A small German car with an international flavor that achieved success in America and beyond. That is a pretty good resume if the years are 1968 to 1973..It was a resume earned by the Opel GT. General Motors saw the popularity of small British and Italian cars in the mid 1960s, and thought that their own Opel division in Europe could do the same. A couple of GM designers headed over to Europe, and the result was a very Corvette-looking body on an Opel Kadett platform. It certainly looked the part. With swoopy lines and popup headlights, and a kamm tail reminiscent of a period Ferrari.
A prototype (pictured above) appeared at the Frankfurt auto show in 1965, but it took another few years to make it to production. The reasons included getting the new Kadett out, and then finding a manufacturing location given that Opel was operating at full tilt. The eventual solution was to contract with France's Brissonneau and Lotz facility, lending even more international flavor to the vehicle. There were also the inevitable changes to the design which in this case shortened the tail and increased the headroom. The car featured a steel unibody with A arms over leaf springs up front, and a live axle rear.
The production version weighed barely over 2,000 lbs, and had the front-mounted engine mounted back for improved weight distribution. It was equipped with 1.1 liter (67 hp) and 1.9 liter (100 hp) inline 4 cylinder engines, making the performance merely average for a sports car. Europe got a higher compression 1.9 liter engine making 120 hp. Depite this, sales were strong in Europe and the US. Manufacturing eventually moved to the Bochum plant.
In 1969, a more luxurious version called the Aero GT appeared at Frankfurt. It had a removable roof panel and louvers on the B pillar, making it more of a Targa. By 1971, sales were slowing, and a more spartan, lower-priced version was introduced at the Geneva show. It was called the GT/J. When production ended in 1973, more than 100,000 GTs had been produced.