Neither the E24 M6 nor the E28 M5 need an introduction on these pages. Legendary even when new, they both captured the imagination of generations of German car enthusiasts and established the benchmarks for sedan and GT performance in period. Both went through a relatively long downturn in value, as well. And today, as each has moved firmly into classic status and the market ///Madness continues, each has increased in value considerably over where they stood a few years ago.
But with so many shared components, which is the one to get? While a lot of that boils down to personal preference, more so than ever it’s also dependent on your budget. We’ve seen asking prices for nice examples of each chassis hovering between $50,000 and $80,000 depending on mileage and condition, and with a hot market there’s no letup of good ones to choose from.
But what I have today is not the best examples of each. Both are higher mileage and neither is pristine. However, the real draw here in both cases is a no reserve auction format, giving us the opportunity to really see what’s what in the M market today.
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.
I like to try and feature something a bit special on Fridays here at GCFSB and I think it’s safe to say this super saloon falls into that category. The Opel Lotus Omega and its sibling, the Vauxhall Lotus Carlton, were for a time the fastest four-door car you could buy, with a 0-60 time of 5.2 seconds. Starting with rather humble Opel Omega mechanicals, the boffins at Lotus upgraded the 3.0 liter inline six to 3.6 liters and strapped two Garrett turbochargers to boost power to 377 horsepower and an impressive 419 lb ft of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox from the Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 was deemed adequate to handle the power of this machine, if it was a bit crude in comparison to the rest of the package. Upgraded brakes and suspension bits along with 17” Ronal wheels rounded off the package.
In two years, a mere 950 cars were produced, all wearing the shade Imperial Green. About 60% of which were the version you see here, the Opel Lotus Omega. Similar to the current MINI Cooper, these cars were a German and British collaboration, but are significant enough to gain our respect here at GCFSB. With a fiercely loyal following the Lotus Omega and Lotus Carlton still fetch strong money on the used market. This Lotus Omega for sale in Switzerland is a lightly used example with only 8,500 miles on the clock.
One owner, Swiss delivery. All documents, perfect condition (the corresponding km). Guaranteed accident free and mileage. Production Number: 566
Compared to that other brute, the Mercedes-Benz 500E/E500, the Lotus Omega has faired better in terms of market value, no doubt due to their rarity. Closing in on $49,000 makes this a car for the serious collector; punters need not apply. A quick search of Mobile.de, a large German automotive classified site, only brought up four examples for sale, ranging from a 1991 model with 40,000 miles for $26,000 USD to a 1992 model listed at a little over $37,000 USD with 56,000 miles. It appears $25,000 to $30,000 is the sweet spot for these cars, so this extremely low mileage example is for those who really want an unmolested, almost like new example.
Right now, the Lotus Omega and Lotus Carlton are eligible to be imported to the United States under the Show and Display Law only. For those in need of a good laugh or an example of government run amuck, check out the Code of Federal Regulations in Title 49: Transportation, § 591 for more details. But have faith enthusiasts. In 2015, these cars will be exempt under the 25 year rule and will be able to be enjoyed by anyone willing to go through the motions of getting one of these Q-ships stateside.
To get a taste for what the Lotus Omega is like in action, here’s an Autocar review of the similar, right-hand drive Lotus Carlton with a bit of drifting action at 2:30:
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