It’s Not A ____ _______: 1970 Opel GT

061416 Barn Finds - 1970 Opel GT - 1

At no time during this story will you hear me utter the phrase: baby Corvette. I’m not even going to mention the term “baby Corvette” at all, just so we’re clear on that. This very cool, almost-baby-Corvette-like 1970 Opel GT is in Rochester, Minnesota, home of the famous Mayo Clinic, and also home to Clements Chevrolet, which coincidentally sells real, adult Corvettes. This little, baby Corvette is listed on eBay with a current bid of just over $500 and five days left on the auction.

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The Opel GT was made almost entirely during the Nixon administration, from 1968 through 1973. Coincidence? I think not. I have no idea what that means, I was just trying to start a rumor. Actually, President Lyndon Johnson was still in office when these baby cars (fooled ya!) came to market. The Opel Experimental GT wowed the Frankfurt and Paris Motor Shows in 1965. Although it had rather pedestrian underpinnings from the Opel Kadett B, its shapely body was formed by the French firm of Brissonneau & Lotz. The public response was understandably positive and the car was brought to market, albeit, as is usually the case, with quite a few changes to the design. But, overall I think it was a successful transition from concept to production car.

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This particular car was purchased by the current owner in 1990 and was put into dry storage where it’s been ever since. After realizing, some 26 years later, that they won’t have time to restore it, it’s now on the market. It will need quite a bit of work, in fact a total restoration is probably needed on this car. They were “told that it was a Texas car”, but there’s “a little Bondo in the body” and also “some rust-through at the bottom of the rockers and a couple small holes in the floor.” I guess vehicles can rust even in Texas.

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As you can see, this was originally a Chrome Yellow car, but it was painted in some sort of wine-country shade of Merlot or something, for some reason. I would have to do a nut-and-bolt restoration on this car and it wouldn’t take long before the restoration costs would equal the value; like about two weeks into it. But, for a learning and life experience, everyone should restore a vehicle at some point if they have the opportunity to do so. Some Opel GTs came with automatic transmissions but thankfully this is a 4-speed car. However, the seller says that the “transmission works in all gears but the #2 & #3 synchros are weak.” The interior looks fairly rugged but maybe not too far gone.

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Opel made 103,463 GTs between 1968 and 1973 and this 1970 GT has the 1.9L as opposed to the 1.1L engine. Oddly enough, the smaller engine would be more collectible today because they only made a little over 3,000 of them. But, when it comes to power, bigger is usually better so most folks opted for the bigger 1,897 cc engine with 102 hp as opposed to 67 hp for the smaller engine. The 1.9 also had Opel’s “cam in head” system as opposed to an overhead cam unit on the 1.1L engine. The seller says that the “engine starts easily, idles down and run decently. It’s a bit loud as the exhaust is a patch-work mess.” This car needs more work that I could give it, how about you? Is this baby.. I mean, this Opel GT past the point of financial feasibility given the amount of work that it needs?

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Comments

  1. Leaf36

    I had a 70 in high school, that I had to beg and borrow for. This, after all, was a major step up from my Pinto. Good thing I had a boyfriend with a car at the time. That baby vette sure looked purty in the driveway. Rarely ran, and when I decided to race against somebody, taking a right curve onto the highway, it dies and puts me to shame. And yes, Texas does have rust. Humidity is horrible if you’re anywhere within 150 miles of the coastline.

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  2. Bill

    I have worked on a few of these. they are cool little cars and fun to drive, even though the auto is seriously underwhelming for performance. You could restore it, but I would clean it up, check the mechanicals and just have fun! maybe a daily driver (with paint) and do the odd weekend slalom etc. Fun cars and well worth the time and effort. plus there are TONS of mods for them!

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  3. Howard A Member

    Well, at the time these were introduced, you probably could have had a Corvette. While Opel’s were good cars (I’ve had several) this was not one of them. Aside from their steep price, many Buick dealers had issues with them( I heard they were more or less forced on the dealers) they had no trunk opening, and a pain to work on. The headlights rotated via a complex cable to linkage, that froze in the winter and rusted. ( which is why, many times you’d see these with the headlights up). They were fun little cars, just not the best Opel. Unibody, prone to rust. I’ve seen Opel’s where the front suspension stubs rusted clear of the body. It was a nice try, though.

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  4. Dave Wright

    I did not really get acquainted with Opel’s until living in Germany. They were well thought off solid little cars that seemed to hold up well. I don’t understand how they could have missed the mark so badley with the GT ( but they did). Opel built some great cars, I think it was the Commidor that was a small ( by our standards) 4 door sedan with a smog free 283 V8. That car really ran……they had high gears and would keep up with my big Mercedes on the highway. We saw lots of Opel’s on the road and several large factories while in Europe last fall.

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  5. Chebby

    By the naming logic, this should be called a Corvettini, and there should be an extremely large version called the Corv.

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  6. Damon L

    They were great cars. Yes they had their rust issues but the engine lasted a very long time. My father owned a Gt and a Manta in the 80’s and used them as his DD. He put over 200k on the Gt before a rebuild in which we honed it resealed it and put it back on the road for another 100k before the floor boards finally gave up due to Ohio climate and salt. The manta didn’t get much time before someone made an offer he couldn’t refuse. I’m actively trying to find a GT around the Cincinnati area.

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  7. Steve B

    I had one of these in high school, got a lot of attention from the ladies. There was a trick where if you mashed the gas pedal just right it would pop the linkage off the carb. Was a good excuse for keeping dates out past curfew. Went through clutches constantly, but probably due to high school douchebaggery-style antics. I never had a problem with the headlights like others did.

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  8. Wayne Thomas

    Vortec 4200 I6 swap would be a great surprise. Underrated engine in an underrated chassis.

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  9. Dan h

    Have fond memories of cruising around with my pops in an Opel GT when I was a boy. He always had Corvettes up until he got married, kind of funny how that goes.
    I guess I’ll have to get a GT to re-live those days……

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  10. Alan (Michigan)

    Not my cup of tea, but this one might be, if I could afford one:

    http://www.opel.com/vehicles/concept-cars/gt.html

    Watch the upper right background @ 0.54…. 😀

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  11. RoughDiamond

    In 1990 these were still pretty plentiful and a nice one could be bought for around $3,500-$4000 in this area. This one looks like it had seen much better days even back in 1990.

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  12. William H

    I would love to start with a very clean Opel specimen and actually turn it into a Baby Corvette, or Corvettini as someone mentioned above. If I’m going to do that I might as well turn it into RWD. I know it would be a labor of fn as there’s no way I would ever recover my money but I think it would be a fun project and the final product would definitely bring some questions.

    As far as Texas rust goes… With almost 3600 miles of tidal shorelines and acres and acres of wetlands, swamps, river deltas, from the coast line to the panhandle, it’s a lot wetter here and people realize

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    • Grr

      These are already RWD….

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      • William H

        Well, I stand corrected. Never realized these were RWD.,,I just assumed, yes I know never assume; thanks for keeping me humble. Well, that makes my Corvettina conversion just that much easier. No need to cut up the floor to install a tunnel, etc. Sweet, now all I need to do us get the car and clear even more space in the shop.

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