Originally developed as a high-performance laboratory on wheels for the testing of chassis and engine components, the Experimental GT was never planned for production. But after the frenzy the car created with the press and public, the concept became reality just three years later. Opel had set a precedent: the 1968 Opel GT it was first European concept car to go into series production. It was a role model for the industry: the trend-setting concept of an affordable, sporty dream car.
Opel was the first car manufacturer to demonstrate its innovative power with a concept car that had been entirely created in its own design facilities. "Besides having a fantastic look, the Opel sports car was primarily designed to impress with sophisticated aerodynamics," explains Erhard Schnell, GT designer at the time. Even the headlights were shrouded to reduce air resistance.
The Experimental GT followed a new design style often called the "Coke Bottle Shape", which could also be seen reflected in the design of the Corvettes of the time. A sleek front end with retractable headlamps, tapered flanks in the door area, and bulging rear fenders which flowed into the rear with sharp separating edges and round brake lights - these were the Experimental GT's key design characteristics.
The cockpit of the Experimental GT was unusually roomy and functional, with full instrumentation set in an impressive-looking dashboard with toggle switches, competition steering wheel and short shift lever. There was a parcel shelf behind the seats that could only be accessed through the main doors. Behind the parcel shelf was a fold-up panel that concealed a spare tire and jack.
The Opel CD (Coupé Diplomat) was the star of the IAA in Frankfurt in 1969. A thoroughbred Gran Turismo based on Opel Diplomat technology, the Candy Apple Red Opel CD featured a canopy-like cockpit opening that replaced conventional doors. It was a convincing showcase of the Opel designers’ skill and ambition. A few years later other European competitors also began to develop and present concept vehicles themselves.
The Opel CD was designed under the control of Charles M Jordan and featured a one-piece "greenhouse" windscreen and side windows with integrated doors, which pivoted forward hydraulically to allow access to the cabin. The steering column and steering wheel pivoted up as well. This concept was also further developed and ultimately built in low-volume production.
Built as a styling study, the Opel design team perfected the aerodynamics of the Opel CD in extensive wind tunnel testing. This is the norm in automotive design today, but it was a quite innovative in the late 1960s. The sleek front end with retractable headlamps flows seamlessly into the wrap-around windscreen constructed without the visual blockage of a roof pillar.
A roomy and comfortable two-seater, the Coupé Diplomat featured finely upholstered leather club seats. The steering column with the attached instrument panel and the pedals were fully adjustable and could be re-positioned for optimal ergonomics. Special attention was paid to ergonomics in this study as well as a futuristic car telephone conveniently located in the sleek center console.
The Opel GT2 amazed visitors to the 1975 IAA with its futuristic wedge shape and sliding doors. It announced a new, rational concept car age of greater efficiency – in fuel consumption, safety, interior space and aerodynamics. The oil crisis in 1973 had once again turned the spotlight on these themes. And the pioneering work that Opel had already done on the aerodynamics of the Experimental GT and Opel CD concepts were put to full use in the GT2.
The Opel GT2 concept car shown at the IAA 1975 in Frankfurt was based on the chassis of the Manta / Ascona B. The two-seater coupe had a 1.9 liter 4 cylinder OHC engine and boasted a drag efficiency of 0.326. Over 16% better than the already sleek Experimental GT. Even the wheels were aerodynamically optimized. The rear wheels were partially covered to boost efficiency.
At first glance, the sleek wedge form and recessed headlights make a very futuristic impression. But the feature that got the most attention at the Frankfurt Motor Show was the eye-catching sliding doors without visible rails. The opening mechanism was housed in the rear view mirror housing. The body was made of sheet metal, but the use of plastic was planned in a later production version.
The interior was also ahead of its time: the bucket seats were constructed of individual plastic-foam components, the cockpit consisted of interchangeable modules with digital displays from VDO and there was even an on-board computer.
The research vehicle TECH 1 was a further development that created a buzz at the IAA in 1981. The engineering study demonstrates Opel’s pioneering role in the field of aerodynamics: the experimental vehicle achieves a drag coefficient of 0.235, setting a world record. In terms of functionality and features this four-door vehicle comprehensively and in practical form documented the automobile development of the future.
