With the introduction of the Toyota GT-86/Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, a whole new generation has been introduced to the idea of a compact, rear-drive sports car. Hopefully the appearance of these cars spurs other manufacturers to follow suit, giving us all a breath of fresh air from humdrum compacts and the glut of SUVs out there. In the meantime, there are plenty of classic rides out there that fit the bill; notably, German ones. Sold in the US while Opel made an appearance at Buick dealers, the GT looked like a three quarters scale C3 Corvette. It shared mechanicals with the Kadett and its body was manufactured by the French concern Brissonneau & Lotz. A little over 100,000 of these two seater sports cars were made between 1968 and 1973.
This Opel GT for sale in California comes to our attention from our reader, Lewis, who happens to own it. It has been restored in a comprehensive manner along with a number of tasteful updates and modifications.
Model: Opel GT
Engine: 1.9 liter inline four
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Mileage: 29,000 (new speedometer)
In 1965 Opel styling staff at Russelheim unveiled a concept car, the Opel GT at the Frankfurt Auto show. A popular hit at the exposition, GM soon sent over Clare MacKichan, who helped pen the Corvette to massage the design, based on the Mako Shark dream car. However, there are other influences including the aero Kamm-back rear end like the Pete Brock Daytona race car and the sensuous rounded fuselage of the Jaguar E-Type. Perhaps one can see in the Pontiac Banshee, a take on the Opel GT Headlights. The car was designed around the cockpit, with the engine moved back behind the front axle for more sports car handling feel. A four cylinder 1.1 Liter engine was initially offered, later bumped to the 1.9 Liter engine offering 102 horsepower. Unfortunately, after 1970, the engine was detuned in the US.
This car has the 4-speed manual transmission and the 1.9 Liter engine from a 1969 model with solid lifters and Weber carburetor. Compression is stock. The 1969 engine is rated at 102 horsepower. This rust-free car was painted a metallic and pearl variation of “Strato Blue” by Matt Wagner in Elizabeth, Colorado who works for the team of Precision Design, a hot rod and custom shop. The paint includes a “ghost stripe” along the driver’s side of the car.
The interior has been updated with black vinyl and ultrasuede inserts in the seats. Opel insignia is cleverly embroidered at the headrests. Door panels also sport ultrasuede inserts. A Pioneer stereo with custom made speaker enclosures are handsomely detailed. The typically broken clock has been replaced with a manifold vacuum gauge. For a small premium over a completely stock Opel GT, one finds the updated stance, premium materials in the interior, extra sound-proofing, better tires, electric radiator fan and excellent stereo along with a more contemporary color. This is a striking and fascinating car to drive.
Opel and GM stylists found inspiration in many different sport cars of the era, from Peter Brock’s Daytona coupe design with its Kamm back tail to its rounded fuselage flanks like a Jaguar E-type, one comes to the front fender pontoons and sharp edges of the Mako Shark concept car. Americans compare the styling to the 1968 Corvette of the time, but the Opel GT beat the Corvette to market and one cannot ignore the more sensual rounded quality in other parts of the body.
Paint custom applied by Matt Wagner at Precision Designs in Denver, CO., it resembles the classic Strato Blue of the original, but there is a hidden extra, a subtle asymmetrical ghost stripe along the driver’s side of the car, following the hood, roof line and extending to below the rear bumper. The bumper upright overriders have been left off to create a wider look. LED backup lights nestle under the rear bumperettes. Japanese XXR 16” Minilite style wheels hold two sizes of BF Goodrich G-force T/A tires. The front end has been minimally raked. All lamps, including the swivel headlights work as they should. New windshield glass, seals and trim around all glass makes for a beautiful presentation. Windshield washer and foot-pump operated mechanism works as it should. Doors slam with a good thunk, given they are shielded with dynamat sound proofing.
