Ok, so things are clearly moving at an arthritic pace…

So here we are, another year later and I still don’t have my GT here in Sweden with me. It’s been sitting outside on blocks patiently waiting through the heat and cold of another year.

This time around I have some exciting news. Through a series of referrals I believe I have found a shipping company that can ship the car to me for about a quarter of what I had previously been quoted. In addition they will ship it in a container so no nasty weather for it while it crosses the Atlantic. I have about 2/3 of the money required so with any luck I might have my car here in Sweden before the end of summer!

I have also potentially found a winter home for it where it will be kept warm and dry along with a bunch of other enthusiast cars including an MGBT, a Lotus Super Seven, Fiat 600 and a host of other newer cars.

Here’s hoping there will be more updates in a few months at the most, rather than another year.

Meanwhile here it is being moved to a new location where it will be stored inside.

Moving my 1973 Opel GT from Jay Leno on Vimeo.

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Nearly one year on

It’s been nearly a year since the first post here and not much progress has been made.  Sadly I haven’t won the lottery so it’s meant having to save a little money here and there to be able to have enough money to ship the GT over.

In the mean time I have been trying to figure out how to accomplish my goals for the final product that is seen in the render at the top of the site.  One of the things that I really want to do is to lower the car on a custom air suspension.  However the GT has a few problems that prevent extreme lowering.  The first major obstacle is that the bottom of the GT is completely flat except for where the driveshaft resides.  There is no channel for the exhaust.  So if I want to lower it to the extreme that I have planned the exhaust would get crushed by the car itself, nevermind any sort of speed bump or road debris.  The next problem is that the front suspension design is an upside down transverse leaf spring.  In most modern cars the front suspension consists of vertically mounted shocks/struts, but with the GT’s transverse leaf spring you can only go so low and it’s not low enough.

The next problem is that I want to have larger wheels.  This is generally accomplished by the plus one factor, meaning every time you go up one inch in wheel size, you go down in the sidewall size of the tire.  The GT came with 13″ wheels and 70 series tires from the factory.  So a plus one would be a 14″ wheel and 60 series tires, plus two would be 15″ wheel and 50 series tire and a 16″ wheel would require 40 series tires.  With the small body size I think I will end up with a 16″ wheel, going much larger would start to look ridiculous.  When you increase the size of the wheel from such a small size you generally also increase the width of the tire.  With most cars this isn’t so much of a problem but the GT has a very small amount of space inside of the wheel housing.  This means that the turning radius of the wheels will be reduced as the wheel won’t be able to turn as far when the tire is wider.  In addition, because the vehicle will be lowered the already small amount of wheel housing space will become even smaller.

The next problem is that I want to change the motor to something like the Honda F20C that is in the S2000.  This is an inline 4 cylinder engine in the same configuration that the GT came with but much more modern with more horsepower, variable valve timing and a higher redline.  However this engine is also a fair bit larger than the stock GT engine.  I don’t know at this point if it will fit or not but so far it looks like it might be “possible”.

Combining the factors of a flat bottom and small wheel housings with a desire for a lower stance and larger wheels and a larger motor brings up a unique problem with several possible solutions.  I could cut and hack away at the body to make it all fit and work but those would be like band-aid “fixes” and not a properly engineered solution.  It would never be the way that I want it.  However I believe that there is an “easier” solution that will be more work overall but will bring many many more benefits.

My solution is to build a complete tubular rolling chassis that will support all the mechanical components and then just essentially “hang” the body on that frame.  This will allow me to build a completely custom chassis that will be able to do all of the things I want it to do.

I am currently evaluating/learning SolidWorks and PST Creo / Pro Engineer to see which works better for me to model the entire chassis.  Expect to see some posts with renderings once I decide on a program and start making some progress.


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Back Home…Without the GT

In the final days of my vacation in the USA we arranged to have the car stored in a different spot so it would be a bit better protected and easier to get out once all the shipping details were ironed out.  Once again the car started right up with just the tiniest amount of starter fluid sprayed into the carburetor.

I’m back home in Sweden now and not much is being done on the car as it is still in the USA.  I am now working on getting it shipped to me.  So far I have arranged for someone to bring it to the shipping docks in the USA.  However I need to figure out which shipping company I am going to work with as that will decide the final port location in the USA.  I then need to find a place to store it here in Sweden.

Meanwhile you can check out this short video I made with an old camera.



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Day Two – She lives!

Today my brother came over to help me try to get it running.  He brought his air tank over and filled up the tires.  Next we pulled the plugs.  They were remarkably clean and evenly gapped so we just cleaned them with some starter fluid and a wire brush and put them back in.  Next we tried to charge the battery a bit but it just wouldn’t take a charge.  So we went down to the local auto parts store, recycled the old battery and another dead battery for $10 store credit and bought a new battery.  Got home, put in the new battery, put in a few gallons of gas and rolled it outside to try starting it.

Before we started we knew there was some sort of electrical issue.  We actually found a wire missing off of a capacitor like device, can’t think of the name of it right now, put that back and tried starting it.  Nothing happened, the gauges showed that there was a draw on the battery when it was cranking but there was nothing happening.  We checked over all the connections on the starter and while rusty they were solid.  My brother thought maybe the starter was a bit jammed up so he started tapping it with a hammer and almost immediately it started cranking!

