By on December 14, 2010


The life cycle of your typical Opel GT appears to have gone like this: 8 years on the street, 30 years up on blocks in the back yard, then a quick stop in the wrecking yard before getting crushed. I haven’t seen a GT on the street for years, but they’re quite common in The Crusher’s waiting room. Here’s a pair of GTs I spotted at a Denver self-service yard.

Seen by European GM fans as the “European Corvette,” (the Manta being the Camaro’s European cousin), the Opel GT had plenty of style, a very un-Corvette-like solid rear axle, and an even more un-Corvette-like 1900cc four-cylinder engine. Those manually-operated flip-around headlights were pretty cool, though!

As a former Manta victim, I admit to having something of an anti-Opel bias. But still, I think it’s sad that all the remaining GTs are being rounded up and destroyed. Let’s enjoy the original “You’re Too Fat For This Car, Old Man” German Opel GT ad, shall we?

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34 Comments on “Opel GTs Take Shortcut From Project Car Purgatory To Junkyard...”


  • avatar
    tonyola

    It’s a shame to see an Opel GT die so ignominiously, but there’s no getting around the fact that they were horrific rusters, with the tinworm destroying the integrity of the unit bodies very quickly.

  • avatar
    cfclark

    I really wanted one of these when I was a kid, for the shrunken-Corvette looks and the general weird factor. (Although someone who’s owned one will probably say, “no, you didn’t want one, trust me.”)

  • avatar
    powermatic

    This may have been the first car that made me realize the true meaning of the term ‘secretary car’. I neither wanted one, nor wanted to be seen in one, and so far I’ve been successful on both counts.

  • avatar
    C. Alan

    My first car was an Opel Manta.  I like those alot better than the GTs because they were much easier to work on.

  • avatar
    Jedchev

    I would love to swap a Buick 215 V8 into one of these bad boys.

  • avatar
    Disaster

    Wanted one when I was a kid.  Still want one today.  I almost bought one from my Mechanical Engineering professor when I was at Penn State.  At the time, I couldn’t quite scrounge up the cash.  He had kept it in immaculate conditon, but the Pennsylvania salt was starting to take a toll.  Years later I bought a Miata, a much better drivers car…but about the same size.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    It should be a criminal offence to scrap one of these. I am not a fan of modern Opels , but these were made when Opel were on a roll , and there has been nothing quite like it since.I’m sure if they put all these in containers and sent them back to Europe , there would be plenty of buyers.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    2 more of these baby Vettes in less than pristine condition are found in this collection…
    http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/3-the-stars/fallen-stars/948-december-2010-fallen-stars-thanks-to-a-roving-reporter.html

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    I’ve seen a few of these over the years, but NEVER with the headlights up.  I had no idea that’s how the hide-away headlights worked on them!

  • avatar

    I’ve seen one on the street in the last few years only once.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveseven/1231061537/
    It moved pretty quickly to its normal habitat – outside stored at the side of a house where its been for a couple years now
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveseven/2985063523/

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    GM really knew how to style cars in the late ’60s. The GT may have combined family sedan performance with sports car utility, but it looked great. If the Buick Reatta had been styled as successfully, more people wouldn’t have cared that it was just a 2 seat LeSabre.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    There is a complete Opel GT dash panel hanging in my garage. It came from a friend’s parts stash years ago when he had to clean out his garage after selling his house. I suppose I should put it on eBay, but I have trouble believing that the three remaining GTs’ owners don’t have similar parts stashes.

  • avatar

    LS1 swap and they will rule the world.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick

      I remember seeing one of these years ago with a 383 stroker (and done properly, not some hack job good for one 1/4 mile pass).  I am told it was very, very fast indeed.
      Fortunately, one is being saved.  I checked out a 67 Coronet 500 a while back and the owner of that car was restoring a yellow Opel GT to be his wife’s new daily driver.  Not sure if he was thinking of LS series swap though.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    My older brother had one of these when I was a little kid and coincidentally, it too was on block and had the hood open quite often.

    • 0 avatar
      InstantKarma

      As it happens, I saw one of these just the other day here in Vancouver and thought “what is that thing?  Looks like a tiny corvette or something”.  Only now do I know what the thing is.  Odd looking little thing, like a fiero that hasn’t been hit with an ugly stick yet.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    A victim of most people not realizing that it’s probably easier and cheaper to do an engine/axle swap than to fix whatever is broken on that thing.
    I would put a Nissan SR20 NA motorset with GTI-R individual throttles. This thing would look crazy lowered on it’s guts with some agressive 17″ wheel/tire combo…
    I better stop now.

