If I say "Opel," what comes to mind? That’s right, a German manufacturer of mainstream cars for the Average Joe. You might know them as Saturns, Buicks and Cadillacs in the United States, but sometimes they also build surprising machines like the Manta, Calibra and, in cooperation with a famous British sports car manufacturer, the Speedster and the Lotus Omega. Probably, your imagination goes blank when you read these names and no wonder; they never made it to the U.S.--at least not officially. You might know the recent Opel GT, based on the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky, but there’s one car that almost everybody remembers even after 40 years; the original Opel GT.
The definite version of the GT saw the light in 1968 and immediately the car conquered a place in the hearts of the people. Opel had just one slight problem; they didn’t have any production facility left to build it. So they made an agreement with the French coachbuilder Chausson in Paris. They would make the body and the chassis while another French company, Brissoneau & Lotz, was responsible for the painting and the interior. After that was finished the body was sent to the Opel plant in the German City of Bochum.
The GT had very modest proportions; only 161.9 inches long, 62.2 inches wide and 48.2 inches high. And light too, just around 2000 pounds. With its simple Kadett-chassis alongside with a 116 cubic inch engine producing 90 horsepower, performances weren’t overwhelming. The speed wouldn’t go beyond 115 mph.
So, not much to it apparently. But the GT had an ace up its sleeve; a breathtaking appearance. The looks of the GT were so beautiful that it was without a doubt right up there with the greatest. It looked like a scale model of the Corvette C3 or the Ferrari 250 GTO, a design style they call the "Coke bottle shape".
Not only in Europe did people love the GT, but also in America the car was hot. In fact, almost 70 percent of all the GTs that were build first hit the road in the U.S. Eventually it was that success which killed off the GT. Due to tougher emission standards and safety regulations the GT was no longer approved by the U.S. government and Opel didn’t want to squeeze the engine further down and add big bumpers to meet the new regulations. Number 99,890 was the last GT to leave the factory in Bochum in 1973.
Today the GT still raises eyebrows and people stick their thumbs up if occasionally one is passing by. It’s considered an icon in modern motoring history.
I really have to go now, my 1969 Opel GT is waiting for my toolbox and me.