Opel/Vauxhall is set to reveal their vision of the future sports car at the 2016 Geneva auto show next month. The new show car resurrects a nameplate given to GM Europe’s first concept car, the 1964 GT Concept, produced by the nascent Vauxhall Design & Engineering Centre in Luton, England, which opened that same year.
The GT name is steeped in heritage, but it hasn’t seen the light of day on a production vehicle since the early 1970s (GM did sell rebadged Saturn Sky roadsters as Opel GTs for a while but we won’t get into that). Following the initial concept that was never publicly shown, GM later revealed a scaled down version of the car known as the ‘Experimental GT’ at the 1965 Frankfurt motor show.
The product of Opel’s new-for-1964 design center in Rüsselsheim, Germany, the Experimental GT was put into production in 1968 virtually unchanged. Its simple form, devoid of unnecessary decoration, made the ‘design statement’ its creator, Erhard Schnell, was keen to achieve.
Just as the 1968 production version of the then blue-sky concept for GM looking to take on its European rivals, the new GT Concept is a pared down, front mid-engined, rear-wheel drive sports car that aims to appeal to driving enthusiasts.
Its exterior design pays homage to the 1965 Opel Experimental GT as well as the 1966 Vauxhall XVR — a program managed by the legendary Wayne Cherry at Luton built to showcase Vauxhall’s design innovation and autonomy in the mid-1960s — that was itself inspired by parent company GM’s work with concepts such as the ‘65 Mako Shark II in the US. When David Jones, Vauxhall’s Director of Design at the time, revealed the concept at the 1966 Geneva motor show he simply said: “the XVR shows the future trend in world automotive design.”
The 2016 GT Concept’s long hood, dual central exhaust outlets and the omission of a trunk-lid are all elements of the 1960s concept designs, yet with a more contemporary execution.
One of the defining elements is the red signature line that splits the vehicle body horizontally and accentuates its lithe proportions. The red cant rail flows into its red tires — which reference those from the iconic Opel Motoclub 500 motorbike from the 1920s — mounted on rims with a ‘roller-skate’ design. Its large doors, with integrated side windows, also show a seamless transition from glass to painted surfaces.
Both driver and front passenger gain access to the interior after pressing a touchpad for the electric doors that is integrated in the roof’s red signature line. The doors open into the front arches, using a space-saving and patented mounting that allows a large opening angle for tight parking spaces in urban areas.
Devoid of conventional exterior mirrors, two cameras mounted behind the car’s front wheelarches transmit images to two monitors on the left- and right-hand side of the cabin to enhance outward visibility, and the windshield flows into a glass panorama roof, affording occupants a similar experience to that of a targa-topped car.
The GT Concept also employs the latest development of Vauxhall/Opel’s IntelliLux LED matrix lighting first seen in the recently launched Astra. The projection technology features in the concept’s integrated headlamp/indicator units as well as the three-dimensional tail lamp design.
“We created the GT Concept to capture the bold, emotional spirit of both the Vauxhall and Opel brands,” said GM Europe Design VP Mark Adams. “It is dramatic, sculptural and full of innovations, which is our great tradition that we intend to continue.
“In the mid-60s, Vauxhall and Opel created their own interpretations of a lightweight sports car – the XVR and the Experimental GT – both of which were thoroughly modern with dynamic sculptural forms. It’s certainly difficult to reinvent iconic concepts like these, but just as each was avant-garde back then, so too is this GT Concept today – absolutely pure, minimalistic, yet bold and uncompromising.”
The GT Concept is powered by a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder turbocharged engine, based on the all-aluminum unit used in the Adam, Corsa and Astra. The front mid-mounted engine delivers 143hp and a maximum 151 ft-lb of torque to the rear wheels via a six-speed sequential transmission operated by steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Weighing under 1000kgs, the GT Concept is said to accelerate from 0-62mph in less than eight seconds and on to a maximum speed of 134mph.