If paved the way for the hardcore front-wheel drive hot hatches it has to be the Opel Kadett 200 GSi 16-valve S - better known as the Superboss.
And back in the 1980s it was a South African-only permutation, entrusted to Delta Motor Corp by General Motors to assemble.
The standard GSi 16-valve, known as the Big Boss, was one of the first of the thrilling hatches of the '80s, mainly due to its 20XE four-cylinder engine, benefiting from a Cosworth head, forged pistons, stainless steel exhaust manifold and sodium-filled valves. It was easy to tune up and became a super popular race engine.
Then the Superboss tweaked it a bit further. Compression was increased, aggressively angled Schrick cams were given race timing and the ECU was remapped, there were intake and exhaust mods, a limited slip differential, weight was reduced and ostensibly the first off-the-shelf street racer was introduced into the country.
The Superboss actually held the world record for most torque per litre in a naturally aspirated engine (114Nm per litre), a record that lasted until 2009 when the Ferrari 458 made 117Nm per litre. It’s no mystery that this car has a cult following. It gave the heavier GTi of the day more than a run for its money.
And even today, there are pockets of ardent fans in the country who have collected into car crews and clubs.
Bobby Nitro spoke to Cape clubs, the Superboss owners and Boss Squad this week after their charity run at the weekend.
Always looking for a reason to get together and hit the road, these guys and girls organised a collection of clothing and tinned food to be donated to Knysna fire relief, and convoyed from Cape Town to Franschhoek in the process.
Bobby spoke to Eugene Pillay, who says he has owned a host of Opels over the years and now drives a 1992 Monza CD.
Eugene says: “Starting with the Big Boss, Opel has always stolen my heart, since I was a young kid.”
He tells of a vivid memory in his late teens, when he saw a college buddy pull up in a pitch black Superboss and adds: “I remember thinking to myself that one day I was going to get one of those cars.
“Previously I was into Fords, and also the Chevy, after learning to drive in a 1975 Chev 4100.”
Eugene, who has had many over the years, says the one he missed most was his 1969 Opel Rekord Coupe, that he fitted a V8 into.
Barry Heubner, of Boss Squad, says of the day: “My best moment was when people came and donated, it might not have been a lot, but every bit counts and at least we could help those in need. Then we chilled, laughed and spoke Opel, which made the day a real success in my books.”
His colleague, Michael Schalkwyk, 26, who drives an Opel Astra 200ie 16 valve, says: “What I’ve done is add the Schrick cams and upgraded the ECU to mimic what was done to this engine by the Superboss makers.”
Bobby, who came of age in the '80s with first-hand knowledge of the hallowed status of the GSi, wanted to know how Michael got the feel.
He says: “Well, my dad was into Opels, so it began there. I’ve had three.”