By on September 16, 2012

Strangely, the Opel GT is one of the more common 1960s German Junkyard Finds. I find many more Type 1 Beetles, of course, and the Mercedes-Benz W110 shows up fairly regularly, but I’ll see several Crusher-bound GTs every year. Here’s a two-tone Brown GT I spotted in California a couple of weeks back.
The 1.9 liter SOHC four put out a pretty decent 102 horsepower in the 1969 GT.
It appears that some sort of Opel-eating monster took a big bite out of the trunk lid.
This car has been used up, though drivetrain and chassis parts may still have some life left in them. I’ve let Team Tinyvette know about this car, and they’ll be paying it a visit in order to harvest its very fragile transmission.


The GT was marketed as sort of a miniature Corvette, while the Manta was more of a German Camaro. Here we see a rotund Stalingrad vet trying and failing to squeeze into a GT.

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55 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1969 Opel GT...”


  • avatar
    el scotto

    Where these decent cars for the day and Opel/GM should have kept building them or where they a burn with fire car?

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      To counter Dr Olds, the Opel GT, when it first came out in the States in 1970, competed with the Porsche 914 and Datsun 240Z, and all three had a healthy waiting list before you could take delivery, they were so popular. They all started around $3500, but many dealers were getting additional markup while they could.

      Personally, the only tragic thing about the Opel GT was that it had to compete in sales with the 240Z. A 150 horsepower six cylinder Datsun versus the 102 horsepower four cylinder Opel, who do you think sold more cars?.

      Again personally, the Opel quality was very good mechanically, but the bodies of the GT were very prone to rust(the GT body was built in France, and nothing was bolted on, everything welded together)This has nothing to do with rust, just different assembly standard than the German-built Manta’s.

      It also couldn;t meet crash standards in the mid 1970’s, the main reason why importation stopped, plus poor excange rate which always hurts captive imports for American manufacturers.

  • avatar

    That’s a strange ad for a car company. The tag line at the end is, more or less, is: “Well, the GT isn’t for everyone but at Opel we have a suitable car for you.” So buy an Admiral, fat Dummkopf.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I think one of GM’s dumbest moves was marketing this car through its Buick division. The car looked just like a mini Corvette, for chrissake! Stupid…

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      Definitely a dumb move that continued through the ’70s with the Kadett and Manta being sold through Buick, the Doctor’s Car, instead of Pontiac or Oldsmobile or dare I say it? A separate Opel brand? Funny that GM (or Ford with Pantera) didnt think this idea was feasible with decent German engineering, but saw fit to do so with Korean and Japanese makes in its Geo venture.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      Here in Texas, Opel were barely on the same lot as the Buicks. So, the cars were nearly a full city block away from the main Buick showroom, sort of where the used car department would be today. Consequently, you wouldn’t find a Kadett or GT parked next to an Electra 225 in the main Buick showroom, because there was no showroom.

      The big headache was parts and service. Parts usually had to be ordered and most dealer mechanics did not have their own set of metric tools back in 68, 69 and 70.

      • 0 avatar
        56BelAire

        I lusted for an Opel GT back in the day. Instead my wife and I, newly married in 1967 and fiscally responsible bought a new Opel Kadett. Creamy Beige with a Saddle interior. Was a good little car never had any trouble with it. As I recall we got 33-34mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Roberto: I guess it just goes to show that GM has been conflicted for a very long time about Opel’s role in the company. I’m sure there was somebody back in the day arguing against the Opel GT, as it *might* hurt Corvette sales or some such logic.

      Similar to Ford’s folly with the (US-model)Granada from the mid 70’s featured in the Junkyard Find, GM could have imported or just manufactured Opel designs here in North America instead of foisting the Vega and other minor and major disasters upon us. It’s not like GM doesn’t do this in South America, where they get Opels (until recently) badged as Chevys.

