50 years of the Opel GT: When Opel was more popular than Porsche

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50 years of the Opel GT: When Opel was more popular than Porsche-Opel

Milestone in automotive history: the first Opel GT rolled off the assembly line in 1968

Source: Opel

As a prototype, the Opel GT overshadowed the Porsche 911 Targa; as a production car, it sprinted faster than the Porsche 912. Today, Opel can only dream of the image of the sports car from 1968.

E.in affordable sports cars with cult status for the ages: in 1968, the spectacularly designed Opel GT owed its start to series production to the French coachbuilders Chausson and Brissoneau & Lotz. A cooperation that resolved the capacity bottleneck in the German Opel plants, which were still fully utilized at the time.

“You’d have to be a pilot … Commander. In the Opel GT it’s you. Buckle up, please! ”With such words, the Opel advertising aroused emotions. Under the slogan “Only flying is more beautiful”, the two-seater pop-up headlamp coupe began a five-year high rise in 1968 as at times the best-selling sports car Germany and as a coveted mini Corvette in the USA.

In fact, the Opel imitated the characteristic Coke-Bottle design of the Corvette, but transferred the exciting curves as well as the technical concept into European format. The Opel GT was based on cost-effective large-scale production technology, supplied by the Kadett B. The meager 60 hp engine in the GT 1100 also came from the smallest Opel.

50 years of the Opel GT: When Opel was more popular than Porsche-Porsche

Lined up in a row: the Opel GT at the press launch at the Hockenheimring in 1968

Source: Opel

In contrast, the mid-range bestseller Rekord C donated its 90 PS strong heart to the GT 1900, which at that time guaranteed goose bumps with a top speed of almost 190 km / h. After all, this speed was enough for the hunt for the Porsche 912 and many a V8 sedan that was twice as powerful. The tuner scene’s Opel GT, which can reach speeds of up to 275 km / h and were celebrated as heroes of Targa Florio and Nurburgring in touring car trim by Conrero, Gerent or Irmscher, were even sharper.

The career of the revolutionary Opel racer began back in 1965 – as the first pure show car from a German automobile manufacturer. The Opel Experimental GT celebrated its world premiere at the Frankfurt IAA, and it was an appearance like Donnerhall. Nobody had trusted the leisurely bourgeois brand Opel to put a design work of art on its wheels, around which the masses crowded more closely than around the equally new Porsche 911 Targa.

Opel designer Erhard Schnell had shown the right instinct when he, initially without the knowledge of his superiors, developed an ultra-slim sports car study that was never actually intended for series production. The fact that things turned out differently three years later was thanks to the enthusiastic reactions from the press and the public, but above all to the sudden pursuit of sportiness by all mass manufacturers.

At eye level with Alfa Romeo and Porsche

Ford relied on RS coupes and prepared the Capri, Peugeot presented coupes in every model line, Fiat delivered Spider and coupes at low prices, the VW logo was to be emblazoned on the Porsche 914, and the Opel dealers were already looking forward to the Rallye Kadett or record sprints in the showrooms: fast cars were status symbols in the affluent and achievement-oriented society of the late 1960s.

Opel now had the sharpest arrow in its quiver, because the GT shot the mass brand on par with Alfa Romeo, Triumph or four-cylinder Porsche. In addition, the Opel, which weighs just 845 kilograms, consistently relied on lightweight construction, and in contrast to the established competition, it dispensed with emergency seats in the rear and even a separate trunk. A shelf accessible from the inside had to suffice for light luggage, which hardly really bothered anyone.

Instead, the GT impressed with its surprisingly good performance and its front mid-engine concept in favor of a low center of gravity of the vehicle. As was usually only the case with racing cars at the time, the Opel GT underwent a fine-tuning of the chassis at the Nurburgring.

