Omega V8 - The Corvette-Powered Opel That Almost Was A Thing #blogpost
I’m not quite sure whether a car from the year 2000 fits under can be considered retro, but the Omega -Opel’s last executive car- certainly is a classic, so I will just leave it here.
Putting sports cars to a shame with American-sourced V8 engines have a long tradition at Opel, ranging back to 1965 with the Diplomat V8. The Diplomat V8 was powered by a GM small block V8, an engine that is rather rare in European cars. Similar to early 911s speaking of the straight line performance, but also quite expensive. For one reason and another, the V8s were scrapped in the 1970s and that was the end of the V8 Opel story.
Until the millenium.
With the success of the Lotus Omega A (Lotus Carlton in the UK), GM decided it might be time for another project very similar to the cars Opel built over thirty years ago. Not an incredibly fast cannonball like the Lotus Omega, but a dignified cruiser that could offer all the power nonetheless, should you need it.
Adding power to a car has been done the same way since ages. Throw a General Motors smallblock in it and you are done. Well, it wasn’t that easy. The engine came from the Corvette C5. 5.7 litres, 350 bhp and a colossal torque of over 500 Nm were the specs that should from now on be written on the Omega data sheet. The Corvette had a transaxle design, the Omega didn’t. A new transmission was needed. The only transmission that could cope with the power the LS1 delivered and fitted in the Omega at the same time was a four-speed automatic transmission. Opel claimed 320 bhp and 450 Nm as the target. Not much of a challenge for an LS1, but the engine didn’t fit from end to end. New headers were designed, the valve drive was modified for higher rev counts, targeting 6000 rpm. Eventually, the whole drivetrain and all of the accessories were thrown into the trash and a Holden Commodore rear axle and radiator were fitted. Everything looked promising. Power was plenty, the car was running smooth and sounded great.
In early 2000, there was a sudden silence from Opel about the Omega V8, eventually the project was scrapped without giving any reasons.
There was a reason, however. At high revs, the automatic transmission wasn’t working. After the first test drive, the flex plate (the part that connects the engine to the torque converter) broke. No problem, the part was changed. And it broke again. The part was not designed for 6000 rpm in the combination with such a powerful V8. Problematic, to say the least.
As said before, there were no transmissions that would have fitted instead. Modifying the transmission so that it would fit with the existing car was possible, but would have taken too much time, much longer than the projected production time of the Omega. That was the end of the project. One single part eventually made GM scrap the whole project.
And that is the story of Opel’s last V8. Nobody knows whether the car would have been an actual success, but it was promising. 0-100 km/h in less than 7 seconds, top speed was limited to 250 km/h. This put the car in the league of the V8-powered Mercedes-Benz E420 of the same era and even close to the BMW 850i (which has a V12, in case you forgot). But the project was scrapped and the Opel Omega would remain the last car Opel has dropped a V8 into to this day.