  • avatar
    TR4

    I had a ’73 model from ’77 thru ’92.  It had an unusual suspension with a transverse leaf spring up front and coils in the back, similar to the Kadett.  Only vehicle I’ve ever seen with zerks on the door hinges.  I liked the foot operated windshield washer pump also.  It taught me about carburetor icing during a  trip at 45F/100% humidity.  Reliability wasn’t too bad with the exception of the headlights.  Every year or so some miserable 3mm bolts that held them together would shear and it was time for the drill and easy-out.  Finally gave up on it due to rust and lack of parts availability.

  • avatar
    craiglp

    I had a ’70 (and a ’71 parts car) from ’78 to ’84. When it was all working it was a blast. Mine ate starters and water pumps regularly. I learned a lot about fixing cars from my GT…

  • avatar
    Flipper

    I remember the fisrt time I saw a Honda CRX, I thought  “Finially a modern Opel GT”  Let’s see a retro of one of these like that new Stratos.

  • avatar
    pleiter

    Had one 1970 as a project car: The Lights do NOT lock in at the night time position, unless you yank the hand in excess of yield. Additionally , the lights won’t turn on until they do lock, so you have to get out of the car and nudge them. The 1.9L makes a Farm-All sound svelte. Q: How do rebuild a Solex Carburetor ?   A: Buy a Weber. The Manta shift linkage is very different from that of the GT. I love drum brakes.
    NEXT !
    Oh yea, 1980 Fiesta !     0-60 in 10.6 seconds.

  • avatar
    pgcooldad

    Interesting that you brought these up. One of my neighbor 4 houses down bought a yellow one shortly  after the guy across the street got an orange one.
    I saw the orange one being driven several times but he has since moved. The yellow one hasn’t moved since it came home … and well, it’s sitting on blocks inside the garage for the last six years.
     
    My Argentinian brother-in-law had a red 1972 Manta with the black hood back when I was in my early teens and the thing I found most interesting about it was the windshield washer pump pedal on the floorboard. It was an actual foot pump where you pressed it to squirt fluid on the glass.
     
    Although I liked the car, it didn’t make my heart skip a beat like a 72 Alfa GTV.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      I’ve used those pumps before, usually on late 60s-early 70s entry level Chrysler products. I’m guessing that despite their robustness and simplicity they fell out of favor as a rupturing of the mechanism would flood the driver’s side floor and carpet.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    I have seen hundreds more Opel GTs running at the drag strip as funny car shells than I have ever seen moving under their own power on public roads. The last one I personally encountered that was still being used on the street was in ’86, and even then the owner had a stash of 2 non-running units for replacement parts.

  • avatar
    corsa

    I had a ’73 Opel GT as my first car, from 1984 through 1987. My brother then inherited it and drove it for many more years… finally sold it to someone half-way across the country a few years ago. I loved that car.
    http://www.motortopia.com/cars/1973-opel-gt-990

  • avatar
    slow kills

    My ’72 GT was retired to the salvage yard circa 1996 when involuntary college attendance got in the way.  Last time I visited said yard, a guy working there was claiming that he was going to fix the thing up for his own use.
    That headlight lever looks like a a knife handle to police officers at night.  It was nice of them to explain afterward why I was frisked.
    This car was great for having no trunk (just an inside vinyl curtain that snapped shut to hide the spare tire), no rear seat (just a carpeted plywood lid held in place by gravity), and the totally exposed glove box.  The instrumentation was superb as well.

  • avatar
    forraymond

    A 2+2 version of this would be great.  Also, fix the 370Z – go back to the long hood with usable hatch, Bring back the Fiero, but do it right as an Opel/Buick.
     
    What happened to sexy cars?  Prius? CR-Z? Crosstour? ugh!

  • avatar
    carnick

    In the 1970′s I owned two Opel GT’s at different times, bought used. They were absolutely delightful cars, and I loved them both (it’s one of the cars from my life I wish I’d kept). It wasn’t “revolutionary” or any kind of Oh-My-God life-altering religious experience. But you have to put things in the perspective of the times, and in that context, it was among the best of its class (cheap sports cars).

