“Youngtimers” have been popular in the automotive news segment over the past few months, as a greater appreciation for cars just turning “vintage” has set the market ablaze. Within that category, automotive collaborations between manufacturers in the 80s and 90s produced some of the most memorable and, consequently, the most sought creations today. There was the Yamaha-powered Taurus SHO, the Mercury Marine-powered Corvette ZR-1, the Porsche-built Mercedes-Benz 500E and Audi RS2, Lamborghini had a hand in the BMW M1, and of course there was the Cosworth-built….everything, from Escorts to 190Es to Audi RS4s and RS6s. But one of the hottest cars from the period was, undoubtedly, the Lotus-built, Corvette-gearboxed Opel Omega/Vaxhaull Carlton twins.
Lotus was majority-owned by General Motors in the early 1990s, which led in part to the “Handling by Lotus” Isuzu Imark and Impulse models. Lotus, in turn, got an engine for their small Elan from the Japanese manufacturer which worked in partnership with GM. But their best work was certainly their last joint venture before GM sold them off to Bugatti in 1993. For the Omega/Carlton, Lotus took the production 3.0 inline-6 and punched it out to 3.6 liters, while fiddling with the 24V head from the Carlton GSi. Then, they hooked it up to a 6-speed manual ZF borrowed from the General’s parts bin. Also borrowed was a limited-slip rear end from GM’s Australian division, Holden. Then, they slapped not one, but two turbochargers on it. Brakes were Group C units employed from AP Racing. The result? A crushing 370 plus horsepower and over 400 lb.ft of torque from the C36GET produced the fastest sedan in the world:
The first generation Omega was a mid-sized luxury car offered in Europe by Opel, the German subsidiary of GM, between 1986 and 1993. Sold in Britain under the Vauxhall marque and rebadged as the Carlton, my friend’s dad had a mid spec model when I was growing up. I always thought of it as a poor-man’s BMW 5-series. And I don’t mean that in a bad way: it was actually a pretty admirable car, offering luxury features to the masses like ABS, an on-board computer and a dazzling (at the time) LCD instrument display. I suspect most people by now have forgotten all about them. But there is one very special edition of the Omega/Carlton that enthusiasts of my age could never forget, the one breathed on by Lotus. The British sports car manufacturer took the hottest version of the car, the 3000 GSi, enlarged the 3.0 liter 24v motor to 3.6 liters, added two Garratt T25 turbo chargers, a six speed manual gearbox taken from a Corvette and an aggressive bodykit. The result was a menacing and breathtakingly quick uber sedan, with 377 hp on tap and a top speed of 177 MPH.
As I was jogging around the neighborhood yesterday, I happened to run across a Chevrolet SS parked on the street. For those not familiar with this car, it’s a version of the Australian market Holden Commodore, packing a 6.2 liter V8 under the hood with 415 horsepower. Amazingly, this sedan is available with a 6-speed manual and the car parked on the street was one so equipped. Quite a rare sight. If I told you GM had a similar car in their arsenal 25 years ago, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But such a car existed in the form of the Opel Lotus Omega. This car would hold the title as world’s fastest four-door sedan for a number of years and represents a neat retrospective for Tuner Tuesday.
Under the hood of the Opel Lotus Omega was a 3.6 liter inline-6 with twin Garrett turbocharges and 24 valves, capable of producing 377 horsepower and launching the car to 60 mph in a hair over five seconds. Hooked up to this engine was a 6-speed manual gearbox from the Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1. Unlike other German manufacturers at the time, Opel did not limit this car’s top speed to 155 mph. Instead, this car’s top speed edged 180 mph. Quite the feat for a car based off an ordinary executive class sedan. Along with its stablemate, the UK market Lotus Carlton, this Lotus Omega for sale near Stuttgart, Germany is one of 950 examples ever produced.