50 Years Opel GT: Grand Tour to Milestones in History of a Legend
- Where it all began: 70 Opel GTs at the Hockenheim racetrack
- Touring the Taunus Mountains: Visits to Opel Zoo and Schloss Westerhaus
- Homecoming: Stops at Kaiserslautern plant and Rodgau-Dudenhofen Test Center
- Star cast: GT designer Erhard Schnell, GT owner Walter Röhrl
Rüsselsheim. GT means Grand Turismo, Grand Tourisme or just Grand Tour. And that is exactly what Opel and the association of European GT clubs are offering: the Grand Tour 2018 to celebrate 50 years of the Opel GT. From September 19 through 22, seventy pristine Opel GT cars and their owners will cruise from one milestone to another in the legend’s history.
Appropriately enough, the Grand Tour gets off to a flying start on September 19 at the Hockenheim racetrack. The press launch of the sports car with the “Coke bottle shape” took place at the Grand Prix circuit 50 years ago. The star guests on the first day include the father of the GT, designer Erhard Schnell, and one of the fastest rally drivers of all time – Walter Röhrl, world champion 1982 in his Opel Ascona 400, with his own private Opel GT.
September 20 is family day and the Grand Tour visits the home of the von Opel family. The first stop on the tour through the Taunus hills is the Opel Zoo, followed by Schloss Westerhaus, the vineyard of the von Opel family, which is currently being run by Ivonne Gräfin von Schönburg-Glauchau (née von Opel) and her husband Johannes Graf von Schönburg-Glauchau.
On the next day the procession heads south-west. On September 21, the Grand Tour calls in at the Opel plant in Kaiserslautern, which delivered parts for the GT during its production from 1968-1973. On the round-trip back to Opel’s hometown in Rüsselsheim, the GT crews can enjoy the nimble handling of their oldtimers on the undulating roads.
The “grand finale” is planned for September 22, the destination is the Opel Test Center in Rodgau-Dudenhofen. It was here that the GT was developed to production readiness and powered “pedal-to-the-metal” around the high-speed oval. That same evening Opel has invited the Grand Tour for dinner in the historic K48 building in Rüsselsheim.
“Nur Fliegen ist schöner”: The Opel GT legend
The first Opel GT rolled off the assembly line in 1968, an early example of Franco-German cooperation. Thanks to previous joint projects, the coachbuilder Chausson and Brissoneau & Lotz was a proven partner for Opel and the French company carried out the press work, welding, painting and interior installation of the GT, before sending it to Germany for final assembly of the chassis and powertrain.
GT buyers had two four-cylinder engines to choose from – one with 1.1-litres displacement and 60 hp came from the Kadett and the other – with 1.9-litres and 90 hp – from the Rekord. Right from the start the GT 1900 was most popular. The maximum speed of 185 km/h and zero-100 km/h acceleration in 11.5 seconds were just what buyers wanted. The rear wheels were driven via a four-speed manual gearbox. European customers hardly ever ordered the optional three-speed automatic, but on the other side of the Atlantic this particular transmission was extremely popular.
Friedhelm Engler, Design Director Exterior at Opel, describes the behaviour of his colleagues back then as “Cheeky! It was pretty naughty to propose a front mid-engine concept based on the Kadett B. Instead of dressing proven mass-production parts in a new outer skin, they had the nerve to do something totally radical – a real Gran Turismo. You could say that the GT is bravery in steel!”
Happy 50th birthday, Opel GT!
Manager Opel Classic
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