      I’d hate to see another iconic marque go the way of the dodo, and am hoping that the management of GM finds a place for Opel.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I’ve said the same thing for years. Instead of relying on bean counters who gave us the Vega with a poorly designed alloy motor and subpar rustproofing they could have just borrowed and improved upon Opel mechanicals. A better designed Vega with the Opel 1.9 would have been a fine car and would have saved GM years of grief and loss of market share.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        I dunno if I would specifically beat on the bean-counters here. Seems to me that GM Management looked at the cost-analysis sheet provided by the finance department and reasoned it would rather save a few bucks with sub-par but at home engineering than it would to bring from their division overseas. This is what happens when shareholders expect, no, demand an increase in profits ever quarter.

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        And, while you reminded me, how about Holden and the 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO and newer G8 sedan. Aside from GM giving up on Pontiac right when those and the Solstice were marketed, what happened there? Poor communication with their public? Nobody aware that these were probably the very best Pontiac products in ten years? What a waste and shame.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @snakebit Agreed, Pontiac was supposed to be slimmed down into high profit/low production performance models. I don’t know the whole story, but I know gov’t had a hand in the Pontiac execution.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        WRT Pontiac: It was killed by the Automotive Task Force, as part of the conditions to buying equity in GM. IIRC, Lutz wanted to keep Pontiac alive, with a very stripped down lineup. It would have been the G6, G8 and the Solstice. However, the arguments weren’t strong enough and Pontiac, along with Saturn got canned.

        FWIW, GM still makes money on Pontiac, through licensing and similar deals. Not bad for a dead company. Additionally, unlike Saturn and HUMMER, New GM has not sold off the rights to the Pontiac name.

        Being a realist, I don’t expect Pontiac to rise from the dead, like a Phoenix, or a Firebird however.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Figures the current administration was behind it, another in a long list of poor decisions.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        wrt-Pontiac, Geozinger is on the money. GM had planned to have Pontiac as the sporty segment of the Buick-Pontiac-GMC channel, but the auto task force said no, dump one. They chose Pontiac because Buicks can command high enough prices to be profitable at low volumes and, no doubt, the China connection was a factor, too. The loss of G8 and Solstice were disappointing, but the Pontiac flavored version of the ATS was the real loss, imo.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      This would have made even more sense as a Pontiac, since that division had been trying for their own Corvette-type car since the early 60s, and their designs were generally smaller and lighter than the ‘vette to begin with.

      Of course, GM wasn’t as blatant with badge engineering back then. If something was sold as an Opel in West Germany, it had to stay an Opel in the US. Even in the UK, they were selling Opels and Vauxhalls alongside each other for some time, no rebadging even considered.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      Buick and Pontiac got each their own captive import to sell in the lte 50’s. Opel and Vauxhall.

      Buick was “stuck” with Opel, after Pontiac dropped Vauxhalls. Would have made sense to sell at any GM dealer that wanted them, but “noooo!”* had to stay on track!

      * From old SNL skits of John Belushi doing editorial and then collapsing.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    The first car I ever fell in lust with, at the age of ten, strictly based on their advertisements. I can distinctly remember seeing one in the flesh for the first time and being shocked at how small it was compared to the huge American iron all around it.

    • 0 avatar
      silverkris

      If you remember the late 1960s opening credit episodes of TV’s Get Smart, Don Adams is seen getting out of a Opel GT. In the early seasons he drove a Sunbeam Alpine.

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        Yep, the Opel GT was his last car before the TV show was cancelled.
        His most famous car was a Sunbeam Tiger, but some of the stills show an Alpine sneaked in, too, and don’t forget the Karmann Ghia, and don’t forget the recent film with Steve Carell. I don’t have a copy of the film yet, but I was told that an Opel GT, a Karmann Ghia, as well as the Tiger(which I was told, was actually a dolled up Alpine converted for the film) make an appearance at the end of the film.
        Check the website http://www.IMCDb.com to find out which cars were in which episodes.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    These were nice two seaters to throw around in the twisties. They were light weight and unlike American iron didn’t need power steering.

