The introduction of the GT/J brought total Opel GT production to more than 17,000 units for 1972, but the end was in sight. The Kadett was about to be redesigned, so continuing the GT past 1973 would have necessitated a major revamp to accommodate the floorpan of the new Kadett C and the 5 mph (8 km/h) bumpers that would be required for U.S. cars starting in 1974. Furthermore, the rising value of the Deutschmark following the collapse of the Bretton-Woods system of fixed exchange rates would make it difficult to hold the line on price, something that would ultimately drive Opel out of the American market entirely.
The GT returned for the 1973 model year, but it would be for the last time. A sure sign of the model’s imminent demise was that when Opel prematurely ran out of taillights in early 1973, they hastily adapted the lights from the Manta rather than ordering more of the original units. European cars were little changed otherwise, but federalized GTs had further emissions-related changes, reducing output to 75 net horsepower (56 kW) and 92 lb-ft (125 N-m) of torque.
Opel GT production ended in August, although some leftover cars lingered on dealer lots into 1974. The final tally was 103,464 units.
GT/W, GT/2, AND THE BLACK WIDOW
In the early 1970s, Opel considered a number of possible successors for the GT, including one based — once again — on a mid-engined car intended to replace the Corvette.
In 1971, Clare MacKichan’s Advanced studio in Detroit developed the XP-897GT, a mid-engine car based around GM’s two-rotor GMRCE2 Wankel engine, then in development. The XP-897GT, built but not designed by Pininfarina, debuted at the Frankfurt International Auto Show in October 1973 as the Corvette 2-Rotor. Had it reached production, GM considered offering an Opel version as a next-generation GT. Opel stylists developed their own mid-engine rotary concept, originally called GT/W (for Wankel), but the termination of GM’s rotary engine project meant that the GT/W got no further than the non-running prototype stage. It was shown publicly in 1975 as the Opel Genève.
An alternative was another in-house Opel concept, a fastback 2+2 coupe nicknamed “Schwarze Witwe” (Black Widow), a name previously applied to Tony Lapine’s own modified Kadett (which allegedly inspired the original Kadett Rallye). Presumably based on the Kadett C, the Schwarze Witwe was seriously considered for production, but was canceled during the OPEC oil embargo in 1973–1974.
In 1975, some months after the public unveiling of the Genève, Opel developed a sleek, futuristic concept car called the GT/2, which was shown at Frankfurt, London, and Paris late that year. Built by Michelotti but developed by Erhard Schnell’s Advanced studio in Rüsselsheim (then under the direction of Henry Haga), the GT/2 was based on the GT/E version of the new Manta B, powered by a fuel-injected 1,897 cc (116 cu. in.) CIH engine. The GT/2 was even more aerodynamic than the first GT, with a claimed drag coefficient of only 0.33. It featured a hatchback roof and manually operated sliding doors with their latches concealed beneath the side mirrors. (Regular readers will recall that the latter feature was originally patented by Howard “Dutch” Darrin in 1948 and used on the short-lived Kaiser Darrin, although Darrin’s patent expired well before the GT/2 was built.) Opel officials suggested that a toned-down version of the GT/2 might become a production car later in the decade, but it never happened.
A second-generation Opel GT did not emerge until the 2006 Geneva auto show, going on sale later that year. Based on a 2003 Vauxhall concept car, the VX Lightning, the new GT was a two-seat roadster based on GM’s Kappa platform, shared with the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky. Ironically, the new GT was built in the U.S. alongside its Pontiac and Saturn siblings, but it was sold only in Europe. The Kappa GT survived only three years, dying with the Solstice and Sky in the summer of 2009. Production totaled 7,519 units.