- Photo: Charlie from United Kingdom/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Erhard Schnell, the man who designed the Calibra, has died

4d ago

24.4K

If, like me, a decent portion of your childhood was spent during the 90s and early 00s, you may very well remember the Vauxhall/Opel/Holden/Chevrolet Calibra. It's a great looking, quirky little coupe that's a bit of a General Motors parts bin special that at one point was totally unappreciated but is now becoming somewhat desirable as a future classic. In that sense, it's not too disimilar to the Volkswagen Corrado, another parts bin special coupe that has now become a desirable modern classic (especially if you can manage to source a version with the perennially brilliant VR6 engine).

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The Calibra wasn't Schnell's first foray into coupe design. If anything, it was far from his first. Schnell had penned the legendary Opel GT of the 1960s. He also had input in designing the Opel Kadett D (known in the UK as the first generation Vauxhall Astra and as the IDA Kadett in the former Yugoslavia). The Calibra was, in his own words, his "favourite car" and that General Motors had allowed him "complete freedom with the styling." Clearly that freedom to do basically whatever he wanted was a good thing, as it created an instantly classic shape that looks ageless yet perfectly encapsulates the late 80s-early 90s period when the Calibra was first brought into the world.

The Opel GT, another one of Schnell's classic designs (Photo: Ermell/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)])

The Opel GT, another one of Schnell's classic designs (Photo: Ermell/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)])

Whilst the car's Mk3 Cavalier underpinnings and acres of interior plastic may not have made it the most desirable drivers' car in the world (the V6 and V6 4x4 versions may wish to persuade you otherwise), Opel did take the Calibra racing in DTM. The Calibra actually did fairly well in its motorsport endeavours, winning the International Touring Car Championship in 1996!

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Erhard Schnell was 92 years old at the time of his death and continued to be very active with the Opel brand right up until the end of his life, even appearing at the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Opel GT in 2018. Whilst he did leave Opel in 1992, he never really fully retired from his passion of designing things. When he was asked in 2014 whether he would ever stop designing althogether, he replied with "Not at all. I simply transferred my work to my home and designed the garden or my house. I also often paint in watercolours. I will never be able to stay away from it completely."

The automotive world has lost a truly passionate and brilliant designer in Erhard Schnell.

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