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Lancia Fulvia 1,3 Sport Zagato and Opel GT: Two sports coupes outside the mainstream

Uli Joo�
Lancia Fulvia 1,3 Sport Zagato and Opel GT in the driving report
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K yes be that comic artist Brösel was a little right when he realized that Opel GT drivers could be recognized by their thick right upper arm.

The Opel GT pop-up headlights are causing a stir - and thick upper arms

Because even today, almost 25 years after the first Werner band appeared, the flapping clong of the headlights rotating around their own axis is one of the highlights of GT driving - for the driver, because the k Pulling the lever with the right hand is still a sensory treat for muscles and ear canals. And for the audience, because the noisy synchronized ballet of the headlamp housings seems almost as exotic these days as lighting a carbide light on a pre-Edwardian.

Passers-by stop at the traffic light, unabashedly pointing their fingers at the Opel , and serious men with dark Audi ask for private demonstrations at the gas station. It would be wise to train your right arm for such occasions. Because nothing is more embarrassing than starving the headlights with a too girlish train shortly before the end position.

The ignorant fail when starting the Lancia Fulvia

The Lancia Fulvia 1.3 Sport Zagato cannot score with such high attention value. But what at least has the advantage that you can familiarize yourself with the peculiarities of the small coupé without being noticed by the public. The Zagato also has a trap to offer: As with the normal Fulvia, the engine is started with a little ritual. Turn the key to the end position - a series of lights flashes. The starter is then activated by pressing the key.

Anyone who does not know this and tries to turn the key with gentle force will - if things go wrong - then hold a broken ignition key in their hand. Otherwise, the little Zagato behaves as good and unobtrusive as a standard Fulvia sedan.

The Opel GT bodies were made in France

Both have that Sports coupés have one thing in common: They present comparatively conservative limousine technology in a tight sports gear. And both fans are looking for a track beyond the mainstream of established sports car classics in the 100 hp class. The thread of similarities could be spun further: Both were about insame period - and not particularly long - produced. And both are now in good condition for around 10,000 to 12,000 euros.

Surprisingly, the new prices on the debut weren't as far apart as one might assume given their so different origins. A Fulvia Zagato was available for around 13,000 marks in 1965, and almost 11,000 marks had to be paid for a GT. Which incidentally earned the Opel the reproach of not being a particularly cheap car.

That seems a little unfair, because the first two-seater post-war Opel was anything but a simple mass-production product. Ultimately, the Opel bodies were created by the French specialists Chausson and Brissonneau & Lotz. The finished bodies were only put on the Kadett production line in Bochum for final assembly.

The finest Lancia come from Zagato

This was new territory for Opel. Not so with Lancia. The Zagato versions of the various series were a tradition that goes back to the Appia. Lancia from Zagato always represented the most exquisite models of a series. Including cars of as captivating beauty as the Flaminia Zagato or as bizarre otherness as the Flavia Zagato. The Fulvia is somewhere in between.

The balance and elegance of the design by Ercole Spada, then head of design at Zagato, is not apparent at first glance. It lacks the exaltation of earlier Zagato creations - similar to the Alfa 1300 Zagato, which was created around the same time and for which Spada was also responsible.

The distinctly reserved nature doesn't make the Fulvia any less likable. 'For me, design means,' said Spada once in an interview, 'creating a beautiful shape that expresses and supports the function for which it is intended.' In the following, he described the goals he pursued with the Fulvia design: 'Lightness, compactness, good aerodynamics, ergonomics and good visibility'.

Lancia Fulvia 1.3 Sport Zagato: Considerable performance

It almost seems as if the spirit and philosophy of Spada are still with us 40 years after the presentation of the Fulvia Sport. The driver sits on a small armchair behind the large, thin wooden steering wheel from the factory coupé and is happy about the almost playful interaction. Accelerator, steering, brakes, gearshift - everything works so smoothly and easily, as if the Lancia was just a somewhat large toy car.

But the lightness has its price. You pay, for example, with the indirect translation of the steering gear, which requires rowing arm movements even with minor course corrections. After all, it is a reminder that the Fulvia is anything but a toy car. The small V4 in the front has an output of 90 hp, and that inspires the Zagato to achieve remarkable performance.

