid-seventies. Solely intended for Rally Sport, the limited production Kadett GT/E came stuffed with performance components and a yellow/black paint scheme that Opel called “War Colors”. A 115 hp, 2.0-liter engine propelled it to a top speed of 189 km/h and 0 to 100 km/h in 9.8 seconds. With the famous Walter Röhrl competing in the WRC and endorsing the GT/E, sales were brisk as the first production run of 1000 GT/E’s for homologation purposes in motorsports sold very quickly. From 1977, a new version of the GT/E was built which was called the GT/E 2. This version of the GT/E was no longer available in the colors yellow/black, but was provided in the colors yellow/white. It was considered serious machinery back then that in the Netherlands, it could only be purchased if the buyer possessed a racing license.

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