Opel GT: A Corvette owner reunited with her first love

Photography by J.A. Ackley

Laurie Schwartz knows Corvettes. She’s owned three. But her first love was an Opel GT, which she had as a teenager and now has once again.

It’s called the ‘Poor Man’s Corvette,’ and I was poor,” says Laurie of her first Opel GT. “I could not afford a Corvette. So, I found a ’71 Opel GT and absolutely adored it. I had a lot of fun, packed all kinds of people in it, went everywhere with it. I’m originally from Massachusetts, so it was an all-purpose, all-kinds-of-weather kind of car. I had studded snow tires on it and it was pretty nimble [in the snow]–I didn’t have any problems.”

Unfortunately, the Opel GT had other issues.

It was an electrical nightmare–most of the gauges didn’t work,” Laurie says. “I was poor, so I needed the money and I sold it. The guy who bought it still has it in pieces in his garage now. He never put it back together.”

Life goes on, but that didn’t mean she didn’t think of her Opel GT.

Ever since I sold it, I’ve missed it,” says Laurie.

Later on in life, Laurie could afford a Corvette. She has owned three–a C3, a C6, and now a C7.

I call it my ‘Extra Large Opel GT,’” Laurie says of her Corvette. “There’s no comparison [between the Corvette and Opel GT]. The Corvette is a beast of a machine. I went to the Ron Fellows driving school to learn how to really drive the car.”

The Corvette certainly has more power, more prestige, but that didn’t stop Laurie from dreaming of the Opel GT. Her then-fiancé and now husband, Floyd Schwartz, decided to surprise her with one prior to their wedding in 2005.

We took a road trip,” says Laurie. “He said, ‘By the way, we’re getting an Opel GT,’ and I drove it home.”

The drive home ushered in an intense wave of emotions and memories for Laurie.

I felt like a little kid again,” Laurie says. “Part of me wanted to do a happy dance. Part of me wanted to cry because it brought back a lot of fond memories.”

Was the 1971 Opel GT like how she remembered when she had one back in the day?

No,” says Laurie. “This is not by any means what we’re used to with power steering. At slow speeds, it’s a workout–your arms get tired. It does turn a dime, but you have to work it. It’s a blast at higher speeds … very nimble. It’s a lot smaller than I remember, but it’s still fun.”

Nevertheless, Laurie wouldn’t trade owning an Opel GT for anything. She said it has better parts availability than her C3, and offers an experience unlike most modern cars.

There’s a limited population that’s attracted to this car,” Laurie says. “But for those that are, they’re very passionate. Those interested in it usually have had one in the past. They know it’s fun. They know the feeling it gives you behind the wheel.”

Note: That spoiler is not stock to an Opel GT. Instead it came off a Volkswagen Jetta.

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300zxfreak Reader
6/2/23 11:21 a.m.

I once had the upright version of that car, the Opel Rallye (note the very Euro spelling ). It was fun, sort of. I became a master at dropping the front sub-frame with engine and suspension attached so I could work on it. Had to do the crank (spun a main bearing), rear end (shelled some gear teeth) and other misc items. It did end up with large, sticky Goodyears on it, aftermarket intake with Holley 2 bbl, headers, sway bars, etc. I remember it being quite good fun doing donuts in snow covered parking lots. Really don't think I'd care to own another one, however.

J.A. Ackley
J.A. Ackley Senior Editor
6/2/23 12:35 p.m.

A side note. I'm 6'4". I was surprised how much space I had in the car. Pretty awesome.

porschenut HalfDork
6/7/23 8:25 a.m.

Had a GT and Manta, for the time they were great cars.  But 100 hp out of a 1.9 OHC motor was good for then but sad now.  But a SS racer shared some info on the solex, it had removable venturies.  So a few minutes with them on a lathe and I had much better air flow.  A pass with a drill bit on the mains gave more fuel so maybe I had 110 HP.  And the panhard rear end was fun in AX.  Turn one way and decent, turn the other and the rod jacked up the inside rear wheel.  A lot according to corner crews.  What was and still is superior is the 4 speed getrag box.  You could up and downshift all day without the clutch and it was smooth as silk.  

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