Opel Calibra

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Opel Calibra
Opel Calibra front 20071212.jpg
Manufacturer Opel
Also calledChevrolet Calibra
Holden Calibra
Vauxhall Calibra
239,118 built [1]
4x4: 3,385
V6: 12,015
Designer Erhard Schnell
Body and chassis
Class Mid-size car / Large family car (D-segment)
Body style 2-door coupé hatchback
Layout FF layout/F4 layout
Platform GM2900
Related Opel Vectra
Saab 9-3
Saab 9-5
Saturn L-Series
Transmission 5-speed manual
6-speed Getrag manual
4-speed Aisin-Warner automatic
Predecessor Opel Manta
Successor Opel GTC Concept

The Opel Calibra is a coupé, engineered and produced by the German automaker Opel between 1989 and 1997. In the United Kingdom, where it remained on sale until 1999, it was marketed under the Vauxhall brand as the Vauxhall Calibra. [2] It was also marketed as the Chevrolet Calibra in South America by Chevrolet, and the Holden Calibra in Australia and New Zealand by Holden.


The Calibra was introduced to counter the Japanese sports coupés, of the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s. It employs the running gear of the first generation Opel Vectra, which had been launched in October 1988. Calibra production was based in the Opel factory in Rüsselsheim, Germany, and the Valmet Automotive factory in Uusikaupunki, Finland, [3] where production was consolidated in November 1995. [4]

The Calibra was initially only available with front-wheel drive, but from November 1990, four wheel drive became available.


Opel Calibra (1994-1997) Opel Calibra rear 20071007.jpg
Opel Calibra (1994–1997)
Vauxhall Calibra (1995) 1995 Vauxhall Calibra 2 litre (9685568619).jpg
Vauxhall Calibra (1995)
Holden Calibra (1991) 1991 Holden Calibra (YE) coupe (23723939324).jpg
Holden Calibra (1991)
Opel Calibra 2.0 16V Last Edition Opel Calibra.jpg
Opel Calibra 2.0 16V Last Edition
Calibra 16v Badge 1991 Holden Calibra (YE) coupe (17260661751).jpg
Calibra 16v Badge

The Opel Calibra was styled by GM's designer Wayne Cherry, and German designer Erhard Schnell.[ citation needed ] As a front-wheel drive three door hatchback coupé based on the Vectra A chassis, its ride and handling are not significantly better than that of the large family car from which it grew.

Though it had a stiffer chassis as a whole (better torsional rigidity in NM/Deg). The 4WD turbo version of the car, which had independent rear suspension, featured the rear axle of the Omega A with some minor alterations to it.

When launched on 10 June 1989, the Calibra was the most aerodynamic production car in the world, with a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.26. [5] It remained the most aerodynamic mass production car for the next ten years, until the Honda Insight was launched in November 1999, with a Cd of 0.25. [6]

All later 16V, V6, 4x4 and turbo models had a worse Cd of 0.29, due to changes in cooling system, underbody, use of spoked wheels and glass detail. [7]

Commercial life

During its lifetime, the Calibra was much more popular in Europe, and outsold its nearest rival, the Ford Probe, which was considered to be underpowered, and very American for most European drivers.[ citation needed ] However, in the United Kingdom, it failed to outsell the Rover 200 Coupé, which offered comparable performance, but without 4WD in the top of the range models. Sales commenced in June 1990.

In July 1990, after General Motors bought a stake in Saab, [8] it was reported the Calibra would be badged as a Saab in the United States, but these plans did not materialise. [9] There were also plans for a cabriolet version to be produced, but these too failed to materialise, although Valmet Automotive built two fully working, red coloured prototypes in 1992, with the 2.0 litre, 8 valve engine.

A third body was also produced for use in flexibility tests. [10] In the summer of 1994, the Calibra received a light facelift. Most noticeably, the manufacturer badge migrated from its place atop the leading edge of the bonnet into the front grille. Throughout the production run, several special models were launched.

In the United Kingdom, this began with the 'Tickford' conversion in October 1991, however, only twenty six Calibra's were ever converted. This was followed by Vauxhall's own Special Edition range the SE1 in 1993, and ran through to the SE9 in 1997. These limited run editions had often unique aspects. For example, solar yellow paint on the SE2, or "Icelandic" blue on the SE6. Neither colours were found on any other Calibra.

There was also a Keke Rosberg edition available only in white, in celebration of the Calibra's success in the German Touring Car Championship at the time. In other parts of Europe, special models included the "DTM" edition, the "Cliff" edition, the "Colour" edition and "Last" edition. Some special models included a numbered plaque on the ashtray.

