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Opel GT

Published: 21st Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Opel GT
Same bloke who designed the Corvette also penned Opel GT which explains those great looks Same bloke who designed the Corvette also penned Opel GT which explains those great looks
Many body and trim parts are unique – lights are from Manta ‘A’ Many body and trim parts are unique – lights are from Manta ‘A’
Nose cone is prone to rot. Do pop-up headlights work okay? Nose cone is prone to rot. Do pop-up headlights work okay?

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What is Opel an GT

This was the car which changed people’s perception of General Motors owned Opel: changing from a German maker of stodgy looking, conventional saloons and estates to producers of stylishbut- sensible cars.

Although it used off-the-shelf mechanical components, these were clothed in a dainty, pretty coupe body, which managed to look both like a scaled down Chevrolet Corvette (small wonder as the same bloke designed that as well) and a thoroughly European coupe.

The car stayed in production for five years, has never been replaced, and so remains a unique product in its maker’s history.


By the mid 1960s Opels had changed from looking like scaled down American sedans (wrap around screens, column changes, etc) to chubby, stolid Europeans with uninspired bodies. These were cars bought for practical rather than aspirational reasons. Then in 1965 the company displayed a stunningly pretty show car based upon the Kadett ( a sort of German Vauxhall Viva HA). A fastback two seat coupe with swivelling pop up headlights, it attracted a lot of attention.

Three years later the styling exercise had morphed into a production car which bucked people’s perceptions of what Opels were about. It was also a nod to a change in direction the rest of Opel’s range would take stylistically.

When it was axed in the summer of 1973 the first energy crisis had struck, and car makers were cutting back on ‘frivolous’ models. Letting the GT quietly die of old age was easy to justify. However,, by then it had done its makers a very good turn as an image builder, proved popular in America, and formed a lasting fan base which continues to this day Changes during its run were few; auto was an option plus in ‘71 came the GT/J with a 1.9 Manta engine and stripped out trim. Reputedly, at least three Gts were converted to UK spec but all the remaining 103,000 odd built are left hookers, including the 170 Opel officially imported into Britain. Most went to the US.


Mark Jennings, magazine editor of the Opel GT’s club, reckons the car’s name rather than its looks tells you more about the GT’s driving characteristics. Powered by either a milksop 1.1 engine lifted from the Kadett (‘a real rarity,’ says Mark), or an early incarnation of Opel’s heavy, long lived cam-in-head 1.9, the GT was never blindingly fast –top whack is about 115mph though. Factor in that rather quirky transverse leaf front suspension, and you have an easy going driving GT experience rather than aggressive, pin sharp dynamics. No matter. In 1.9-litre form the GT remains a pleasant, lively companion on today’s roads, and there are plenty of mods, such as five-speed gearboxes, and even sixteen valve engine transplants, that can transform or improve the way it goes. And like the Morris Minor, modded GTs don’t seem to suffer in value terms compared to their stock siblings either.


Anything costing under a grand is likely to be in a sorry state, and could take a lot of cash and time to fix. If you can splash out between £2500 £3500 as it buys an honest, usable car that’s worth having. Real mint condition motors (and you see plenty at car shows, many hotted up and customised) can fetch more than eight grand!

What To Look For

  • The cam in head engine design is a long lived and successful, which survived into the 1990s in 2.4 litre form powering some versions of the lumpy old Vauxhall Frontera 4x4. By modern standards it’s heavy and relatively low revving, although this is compensated by intrinsic toughness and plenty of potential for tuning.
  • In standard guise it has manually operated valve lifters (later versions of this engine had hydraulic lifters which could suffer from wear problems if oil changes were neglected). Listen for cam clatter and watch for weeping cam boxes plus duff carbs.
  • The GT is either equipped with a four-speed manual or a three speed auto. With the former it pays to watch out for the usual wear related maladies, whilst ensuring prompt changes and decent kick down is what’s required for self shifting GTs. Fitting later Manta five-speed transmissions to these cars is popular and easy, plus knocks down the revs by 500 rpm on motorways, making for more relaxed and frugal high speed cruising.
  • The GT’s floorpan is Kadett-derived, but most of the other sub structure components are unique to the car, as are items like the back axle. This is worth bearing in mind if they are clapped out
  • .
  • Ditto interior parts. Vinyl was used extensively, making seat recovering pretty straightforward, but replacing trims, switchgear, instruments, etc, could be a pain. Parts like a rear decorative strip drop to pieces and are costly and hard to find.
  • Jennings reckons the biggest thing to watch for is body rot and related problems. “The mechanics are relatively straightforward, but the most important thing is a good straight body,” he says. “The front belly pan (ahead of the engine) nose cone which houses the battery is the worst point. If that goes you’re looking at £500 for a panel – if you can find one.” Exterior pattern panels exist, but again, they’ll cost.
  • There’s a ledge which runs along the inner wing which acts as a wonderful dirt trap, and rot problems can be found here. Otherwise it’s the usual business of checking suspension points, inner and outer sills, floorpans, etc. Some of these cars are now thirty seven years old after all.
  • The GT’s biggest export market was America, and many personally imported to the UK are US-spec versions. A considerable number lack anti roll bars, so have even softer handling as a result. America is a good source of components. There are also European specialists; check with the owner’s club.


If you can live with left-hand drive the cute Opel GT has a lot to offer. Great looks, familiar, proven engines, mechanical strength and real rarity. Mark Jennings thinks only about a hundred are on UK road. If you can’t run to a proper Corvette then why not try the German alternative?

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