Fantasy Friday: Opel GT

For a long time now, I have had a self-imposed commitment to never buy a car from the pus-infected abscess that is General Motors – except for a Saab. I can think of very few cars for which I might make an exception.

The Chevrolet Corvette might be one, in the right spec. Call me superficial, but I’m a C3 fan. The fact that they’re generally all power and very little handling doesn’t seem to matter. That big, curvy and purposeful front end gets me every time.

I must be going a bit soft in my old age because the Opel GT has become another GM-related product that I wouldn’t mind spending time with.


The little Opel’s styling has often seen it described as a junior C3 Corvette. It’s a visually relevant comparison and they were designed in the same era. Sources I could find credit different designers in very different places, however, and the Opel fans like to contend that the little GT’s origins go back as far as 1962.

The Opel GT first showed as a concept in 1965 and then went on sale in MY1968. And yes, there are plenty of C3 comparisons with those dates because the car upon which the C3 was based, the Mako Shark II concept, was first shown in 1965 and the C3 went on sale – you guessed it – as a 1968 model year car.


Whether planned or accidental, the look is undeniably familiar. From the high-riding curvy wheel arches at the front to the absence of external access to the limited trunk space. The Opel GT is a curvaceous little two-seater and time has treated it well.

Unlike its American cousin, the Opel GT wasn’t a powerhouse in the engine department. The GT followed the European tradition, employing a more lightweight construction in combination with a 4-cylinder engine. The base engine was a tiny 1.1 litres and made just 67hp. Most buyers opted for the more potent 1.9 litre engine, with its 102hp. US buyers of later model GT’s got a detuned version somewhere around 90hp thanks to emissions regulations in effect at the time.

102hp isn’t a lot, but thankfully the little GT weighed in at just 940kg in top spec. Sprinting wasn’t its forte – it rarely is with this type of car – but the GT 1.9 should have enough poke and a light enough body to have some fun in the twisties.

Opel made just over 103,400 GT’s. Surprisingly, around 70,000 of them were sold in the United States through the country’s Buick dealers.

It’s hard to get super-excited about the Opel GT given that I’ve never actually seen one or driven one myself, but here are a few things I like about the Opel GT from afar:

  • The styling. I’ve written enough about this already.
  • The sound from the twin pipes that people put on them. You can get a rorty note from the Opel 4-cylinder, which is essential for the right driving experience.
  • The dashboard – just the right amount of 60’s/70’s black and sporty styling.
  • The headlamps. Watch the video below. They look like they’re flipping pancakes!

The video is in German, but it has some good driving footage of a tuned 1.9 GT. Skip to 4:15 if you just want to see the headlamps 🙂

Some useful Opel GT resources…..

A great article at Hemmings magazine that gives a good overview and all the tech specs.

The Opel Motorsport Club is a US-based operation that heaps of info about the car, including buyer guides, maintenance and tuning.

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  1. Yes, the Opel GT still looks great after all of these years. Beyond that??? The GT made use of an ancient Opel Kadett chassis which did it no favors. The GT did a quick fade against similarly priced sport cars once the Datsun 240Z hit the US market. If you’re set on finding an Opel the first generation (1971-1975) Manta and Ascona models are far superior to the GT. Despite being under-powered in US spec (what wasn’t back then?) they were fun to drive and cheap to maintain. I drove a 15-year Manta for five years and 40k miles. In that time I replaced the tires, had the carburetor rebuilt, replaced the exhaust and also the water pump. That was it. The Saab 900EMS that I owned at the same time was a money pit by comparison. Opel’s undoing in the states was partially because of indifference on the part of the Buick dealers who sold them and the paltry commissions the salespeople earned especially in comparison to what they might make selling luxo-barges like the Electra 225. US crash standards spelled the demise of the GT in the US in 1973 just as it did the Saab Sonett III a year later. The US dollar lost all sorts of ground to German currency around 1974 effectively pricing Opel out of the low end of the market. German Opels quietly disappeared from US shores. What high school foreign car geeks like my friends and I knew was that the Manta/Ascona was everything the Chevy Vega wasn’t just as the German Ford (Mercury) Capri was everything the Pinto was not. GM might have stemmed the invasion of Japanese imports (save for the Datsun 510) in the states had it simply chosen to build the Manta and Ascona in the US rather than subject us to the abomination that was the Chevy Vega. But if it’s cute you want, go for the GT.

  2. Pus-filled abscess? Isn’t that redundant? 😉

    This is one of the fantasies with which I can’t identify. By the time I came along, virtually all of the Opel GT examples near me were well-worn and cast aside in favor of abundant muscle cars and several small-car offerings from Fiat, VW, Alfa, MG, Triumph and Datsun. As an adult I appreciate the Opel as a unique offering and market success, but I don’t want one. I smile when I see one, but that’s it.

  3. Swade,

    The Ate Up With Motor writeup is also excellent (as are all of his articles):

  4. Swade, you don’t want an Opel GT….you are confusing it with a Sonett III. 😉

  5. I agree with your comments vis a vis GM, Corvette C3 and Opel GT, Steve. The GT could do with more power though. As was the case with many small european sportscars of that era.
    The Apollo Astronauts drove Corvettes, so they are good enough for me. 🙂

    But who dares to drive a modern GM car, now that some ignition locks seem to be murderers?