Less fuel consumption, high economic efficiency, versatility and practical utility: those were the goals that were set by the Opel designers and engineers for the TECH 1. Because the laws of physics cannot be ignored, aerodynamics will always remain a key factor in maximizing fuel economy. TECH 1 exemplifies excellent aerodynamics, preventing turbulences and ensuring greater efficiency in fuel consumption.
With a front fascia and a flowing silhouette that inspired the first Omega generation that premiered five years later in 1986, the TECH 1 set an aerodynamic benchmark with a drag coefficient of 0.235. Its exterior shape was designed in a wind tunnel with the help of computers. The all-around glazing runs flush with the car body. The glass even covers the roof pillars, avoiding air vortex on the sides.
Its interior was just as ground-breaking: electronic digital instruments and electronic touch keys controlled all functions except the brakes, gas and clutch. A distinct comfort awaits the driver and the passengers on inside thanks to an advanced cooling and ventilation system as well as the seating comfort and roominess.
At the 1983 IAA, Opel presented the Junior concept car. It was even shorter than the first generation Corsa that had just been launched one year earlier. In retrospect, the Junior can be considered the forerunner of the current individualization champion and chic urban subcompact ADAM. The Junior focused on enabling new customers – especially young people, women and inhabitants of growing urban areas – to access to individual and affordable mobility.
The compact 3-door Junior set new aerodynamic standards. The slanted nose and flush details like the recessed windshield wiper under an aerodynamic fairing helped deliver a drag coefficient of 0.31. Combined with a traverse-mounted 1.2 liter engine, a lightweight compact link rear suspension and a curb weight of only 650 kilograms, the Junior promised great fuel efficiency.
The Junior concept inspired the shape of the second Corsa generation. The design is very round and clean, with only a horizontal split line between the yellow body and the raw plastic lower body. The rear is as simple as the rest with only four horizontal bars for the tail lamps. The Junior also displayed the variability we have come to associate with the brand: The roof could be exchanged for a glass roof or convertible top.
The interior was funky, fresh and functional. It offered a range of clever ideas from easily exchangeable instruments and a visionary navigation system to seat covers that could be transformed into sleeping bags and a removable the radio cassette player and speakers for camping or a picnic. The straight dashboard was topped with uniform square modules that could be plugged in and out. Therefore giving the driver the flexibility of choosing their own layout and to allow equipment upgrades over time.
As new, stricter European emission standards were announced for the future Opel Advanced Engineering and Design departments were already figuring out what a cleaner compact car could look like in the future. They presented the extremely low-emission G90 Concept, at the 1999 IAA. The name was chosen because the CO2 emission from the 60 HP gasoline engine is a mere 90 g per km. This represents MVEG-standard fuel consumption of 3.88 liters per 100 km!
This exceptionally low fuel consumption for a spacious four-seater was achieved by the use of weight-saving materials and an amazing drag coefficient of cD = 0.22. The G90 weighed only 750 kilograms. The G90's power plant was the Corsa's extremely efficient three-cylinder ECOTEC unit. In the concept car, this 12-valve engine has an output of 44 kW (60 HP) and maximum torque of 85 Nm at 2,800 rpm.
The contours of the G90 gave an insight into Opel's future body language. The very individual study hinted at recognizable Opel design cues such as the kink below the windows, the bold wheel-arches and the V-shaped radiator grill with its large Opel emblem. It also pointed the way to Opel's future styling intentions. This is exemplified in the raised line running down the center of the engine hood but also in the styling and technology of the LED headlamps.
Innovative ideas also abound in the passenger compartment, where the guiding principle of "Less is More" was applied as well. The car not only weighs less and has lower fuel consumption than comparable cars, it also has distinctly fewer switches and buttons. The T-shaped technology carrier houses the audio and mobile phone module, the climate control system and the navigation system with ergonomically-placed 5-inch screen display.