    Captive imports by the Detroit 3 didn’t have the best after the sale support, but they weren’t the worst.

    Does anyone remember your how small the local Renault dealer was back in 1970?

    • 0 avatar
      56BelAire

      My wife’s uncle had a Datsun dealership back in the 60s in NJ. It was basically a 4-bay body shop in the back with about a 20x25ft showroom in front. Held 2 cars and a couple of desks and a dinky office in one cornor. I think it was originally a gas station. As I recall his inventory was normally about 8 to 12 cars.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    ” Here we see a rotund Stalingrad vet trying and failing to squeeze into a GT.”

    I can’t imagine any of the Landsers who survived the Eastern front would let themselves get that huge…

    I’d agree with Sprocketboy on this commercial. I guess they were trying to be amusing or ironic, but today it seems condescending…

  • avatar
    Zeitgeist

    It appears that some sort of Opel-eating monster took a big bite out of the trunk lid.

    There is no trunk lid. The luggage has to be put behind the seats.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    These were actually very good little cars , too bad GM dropped the ball in marketing them .

    In Germany , you could buy a 2 Liter engine very affordably and put it in .

    My buddy had a healthy business in the 1980’s buying these cheaply ($200) and turning them into convertibles he’d then ship off to Germany for hefty profits .

    There was a reinforcement kit to be welded to the lower unibody , it prevented chassis flex after the roof was removed .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    These cars were terrible. The GT was heavier than the Opel Kadett, predecessor to the fairly good looking Manta. With the same engine, it was slower and didn’t even handle particularly well either. On top of that, it had the proportions of a dachsund! No surprise so few were sold here.

  • avatar
    Jimmy7

    I saw a Manta under it’s own power on Friday near Ecology Wrecking. First one I’ve seen this century.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    I miss pop up headlights.

    • 0 avatar
      Standeck

      And they weren’t even pup-ups; more like “roll-overs”! You had to use just the right amount of force on the lever or they wouldn’t stay open and would roll back halfway!

    • 0 avatar
      Wabbit3

      Me too brother. I used to enjoy cruising around in my parents blue/blue 89 Accord just because the headlights popped up. There were two of these GT’s in town, by the time I was driving they were permanently parked, an Orange and a Green one. Both yard ornaments near some guy’s house. Long gone now. I still think it inspired my brother and I to buy the neighbors brown Fiat X1/9, but that’s another story. Maybe I need an early Miata…

  • avatar
    albert

    Over here in Europe there are quite a few people trying to keep the left over GT’s alive. As mentioned here before, rust is a big problem. Parts, however are rare too (GM is not interested in keeping old cars alive, contrary to Daimler-Benz, is GM ashamed of what they built in the past?).
    So a GT does not belong in a junkyard!!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      Yes, GM is most likely ashamed of their past. I just look at advertising, BMW, Mercedes, even Honda and Toyota, are all very proud of showing their new models alongside equivalents from 30-40 years ago to demonstrate “family lineage”.

      GM will use old cars up to about the late 1960s, then nothing until the current model year. They’ve basically disowned about 40 years of their own history.

      I don’t know why this would be the case in Germany, though, since Opel basically missed the Malaise Era that destroyed their American divisions, but maybe its some sort of corporate dictate handed down from RenCen.

      • 0 avatar
        Extra Credit

        GM can’t show the lineage to cars from 30-40 years ago, since it prefers to introduce new generations with new names to release the negative baggage associated with the previous half-baked version. Clearly, there are several disadvantages to this approach of selective genealogy. .

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        Your’re correct, and it might be that their imagination switch is turned off. How about leaving it to a focus group of GM fans.

        Certainly the late ’70’s and early ’80’s are a big challenge. Maybe, we could start with the ’73 Olds Cutlass coupe, perhaps the best of an iffy basic design, the ’74 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 factory limo, the ’76 Cadillac Seville, the ’82 Corvette with CrossFire. the early ’70’s Opel Manta and Opel GT (why not- they’re GM cars, really.)

