50 years of the Opel GT: Russelsheim’s answer to the Corvette

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The return of the Opel gang

50 years of the Opel GT: Russelsheim's answer to the Corvette-Braunschweig

Like a formation of pilots: GT fans at the Hockenheimring

Source: Walter Tillmann

Of all people, Opel launched a kind of mini-Corvette 50 years ago. Many fans have remained loyal to the GT to this day – and have now dared to take it to a historic racetrack.

D.he prince’s carriage, the horses and the swan or the unicorn could remain stolen from her. While other girls immediately pounced on the fairy tale characters, 40 years ago there was only one place for Susanne Honigsmann on the carousel at the Christmas market in Braunschweig – in a turquoise Opel GT.

She was shaped by her childhood on the carousel. After the driver’s license, there was only an Opel for her in question. However, only once for a C-Cadet enough. “But at least a rally coupe,” she proudly pushes afterwards, “in yellow and black, of course.” The following year she fulfilled her dream and actually bought a GT.

It fell victim to a parking accident early on, but a short time later she had a new GT delivered from the USA – with a solid 2.0-liter engine. That was almost 30 years ago, and she is still regularly out and about in the car. “This love lasts for life,” says Honigsmann – and is not alone in this.

She is one of more than 1500 GT owners who are organized in European clubs alone. With brands like Porsche or Mercedes one likes to laugh at such numbers. But the fact that 28 clubs were founded between Narvik and Gibraltar (and perhaps two dozen more on the rest of the world) to pay homage to a single Opel model is something special. And the fact that they meet once a year and sometimes even drive or transport their cars halfway around the world testifies to an enthusiasm that is rather rare with such a middle-class brand.

50 years of the Opel GT: Russelsheim's answer to the Corvette-Opel

Returning home to the Hockenheimring: GT drivers from all over Europe came to the racetrack where the model was once presented

Source: Walter Tillmann

This year the meeting with 75 vehicles and guests from Scandinavia, Lithuania and the USA was exceptionally large and the program was particularly complex. Because this year the Opel GT celebrates its 50th birthday.

Reason enough for the clubs to follow in the footsteps of the sports car and go to where the story began in the 1960s: to the plants in Russelsheim and Kaiserslautern, to the high-speed railroad in the Dudenhofen test center, where the prototypes did their rounds back then and on the streets in the Taunus, where Opel filmed its commercials. Like a formation of pilots, the GT fans did their laps at the Hockenheimring, where the GT was presented to the press in 1968 – the highlight of the meeting for many participants.

The GT was a breakthrough for Opel

But it actually started a few years earlier, says designer Erhard Schnell and talks about the premiere of the “Experimental Study” at the Frankfurt IAA in autumn 1965. The 90-year-old can still remember the optimism that began at the beginning of the In the 1960s in Russelsheim, the rule was: “After we were only supposed to draw bread-and-butter cars for years, we were now allowed to put a sports car on the wheels. That was like a liberation for us. "

Erhard Schnell and his colleagues went to work with corresponding enthusiasm. And the result was correspondingly passionate: the body, curved in the style of a Cola bottle, broke with the conventions of European automobile design at the time and is still an eye-catcher today.

“There are a lot of cars that look good and have great details. But the GT is just perfectly styled down to the last nook and cranny, ”says Olaf Moldsen. The Ratzeburger not only heads the umbrella organization of the European GT clubs and organizes the annual meetings. He himself already owned 50 copies of the sports car and still has half a dozen cars at home that he will definitely not part with.

That’s how Opel advertised the GT at the time. It gets really funny after 32 seconds

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But the GT is not only fascinatingly beautiful. It’s also comparatively practical. Less than four meters long and not much more than waist-high, it still offers enough space: Even tall people don’t have to contort themselves acrobatically to fall into the bucket seats that are mounted low on the floor. The best place in the sports car is behind the little steering wheel.