The Vectra A was replaced in September 1995, but Calibra production continued until June 1997. Although a smaller coupé (the Tigra) was available, the marque was left without a mid sized coupé until the Astra Coupé was launched in the spring of 2000, and with the introduction of the Opel Speedster in July 2000, three years after the Calibra was discontinued, Opel finally offered a sports car again.


Power was initially from 2.0 litre 8 valve (85 kW/115 bhp C20NE) and a Cosworth designed 16 valve fuel injected (110 kW/150 bhp C20XE) four cylinder redtop petrol engines.

For 1992, a turbocharged 2.0 litre 16 valve engine (150 kW/204 bhp C20LET, the turbocharged version of the C20XE) was added to the range. With four wheel drive, a six speed Getrag manual transmission (F28/6) and a claimed top speed of 245 km/h (152 mph), this flagship model finally gave the Calibra the dynamics to match its looks.

The Turbo model was also notable for the five stud wheel hubs and the extreme negative camber (inward lean) of its rear wheels, which is apparent even from a cursory visual inspection. However, it was not a strong seller.

In 1993, a 125 kW/168 hp 2.5 litre V6 (C25XE or SE4) was introduced. Available with both manual and automatic transmissions, the V6 was not as fast as the Turbo, but was rather more civilised, and proved to be more reliable than the complex four wheel drive model. 1995 saw the introduction of the X20XEV Ecotec engine, a new version of the classic C20XE 16 valve or "red top" engine.

This marked a reduction in power from 150 bhp (112 kW) to 136 bhp (101 kW) for the 16 valve version, although the Turbo continued with the C20LET.

The last Calibra Turbos were produced in the beginning of 1997, before a final run of Calibra Turbo Limited Editions were rolled out. These were all finished in jet black paintwork with Irmscher spoiler, BBS RX 16" alloys and colour coded body fittings. This final incarnation was also lowered by 35mm on Irmscher springs and dampers.

The interior was heated cream leather, with a steering wheel trimmed in grey leather and a plaque showing the build number mounted on the centre console.

In competition

The Calibra V6 DTM race cars, while still being four wheel drive, had the engine mounted longitudinally instead of transversely. Early DTM cars were using a naturally aspirated Opel Cosworth 54 degree V6 engine, based on the production C25XE car engine. Power climbed from 420 to 480 PS (310 to 350 kW; 410 to 470 hp) during the years (1993–1995).

Then in 1996, due to changes to the regulations of FIA, a newly developed engine was used instead: the all aluminium 75 degree Cosworth KF V6 engine, based on the Isuzu Trooper/Amigo V6. This one was the 6VD1 engine, which was a ISUZU made engine (This one engine had also found its place in the all road Honda Passport's engine compartment.)

With this one new engine, they managed to get the win in the 1996 ITC Championship. The KF V6 was capable of revving up to 15,000 rpm.

The last known KF V6 Calibra race car in existence, is the Zakspeed prototype, Calibra Concept 2, which had been built to be used as a test car for the upcoming FIA championship, that actually never happened. The Calibra turbo was also rallied, albeit without any major successes. A Calibra finished ninth in the 1992 Sanremo Rallye, with Bruno Thiry at the wheel. This did make it the fastest car in the 1600 to 2000 cc class. [11]


In addition to a four speed automatic transmissions that was available on all models, except the C20LET (although some countries such as Australia did not sell the C20XE with the four speed auto), there were five manual gearboxes for the Calibra (all of which were five speed gearboxes, except the six speed F28/6).

The transfer gearbox in the AWD models — the same as used in the Vauxhall Cavalier AWD—was somewhat on the flimsy side, liable to suffer damage from conditions such as minor differences in tyre wear or tyre pressure between front and rear axles. Since front and rear tyres would naturally wear at different rates in normal driving, it was necessary to swap front with rear tyres every 15,000 miles (24,000 km).[ citation needed ]

All four tyres had to be of the same make and model, and all four tyres had to be replaced at the same time — if one tyre was damaged or punctured, the three remaining good tyres also had to be replaced. In addition there were other maintenance requirements which were both exacting and unusual. Neglect of these points through ignorance or a misconceived attempt to save money was common, and was likely to lead to very expensive failures of the transfer gearbox. [12] [ better source needed ]

2007 GTC Concept

The Opel GTC Concept of March 2007 was linked to the Calibra name, but no production version resulted from the concept car. [13]

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  11. Danaatmadja, Odang (2 November 1992). "Pertarungan paling ketat" [The toughest battle]. Intan Motor (in Indonesian). Vol. VI no. 113. Jakarta: Yayasan Beraya Press. p. 34. ISSN   0215-7713.
  12. Vauxhall Cavalier 4x4 Dos and Don'ts Archived 24 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine Special care and maintenance requirements for the Vauxhall Cavalier/Calibra 4x4 transfer gearbox
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