Opel GTs imported into the States and thrust upon unsuspecting Buick dealers were equipped with one of two four-bangers. A 1.1-liter unit developed a respectable - considering the car's low weight - 67 hp. An overhead-cam, 1.9-liter engine was optional and provided a significant horsepower advantage. It proved to be much more popular than its little brother, likely because the bigger engine could be ordered with a three-speed automatic. The four-speed manual was certainly more sporting but, after all, these cars were sold by Buick dealers . . . not that anyone ever mistook a GT for a Riviera.
Once ensconced inside a GT - like Steve D'Auria's chartreuse 1970 example in these photos - you find the car to be surprisingly roomy, unless you're extremely tall or portly. The two-seat cabin can't be called airy, but neither is it claustrophobic. The Opel is not a particularly fast piece, but because it's so low to the ground, you get a zoomy feeling quite literally in the seat of your pants. With rear-wheel drive and a solid axle, it's a car that you can toss around, always reasonably certain of a recovery if the back end should break away. Stopping chores are handled by disc brakes up front and drums in the rear.
In Germany, the GT was a halo car, meant to draw attention to the full line of dowdy Opels. Over here, it attracted both interest and concurrent sales for itself. More than 100,000 units were sold worldwide over the course of a model run that concluded at the end of 1973, with Buick dealers peddling nearly 70 percent of that total in the United States. The real fun in owning an Opel GT now is that it draws much more interest than the far-more-common Corvette on which it is modeled. Prices have stayed reasonable, so if the design and concept captures your imagination, you might consider buying two, which would still set you back less than the price of a single Vette. You'll have fun, look cool, save money, and own a piece of German/American/French automotive history. Das ist groovy, n'est-ce pas?
1.1L OHV I-4,
67 (gross) hp,
1.9L OHC I-4,
75 (net)-102 (gross) hp,
Suspension, FRONT: Control arms, transverse semielliptic leaf spring
Suspension, Rear: Live axle, coil springs
103,463 (including 70,564 in the U.S.)
It's a slinky, seven-eighths-scale Corvette that holds its own on today's roads with respectable handling, terrific fuel economy, and gobs of curb appeal. Prices are reasonable, and parts are readily available. The Opel GT is a true piece of affordable international automotive history, and those froggy pop-up headlights make for even more fun after dark. Plus, these cars take up hardly any space.