The hand falls almost automatically on the lever next to the short gear stick, with which you create the most seductive moment in GT driving via a somewhat sluggish cable pull: With it you turn the headlights, shaped like frogs’ eyes, out of their sockets and thus stage the most beautiful look in automotive history.

The arm-thick exhaust pipes roar hoarse

The bonnet with the power dome is actually much too long for the small four-cylinder. It usually only has 1.9 liters of displacement and a laughable 90 hp for today’s standards, but because the GT is a flyweight, you can make a cavalier start with it. Even without any electronic driving aid, the GT keeps its track, the tachometer climbs higher and higher, and the hoarse roaring from the arm-thick tailpipes gives you goose bumps.

With every throttle you can feel how spectacular a sprint value of 10.5 seconds and a top speed of 185 km / h must have been 50 years ago. An Opel record of that time only achieved 160 things, the Mercedes 280 SE 3.5 with its 200 hp eight-cylinder had just broken the 200 km / h barrier, and the four-cylinder Porsche 912 saw only that of the GT during the acceleration duel circular taillights.

"Only flying is more beautiful" was the advertising slogan for the GT back then, with which Opel was also specifically targeting women. Susanne Honigsmann has taken this to heart to this day and regularly lets her GT fly over the country road when the weather is nice. After all, she wants to have fun too, because as a VW employee, she drives a rather boring Touran during the week.

50 years of the Opel GT: Russelsheim's answer to the Corvette-USA

This love lasts for life: Susanne Honigsmann with her Opel GT

Source: Walter Tillmann

“But all of my colleagues know that my heart beats for an Opel,” says the woman in her late forties. She does not deny her love for the GT, and the Lower Saxony sympathizers understand that. After all, it wasn’t a Beetle convertible 40 years ago or not a Bulli that was mounted on the Brunswick carousel, but that turquoise Opel that had done it so much to her.

There are many reasons for loving the Opel GT. Some rave about the design, others about the googly eyes or the driving performance. But everyone attests the Opel a quality that hardly any other sports car has. “The GT is an approachable car,” says club official Olaf Moldsen. That’s what it was when it went on sale for 10,767 marks, or ten average gross monthly salaries for an employee.

And that is what it is as a classic car. Not least because the Americans were really excited about the German Corvette and therefore exactly 103,463 GT had rolled off the assembly line at the Opel plant in Bochum by 1973, the sports car is not an unaffordable rarity. Even 50 years after the premiere, according to Moldsen, you can get a well-preserved copy for 20,000 to 30,000 euros: “From an old Ferrari everyone can only dream. But anyone can make a dream like the GT come true. "

6 thoughts on “50 years of the Opel GT: Russelsheim’s answer to the Corvette”

  1. Better in the GT in 12 seconds from 0-100 than in the new Golf in six seconds. Driving a GT is still pure driving pleasure. The new cars are just plain boring philistine carts

    Reply
  2. Undoubtedly a design that is still beautiful.
    Sleeping eyes (pop-up headlights) are unfortunately not found anymore, where were the last ones? In the Mazda Mx5 or 323F or Rx7 or 3000GT?
    But honestly, a sports car has to do a little more than just look good. Nobody expects performance at GT3 level, but 60PS is pathetic today and it remains a crackling four-cylinder.
    Not that you get me wrong, whether you accelerate to 100 in 4 or 6 seconds is secondary, but 15 seconds or how long the vehicle takes, I don’t know, the car should not only be fun to look at, but also to be fun while driving.

    Reply
  3. The Opel GT was my absolute dream car in the 1970s. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford one because my financial resources did not allow it. Whenever I see a vehicle like this (unfortunately very rarely) my heart opens up. Congratulations to everyone who owns such a design icon today. Simply a beautiful vehicle.

    Reply
  4. I had one too, but unfortunately it rusted away before my eyes. Today I am annoyed that there was no rescue and unfortunately the car ended up in the junkyard. I even have a guilty conscience because it was a really nice car from the best Opel era !

    Reply

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