Like the prototype, the production Opel GT’s chassis was borrowed almost whole cloth from the Kadett. Steering was rack-and-pinion, with a faster ratio than the sedan’s, while solid-rotor front disc brakes and a four-speed manual gearbox were standard. Opel’s new three-speed Strasbourg (TH180) automatic was optional. Front suspension was by upper and lower control arms with a transverse leaf spring while the rear used variable-rate coil springs and a torque tube axle located by twin radius arms and a Panhard rod. A rear anti-roll bar was optional, as were a heavy-duty suspension package and limited-slip differential.
The GT’s base engine would be the 1,078 cc (66 cu. in.) OHV four from the Kadett Rallye, with two single-throat carburetors and 67 gross horsepower (50 kW; 60 PS/44 kW net). The 1,897 cc (116 cu. in.) cam-in-head engine would be optional, although it would be the mildly tuned 1900S version available on the Kadett and Rekord, with a single two-throat Solex and 102 gross horsepower (76 kW; 90 PS/66 kW net). We assume the prototype’s 128 PS engine was deemed either unsuitable or too expensive for production.
FACING THE MARKETPLACE
The start of Opel GT production was delayed by the general strike that shut down most of French industry in May 1968, but the first few hundred preproduction cars were completed that summer with regular production commencing in September.
To make up for the delays, Opel opted to have about half of first-year GT production trimmed in Bochum rather than in France. A preproduction GT appeared at the Circuit de la Sarthe shortly before the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1968, driven by Olympic skiing star Jean-Claude Killy, recently hired as a GM spokesman. The production car went on sale in Europe that October.
In Germany, the basic Opel GT-A 1100SR started at 10,767 DM (equivalent to about $2,750), above the original target, but not disastrously so. The GT-AL 1900S started at 11,877 DM (a little over $3,000). The federalized GT, which arrived in the U.S. in the spring of 1969, was offered in a single well-equipped trim level with a base price of $3,395; the 1.9-liter engine was a $99 option. Compared to a Porsche 912, that was a bargain, but the GT was more expensive than likely rivals such as the Fiat 124 Coupé, the Triumph TR6, or the new Ford Capri. A German Capri 1700GT, for example, undercut the GT-A 1100SR by almost 2,800 DM (more than $700).
The automotive press didn’t exactly receive the Opel GT with open arms. While the Opel was named 1969’s best-styled production car by Italy’s Style Auto magazine, other critics found the production GT less appealing than the cleaner, less gimmicky prototype. There was also a general turning up of noses about the GT’s Kadett origins, although reviewers acknowledged that very few affordable sports cars of the time didn’t share their underpinnings with workaday sedans.
For all the carping, reviewers admitted that the GT certainly looked the part both inside and out. The swoopy exterior was matched with a well-trimmed cabin with full instrumentation, fine seats, and above-average ergonomics. The GT also rode surprisingly well. If you could live with its limited luggage space, mediocre ventilation, and noisy engine, it scored well as a touring car.
As a sports car, however, the GT sent mixed messages. The manual shift linkage was slick and precise, the steering quick and accurate, but most enthusiast reviewers complained that the GT’s handling was more Buick than Bavarian. The principal culprit was the lackluster grip of the Opel’s skinny tires, but their cause was not helped by the standard suspension, whose lack of roll control contributed to substantial body lean and heavy understeer. The GT also tended to unload and spin its inside rear wheel in tight turns. European buyers could address the latter problem with a limited-slip differential and mitigate the former with heavy-duty suspension and/or a rear anti-roll bar, but curiously none of those items was offered on U.S. cars, although the suspension pieces were similar or identical those of the Kadett Rallye.
The GT did have decent straight-line performance, at least with the 1.9-liter engine. Since the GT weighed about 200 lb (91 kg) more than a Kadett, the 1100SR engine provided rather sleepy acceleration; 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) took more than 16 seconds, although top speed was a respectable 96 mph (155 km/h). The 1900S engine allowed the GT to reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in around 10 seconds, hot stuff by contemporary European standards. Given enough room, the 1900S would pull to 6,000 rpm in top gear, giving a top speed of 115 mph (185 km/h).
For the average buyer, the Opel GT felt nimble and sporty, and it offered show car looks, good performance, and excellent fuel economy (up to 28 mpg (8.4 L/100 km) on the highway) for a reasonable price. Model year production totaled more than 30,000 units, 11,880 of which were sold in the U.S.