OPEL GT 50TH AN­NIVER­SARY

New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents -

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.

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