Opel-Vauxhall has a Frontera again, but what does the recently presented new edition have in common with the 1991 namesake? Not a great deal; both could be charitably described as SUVs. And the (as yet unknown) length: the 1991 model measured 4,207 mm as a three-door called Sport, while the five-door model came in at 4,480 mm.

Many of our valued readers have probably already read the "Do you remember?" series. There we present cars from the past that are now almost forgotten. But what about the models that are still on the road in large numbers? The types that everyone knows, that have been on the road for well over 20 years, or in some cases much less.

Gallery: Opel Frontera (2024)

Will they one day become classic cars? That harbours fuel for controversial discussions. We want to present some of these models in our "Classic of the future?" series.

The car world was divided for many decades. On the one hand, there were comfortable saloons for the road, and on the other, purist cars for off-road use - capable farm labourers mostly from England and the USA, but which dragged along sluggishly on asphalt. This changed abruptly in 1991: Opel-Vauxhall presented the Frontera (Spanish for "border"), an "all-wheel-drive leisure car", at the Geneva Motor Show.

Opel Frontera celebrates its 30th birthday

To be more precise, there were two of them. The compact Opel-Vauxhall Frontera Sport was the first to show what is now widely considered an SUV, and then came the five-door Frontera with a long wheelbase as a Range Rover for the little man. In fact, with the Frontera, the Rüsselsheim-based company founded the 4x4 all-rounder segment and triggered a veritable all-wheel-drive boom throughout Europe. The new model was honoured as "Off-road vehicle of the year 1991/92".

By 1993, the Frontera had already shaken off all the rough-terrain competition and taken the lead in the registration statistics. In 1993 and 1994, the Frontera was the best-selling off-roader in Europe; the largest single market was Germany. In total, over 320,000 units of the Frontera were registered.

The Opel-Vauxhall Frontera was developed by an international team of engineers specifically for the requirements of buyers on the European market. Good aerodynamics, passenger car comfort, functionality, a dynamic appearance and good handling were at the forefront of the design.

Opel Frontera celebrates its 30th birthday

The new all-wheel-drive vehicle was developed in co-operation with Opel-Vauxhall's sister company at the time, Isuzu. The Japanese company had been focussing on off-roaders since 1981. The "IBC Vehicles" joint venture in Luton, north of London, was used for Frontera production. Today, the Opel-Vauxhall Vivaro and the Zafira are manufactured at this site.

The newcomer was available from the end of 1991 in two body variants: as a two-door Frontera Sport with a short wheelbase and hardtop, it had a 2.0-litre engine with 115 PS, as in other Opel-Vauxhall models. The five-door Frontera with a long wheelbase was available with either the powerful 2.4-litre engine (125 PS) already proven in the Omega or the 2.3-litre turbodiesel (100 PS).

Both petrol engines are offered throughout Europe with a regulated catalytic converter as standard. In all models, power is transmitted via a manual five-speed gearbox and a two-stage transfer case with off-road reduction - normally to the rear axle. For optimum traction, the driver can engage the front axle via a short gear lever. A self-locking rear axle differential with limited slip is available at extra cost.

The Frontera has a separate ladder-type frame, which also carries the wheel suspension and drive components. The body of the two-door version is connected to the frame by ten, in the five-door version by twelve special rubber mounts. They are designed to maximise noise and vibration insulation.

Opel Frontera celebrates its 30th birthday

The ladder-type frame has a total of six cross members; these guarantee high torsional rigidity for off-road use. The engine and power transmission components are mounted on additional, bolted supports so that they can be removed quickly and easily for maintenance and repair work.

The welded frame is primed and painted with epoxy powder paint during production and the cavities are additionally treated with wax. The majority of body panels are made of galvanised material. 90 per cent of all zinc-coated sheet metal is treated on both sides. The body is also subjected to a ten-stage corrosion protection programme.

It is then placed on the ready-to-drive chassis and additionally fitted with plastic inner wings, a roll bar and - on the two-door model - the hardtop. A final wax coating of the underbody completes the final assembly so that the Frontera is reliably protected against rust even under the toughest conditions.

Opel Frontera celebrates its 30th birthday

The second generation of the Opel-Vauxhall Frontera is launched in autumn 1998 with a new 2.2-litre turbodiesel direct injection engine and a 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine. The newly developed off-roader offers improved ride comfort and handling as well as greater safety and a fresh design.

In all models, the electronic "No-Stop All-Wheel Drive" system now allows the driver to switch between rear and four-wheel drive conveniently at the touch of a button while driving. For the first time, the Opel-Vauxhall all-wheel drive model can also be combined with a four-speed automatic transmission (for DTI 16V and 3.2 V6). The Frontera is still available as a three-door short version Sport and as a five-door model with a long wheelbase.

Modern four-valve engines power the second Frontera generation. The DTI 16V with a displacement of 2.2 litres produces 115 PS and delivers a maximum torque of 260 Newton metres. The new base unit is the revised 2.2 16V four-cylinder petrol engine (136 PS, 202 Nm). In both engines, two balancer shafts ensure smooth running. The new 3.2 V6 with 205 PS (290 Nm) is available exclusively for the Opel-Vauxhall Frontera Limited as the top-of-the-range engine.

Even better driving characteristics and more comfort on and off the road are guaranteed by, among other things, a wider front and rear track compared to the predecessor, a new five-link rear axle and an extended wheelbase in the three-door model. In addition, acoustically optimised engines, new door sealing systems, the use of additional insulating material and aerodynamic fine-tuning reduce interior noise by around half.

Opel Frontera celebrates its 30th birthday

The new Frontera has also been further improved in terms of passive safety. In addition to side impact protection in all doors, reinforced door locks and hinges optimise the crash behaviour of the body, which is mounted on a robust ladder frame. The restraint systems for the driver and front passenger now include pyrotechnic belt tensioners in addition to full-size airbags.

The Sport version has height-adjustable head restraints in the two rear seats, and a third rear head restraint is now available for the five-door model. The exterior of the second generation of the bestseller is characterised by softer body lines.

This gives the off-roader a more elegant appearance, but at the same time emphasises its robust character. In the three-door model, a narrower B-pillar and an additional side window ensure even better all-round visibility and thus a plus in active safety.

The first Opel-Vauxhall Frontera was delivered at the end of 1991. This year, these models can be registered as historic vehicles. There is an extensive range of all model years on the used car market. The Frontera was manufactured in Luton until the end of 2003; stock vehicles were registered in the course of the following year.

The mechanics of both generations are robust and have a long service life. As a result, there are plenty of Fronteras with mileages of over 300,000 kilometres on the online exchanges - both diesel and petrol models. Six-cylinder models from the last few years are particularly sought-after at the moment, preferably with a full service history and from first-hand owners.

Gallery: Opel Frontera celebrates its 30th birthday