15 years of OPC - Opel sports cars for the road

Start of an era: Astra OPC with 118 kW ready for the race track

28 Jan 2015

28 JANUARY 2015 - Rüsselsheim. In the 15 years since the first Opel received an OPC badge, the abbreviation, which is short for Opel Performance Centre, has come to represent excitement and passion for fans of the German brand. For each OPC model the company has built, Opel has combined its motorsport knowledge to develop dynamic high performance cars for the road using technology transferred from the world of motorsports.

"The Opel Performance Centre provides our performance-hungry clients with vehicles that are irresistibly dynamic, have a sporty look and are very different from the regular production models, without making any comprises on everyday usability. Our OPC models stand for outstanding performance and pure passion," explained Opel Group CEO, Dr Karl-Thomas Neumann.


Unmistakable OPC design conveys performance

"An OPC model must immediately be recognisable as such," said Mark Adams, Opel's Vice President for Design. The Astra OPC, for example, is keen to display its perfectly-toned body with specially-sculpted front- and rear bumpers, side skirts, an aerodynamic roof spoiler and two fully-integrated exhaust tail pipes in a trapezoid shape ensuring it has the specific OPC appearance. Moreover, for the Insignia OPC the designers created an archaic sabretooth appearance for the voluminous air intakes.

All OPC models follow the requirements set out by Mark Adams: "Every detail and every line must convey the performance of the vehicle."


A new foundation for motorsports: OPC instead of GSI

When the Astra G replaced the Astra F in 1998, the Opel bestseller increased quality, efficiency and spaciousness - but Opel motorsport legend and OPC co-founder Volker Strycek remembers a flaw. "The car was a long way away from being suitable for motorsports. As there were no plans for a GSI version, both a competitive powertrain and a corresponding chassis were missing. So we sat down - within only one year we developed and tested our debut model, the Opel Astra OPC 1," explained Strycek.

Numerous OPC models followed and could hit normal roads, in some cases immediately after setting new lap records on the Nürburgring.

Currently, the sporting OPC flagship is the 239 kW Insignia OPC but the Astra OPC with 206 kW is hot on its heels: with its compact dimensions and a more radical overall set-up, the powerful Astra is almost as fast as its big brother.


1999: Opel Astra OPC with 118 kW leaves its mark

Based on the 100 kW 2.0-litre ECOTEC engine, the newly-created OPC team built a free-revving and responsive engine that was completely different to the frugal base model. The engine benefitted from forged pistons, sharper camshafts, larger intake and exhaust channels along with an exhaust manifold system and optimised engine management, thus resulting in 118 kW. An additional oil cooler and an adapted coolant thermostat ensured the correct operating temperature in every situation.

The chassis obviously also needed some refinement to match the increased performance of the engine, with Opel wanting the performance to be reflected in the drive characteristics and handling. The car's centre of gravity was lowered by two centimetres; Bilstein dampers, larger brake discs behind 17-inch BBS rims, newly designed wishbones and more direct steering were all incorporated. Furthermore, the original Opel Astra OPC stood out with an aerodynamics package and Recaro bucket seats. To this day, the Astra G OPC remains a very popular racing car which continues to win in the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine class.

Strycek was responsible for 2 500 'Sport-Astra', necessary for homologation and produced in series. However, the enthusiasm was much bigger. Even before hitting the market, motorsport fans went mad for the Astra OPC. As a result, the number was increased to 3 000 and these had sold out after only four months.


2001: Turbocharged performance plateau

The confidence of the OPC crew grew with the sporting and commercial success and the next project targeted something very special. The team set its sights on making the fastest compact MPV in the world. The debut of the Zafira OPC also saw the introduction of turbocharging. From this moment on, all further models created in the Opel Performance Centre would be equipped with efficient turbo technology.

The performance of the 2.0-litre engines gradually grew from 141 kW in the first-generation Zafira OPC to 147 kW in the second-generation Astra OPC, and then from 176 kW to the 206 kW available in the current Opel Astra OPC. Torque outputs also grew with the performance. The first generation 2.0-litre turbo engine had 250 Nm whereas the latest has a breath-taking 400 Nm.


Record hunting: At home on the Nürburgring

Through the years, OPC models have proven just how good they are on an annual basis and they regularly break the lap record on the 20.8 kilometre long Nürburgring-Nordschleife. The second-generation Astra OPC set a new class record of 8:35:94 in 2005.

