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Concept Car of the Week: Opel CD (1969)

Fri, 24 Jan 2014

Despite its sophisticated suspension and spacious interior, Opel struggled to sell its big Diplomat luxury sedan. It was 1968 and Opel simply couldn't compete with Mercedes-Benz, the leader in that segment by far.

Bob Lutz, then a young executive at GM Europe, thought of using the sedan's chassis to create a large GT Coupe in an attempt to boost both its sales and profile. Leading the project was designer David Holls and under Chuck Jordan's supervision they created this stunning concept with perfect GT proportions in line with the likes of the Maserati Ghibli or Ferrari's Daytona.

Built in Italy by Frua and unveiled in Frankfurt in 1969, the Opel CD – or Coupe Diplomat – was the star of the show. Its body was drawn with aerodynamics in mind, resulting in a pure design with clean surfaces. Just as in the Diplomat, a 5.4-liter V8 was found under the hood.

The huge, A-pillarless, wraparound windshield was its real party trick. The entire greenhouse integrating the doors pivoted forwards hydraulically to provide access. The cabin only had room for two but was spacious and comfortable. Saab used a similar solution for the Aero X.

The steering column, instrument panel and the pedals were fully adjustable for optimal ergonomics. Between the seats, the console was covered with various switches and knobs as well as a large corded phone. More than just a styling exercise, the CD was created with production in mind, but GM decided against the idea.

Opel dealer, parts manufacturer and aftermarket specialist Erich Bitter had his own vision of the car's potential. He purchased the actual concept from the design department with the ambition of creating a road-going version.

Four years later the Bitter CD was displayed at the 1973 Frankfurt show, and 176 orders were placed for the stylish new car. Like the concept, it was based on the Diplomat, using the same efficient chassis, reliable powertrain and attractive design.

Unfortunately the ‘70s oil crisis would compromise the future of all big engines sports cars and many orders were cancelled. Production ended in 1979 with a total number of 395 cars, which makes it highly collectible today.

First seen 1969 Frankfurt motor show
Designers Chuck Jordan, David Holls
Engine 5,349cc V8 from Opel Diplomat

Your author, Flavien Dachet, is a UK-based, French-born car designer. You may know him as the purveyor of KarzNshit, a photo blog that if isn't already in your bookmarks, certainly should be.

By Flavien Dachet