In 2001 Opel cheekily challenged the rules for small cars with the Frogster. It did not have a customary roof, but rather a stable, electrically powered roller blind. With the four individually foldable seats, the driver could turn the Frogster into a roadster, convertible or pick-up. The second important innovation was a mini computer that can be attached right into the dashboard. This PDA is not only a helpful electric accomplice, but also as a wireless car key.
The removable PDA enables the owner to put the Frogster in his jacket or pants pocket. Especially for the younger generations this is not only cool but also practical. Music can be stored as MP3 format and can be played over the on-board stereo system. But the mobile board computer can do so much more: you can open and close doors or change the position of the roller blind roller by using the PDA as a remote control.
The most obvious and surprising visual characteristic of this green, zippy city car is without a doubt the horizontal roller blind, which replaces the roof as well as the trunk door. It is made out of robust aluminium profiles that are connected by rubber inserts making sure it is rattle free and waterproof.
The weather-proof design continues on the inside. For the electrically adjustable seats a material was chosen that strongly resembles neoprene, which is used for surf suits. Between the front seats is a neoprene tray, where especially the younger generations can place their mobile phones. The advantage of this material is simple: Even if it occasionally rains and the roller blind is open, damages will not occur.
At the 2003 IAA, Opel presented a completely new vehicle concept with the Insignia Concept. The design language also had considerable impact on the series production models that followed. With its well-balanced proportions and progressive, elegant and dynamic lines, the Insignia shows how Opel's new design language translates to a large sized car. And with great success, the Opel Insignia was named Car of the Year 2009.
The Insignia Concept features numerous innovations including extensive use of LED lighting and unique pantograph-action doors and tailgate. Press the button hidden away in the door handle and rear doors slide backwards, suspended on an innovative pantograph. The Insignia is powered by a 344-hp aluminum V8 Corvette engine with a maximum speed of 250 km/h (electronically controlled), and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in under six seconds.
The impressive radiator grille represents pride in the brand in three-dimensional form – a reference to the big cars that have always been part of Opel's tradition. The departure from a conservative notchback silhouette is evident in the coupé-style bodylines and design details such as the long engine hood with sweeping A-pillars and the inward-tapering front and rear ends. The wide track emphasizes the Insignia's dynamics even further.
The Insignia Concept continues the long tradition of innovative interiors at Opel: like Zafira's Flex7 system with fully retractable third-row seats or the multiple configurations of the Meriva and Signum FlexSpace concepts. In the Insignia study, the section of the center tunnel that separates the two individual rear seats can be moved back under the trunk-floor to reveal a folded seat that can be raised electrically to make it a five-seater.
The IAA study of 2007, the Opel Flextreme Concept, was a milestone in the development of electric propulsion with its innovative E-Flex architecture. As we are always searching for increased efficiency and cleaner propulsion modes, our latest concept cars have focused on electric mobility. The design and technology of the Flextreme Concept inspired the Opel Ampera that was launched in 2011 and that was named 2012 European Car of the Year.
The idea was that commuters could travel completely CO2 emission-free in pure electric mode up to 55 km on the car’s lithium-ion battery. Then a small diesel engine would enable the production of electricity to extend the car’s range, enabling it to cover many hundreds of kilometers without stopping. The Flextreme’s electric propulsion architecture also supports two Segway electric scooters with docking stations that are integrated into the cargo area.
The Flextreme body’s key characteristics highlight the new elements of Opel design language: more sculpted surfacing molding, clear style elements such as narrow, boomerang-shaped lights and sloping line in the side graphics. The boomerang-shaped lights later known for the Ampera and Zaifira Tourer. Another key innovation is the FlexDoors®. This found its way into production on the award-winning 2011 Opel Meriva.
Lightweight and high rigidity honeycomb structures are used in the Flextreme’s interior. The car utilizes cameras instead of exterior mirrors. The display fields of the large panoramic display are configurable and show an all-around view of the surroundings or information about the car. A second touch screen display is located in the center console. The buttons can be programmed and adapted. This has found its way into today’s Intellilink technology.
