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Opel GT: The record machine in electric and diesel

Opel Elektro GT - 1971

1971 was the year the Apollo 15 astronauts became the first to board an all-electric lunar rover after landing on the Moon. That year, a one-of-a-kind Opel GT also proved that electric motors weren't just for golf carts. Indeed, on May 17 and 18, 1971, on the Hockenheimring circuit in Germany, Georg von Opel set out to establish new speed records for electric cars with a specially prepared and modified sports car: the Opel " Elektro GT. Ultimately, the car set six world records.

Grandson of Opel founder Adam Opel, successful businessman and world-class athlete, Georg von Opel not only attempted to break the record with the "Elektro GT" and was not only a “proof of concept” for the future of battery electric vehicles (BEV); It was also the continuation of a family tradition. His cousin "Raketen-Fritz" (Rocket Man Fritz) made headlines from 1927 to 1929 with rocket-powered demonstrations that reached their peak at the Avus circuit on May 23, 1928 with the RAK 2 and a top speed of 238 km/h.

The "Elektro GT" was equipped with two Bosch DC electric motors which together produced 88 kW (120 hp) of continuous power and a peak power of 118 kW (160 hp).

Varta supplied the four nickel-cadmium batteries installed next to and behind the driver. With 280 cells, the batteries added 590 kg to the 960 kg of the stock GT, making a total of 1,550 kg, or roughly the same weight as an Opel Diplomat B.

The long distance record attempt required three hundred and sixty cells, further increasing the weight to 740 kg. With a weight of 1,700 kg, the GT then weighed the same as a short wheelbase Opel Blitz truck. The extra weight required harder springs and Continental developed special high-pressure tires that kept rolling friction to a minimum.

Regarding the chassis and engines, the Opel GT will be wiser than the Chevrolet, borrowing these elements and others from its Kadett sister. At the time, a sports car necessarily had a gasoline-powered engine: no question of a diesel unit or traction batteries!

And yet, this car produced at the Bochum factory, in the Ruhr region, between 1968 and 1973, in just over 100,000 examples, will experiment with these two architectures, with the objective of establishing new records.

Thus with the GT Elektro from 1971, then the following year thanks to a diesel engine borrowed from the Rekord and beaten by a coupling with a turbocharger.

Body modifications included the closing of all air intakes and outlets at the front, a "flat" hood without the stock GT's characteristic bulge for the carburetor, removal of bumpers, mirrors and door handles, as well as complete disassembly of the engine and passenger compartments.

Just enough space for the driver: fighter jet batteries fill the cabin

An electronic management system occupied the trunk and, uniquely for a GT, the rear of the car featured a large spoiler. The taillights were removed and the holes they left behind were simply covered up. A heat exchanger replaced the exhaust system muffler.

A conventional car battery, providing electricity for the electronics, was located in the front of the engine compartment where electric motors replaced the gasoline engine. The batteries (most commonly found in fighter jets), mounted in special racks, took up all the space next to and behind the driver, leaving him just enough room to sit in a normal seat .

On May 17, 1971, Georg von Opel set four new world records for electric cars at the wheel of the Elektro GT:

However, the low energy capacity of Ni-Cd batteries prevented a new world record for 100 km at a constant speed of 100 km/h. The attempt ended after just 44 km.

Opel's first electric vehicle, the Elektro GT, demonstrated that a battery electric vehicle could reach the speed of a contemporary sports car. Today, 50 years of development and innovation later, the former top racer has transformed into the Opel Corsa-e, an all-round athlete capable of not only sprinting from zero to 100 km/h in 8, 1 seconds, but also travel up to 337 km in WLTP1 on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery.

Six-pack: Modified Opel GT sets world speed records for battery-electric cars

Special development: two electric motors, fighter jet batteries, high pressure tires

Strictly necessary: No air vents, mirrors or door handles

First BEV with the Blitz: “Elektro GT” is the predecessor of today’s Corsa-e

Need for speed: Georg von Opel in the wheel tracks of his cousin and “rocket man” Fritz

Opel GT Diesel Rekordwagen - 1972

In 1972, Opel set the record with the Diesel. Once again, Opel is breathing a wind of renewal by using proven recipes, Opel thus takes up in every respect the recipe of the Corvette which was a major success across the Atlantic. The car was a great success, more than 100,000 examples were sold until 1973. The Diesel engine was unveiled in September 1972, the first Opel Diesel intended for sale would be the Rekord D.

The Diesel-powered GT Coupé is a marriage that no one expected. And yet, in the first half of 1972, a modified Opel GT was equipped with such mechanics to achieve several records. This car is equipped with a four-cylinder in-line Diesel with a displacement of 2.1 liters, turbocharged, all developing 95 HP. The promotional operation to launch the Diesel at Opel was launched.

For the occasion, an Opel GT is extensively redesigned to transform it into a single-seater equipped with a Plexiglas screen, significant work on aerodynamics and weight is carried out by Opel engineers. From June 1 to 3, 1972, six drivers: Marie-Claude Beaumont, Henri Greder, Paul Frère, Jochen Springer, Giorgio Pianta and Sylvia Osteberg took turns on the Opel test track in Dudenhofen.

The Opel GT Diesel managed to break two world records as well as 18 international records in the category of cars with Diesel engines between 2 and 3 liters of cylinder capacity.


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