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by Jay Traugott
The Opel GT may have looked like a miniature C3 Corvette, but it had a personality all its own.
Here's the honest and hard truth: Opel is dragging General Motors down. The once financially healthy European division of the automotive giant is today facing a crisis like it's never had before. That's truly a shame, to say the least, because since it started auto production in 1899, Opel had been a consistently solid foreign GM brand that had always been innovative both technically and stylistically. While GM's American-based brands have mostly had the spotlight over the decades, the Opel GT still established quite a loyal following.
Going on sale back in 1968, it first appeared in concept form three years before as a pure styling study. Public and press reaction was strong and management obviously wanted it for production. Despite its design resembling that of the C3 Chevrolet Corvette, it actually shared some components with the Opel Kadett. Power came from a base 1.1-liter straight-four engine with only 67 horsepower along with an optional 1.9-liter unit with a whopping 102 hp, which isn't really bad considering the GT only weighed around 2,000 pounds. Each engine could be mated to either a four-speed manual or a three-speed auto.
Like the Corvette, the rear-wheel-drive GT's engine was located up front but Opel engineers managed to place it far enough back in the chassis in an effort to improve weight distribution. Also like Corvette, it featured front pop-up headlights and had a fastback design. What was interesting about those headlights was the way in which they were operated. Drivers had to manually raise and lower them via a large lever located next to the center console and gear shifter. This operation was definitely not the easiest task to do while driving but it still became an Opel GT trademark. Think of it as sort of a love-hate relationship the owner has with the car.
Despite its somewhat small exterior dimensions, the interior was actually quite large for a car in this class. The reason being is that the exterior styling was sculpted around an already established interior design which allowed for a solid amount of head and should room for passengers over six feet tall. There was no convertible variant and all GT's were assembled in Germany. In fact, the first GT's in 1968 were hand-assembled and those are obviously the most collectible today. All told, over 100,000 GT's were sold in both Europe and the US, where it was sold at Buick dealerships.
It was ultimately discontinued in 1973 mainly due to fresh competition coming from the likes of the Datsun 240Z. In 2006, a new Opel GT appeared but it was simply a rebadged version of the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky and was sold for only four model years. But it's the original Opel GT, such as this 1972 model, that most people care about. Currently up for sale at a dealership in Florida, this orange GT has a little over 80,000 miles on the odometer and an asking price of $6,588. Nothing is mentioned regarding its overall condition, mechanically or cosmetically, but it still looks like something that's fun to drive - with the exception of that headlight lever.