    In the early 1970′s the (affordable) sports car alternatives were things like the MGB (GT hardtop), Fiat 124, Triumph Spitfire (GT6) and TR6, Alfa Romeo (bit more expensive), and even (maybe) the Karman Ghia. I owned all of those through the 70′s and 80′s. Compared to what else was available at the time, the Opel GT was much more reliable, refined, comfortable, and at least as fast and as good handling (if not maybe even a bit better than some of the competition). It wasn’t a “mini-Corvette” (despite it’s appearance), but exactly what it’s name implied: a mini-GT. It was more comfortable on a long drive than any of the other cheap sports car alternatives, and, with a better heating system and reliability, a more “practical” daily driver than the others (except for the lack of trunk and only storage space being a small parcel shelf behind the seats).

    What it did have that was unique was even at the time it was more “exotic” than the much more common MGB’s and 124′s. It was still a relatively inexpensive sports car – it was no Ferrari or even Alfa. But, it still felt “special” to drive, more so than the competitors. The dash and instrumentation were outstanding, better than the competitors, and the mechanical flip headlights were fun and never failed to get attention from people when you switch-bladed them open or closed.

    There was a 1.1 liter “base” engine, intended primarily for the European market, which was pretty anemic on torque (but would rev like crazy). Most of them (including the ones I owned) had a 1.9 liter engine. While it won’t go down in history as one of the 10 best engines ever, it was smooth, very reliable, nice balance of low-end torque with reasonable horsepower. Compared to anything British or Italian of the day, the Opel GT would start every time, regardless of the weather (mine were my only cars and daily drivers at the time, year-round).

    Everything at that time was rust-prone. Cars then were built to different standards than today (in some ways “better”, in other ways not). It didn’t seem any more or less susceptible to oxidation than other cars at the time (and less so than the 124′s and MGB’s I went through, where I couldn’t shovel bondo into them fast enough to keep the exhaust fumes out of the cabins).

    They were definitely not considered “secretary’s cars” at the time. Their Achilles Heel and downfall was their owner: GM. GM bought Opel, and at the time they were sold here through Buick dealers. What a disasterous mismatch…. Buick dealers were comfortable selling LeSabre’s and Electra’s, land barges for the golf club set. “Sports car” to Buick meant the Riviera or Skylark (which, in GS form, was a fine muscle car, but a world apart from a small European “sports” car). The Buick dealers didn’t know what to do with Opels, how to market them – or service them. Whenever I tried to get parts for them from Buick dealers they looked at me like I was asking for something for a Martian flying saucer. Because of lousy to non-existent marketing, they didn’t sell well, so were relatively uncommon (which just added to the budget “exotic allure”).

    It’s a shame to see these on the junk pile, slated for crushing. While they’re not (and probably won’t ever be) big-bucks stars at Barrett-Jackson, and few people (other than me) “dream” of owning an Opel GT, they were still fun, interesting, uncommon cars that deserve to be saved. I troll e-bay and craigslist for them, hoping to find a nice original one. But, the ones that seem to come on the market are invariably either basket cases that aren’t cost-effective to restore, or have been butchered at the cloven hands of some mullet-wearing adolescent trying to mutilate it into a parody of a Corvette with JC Whitney “hot rod” modifications.

    This genre of car has been elusive over the years (at least by my eclectic standards) – the CRX captured the spirit (if not the exotic looks) of the Opel GT, but many even “sporty” cars since then just haven’t had that “budget exotic” appeal, and, while fun to drive, aren’t as much fun to look at (a contemporary Golf GTI, or even a Corolla for that matter, would absolutely run rings around the Opel GT, but the Opel is still its own unique fun to drive, and has that “special” feeling most cars don’t have). Unfortunately, with restoration costs (and market prices) being what they are, it almost certainly costs more to restore a car like this than it would likely ever be worth in the owner’s lifetime. So, unless someone wants to do it as a labor of love (and even I’m not that enamoured), they will sadly be seen even less often in the future.
     
     