The following year, the Zafira OPC set a new record for compact MPVs (8:54:38) which is still valid today. The Corsa OPC set new standards in the small car segment in 2007, when a pure serial-production car completed the course in just 8:47:99.

In addition to the record-breaking runs, all OPC vehicles undergo vigorous endurance tests through the "Green Hell", which is classed as the most demanding racetrack in the world. The legendary Nordschleife is traditional Opel territory. The cars with the Blitz logo have been put through extreme tests there since the 1960s. Currently, Opel has a cooperation agreement with Nürburgring Ltd and furthermore established its own test centre in the direct vicinity of the course as early as 2006.


Nürburgring Edition: Nomen est Omen

To date the Rüsselsheim-based carmaker has produced two special "Nürburgring" editions - the Astra OPC in 2008 and the Corsa OPC in 2011. The Astra H in special racing trim had the same performance as the Astra OPC but a special, spectacular livery. In 2011, the Corsa OPC Nürburgring Edition boasted an additional 13 kW for a total of 154 kW delivered by its 1.6-litre turbo engine and a limited slip differential compared to the normal Corsa OPC which made it a more radical and efficient rocket.


Compact class athlete: Current Astra OPC with impressive performance

The Astra OPC has been the top-level model in the compact class since the summer of 2012. A two-litre turbo with 206 kW and 400 Nm of torque give it outstanding propulsion. The athletic Astra accelerates from 0-100 km/h in six seconds flat and has a top speed of 250 km/h - faster than any previous Astra.

It was fine-tuned on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Its HiPerStrut (High Performance Strut) front suspension and mechanical limited-slip differential guarantee outstanding road holding and best possible traction when accelerating out of tight corners, even in the wet. Elsewhere, OPC drivers can rely on a Brembo high performance brake system when they need to reduce speed quickly.


Insignia OPC: All-wheel drive with Touring Car genes

The Opel Insignia OPC is the flagship. Its turbocharged 2.8-litre V6 engine produces 239 kW and sends 435 Nm of torque to all four wheels. In order to guarantee that the power reaches the road in the best possible way, the OPC team developed an all-wheel drive system based on German Touring Car Championship experiences gathered with the Calibra (International Touring Car Championship winner in 1996).

With this powerful engine at its disposal, the Insignia OPC accelerates from 0-100 km/h in six seconds (Sports Tourer 6.3 seconds) and achieves a maximum, electronically limited speed of 250 km/h. However, the Insignia can go even faster. The manual, unlimited version reaches speeds up to 270 km/h (Sports Tourer 265 km/h).


Highlights from the first 15 years of OPC

  • 1999: Market launch of the Astra (G) OPC (2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine with 118 kW)
  • 2001: Introduction of the Zafira (A) OPC (2.0-litre-turbo with 141 kW) 2002: Market launch of the second Astra (G) OPC (2.0-litre-turbo with 147 kW, three-door and Caravan variants)
  • 2005: 20 000 OPC vehicles sold throughout Europe in only five years
  • 2005: Market launch of the Astra (H) OPC (2.0-litre-turbo with 177 kW)
  • 2005: Second generation of the Zafira (B) OPC (2.0-litre-turbo, 177 kW)
  • 2005: Market launch of the Vectra OPC and Vectra Caravan OPC (2.8-litre V6 turbo with 188 kW)
  • 2005: Astra OPC sets compact class lap record of 8:35:94 on the Nürburgring Nordschleife
  • 2006: Introduction of the Meriva OPC (1.6-litre-turbo with 132 kW)
  • 2006: Zafira (B) OPC sets MPV lap record of 8:54:38 on the Nürburgring Nordschleife
  • 2007: Market launch of the Corsa (D) OPC (1.6-litre-turbo with 141 kW)
  • 2007: Corsa (D) OPC sets small car lap record of 8:47:99 on the Nürburgring Nordschleife
  • 2008: Limited special edition Astra (H) OPC Nürburgring Edition
  • 2008: IDS Plus 2 chassis as standard for Astra (H) OPC
  • 2009: Market launch Astra (H) OPC Race Camp Edition
  • 2009: Market launch Insignia OPC Limousine and Insignia OPC Sports Tourer (2.8-litre V6 turbo with 239 kW)
  • 2011: Opel Corsa (D) Nürburgring Edition with 154 kW
  • 2012: Astra (J) OPC with 206 kW 2.0-litre turbo
  • 2013: Further development of the Insignia OPC with enhanced chassis