The RAK e opened a new chapter in electric mobility and extended Opel’s pioneering role in alternative propulsion systems. Aimed at young buyers, this car is defined by minimal energy costs, 100 kilometres for one euro, and a maximum speed of 120 km/h. “RAK e” recalls the pioneering spirit of Fritz von Opel and his revolutionary rocket-powered car. In 1928 RAK 2 catapulted the grandson of company-founder Adam Opel to a top speed of 228 km/h.
In an age where rocketing fuel prices and crowded city streets are robbing the pleasure from driving, the Opel RAK e stands out as a bright light. Imagine putting 100 km behind you for just 1 Euro. Doing it in a sleek, jet aircraft inspired shape, being able to park virtually anywhere and all with zero vehicle emissions. That’s the reasoning behind the Opel RAK e. The lithium ion technology of the Ampera is the natural starting point to achieve this.
Superbly aerodynamic yet muscular and stable in aspect, the Opel RAK e brings low cost electric mobility to the city. The bodywork is made of fully recyclable synthetic material. The jet fighter theme extends the length of the sleek, tinted bubble canopy. This lifts forward to enable access to the two tandem seats further reinforcing the aircraft similarity. Eye-catching paint, contrasting with the roof, and futuristic LED lights round off this vehicle’s unique look.
The tandem two-seat passenger compartment is reminiscent of glider. The large cockpit canopy gives the driver and passenger a feeling of spaciousness and of course all-around visibility. The front seat, steering column and armrests automatically tip forward to enable easy-entry. On top remote control via smart phone enhances the optical effect of this action. The pedals and the steering wheel adjust to the size of the driver.
The Monza Concept shows what Opel customers can expect in the future. It focuses on two major themes for the next generation of Opel models: efficiency and connectivity. The concept demonstrates outstanding efficiency through its architecture and use of materials, as well as its aerodynamics and powertrain solution. Also, in terms of connectivity, it offers trailblazing possibilities.
The sporty appeal of Opel models has always been inseparably linked to functionality and in this respect, the Monza Concept pays homage to the seminal Opel Monza Coupé. It also combined elegant, dynamic styling with clever, functional solutions for drivers and passengers. The original Monza was the first car on the market to feature a digital dashboard display and the Monza Concept continues this innovative theme.
Overall, the Monza Concept has a light, athletic look. To visibly express Opel’s quest for increased efficiency, the study presents an evolution of Opel’s design philosophy of sculptural artistry and German precision, with body contours conveying a sense of lithe athleticism rather than pure muscle power. A low stance with flowing lines, the clearly defined hood and striking headlamps give the car an extra dose of self-confidence.
“With the Opel Monza Concept, we make our automotive future tangible today,” says Opel CEO Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann. And fueling curiosity about the newest study, he adds: “I can’t yet go into detail about how the Monza Concept’s interior design, and especially its trend-setting technologies, will change the driving experience. However, I can guarantee that viewed from any angle, its innovative body design and perfect proportions will turn heads.”
The premiere of the breathtaking Monza Concept at the Frankfurt Motor show is the latest in a line of visionary IAA studies from Opel. It continues a long and proud tradition. In 1965, Opel was the first carmaker in Europe to build a study and present it to the public at the IAA with the spectacular Opel Experimental GT. Since then, we have continually developed this concept car culture as a visionary blueprint for the next generation of our production vehicles. We introduce groundbreaking technologies in studies so that we can deliver innovations to our customers down the road. The Opel Monza Concept is our vision of Opel’s future and stands for our fundamental values: German engineering and precision, combined with enthralling design and innovations suitable for everyday use. This car will have a long-term impact on the next generation of Opel models. In the following pages you can get a closer look at the influence and excitement of the concept cars that have premiered at the Frankfurt Motor Show in the last five decades.
Images may show optional equipment.
*Fuel economy values are determined through CO2 measurement in accordance with the latest ECE R101/SANS 20101 standards, as prescribed by South African government, conducted in a controlled environment and were correct at the time this disclaimer was published, which is subject to change. The specifications are for comparison purposes between the different vehicle models available in the S.A market which are all tested in the same manner, specific driving cycles and controlled environment. Actual achieved fuel consumption during on-road driving will vary due to factors including driving style, vehicle load and tyre size, as well as road, traffic and ambient conditions.
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