  • avatar
    obbop

    A co-worker at the egg farm (ranch? hacienda? food factory? stench creator?) north of Modesto, CA had one of the GTs in yellow.
    Despite the miserly pay (yep… Americans performing the jobs our ruling elites often proclaim we will not do… grrrrrrrrr)  the GT’s owner, with some but minimal “wrenching” used it for daily transportation for a daily round-trip of around 30 miles.
    Golly gosh that was a tough job!!!!!!
    The weekly (or more, depending upon orders from various food distributors) interacting with the “egg machine” (cleaned, graded, inspected, loaded into cartons then packed into larger cardboard boxes with a larger quantity of grocery store shelf-ready dozen egg cartons) was grueling!!!!!!
    That tin-clad shed under the blazing sun was typically well over a hundred degrees in summer then shivering cold in winter (but not mid-USA winter frigid but still cold brrrrr).
    Yeah, I was the oaf “feeding” the machine several dozen plastic “flats” at a time with need-processing eggs. Around 40 pounds or so per pile that had to be placed upon the conveyor belt GENTLY hour after hour… then a few more hours.
    Enjoy your omelets!!!!
    The owner of the place was a pilot for the 8th Air Force or whatever the official name was over Europe in WW 2. Nice guy we seldom saw but who paid us and allowed us to take double-yolk eggs home.
    Early 1980s during THAT recession and those eggs helped feed several families in an area with upwards of 30 percent unemployment.
    The Xmas turkey-ham gift to all employees fed me and the family I had “adopted” for almost a week. (and allowed me to park in their apartment parking lot to sleep in my car and use their bathroom, kitchen etc.).
    Sure got tired of eggs after a few months but they kept us alive!!!!!
    See what that Opel GT did…. brought back old memories.
    Eggs!!!!!!!!
    Sadly, the owner’s son who made brief appearances among us from time-to-time had suffered traumatic brain injuries in Vietnam when operating with a Green Beret unit in the central highlands.
    He was obviously “messed up” physically and mentally.
    The owner paid military veterans an extra 50-cents per hour and that was greatly appreciated and led to extra effort by several of us.
    That GT owner was a good guy, too and sure took good care of that car.
    Being in a “non-rust” locale maybe it is still putting around the place but I believe that egg farm eventually folded as HUGE egg farms, owned by HUGE corporate entities, ate their smaller competitors.
    I still lack much desire for eggs but remain appreciative of that vital life-line that assisted us common folks to survive during a period of economic woes akin to Great Depression statistics… at least within the agricultural section of California’s San Joaquin Valley.
    Yeah, the upcoming Xmas season along with the Opel GT story brought back this “flashback.”
    Anybody else recall the “government cheese” and canned pork distributed to the unemployed back then? Sure tasted yummy and a lotta’ decent hard-working but unemployed folks fended off excess hunger.
    It was sad to see grown adults lined up around the block applying for a part-time minimum wage job at the fast-food joint.
    The mass media did not convey reality very well…. neither back then or today.
     
    Merry Xmas or whatever holiday makes yer’ liver quiver.
    Okay, lambaste me now for the off-topic babbling.
    Just remember I WILL bite if my pre-selected dumpsters are violated if YOU become a statistic.
    Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr……………….

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I was a Manta victim too, well, 1971 1900 Sport Coupe, that is; the same thing as the Manta but without the black hood. Lord, I hated that car. It had some wonky 2-barrel carb, so it would only creep until the second barrel opened, then it would squirt forward briefly. Fun in the Safeway parking lot. The gearshift lever buzzed louder the faster I drove; the Buick dealer I bought the thing from said “They all do that”; I helped the problem a little by taping a 3-inch piece of 1-1/4″ barstock to the lever. It came with bias-ply tires; I had to put radials on it. Basically i thought of it as a German Vega.
    I finally traded it for a 72 Celica that was an order of magnitude better in every respect except for handling. During the time I had the Opel I saw several GT’s but certainly never pined for one.
    One cool thing about the Opel; the lights were wired with one taillight and the opposite side-marker lights on different circuits, so one blown fuse wouldn’t leave a driver without any rear lights.

  • avatar
    toby1

    Those were at the pick and pull in Aurora Co. Outside denver last winter. Broke my heart, i’ve had four gts in my time. Right now a 70 with 40,000 miles in near mint condition. You could’ve parted those two out and made a few thousand if u had the space. I haven’t seen another one in many years but there are opel gt clubs all around the states and they have events. Makes me want to rebuild my carb and fix the brake lines with new ones.

  • avatar
    toby1

    don’t know how common they are at the salvage yard I go there quite often and have only seen those two and one in kansas city in 10 or so years

  • avatar
    Opel GT 73

    I am a full time student at Metro State University in Denver Co. I noticed the posts regarding the Opel GT junkyard find. I am currently studying ME at Metro, and was appointed the team leader in a project of restoring and converting a 1973 Opel GT to an electric vehicle. Unfortunately the Opel is trashed, with almost no parts left. I have an extensive automotive background, and just need to know where these Opel where found so I can source parts….if they are still there. What Junkyard were these found in??? PLEASE HELP!
    Thanx: Opel GT 73


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