        For the 1960’s, pretty easy, you almost could do it blind: the Sting Ray, the ’63 Riviera, the ’61 Olds Starfire convertible, the first GTO, almost any of the Grand Prix, the ’65 Caprice, the ’67 Camaro and Firebird. So much easier.

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      In New England these things disappeared really quick because of the rust. There was a guy a couple of streets over from me who was into these things and always had a couple in his yard. Pretty car.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      “…since Opel basically missed the Malaise Era that destroyed their American divisions, but maybe its some sort of corporate dictate handed down from RenCen.”

      GM wasn’t located in Ren Cen in 1969, btw. In fact ‘the tubes’ weren’t built until 1975. GM bought them dirt cheap in ’96.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    There were quite a few of these on the streets of Virginia well into the ’80s, long after their GM small car peers like the Vega and Monza had disappeared. They outlasted all the round headlight Chevettes too.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    Can you imagine advertising a car like this today? Besides the inevitable lawsuit from the NAAFA, it would mean automatically shutting out about 2/3 of the market.

  • avatar
    carnick

    It breaks my heart to see one of these go to the crusher. I owned two of them in the 1970’s, and have always had a soft spot for them.

    Having lived through the era, in the context of the 1970’s they were a good car. By today’s standards of course the Opel GT would be too slow, too uncomfortable, etc., but against the contemporary competition – MGB-GT, Fiat 124, Triumph GT6, Karmann-Ghia – they stacked up pretty well. Compared to most of its peers (and I owned all of them at one time or another), the Opel GT was better built, more comfortable, better for long drives (just like the name implies, a mini “Grand Touring” car), and very practical as a daily driver (again, for the times; each of the ones I owned were my only car at the time).

    It felt ‘special’ to drive in a way that the British and even Italian contemporaries did not. Even though the 2 liter engine only put out a bit over 100 hp, it kept up with traffic and was fast enough to have fun. It felt like an exotic, and even back then, the looks would turn heads. They were truly great fun to drive, and one of the cars I miss and regret selling. I still troll e-bay and craigslist ads looking for a sound, unmolested one.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    In 1972 , my sister had a boyfriend who had a year old Opel GT . Compared to what I was driving at the time I was impressed . A couple of times I got to drive it when the BF , too drunk to drive would throw her the keys and she’d come stay at my house . It was white with a red interior and the 1900 engine and a stick , and I thought it was a good looking car and not a bad handler for those days . Another time a buddy and me were hitch-hiking west and got picked up twice in a row by Opel GTs . One time I ( at 5’5″ being an inch or two shorter than the buddy ) sat in the back luggage compartment and the second time , there being 2 people in the GT we both sat or laid in the back with a bulky spare tire , our backpacks and the drivers luggage . More than a bit uncomfortable but we were younger and more nimble . Also had a buddy who had an early 70s Manta which I drove on some long distance trips – not as cool looking , similiar drive . Incidentally back in the day the Buick connection may have helped more than you might think – had another roommate whose grandfather owned a Buick dealership who chose a new mid-70s Sportwagon as his car and another couple of buddies whose Buick-driving parents bought them new Opels .At the time there was still a good bit of fear about parts availability for foreign cars and the number of Buick dealerships was considered a plus .

  • avatar
    volksman

    There’s one of these around my town. The driver always waves or gives me a thumbs up if I’m in one of my vws but I’ve never seen him stopped. It’s a pretty neat looking car rolling down the road.
    I’ve always loved how the headlights flipped.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Two weeks before I entered the air force in 1969, a friend bought an Opel Kadett – the most stripped-down car I have ever seen. Notch back, stick sift, radio. Silver w/black interior. A fun car, however – we cruised all evening on about $3.00 gas and put over 250 miles on it the day he bought it!

    There’s also an orange Manta – year unknown – owned and driven by someone who works at our local Wally World.

