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Weekend Edition: 1981 Opel Tech-1 Concept

Antti Kautonen September 5, 2015 Weekend Edition 25 Comments


The 1981 Tech-1 concept, displayed at the IAA, dictated how Opel’s design direction would look like in the 1980s. It’s not difficult to see the 1986 Omega saloon in the Tech-1, and there are hints of other future models in it.

If the GT2 concept was aerodynamic, the Tech-1 was even more so: a drag coefficient of 0.235 was groundbreaking. Flush 1980s glass was present.


The production cars didn’t get a two-tone paint job, but even the hubcaps matched those created later for consumer use. And Opel was daring enough to slice its own logo in half, on the front.




It’s not completely impossible to see some of Robocop’s 6000 SUX in the Tech-1’s profile.



The leather interior, awash with digital gadgets, was par for the course. Everything was gathered on pods to the driver’s fingertips.


  • Surfer Sandman

    Sweet looking car. Looks like something that came much later in that decade or early 90s.

  • Rover 1

    Back when the ‘free’ gains from better aerodynamics were being taken seriously.

    Then for a while Cds didn’t matter. Now, it seems, a low drag coefficient is desirable again.

    The 1985 W124 Mercedes Benz’s figure of 0.28,(and the same as the first Lexus LS400 or Citroen XM) is rarely beaten even today. And those cars don’t actually look as aero as my Citroen CX which is 0.34, good for it’s time but showing the detail work that has to be done to chip it away to get under 0.30 the figure that the first aero Audi 100 had etched on it’s glass. Later variants of the Mercedes E platform like the Chrysler 300 were as bad as 0.32, 20% higher than the car it’s based on which seems puzzling until you remember that fuel savings aren’t a big consideration in the US market. Still there’s always free speed.

    The current record holder is the 0.189 of the VW XL1, lower than even the ‘no cooling required’ electric GM EV1 at 0.195. Both of these showing the lie that current Citroen claims, that covered rear wheels aren’t neccessary for low aerodynamic drag.

    Now that low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are desired maybe we’ll see more coefficients lower than 0.20 ?

    And now that we are in the 21st century, manifestly IN the future, why doesn’t any one use that future computer typeface seen on the number plates?

    • Sjalabais

      That’s such a fascinating field! If I remember correctly, the mid-90s square Volvo 850 had a Cd value of 0.30, while the more rounded Audi A6 was a 0.33-0.35 or so. That was worth a mention in product tests back then.

    • Aerodynamics are fascinating and it’s particularly interesting to note the numbers of larger vehicles. Notably the British Duple 0.425 coach of the ’80s, named after its drag coefficient.
      Still an amazing looking machine.

      • Rover 1

        Another one I stumbled on that surprised me was the 0.31 for this, the GMC motorhome.
        No wonder they remain popular.

        • The thing to remember is that the coefficient is just part of the drag equation, you have to multiply it by the frontal area.

          • You sure?
            Surface area *A* is multiplied by (relative speed x mass density) on the object side of the CD equation.

            I loved university.

          • You sure?
            Surface area *A* is multiplied by (relative speed x mass density) on the object side of the CD equation.

            I loved university.

            • Frontal area, surface area…whatever. Of course I don’t know what I’m talking about. My point was that a BIG vehicle with a particular CD is still going to be less efficient overall than a smaller vehicle with that same coefficient number.

              • ‘Tis true. I always wondered how David Coulthard managed to be so fast despite having the least aerodynamic jaw in Formula 1, then I remembered that used to cover it with a helmet.

            • Van_Sarockin

              ” ‘A’ is the reference area.
              The reference area depends on what type of drag coefficient is being measured. For automobiles and many other objects, the reference area is the projected frontal area of the vehicle. This may not necessarily be the cross sectional area of the vehicle, depending on where the cross section is taken.”

              Often the most important portion of Area i the leading frontal edge, particularly as speed increases. And, for motor vehicles, Speed only really starts to be significant as speeds rise above 35-45 mph, rising as a square function.

              The lead reference illustration also demonstrates thata elongated forms will have lower CDs, which can help explain the relatively good performance of certain trucks and RVs.


          • Rover 1

            Of course and it varies on the viscosity of the fluid being moved through. Quoted Cd customarily refer to a Reynolds number of 104, or standardised dry air at one atmosphere pressure.

    • Maymar

      Pedant moment, but the Chrysler 300 isn’t a variant of the Mercedes E-Class. It was developed at the same time as the W211, and as such, shares certain components, but it’s very much a Chrysler platform. On the other hand, for something so blocky, 0.32 isn’t bad considering that’s not far off the very slick LH cars.

      Ultimately though, considering the market seems to have embraced bigger, more upright vehicles (mostly crossovers), I’m not sure aerodynamics are going to play as big a priority in the future. I mean, I don’t see a regression to 0.4 and up being common, but the bleeding edge numbers tend to require shapes that slightly compromise people space.

  • Maymar

    Although I can definitely see the influence on later Opels, this collectively appears much closer to their North American product. The Chevy Corsica Hatch probably overall feels closest, but that dash layout (with controls springing out from the gauge cluster) was used in a number of their cars in the late 80s and early 90s.

    • Sjalabais

      That whole pod/button-concept looks very Citroën/Subaru-ish to me – it’s decidedly 80s now by any means. But the seats with a handle and controls under are pretty cool. I wonder if one can feel the handles on the leg sides? It’s also a good spot for heated/vented seat controls, which some producers struggle to place smartly. My Honda has them under the handbrake front, almost on the floor, and definitely out of sight…

      • Maymar

        It looks like that handle is far enough out of the way that it should’ve been fairly imperceptible (although you might feel the cutout a little). Most heated seat controls I’ve seen have ended up at the lower edge of the dashboard, which works just fine. As I recall, a few mid-’00s Infinitis (the G35 for sure) had all the adjustment controls in that spot, and it seemed to work out fine, but they’ve ditched that placement. I’ve also been driving a handful of new Chevy Impalas lately, and they have the heated seat controls on the centre console, between the shifter and armrest (so close enough to the ones on this Opel’s seat), and it works well enough.

  • smokyburnout

    Styling looks more modern than GM’s other Tech 1

  • Van_Sarockin

    A pretty serious and successful effort for the time. If they’d kept the full logo on the nose, and lost most/all of the grille, they would probably have improved Cd, and likely the appearance, too.

  • Batshitbox

    The wing (vent) windows seem out of place, but I guess they’re there to transition the curved windshield into the flat door glass.
    Again with the suede, jeez.