50 years of the Opel GT: When Opel was more popular than Porsche-Karossiers Chausson

Not only the Opel GT wrote history, the advertising slogan for the sports coupe also became a popular expression

Source: Opel

An effort that was worthwhile: the GT engine was moved back 30 centimeters to improve handling properties. Optimized in this way, the 1.22 meter flat Russelsheim racer with pop-up headlights at the front and circular lights on the streamlined demolition rear was sent through an unprecedented premiere marathon that lasted until the end of 1968.

At the start, the specialist media chased the 4.11 meter long model athlete across the Hockenheimring, where the GT 1900 impressed with exemplary lap times. On the other hand, the phlegmatic GT 1100 was spurned, which Opel sorted out after only two years and 3573 units and replaced it with the GT / J with matt black decorative elements and 90 hp.

The Americans also fought for the Opel

The real success story of the GT 1900, which has been sold over 100,000 times, started at the German Industrial Exhibition in Berlin. Quite a few visitors to this trade fair came specifically to experience “Germany’s most affordable sports two-seater”, as Opel advertised the GT, up close.

In fact, the doors, which were drawn far into the roof, made it surprisingly easy for even tall people to board the bucket seats – an experience that also delighted guests at the premiere at the Paris Salon and the Turin design fair.

50 years of the Opel GT: When Opel was more popular than Porsche-Porsche

In 1971 the Opel GT / JJ came onto the market. This variant was built over 10,000 times by 1973

Source: Opel

The order books of the Opel dealers became thicker than the production capacities of the French coachbuilders and the Bochum plant, where the chassis and engine were assembled. Especially since the Americans also wanted to be supplied from the beginning of 1969. An unbelievable 60 percent of production went to the country of the full-size V8, where Buick took over the nationwide sales of the German four-cylinder.

It didn’t take much to keep the GT talking, especially since Opel was always provoking with cheeky advertising messages like “There are cars again” and “Anyone would build this car. If he could ”. But when Ford showed the Capri in 1969, the Russelsheim-based company lived the zeitgeist of the summer of sixty-nine with a sun-drenched concept car in Pop Art colors: the orange-red Aero GT with Targa bar gave hope for series production.

Fans still dream of a new edition

“Today an experimental model… tomorrow a series car?” Asked Opel Marketing. “Yes”, called the Opel fans once more, because the new VW-Porsche 914 also fascinated with a Targa roof. But this time it shouldn’t be, Opel shied away from the production costs and left it with two prototypes.

A far-sighted decision. Just a year later, the French state became the majority shareholder in Brissoneau & Lotz, which in 1973 led to the termination of the supply contract to Opel. This sealed the end of the GT story, especially since the production of the technology supplier Kadett B ended at the same time.

But the spirit of the GT lives on, carried by a passionate club scene and new concept cars. Even if studies like the futuristic GT2 shown in 1975 and the spectacular Opel GT from 2016 disappeared in the evidence rooms, to the grief of all Opel fans, they do not give up hope of a return.

50 years of the Opel GT: When Opel was more popular than Porsche-Nurburgring

Colorful triumvirate: Opel Aero GT 1969 (left), Opel GT 1900 from 1968 (center) and Opel Experimental GT from 1965

Source: Opel

18 thoughts on “50 years of the Opel GT: When Opel was more popular than Porsche”

  1. Safety considerations (ABS, airbags, etc.) left out: what would happen if Opel built a successor? Retro???
    In my opinion, Opel should FINALLY listen to the fans!!!

    Reply
  2. Safety considerations (ABS, airbags, etc.) left out: what would happen if Opel built a successor? Retro???
    In my opinion, Opel should FINALLY listen to the fans!!!

    Reply
  3. Safety considerations (ABS, airbags, etc.) left out: what would happen if Opel built a successor? Retro???
    In my opinion, Opel should FINALLY listen to the fans!!!