    Really cool cars to me.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Ah, the Opel GT, I have memories of fellow Airman who owned one when I was statined on the East coast. He was a fairly big guy, at least 6’9″ and a couple hundred pounds, and he managed to squeeze into his beloved GT-after he’d modified the seat to move back further and I think the pedals as well. That was in ’78 or ’79 and body rot was an issue then, can’t imagine what it would be today. A year or two later I was stationed in Germany and was driving a ’72 Rekord to my heart’s content. But in two years there I don’t recall ever seeing a GT. (And very few bugs either).

    I’m trying to imagine what could have punched that massive hole in the deck of this car. Someone try to remove the dif through the top? The only guess I have is that it was the salvage yard that did that, either by accident or on purpose.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    My sister’s boyfriend and future fiancee had an orange ’70 Opel GT. He only had it for a couple of years, it was just too small for his 6’3″ (mostly legs). It was a fun little car, not very quick or anything. My sister loved the thing, she was small and it was very comfortable for her. He screwed up big time by emptying out their joint bank account (saving up for the house they were going to buy once they got hitched) to bet on a horse that came up lame halfway through the race. My sister went to the bank to take out some money for Christmas presents, and came out fuming. He had taken out over $10,000. She broke the steering wheel of her ’68 Cutlass in an impressive show of strength due to rage. About a week later, they were done, and soon the GT was on a used lot I passed almost daily. He traded it for a 70 Chevelle. She said later she missed the GT more than she missed him.

  • avatar
    jhefner

    My brother had an orange GT as well, and he was proud of it. It was a good car, but must have finally reached that point where it was giving him trouble; one time when he was working on it; he got so angry he broke the windshield (yes, he had quite a temper). I don’t think it ever ran after that.

  • avatar
    msquare

    Not. Invented. Here.

    My guess is that Detroit GM never embraced the Opels because they didn’t design them. No way an overseas subsidiary was going to tell the parent company how to design a small car, even though the Opels were much better than the Vega, for example.

    Let them come in to give Buick dealers something small to sell, but if you notice the 1900/Ascona and Manta were pulled soon after the locally designed Skyhawk came out in 1975.

    It was perfectly OK for GM to foist the Opel Rekord (later Senator) off on the Aussies to make the Holden Commodore (after extensive modification, of course), but doing the same to make a really competitive Seville was out of the question.

    I remember having the chance to ask a GM exec why the hell they imported the Opel Omega from Germany to become the Cadillac Catera when Holden took the same body, bolted in a Corvette engine and put together a wholly more appropriate car. I said, “Stick a V8 in the Catera, Holden’s already doing it!”

    Nowadays, Holden’s product line is all GM-Daewoo with the Cruze, Sonic and Spark while the Astra has been reintroduced to the market as an Opel. Why not a Vauxhall? Especially considering that Holden markets its high-performance cars as Vauxhalls in the UK already.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @msquare- Opels did not succeed because they were simply not competitive here. No one wanted them. The Vega had many problems, especially corrosion, but it was a much better car than the Opel in terms of features and capability off from the showroom floor. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the Manta a lot. One of my classmates at General Motors Institute had one, and I had experience travelling around Europe in a ’67 Rekord. They were good looking cars, but just couldn’t cut the mustard here in America. All of the small cars you mention were really just a nuisance here, made available to meet CAFE requirements. When the UAW successfully lobbied for separate tracking of import and domestic fleet fuel economy averages, GM had no reason to bring the Opels here. They had to build smaller cars in the country. The Vega, as well as the Skyhawk, Starfire, Monza… vehicles were the response. The ‘H’special, as the carline was named interanally, was a porkier Vega with front suspension that was designed for GM’s aborted rotary engine program and had to be modified in the field to support the 3.8L V6 engines the market called for!

  • avatar
    snakebit

    Where do I start, again.

    You’re comparing the ’67 Rekord with the early ’70s Manta and Opel GT. Apples and Oranges.

