A car which proved that only flying is more beautiful
After WWII, Opel didn't become a synonym for innovative and modern design. They were stuck to the same thing, and were making cars that looked almost the same (something that Porsche has been doing for 60 years).
But in 1962, they finally got out of this loop when they presented the Kadett A (aka Hammond's beloved Oliver). That year, Clare MacKichan came from Chevrolet and became the new CEO of Opel's styling department. He wasn't really impressed with the company's plans and tactics, so he initiated the "project 1484", which was supposed to put Opel on the map.
The new car was a 2+2 sporty coupe, and the first prototype was presented in 1965. With a very unusual "Coke Bottle Shape", it received a lot of attention, and the company realized what they needed to do.
They quickly started "correcting" the design and sending the car to be tested on James May's favorite racetrack (if you don't know which, it's the Nürburgring). The project was going well, and the company only needed to organize a serial production of 30.000 units per year, which wasn't easy.
Both of their factories (in Rüsselsheim and Bochum) were filled with Kadetts, so Opel got help from French coachbuilders Brissoneau & Lotz and Chausson. They were in charge of making metal bits, welding, painting, upholstery, and sending the parts to the Bochum factory to be assembled.
And finally on 24th September 1968, the new coupe was shown to the world. Initially, the company wanted to call it Coup4, but in the end they opted for a better name-the GT. After almost 6 years of development, Opel GT mesmerized the world with its design...and with its famous slogan: "Only flying is more beautiful."
Even though it was meant to be a full European sports car, it shared quite a lot of details with the legendary Corvette Mako Shark II Concept. That was the case with the interior, which also resembled to the one in its American cousin (with the sporty 3-spoke steering wheel, modern dashboard, 3-point harness belts...).
But, a very interesting detail on the car were its headlights. The GT was the first car to feature the headlights that rotate along their longitudinal axis...and they were manually operated. Yup, you actually needed to pull a lever that would switch the lights into the position. It was quite a cool feature, but some people were still making unfunny jokes about it.
Despite being a small car, it was very safe, with crash tests proving that the passenger safety cell could stand the impact of another car going 50 km/h. However, it wasn't the most practical car in the world, since it didn't have a boot. Behind the seats, there was just small shelf that could accommodate a spare wheel and a car jack.
When it comes to its heart, the GT was offered with a 1.1-litre straight-4 borrowed from the Kadett. It was producing a decent 60 HP, but people were seeking for more power. So, the most popular one was a 1.9-litre straight-4 with 90 HP. Thanks to this engine, the GT could accelerate to 100 km/h in 10.8 seconds and reach the top speed of 185 km/h (115 mph), which is quite impressive for a small late-1960s car. In the US, the engine was tuned down to 83 HP due to emission policies.
The sale was neither good nor bad. After 103.463 units, Opel decided to stop the production due to the competition in the US market (Datsun 240Z was getting more and more popular there), and also because they ended the cooperation with Brissoneau & Lotz. In 2007, Opel tried to revive the name, but it wasn't a big seller. Even today, the company is thinking about using the GT badge again, which proves that this car left a huge trace in company's history.
Despite retiring in 1973, the GT remained an iconic car, and certainly one of the most special cars Opel has ever made. And, in 7 days, this little icon will be blowing 50 candles.