I needed to get a part for my Micra yesterday and found myself making a trip to the local scrapyard. There is always something interesting there and it didn’t disappoint this time. I came across an Optima GSi which is the sporty version of the Optima line sold by Passport dealers. Depending on what country you are from you are probably thinking that this is a Vauxhall, Opel, Daewoo or Pontiac. Well it sort of is all those things and more.
The story starts with the Opel Kadett E which was first sold in 1984. Exported to many countries as the Opel Kadett it also sold as the Vauxhall Astra Mark II (hatchback) and Belmont (sedan) in the UK. In Brazil it was sold as the Chevrolet Kadett and then later the Chevrolet Ipanema. South Korea got its own version known initially as the Daewoo LeMans. Later it was also sold as the Daewoo Cielo, Racer and Nexia in its home market. Some other export names include Daewoo 1.5i, Daewoo Fantasy, Daewoo Pointer and Chevrolet Nexia. In Chile it was badged as the Daewoo Heaven (sedan) and Nexia (hatchback). The Pontiac LeMans version was sold in the United States, Canada and New Zealand. Canada also received the names Asüna GT, Asüna SE as well as our subject – the Optima.
This particular Optima is the sporty GSi version.
The Optima story is a bit complicated. It was sold in Canada from 1988-1991 by Passport dealers. Passport was a GM affiliated dealer network which sold Isuzu trucks and SUVs as well as Saab and Optima cars. This strategy lasted only until 1991 when the Passport name was dropped along with the Optima. The same car continued to be sold starting in 1992 under the Asüna name with SE and GT trim lines.
Both the Optima and Asüna are quite rare sights these days on the roads or in the junkyards.