Opel is of course one of the best-known car brands in Europe. For a period up through the 1950’s, ‘60’s and ‘70’s they made some very fine cars indeed; personal favourites being the Manta A, the GT and the Commodore A and B. However, from the late ‘70’s onwards, their products became – for me, at least – less interesting, and although the Monza and Senator were pretty decent cars, even they were not particularly inspiring.
However, if you wanted uncomplicated Opel engineering but with a more exotic, exclusive design, there was another option – Bitter, established by former racing driver Erich Bitter as Erich Bitter Automobil GmbH in 1971, with a view to creating re-bodied versions of other manufacturer’s cars.
The first of these was the very stylish Bitter CD Coupé, based on a shortened chassis of Opel’s most prestigious saloon, the Diplomat. As Bitter lacked the capacity to build the cars, Baur was commissioned to build the Frua-designed coupe, but the mid-1970’s oil crisis hurt sales and production eventually ended in 1979.
This, however, was not the end of Bitter as 1981 saw the launch of the Bitter SC, this time based on the Opel Senator, as was Opel’s own big coupé, the Monza (sold in the UK as the Vauxhall Royale). Available with either the Senator’s 177 bhp, 3-litre straight 6-cylinder engine or a stroked 3.9-litre version from Opel tuner Mantzel producing an additional 30 bhp, the latter powered this large and heavy coupé up to a top speed of 137mph equating to 222km/h. The elegantly styled bodies were initially built by OCRA in Turin, but quality issues caused by using recycled steel resulted in the contract being transferred to Maggiore, with the luxurious nappa leather interiors coming from SALT, both companies also in Turin. Final assembly was at Bitter’s own works east of Düsseldorf in Schwelm, Germany, but this site was unable to cope with Bitter’s ambitious expansion plans and from 1983 assembly was contracted out to Steyr Daimler Puch in Graz, Austria.
To the uninitiated, the SC could be mistaken for any of a Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2 or the later 400 and 412 iterations. Yet the Bitter was the much more exclusive, with just 461 being made before production ended in 1989, compared to 2907 examples of the Ferrari.
It’s one of the 461 that is our Prime Find of the Week: a 1985 3.9SC Automatic in metallic gold with sumptuous cream leather interior. In fact, this car is rare even by Bitter standards, as it is one of just 31 RHD (29, according to the bittercars.com website) models produced, and it’s been in the same ownership for the past 33 years, making it almost a one-owner car. It’s being offered for sale through Classic Car Auctions (CCA) during the Practical Classics and Restoration show at the NEC on March 24th. Yours truly will be reporting on this show for ViaRETRO, so I shall try to get a closer look at this particular Bitter. For now though, based on the catalogue description and the photos, this looks like a lot of exclusive classic GT motoring for very reasonable money, more on which shortly.
According to the Bitter Owners’ Club, there are just thirty Bitter SC’s in the UK – more than I expected, to be honest, as I haven’t seen one for a very long time. While it might be a relatively standard Opel mechanically – and should therefore be reasonably straightforward to service – it looks more exotic than any Opel, or indeed Vauxhall, both inside and out, and you’ll be unlikely to ever meet another outside of Owner’s Club meets.
This car is described as having had an engine-out respray just four years ago and comes with a partial history file. CCA give it 91/135 on their condition measuring scale, which should translate into the Bitter being in good-to-very-good condition. These pictures have been borrowed from CCA:
So to the money… nowadays you can get a good Opel Monza GS/E for about £7,000/ €8,000, and a Ferrari 400i for about £45,000/ €53.000. This seemingly very good Bitter sits between the two – albeit much nearer the Monza – with an estimate of between £12-15,000/ €14-17,500. When new, the cost of a standard Bitter 3.9 SC Coupé was DM 114,800, around £32,000/€37,250, or £68,800/€80,000 in today’s money – all of which seems to make this particular car potentially an excellent buy for someone looking for something that little bit different.
Here you have a link to the CCA auction catalogue: 1985 Bitter 3.9 SC
With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to email@example.com