- The Washington Times - Friday, October 2, 2009

After returning home from a tour of duty with the U.S. Army in Vietnam Ron Lenzner was assigned to Fort Hood in Texas. While there a friend bought a curvaceous Opel GT that captured Mr. Lenzner’s attention. “It looked similar to a 1969 Corvette,” he observed.

About 30 years later Mr. Lenzner began looking for a driveable Opel GT for himself.

He soon discovered that not many of the rust-prone sporty cars had survived into the new century.His quest continued for afour years until April 2004 when a 1970 model appeared for sale on eBay.

Mr. Lenzner was astonished when he was notified that he had placed the highest bid. Soon the car was on a truck bound for Mr. Lenzner’s home in Maryland. Papers that arrived with the car indicate that he is the third owner. The first two owners were Texans.

Before the Opel arrived from Dallas Mr. Lenzner began to have second thoughts about his purchase. “I was having fourth thoughts by the time it arrived,” he says.

His anxiety was warranted. “It barely ran,” Mr. Lenzner says. “It had no brakes, the lights didn’t work and it leaked everything.” Still, the sensuous lines of the Opel GT captivated him so he set about to repair his car. He did not realize the task was going to consumer four years.

A racing carburetor now sets atop the rebuilt 1.9-liter, four-cylinder engine. The bulge on the right side of the engine hood is there to accommodate the carburetor.

Mr. Lenzner discovered that Opel built GT models like his from 1968 to 1973. His 13.5-foot-long two-seat car rolls on a 96-inch wheelbase supported by 13-inch tires.

With external dimensions at a mere 62.6-inches wide and only 48.4-inches high the cockpit is snug. Every bit of space is put to use. The area beneath the shelf behind the two bucket seats houses the spare tire and part of the air conditioning system.

The headliner, bucket seats and door panels all are white while the console between the seats and the carpeting is black. The console houses the manual shift lever to operates the four-speed transmission.

Besides the original AM radio which a surprised Mr. Lenzner says “still works,” the dashboard houses a 150 mph speedometer and a 7,000 rpm tachometer with a 6,000 rpm red line.

Mr. Lenzner noticed that his console is showing signs of age and moved to replace it. That is when, he says, he discovered that in order to replace the console he first had to remove the dashboard. Next, he learned, that prior to pulling out the dashboard the windshield had to be removed. The he was warned that the windshield often cracks during the removal process.

So far, Mr. Lenzner has located a replacement console and a dashboard in California as well as a windshield in Wisconsin. He has only to acquire a gasket for the windshield before the project can commence.

“It’s a work in progress,” Mr. Lenzner says. “It’s a fun car.”

The car is a bit lean on optional extras, but Mr. Lenzner surmises that it has air conditioning because it was a Texas car. There are six slotted vents above the rear window to encourage flow-through ventilation.

Upon close examination, Mr. Lenzner saw that his Opel GT has been repainted once and reupholstered once. He reports that because the car sits so low and, thanks to a single muffler with a dual tip resonator, makes a lot of noise, occupants feel like they are going 100 mph while actually going at a much slower speed. “I’ve had people tell me it looks like a little Ferrari,” he says.

The headlights in the nose of the Opel roll over and hide to enhance the aerodynamics. Further up the engine hood by the windshield are two rows of 11 louvers. The windshield is kept clean by a pair of wipers that are so long they overlap when in the parked position.

On fair weather days, Mr. Lenzner will commute to work at Ft. Meade from his Havre de Grace home. The economical car has a gasoline tank with a 14 gallon capacity. “At 75 or 80 it sounds like you need another gear,” he says.

He would like to replace some of the trim pieces on his car so the search for parts goes on. “You can’t find these cars anywhere,” he laments. “They are just not out there.”

Returning his car to roadworthy condition, Mr. Lenzner says, has been a memory thing. “Everybody has memories and this is part of mine,” he says.

“It has curves,” he says, “and that is why it lives in my garage.

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