Even in the flat light of the garage, the orange paint sparkles, reflecting Denise Hofmann’s beaming face. The Commodore B, a four-door sedan with a 2.5-liter engine and a three-speed automatic transmission, is the 24-year-old’s pride and joy.
Whoever doesn’t know this 1.7-meter tall, delicate blond-haired woman would barely believe at first glance that she dedicates her free time to antique cars and is also a professional in the car making industry. After graduating from high school, she was a little too late with her application for an auto mechanic apprenticeship, but she accepted Opel’s suggestion that she become an instrument mechanic instead. “It’s an interesting job,” she says. She talks about turning, milling and welding, and the fascination of creating something out of a piece of metal. Meanwhile, she now belongs to the permanent staff of M55 in Rüsselsheim manufacturing differential housings for the F40 six-gear transmissions, which are built into the Astra and Insignia.
Adam Opel AG accepted her Commodore B as a test vehicle on October 31, 1973. They used a wide variety of engines and transmissions. “Unfortunately, no one knows anything about this period anymore,” says Hofmann with regret. The car’s history afterward, though, is well documented. For eighteen years, the ‘Commo’ was in the care of a family living in Rüsselsheim. The next owner wanted to use the 115-horsepower six-cylinder as an antique car, but wasn’t able to complete the project due to an illness. For around 20 years, the car sat in the owner’s barn, literally a sleeping beauty. Until Denise Hofmann kissed the car and it came back to life.
One of the taillights twinkled at me;
I felt like I had been struck by lightning.
It was love at first sight for the young woman. “When I pulled back the tarp, one of the taillights twinkled at me; it felt like I had been struck by lightning,” she says with a grin. The technical components had suffered astoundingly little damage. Hofmann started restoring the car with the help of Harald Hoede, a mechanic she is friendly with, in her free time. They toiled on the car for four months, fitting it with a new fan belt, oil and water pump, and more. The gas tank was skillfully rebuilt, and a new set of a tires were put on. The saddlery shop that was hired to repair the vinyl roof knew that they had taken this Commodore in before, decades ago.
Hofmann speaks in an animated way about taking apart the brakes and the tough job of cleaning the undercarriage. Her efforts paid off in a first-class car that has its own sheen and history. The crocheted toilet-paper roll on the rear window shelf is part of it, just like the stickers from campgrounds in Italy and Spain. “It has to have a few dents and scratches. Otherwise, I’d be afraid to drive it,” she says. The Opel employee takes the former test vehicle for a spin every two weeks. Even though she also has a Tigra A (‘my very first car’) and, since recently, an ADAM (‘we’re inseparable in everyday life’) to choose from, Denise Hofmann prefers to get behind the wheel of the Commodore, which has been dubbed ‘Sleeping Beauty.’ Why? “Because it can really fly.”