    “Vega… much better car than the Opel”. You’re kidding, right? The Vega was the BIC lighter of cars. When it ran out of fuel, it should have been parked at the curb and abandoned. Uncomfortable, the most wrong-headedly designed crappy motor, horrible seating position. Vega and most of the H-Specials synonomous with POS. The only H-Special I liked as a new car was the version of the Monza V8 sold in California:
    mandatory 350 V8 with TurboHydramatic. In a straight line, it was OK.

    Your sales experience and mine about the 1970’s Opels could not be more different. In the L.A. area, the Manta (and the Mercury Capri)competed against each other, and both sold well. As I mentioned before, the Opel GT came out at the same time as the Datsun 240-Z and Porsche 914 1.7, and all three cars had waiting lists in order to meet demand. They stopped importing GT’s because Opel wouldn;t redesign it to meet later bumper and emissions requirements, and Opel stopped building the GT in 1974. Manta imports stopped after 1975 for emissions reasons, and because of the exchange rate making them too expensive to sell.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    My ideas about the Opel are those of a young enthusiast reading road tests when the cars were new. The styling criticsm is simply my own perspective. The things had tiny wheels, a narrow track, and much less power than the Vega.
    Experience with the Vega is the basis for my comments. In 1973, my wife to be bought a ’74 Vega, against my advice. I bought a company used ’73 Cutlass S around the same time. We both paid $3,000, give or take. The Vega was a good car until it rusted apart. My wife was happy with it. A red coupe with black interior and 4 speed. First the fenders rusted through. I replaced them with free fenders Chevrolet provided, found a rust free used hatch lid, and repainted the car. It looked almost brand new when I dumped it for $500. The exhaust attaching points rusted off and I could hardly find anything to even wire it back up! You are right that the engine was a poor design, iron head and aluminum block, but it performed better than the Opel, it did have a larger displacement, and had very much higher sales. Vega was the first corporate project center car in GM history, and it was a failure on many fronts. We in the divisions knew how to make cars and money, particularly at Oldsmobile. I put 40k on the Cutlass and sold it for $2,500!

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      As long as you’ve put up with my rant about your conclusions about the Opel Manta and GT, I should let you know that I hold the ’73 Cutlass coupe in very high regard, compared to the versions from Chevrolet(including Monte Carlo), Pontiac, and Buick. I remember seeing all of them at the L.A. Auto Show for the first time, and thinking, ‘boy, Olds is going to clean up this year in sales’, and of course they cleaned up for several years hence selling the Cutlass.

      What could they have done differently instead of designing and building the Vega? If they knew then what they and Ford and Chrysler know now, they should have taken everything about the German Opel, and built it over here. Then, they’d still keep the same great quality, and not had the problem with the exchange rate and the killing of the profit margins that usually occur to US manufacturers that bring their European products to the States.

      Speaking of competitiveness and quality, I decided to go back to the period road tests for the Opel 1900 Rallye(Manta) and the Opel GT, in this case Road&Track in 1971. The Manta was compared to a Capri 2000 and the Celica. One didn’t become a clear winner, R&T liked all three, this from the October issue. The Capri and Opel Manta were also evaluated separately in the February issue.

      The Chevrolet Vega 2300 (90hp) notchback was evaluated as one of five economy sedans(the others being the Toyota Corona Deluxe, the Datsun 510 two-door, the Ford Pinto 1600, and VW Super Beetle). Overall, the Vega came in third, behind Toyota and Datsun. R&T liked its looks and found it relatively quiet at interstate speed, but disliked the interior quality and seats. They summed it up as ‘able, roadable, and crude’. This from the January issue.

      Road&Track also evaluated the Opel GT, as part of a comparison with the Datsun 240-Z, Fiat 124 Sports Coupe, MGB GT, and Triumph GT 6 Mk III. The Opel came in third, behind the first place 240-Z and the 124 Sports Coupe. They summed it up as, ‘not a bad car at all, it’s just that the Datsun and the Fiat are so good.’. This from the July issue, and of course these were new cars, so no evaluation of longevity and longterm quality came up.


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