Classic: The Boss
Maybe it’s because the Superboss and I were contemporaries in my early days as a motoring writer, but the raucous little Opel holds a special place in my heart – as it clearly does for guys like Chris Davison who have dedicated many waking hours to ensuring its survival.
I thought that I had died and gone to heaven when my then editor, Geoff Dalglish, handed me the invite to the launch of the first 16-valve Kadett, which took place at Zwartkops and included laps of the track with some of Opel’s top racers. I vividly remember being chauffeured by Graham Blankfield in a Stannic Group N twolitre eight-valve Boss, an experience remarkable for the fact that not once in the lap did he brake with his right foot.
The first 16-valve Kadett became known as the Big Boss, but there was more in store and less than a year later the Superboss arrived. It was unleashed at Tarlton with the press pitted against each other down the dragstrip. Dalglish held tightly onto that invite, possibly because the spectacularly sexy Michelle Bruce (Miss SA 1989) was in attendance. She proved to be pretty handy away from the lights apparently, turning in low 16-second runs over a quarter-mile.
Any drag racer will tell you that a 16 for a four-cylinder, normally-aspirated front-drive production car is quick, but street drags had nothing to do with the birth of the ’Boss. Nope, it was simply about the maxim that what wins on Saturday sells on Monday – and in those days Delta pinned its marketing on production car racing.
Two names were key to the success of the Superboss but only one got the glory. It underpinned the track career of Mike Briggs and he went on to win epic battles against arch rival Tony Viana in a BMW 325iS. But the mastermind behind the Superboss was Rolf Mentzel, then Delta’s manager of product engineering and quality assurance.
Mentzel headed overseas with an extensive shopping list after being instructed to make sure Briggs retained his hard-fought ‘A1’ race number at the end of the 1990 season. This was in the face of the looming challenge of the lightweight iS and the rumoured (and ultimately stillborn) Spitze Golf. He visited tuning and suspension specialists Irmscher, camshaft expert Schrick as well as Aluette, who made some very tasty lightweight wheels.
To shorten a long story, Mentzel returned with hot cams, springs, ventilated discs (from the Opel Omega sedan) and wheels with a distinctive five-spoke pattern and a powder-coated anthracite finish. What he didn’t find overseas was a suitable limited-slip diff or an exhaust system.
André Verwey, already acclaimed as a brilliant engineer and innovator, was approached to build a differential and he came up with a design which allowed for two settings – road and track. Needless to say, all cars were sold with the higher preload though dealers could theoretically change it to the more forgiving position if the customer so desired. The same applied to the camshaft phasing, which could be set to give less overlap and a smoother idle. But a Superboss without a lumpy, slightly fluffy idle wouldn’t be a Superboss.