    Reply
  4. These cars were just a copy of the US originals: Capri-Mustang, Manta-Camaro, GT-Corvette, etc..
    An old US V8 or Porsche Boxer, for example, still sound great and is still fun to drive. A Corvette C4 from the 80s is still fast (5.7l 245-330hp, at just under 1.5t) or a 964er with 250hp at only 1.3t (under 6sec. To 100).
    I think the Manta B is also optically chic, but with 110PS there is really no joy.

    Reply
  5. In contrast to the OPEL GT, the PORSCHE models described in the article can be seen regularly in traffic, and often in a remarkably good condition. PORSCHE once advertised with the slogan: “There are no old PORSCHE, there are only new owners.” More than two thirds of all Porsches ever built are still on the roads of the world. That cannot be said of OPEL. Obviously there are significant differences in quality.

    Reply
  6. For 30 years I have been wondering what kind of bums Opel and Ford have in the marketing and development department. Since the GT and Capri there has only been “and no emotions!” In the specifications. A Capri is missing or a good new version of the Monza, with more than one 4 cyl. Vacuum cleaner motor. Cars like the Alfa GTV or Montreal, Lancia Fulvia or Gamma, Rover Vitesse, Renault Alpine, the Pininfarina Coupe from Peugeot, etc. are also missing.

    Reply
  7. Yes, I thought so too, then someone who had to do with it told me that the very cars that are cult today have ruined the image for years. In addition, there are of course quality problems that you had in between. Success is achieved with boring monotony, cars that work and look solid, which are sometimes forgiven if the quality does not work so well in the short term.

    Reply
  8. It was cool back then and also cheap.
    I then had a 1750 GTV Alfa.
    In contrast, the GT had no chance.
    But what they did back then with good advertising with the Mini-Corvette, they completely messed up with the new GT.
    A great car that could have been sold well if it had been properly marketed.
    PS. a bit much larger brake discs could have been installed. Look like they are from the Fiat Panda 😉

    Reply
  9. It was cool back then and also cheap.
    I then had a 1750 GTV Alfa.
    In contrast, the GT had no chance.
    But what they did back then with good advertising with the Mini-Corvette, they completely messed up with the new GT.
    A great car that could have been sold well if it had been properly marketed.
    PS. a bit much larger brake discs could have been installed. Look like they are from the Fiat Panda 😉

    Reply
  10. It was cool back then and also cheap.
    I then had a 1750 GTV Alfa.
    In contrast, the GT had no chance.
    But what they did back then with good advertising with the Mini-Corvette, they completely messed up with the new GT.
    A great car that could have been sold well if it had been properly marketed.
    PS. a bit much larger brake discs could have been installed. Look like they are from the Fiat Panda 😉

    Reply
  11. In 1972 I had a yellow GT, at that time it was the nicest car for me after the Corvette, which unfortunately I couldn’t afford. Let me tell all critics that I would buy it again in a heartbeat.

    Reply
  12. But the Opel GT was also a dream car in its day. In particular, a dream car that you could afford even as a reasonably well-paid employee. Beautiful to look at, even today!

    Reply
  13. With all due respect for the Opel GT, it was a beautiful car. But a sports car? With 60 HP or 90 HP, a farmer’s engine from Kadett and Rekord. In addition, the GT was extremely impractical without a trunk lid. Every small item had to be stored in a small storage space behind the seats through the interior.

    Reply
  14. To have opened up on par with Alfa Romeo is certainly true – but only when it comes to the design of the body.
    The technology underneath corresponded more to the somewhat earlier state of the art: leaf springs, drum brakes, OHV up to a maximum of one overhead camshaft, four-speed gearbox (after all, already fully synchronized). An engine from the Kadett, the design of which testified to a captivating simplicity that could practically no longer be beaten. To do this, you have to have seen a Kadett B engine "inside" – it really doesn’t get any simpler than this. Even the sharp model only had an engine from a good limousine.
    A contemporary ALFA, on the other hand, had at least one elaborate aluminum engine with two overhead camshafts, a five-speed gearbox, a DeDion rear axle and disc brakes.

    Reply

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