He put some starter fluid in the stock 2 barrel Solex carb and it fired up and promptly died as soon as the starter fluid was burned up.  We tried a few more times and it wouldn’t re-fire.  We figured it was a dead spot in the starter so we put it in gear, rolled it back and forth a bit to move the starter to a new spot and tried again.  She started right up and kept running.  Checked over a few more things, stopped and restarted it several times and it all appears to be well now.

The upper and lower radiator hoses as well as the radiator cap need to be replaced and there is a lifter that is a bit sticky.  Other than that it is going amazingly well.  None of us can believe that the car has started this quickly after having sat for nearly 10 years with no more than an hour of running that whole time.

German engineering at it’s finest I guess.

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Day One

A couple days ago we finally got my Opel moved into the garage.  It had been sitting up on blocks for about 3 years in the back yard.  It was a relatively quick process to drag it up to the driveway with another car and push it into the garage.  The tires were fairly flat and with no air compressor available it wasn’t the easiest to push but we got it done.

Today was the first day since then where I got to spend a decent amount of time with the car.  I spent a few hours vacuuming it out as a family of mice had made the spare tire area their home as well as a few spiders and just general dust.  Overall I have to say that the car is still in pretty decent condition considering it has sat in one place or another for over a decade.  After cleaning it out I checked over the air filter, carburetor and oil.  Everything looked pretty good.  I put some Stabil in the tank to help clean up any of the old gasoline that was left from the last time it was started about 3 years ago.  I didn’t have a plug wrench handy so I couldn’t check the plugs but if they look as good as the oil it might not be as much of a nitemare as I was thinking it would be to get her started and going.

Tomorrow I will be getting some air put in the tires and rolling it out to give the outside a washdown.  The battery needs a charge, if not total replacement and with any luck she may start right up.  There are some electrical gremlins in the coil area that I have to resolve but right now I’m quietly confident that it *may* go quite well tomorrow.

Here are a few pics from getting her into the garage.

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GT – Grand Touring

It seems that most people have forgotten what the term “GT” really means as it has been misused by many manufacturer over the years.  The following quote is from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_tourer:

A grand tourer (Italian: gran turismo) (GT) is a high-performance luxury automobile designed for long-distance driving. The most common format is a two-door coupé with either a two-seat or a 2+2 arrangement.

The term derives from the Italian phrase gran turismo, homage to the tradition of the grand tour, used to represent automobiles regarded as grand tourers, able to make long-distance, high-speed journeys in both comfort and style. The English translation is grand touring.

That being established, is the Opel GT really a Grand Touring car?  Well strictly speaking no, it isn’t even anywhere close.  It was never a luxury car by any stretch of the imagination, nor was it very fast.  Opel had been seen as a cheap car company and General Motors (the parent owning company since 1929) decided it was time to up the image of the Opel brand.  The easiest way to do this of course is to build a sportscar for the brand.  However in typical GM fashion they decided that the easiest way to do this was to take the Opel Kadett chassis design, modify it slightly and put on a nice curvy body.  The result was a great looking car but one that didn’t handle nearly as well as it looked and certainly wasn’t as fast as it looked either.

The Opel GT was a spunky little car that could achieve decent speeds for its time but it was still firmly planted in the affordable car segment.  It was made for 5 years from 1968 to 1973.  It was announced that the minimum height for the bumper on any car would be raised in the United States in 1974 and in order to meet the requirement the little Opel GT would have to be completely redesigned.  In addition competition from the Datsun 240Z and others would mean that the Opel would be sorely left behind in its own market segment.  Instead of doing this Opel/GM decided to quit making it, leaving the GT as a short run production car with just over a hundred thousand examples made over the 5 year lifespan.

The goals that I have set for myself with my Opel GT will make it into something very unique.  I want to blend as much of modern technology as possible with the styling of the GT.  Pretty much the only things that really matter to me are that the original body and interior designs remain intact.  The rest of it can, and likely will, be changed out for modern components that will then be re-styled in a “vintage” sort of way to look like they were part of the original design.  In short I want to make my GT into what I think GM really should have done with it, make a proper GT car instead of just a cheap sexy looking car.  The Opel GT in the logo at the top left of this website is a photoshop rendering of where I hope to end up with my GT, a true Grand Tourer.


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The Beginning

Many years ago I purchased my first car at the age of 13.  It was a 1973 Opel GT and my dad and I did a facelift style restoration.  It was basically just brought up from it’s unrestored state to a driveable weekend only type vehicle.  It was not a complete restoration and it had many electrical problems so it wasn’t driven often.  Fast forward to today…the car hasn’t been driven in well over a decade but I still have it.  In the mean time I had moved to Sweden and built a life there.  I have decided that I want to have the Opel with me in Sweden. So on my vacation to the US I am going to be working on getting my Opel GT in a running state so that it can be shipped to Sweden via Roll-On, Roll-Off shipping.

This is where I will document all of the little details and things that I do with the car.  A fellow Opel GT owner who also owns a 73′ GT will also be joining me on this site sharing his adventures as he restores and modifies his Opel GT in Minnesota.

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