Of coursethe bare numbers don't seem particularly impressive. According to the manufacturer, the 1.3 S Sport runs at around 180 km /h and needs a longer blink of an eye, more than ten seconds, to accelerate from standstill to 100 km /h.

But with a bold move, the Fulvia is still a fast country road car that, thanks to its front-wheel drive, can be thrown into corners quickly and carefree. And that can be moved exactly on the ideal line despite the indirect steering. Not least because of this, the Fulvia Sport Zagato were a force in hill climbs and rallies in Italy in the late sixties.

Opel GT: Fast exterior, tame and rough engine

At least on narrow mountain roads, an Opel GT is no match for a committed Fulvia. This is an accusation that the Flach-Opel has been following since the first tests in the specialist magazines. The car testers resented the fact that his drive technology could not quite keep up with what the form promised by Clare MacKichan and the Opel team.

This is how Reinhard Seiffert noted in the first test of the new Opel sports car in auto motor und sport 8/1969: 'Neither of the two engines does exactly what the exterior of the car promises, but the 1900 at least roughly meets today's sports car demands '. And by that he did not mean the performance that was quite impressive in the 1900 with an acceleration from zero to 100 with eleven seconds and a top speed of 186.5 km /h. The smoothness and performance of the 1.9-liter borrowed from the record did not seem entirely appropriate to the strict tester.

Today nobody likes to reproach the C.I.H. record engine, it doesn't feel or drive like a double ocher from Milan. If only because the new buyers from 1968 to 1973 were indifferent.

Only flying is better - legendary advertising campaign for the Opel GT

Because obviously the legendary advertising campaign of the Frankfurt agency McCann and the breathtaking shape of the new Opel were shaped much more lasting in the mind than the comments of the critics. Since then, the slogan 'Only flying is more beautiful' has been part of general German usage as naturally as only Goethe quotes and a few other advertising slogans.

It probably didn't bother them much that the record four-cylinder becomes unduly loud beyond 130 km /h due to the lack of a fifth gear. In any case, speeds above the 4,500 mark are not the favorite discipline of 1900.

But the 40 years since the presentation of the Experimental GT at the IAA have been mild with the Opel. Nowadays, nobody demands highway heating and traffic light duels from him. That was not always so. The GT migrated fairly quickly from the caring hands of the first owner to the suburban streets, where they were used as promenade sports cars and launch vehiclesabsurd spoiler constructions had to serve.

That should have consumed a good part of the just over 103,000 GT built. Most emigrated quickly anyway: 70,000 GT were sold in the USA through the Buick dealer network. In Germany, however, only around 18,000 copies found a buyer.

Lancia trumps with technology and aesthetics, Opel with robustness and the mini muscle car look

That was certainly not a coincidence. After all, a group of American designers and the American manager Bob Lutz were not insignificantly involved in the creation and construction of the GT. You can also tell from the seating position on the flat chairs behind the steeply positioned steering wheel, which is more reminiscent of a muscle car than a sports car of European design. And the chassis is of the dry hardness that US sports car fans first came to appreciate on their British roadsters. The rear rigid axle hops on uneven roads and moves so clearly in curves that GT novices react with shocked counter-steering.

The steering, on the other hand, is extremely direct, which is why you feel almost like in one after changing from the Fulvia Kart occurs. Which doesn't make the question of which of the two dissimilar sports cars should be preferred any easier. Spada's art, the now somewhat buried myth of the Lancia and Zagato brands and the technical finesse of its drive unit speak for the Lancia.

The Opel GT is much more down to earth - the engine and transmission are as indestructible as only heavy metal from the Rüsselsheim rear-wheel drive era can be. The shape tells of a time when big automobile manufacturers were still allowed to dream, design cars with a heart and slide rule and the advertising agencies still say 'Woooamm! Woooaaammm !!' were allowed to write on the posters.

Possibly, if you take everything into account, the child in the man really wins. Brösel could actually be right. Flapp Klong.


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