I was sitting there scratching my ass, watching youtube videos from local internet stars and I said – let it be Opel Calibra.
The Opel Calibra was definitely a memorable coupe and one of the most iconic cars of the 90s. While we were busy singing ABBA and picking up the girls with lines like “are you coming to me or shall I call the miners to you?”, Opel / Vauxhall / Holden was launching the Calibra and wanted to surprise us like winter. Or hemorrhoids.
What do we have here? An Opel Vectra B / Saab 9-3 with 2 doors, 4 seats, and high aspirations. And the reality was very close to aspirations, the Opel Calibra was a huge hit, almost as big as the Elegance song – “Night by Night”. Yes, in a world dominated by Ford Probe, Toyota Celica, VW Scirocco, and Mazda RX-7. And probably the first CLK.
It was an Opel/Vauxhall so people were somewhat familiar to them. It was based on the Vectra B platform so it could be repaired by absolutely anyone with a sock and some wire available, it wasn’t a specialist car that had to be hauled to the service like Hannibal Lecter. It also had 2-liter engines so you have to fear the tax man and the base engine had 115 horsepower, enough for any beginner. You also had a 2.5 turbo 4×4 if you wanted to go fast. You also had an aftermarket for motorsport, because at every 90s motorsport event there was an Opel Calibra.
Opel Calibra Engines
- 2.0 MPI of 115, 138, and 152 horsepower – We have the same C20NE engine on all 3 variants, the only notable difference being that the 115 horsepower version has 8 valves and a camshaft, the others having 16 valves and 2 camshafts. We know this engine from the Vectra, and you need to have a spare ECU in the boot and a barrel of oil. Not drum, barrel. Bonus points for the headgasket too.
- 2.0 Turbo of 207 horsepower – This engine was sought after and chased more than Benny Hill was by the ladies, with its Makita or something precision carved jaw and garbage bag style mullet. Like Benny Hill, this engine is very good if you leave it exactly as it is and don’t start tuning it. I mean it has the standard 2.0 aspirated problems and has turbine seals made of 2-ply toilet paper and peach flavoring like toilet paper needs flavoring. But at 207 horsepower it’s a decent engine in terms of reliability because it has 207 horsepower. Problems instead occur when you start tuning it, so keep it stock. As is the case with the 2.0 Turbo in the Astra H.
- 2.5 V6 of 170 hp – In 1996 EGR was also introduced on the engine, but that was at the end of the party. Otherwise, it’s the most reliable engine on the Opel Calibra, having issues only with the camshaft sensor, which costs the equivalent of two Holsten beers. Oh yes, specific to the 2.5 V6 is that the oil cooler is placed in the middle of the V and has to be replaced every 150,000 km.
Opel Calibra General Issues
- The PCV valve is a small but sinful thing, just like my hand. Because it’s a low-quality valve, it builds up too much pressure and can affect the valve stems.
- The main issue with Opels of this era are the timing and the water pump. That’s because the timing belt retainer is made of 2 mm thick extruded polystyrene and it breaks. And the belt drives the water pump and when the belt breaks, you will cry. If you dreamed you woke up, up on a roof, only in underwear, that’s how it feels for the timing belt to snap. Oh yeah, don’t listen to Opel and change the timing belt + water pump at 60,000 km.
- There are 4×4 versions that try to solve the Opel problem in the sense that you turn left but the car goes forward. Very good idea, applied instead as badly as this website. And that’s because the moment the gearbox fails (and it will fail), the car won’t run.
- Rust, rust, rust. Actually, Opel Calibra is not necessarily mechanically weak, but rust kills it.
Opel Calibra Verdict
You don’t want to know how I feel right now, you don’t want to go with me to tell you. Maybe I’ve got a pint in the back, maybe I’ve squeezed them all in my underwear. Calibra.
What engines do you recommend? Most likely you’ll go for the 138 hp 2.0 MPI because it’s the most popular, but if you’re interested in reliability then you should go for the 170 hp 2.5 V6 unit.
4 February 2023 at 8:34
I recently restored Vauxhall calibra 2lt 16v, x20xev. Issues with finding compatible 02, cam and crankshaft sensors. Not sure who makes original sensor etc. Also need new or used ecu. Hard to find. 1995 ecotech. Great car. Could use correct advice and help. Excellent review you made on different Calibras.