Opel GT was EV experiment 50 years ago, but diesel won…
Half a century ago, Opel was already experimenting with an electrically powered record car based on the Opel GT. At the time, the GT was a ‘mini Corvette’ on a European scale. It was sold with a 1,1 basic version and a more powerful 1,9 four-cylinder gasoline engine.
The GT wanted to bring sporty driving pleasure to a wide clientele because the basic architecture and engines were borrowed from the Kadett B. The headlights that rotated around their axis, the fluent body shape, and the four rounded tail lights combined with the chrome fuel cap gave the Opel GT its street credibility in the late sixties and early seventies.
Electric record car…
Against the backdrop of the oil crisis in the early seventies, car manufacturers started looking for alternative drivetrains for the first time. Just as in the pioneering years of the motor car, the electric drive was once again pulled out from under the dust. Therefore, in 1971, Opel developed an Opel GT with electric propulsion.
The GT was chosen as a project car because of its aerodynamic design. In the ‘Elektro GT’, the gasoline engine was exchanged for two Bosch direct-current electric motors on the rear axle. They produced 120 hp and even reached a peak power of 160 hp for a short time, which was a lot faster than the most powerful gasoline version (1,9 carburetor engine with 90 hp).
Varta supplied four nickel-cadmium batteries, good for 590 kg so that the ‘Elektro GT’ weighed 1 550 kg. The chassis was adjusted, and because there was no combustion engine to cool, the front air intake could be closed, which improved the aerodynamics.
The pilot on duty was Adam Opel’s grandson, Georg, who, with a top speed of 189 kph over a distance of 1 km, set a world record with an electric car. In all, Opel achieved six world records with this research car.
… but diesel appeared to be the better alternative for decades
At the time, electric propulsion remained in an experimental phase and, as the crisis became more acute, Opel also explored other paths. A year later (1972), they installed a diesel engine in the GT, with which the manufacturer once again set world records, with a top speed of 197 kph. That technology was also ready for production.
In the same year, Opel launched a diesel version of the Record for the first time, with a modest 60 hp engine. It was economical, noisy, and very slow to drive.
Diesel technology would take over for the next few decades, and today, it looks like Opel is finally making the switch from diesel to electricity. Thanks to PSA technology and more stringent emission rules, the German brand will sell more and more electrically powered models to reduce CO2 emissions.