OPEL GT 50TH ANNIVERSARY
It seems to have been a time for some car models to celebrate their 50th anniversaries recently. Ford’s Escort turned 50, and so did its Capri, and a rarely seen but pretty Opel celebrated the same anniversary.
When the Dunedin Autospectacular was held most recently, in September of last year, Opel was there to wave the flag for its Opel GT, marking 50 years since the little coupé was introduced.
The first generation Opel GT was launched in 1968, although General Motors (GM) Europe had been toying with the idea since 1965. Looking like the love child of a Chev Corvette and an Italian tearaway, the car deserved more success in this corner of the world. The GT was on the market at the same time as the Lamborghini Miura, and it looks as if it shares some of that car’s design influences as well.
The front-engined, rear-wheel-drive car was basically a very-well-proportioned body on top of what were Opel Kadett B mechanicals and platform. The car had two engine options: a 1.1-litre or the more popular, and obviously more powerful, 1.9-litre. Transmission options were either a four-speed manual or a three-stage auto, with the latter presumably an option to attract US buyers.
The pop-up headlights were stylish at the time, and they persisted in various forms on various cars through until at least the early Mazda MX-5S.
The car was a marketing success for Opel, and over 100,000 of them were made and sold during its production period. Of those, a small number, possibly eight examples, made their way to New Zealand, where today a presumably even smaller number survive — with only three now known here.
Although Secret Agent James Bond has never driven anything as mundane as an Opel, the GT did have its moment in the spotlight. We all associate that other super agent Maxwell Smart with the Sunbeam Tiger, but, in fact, he drove an Opel GT in the final season of Get Smart. It was of the same era.
The Dunedin Autospectacular was an opportunity to see some of Opel’s range. The Monza and Senator were there. Of course, the new Holden Commodore is even more closely related to the Opel brand than the last Commodore ever was. The star of the Opel Forum stand, though, was undoubtedly the lovely little 50-year-old.