The Germans said “Only Flying is Better!” when advertising their GT. The interior certainly has the look of a fighter pilot’s cockpit. Large tach and speedo are straight ahead, ammeter, oil pressure, water temperature and gas tank gauges to the side. Replacing the inoperative clock (the Pioneer CD AM/FM head has a clock in it) is a vacuum gauge. All gauges work properly. The speedometer needle waivers a bit. Dashboard has been reskinned. All interior lights work. Two speed fan works properly as well as emergency flashers, the gauge potentiometer. Only the cigarette lighter seems without power. Gear shift knob is a new reproduction and the emergency brake handle is machined aluminum with a pattern that matches the new emergency handle boot.
Carpets and seats are new with ultrasuede inserts on the seating surfaces as well as the door car upholstery. Heater works perfectly. Fresh air vents work perfectly. Pioneer stereo has custom made speaker enclosures at the footwells and on the back shelf. Steering wheel still has the rare wood “grain” molded into it. The back deck that housed the spare tire has been converted into an area for a custom tool box, chassis jack and can of tire sealer and inflater. The tires are now too wide for the spare tire enclosure. The back storage area is insulated by a solid upholstered material held in with five knurled knobs. The back deck has tie-downs for luggage. The headliner is new and the the courtesy light enclosure has been hand polished to a chrome like beauty. The interior has been insulated with dynamat sound insulation.
While the body is a 1972, the engine is from a 1969 GT and sports solid lifters, flat top pistons and a higher compression ratio yielding 102 horsepower in stock form. The Solex carburetor has been upgraded to the sturdy Weber 32/36 dual barrel unit and has been professionally tuned (see mechanical details for compression readings and exhaust gas readings). The engine and transmission were stripped of paint and sealed with engine clear. All aluminum parts were stripped and left exposed aluminum. Engine now has a 100 amp alternator with an auto electric pusher fan installed. A larger, higher rated battery is also employed. Electronic ignition has replaced the old points and condenser. Custom housing allows stock air filter and cold air intake to be utilized. Under the car there are no leaks. Suspension has been cleaned and painted flat black. New rear shocks, urethane bushings on the front suspension. Brakes have new pads and have great feel. Steering is tight and car tracks straight.
1)2007-2009 Car painted and assembled in Denver, CO
2)2012 Car shipped to California for mechanical refinements, interior and exterior finish work.
3)New Weber Carburetor, Opel original cold air intake, Electronic Ignition, Electric radiator fan, timing chain, timing chain guides, oil pump, battery, 100 amp alternator, solid lifter adjustment, plugs and timing adjustment, radiator recored.
4)New rear shocks, front spring polyurethane bushings, new rack and pinion dust cover seals.
5)Gas tank venting tubes replaced.
6)Interior luggage area redesigned and upholstered.
7)Center console restored, with brake boot and brake handle. Dynamat sound insulation installed.
8)Windshield washer system restored.
9)Vacuum gauge placed in clock location.
10) Instrument binnacle re-skinned.
11) All window glass trim replaced. Both driver and passenger door window replaced.
12) LED back up lights installed. Rear tail light bezels and lenses replaced.
13) New BF Goodrich G-force Radial T/A’s installed over 16” XXR wheels and custom made Opel insignia hubs. Front end aligned.
145-155 lbs compression in all cylinders (November 2012 reading)
Exhaust Gasses: car tuned with a gas analyzer (November 2012 reading)
HC: 154 ppm
NOX: 56 ppm
A lot of Opel GTs I see knocking around are project cars or are in fairly rough shape, but this GT is a different story. I was always of the opinion that the original equipment wheels and tires were a bit small on the GT, and critics blamed this setup for the car’s tendency to understeer at the limit. Seeing this particular one with these aftermarket wheels affirms my belief, as it has a more aggressive stance. At $18,000, this is pricey territory for a GT, as a good one will usually run you somewhere between $10,000 to $15,000. The seller is open to negotiation, which is a good sign. Regardless of the list price, however, this well-documented GT is one of the best I’ve seen in quite some time.