The Opel Calibra is a coupe, 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)
Vauxhall Calibra (1995)
Holden Calibra (1991)
Opel Calibra 2.0 16V Last Edition
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] Sales of the Vauxhall-badged versions for the UK market commenced in June 1990, with hopes of selling of up to 15,000 examples per year. However, this sales target was never achieved.

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 26 Calibras 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 two-seater roadster 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 117 PS (86 kW; 115 bhp) C20NE, and a Cosworth designed 16 valve fuel injected 152 PS (112 kW; 150 bhp) C20XE four cylinder redtop petrol engines.

For 1992, a turbocharged 2.0 litre 16 valve engine 207 PS (152 kW; 204 bhp) C20LET (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).

The Turbo model was also notable for the five stud wheel hubs and the extreme negative camber (inward lean) of its rear wheels.

In 1993, a 170 PS (125 kW; 168 bhp) 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 152 PS (112 kW; 150 bhp) to 138 PS (101 kW; 136 bhp) for the 16 valve version, although the Turbo continued with the C20LET.

  • 2.0 litre 8 valve SOHC I4 – 117 PS (86 kW; 115 bhp) (all years) (C20NE)
  • 2.0 litre 16 valve DOHC I4 – 152 PS (112 kW; 150 bhp) (1990–1995) (C20XE or redtop)
  • 2.0 litre 16 valve DOHC Ecotec I4 – 138 PS (101 kW; 136 bhp) (1995–1997) (X20XEV)
  • 2.0 litre 16 valve DOHC turbocharged I4 – 207 PS (152 kW; 204 bhp) (1992–1997) (C20LET)
  • 2.5 litre 24 valve DOHC Ecotec V6 – 170 PS (125 kW; 168 bhp) (1993–1997) (C25XE from 1994–1996; X25XE in 1997)

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.


South African Wesbank Modifieds series

Wanting a car that would be competitive in the Wesbank Modifieds Series (at the time, South Africa's premier circuit-racing series), South Africa's Delta Motor Corporation commissioned a one-off Calibra race car. Owen Ashley Auto Developments, based in Cape Town, was contracted to design and build the car in late 1990, with financial backing from DMC. The car was designed around the then-current Class A rule set (broadly similar to that used in the American IMSA GT series). The car was based around an aluminium honeycomb floorpan, to which was secured a chrome-moly steel spaceframe. DMC's brief to Owen Ashley stated that as much of the standard Calibra silhouette as possible had to be retained. To that end, a standard Calibra roof, side body monocoque pressings, doors and rear window were used. All remaining bodywork was moulded in fibreglass.

The Wesbank Modified Calibra, driven by Michael Briggs in 1993.

The car was powered by a Buick 3800-derived, 3.5-litre all-aluminium odd-fire V6, similar in specification to that used on the IMSA Corvette GTP. Built in the United States by Ryan Falconer, the engine retained its original single-cam, pushrod-and-rocker, two-valves-per-cylinder layout, but employed a Racetronics engine management system and Garrett turbocharger aspirating through a 52mm restrictor plate. The engine produced approximately 600 BHP (447 kW) in race trim. Power was delivered to a rear-mounted five-speed manual Hewland transaxle through a carbon-fibre propeller shaft. Fuel capacity was 40 litres, and double-wishbone suspension was used at both the front and rear ends of the car. Driven by Michael Briggs, the car was campaigned from 1991 to 1993. A rule change for 1994 that banned turbocharged engines from the series, as well as the rapidly increasing popularity of Group A super touring cars, compelled DMC to retire the Calibra in favour of devoting its motorsport budget and resources to its two-car Astra super touring effort.

Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft/FIA International Touring Car Championship

The DTM/ITC-specification race cars used an all-wheel-drive layout, with the engine mounted longitudinally instead of transversely. Early DTM cars used a naturally-aspirated Cosworth-developed 54-degree V6 engine based on General Motors' iron block/aluminium head C25XE. Power output improved from 420 to 480 PS (310 to 350 kW; 410 to 470 hp) from 1993 to 1995.

Due to changes in the Group A Class 1 FIA regulations for 1996, a switch was made to an all-aluminium, 75-degree V6 based on the Isuzu 6VD1 (as used in the Trooper/Amigo). Using this engine, Opel won the 1996 ITC Championship. The Isuzu-based KF V6 was capable of revving to 15,000 rpm.

The last known KF V6-powered Calibra race car in existence is the Zakspeed Calibra Concept 2 prototype. The car was built to be used as a test mule for the cancelled 1997 FIA ITC championship.


The Calibra turbo was also rallied, albeit without notable success. 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).

  • F16CR-5 – Fitted to early 2.0 litre SOHC NA (i.e. C20NE)
  • F18CR-5 – Fitted to late 2.0 litre SOHC NA and late 2.0 litre DOHC NA (i.e. C20NE, X20XEV)
  • F20 – Fitted to early 2.0 litre DOHC NA (i.e. C20XE)
  • F25 – Fitted to 2.5 litre NA (i.e. C25XE, X25XE)
  • F28/6 – Fitted to 2.0 litre Turbo (i.e. C20LET)

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]


  1. ^ Kittler, Eberhard (2001), Deutsche Autos seit 1990 [German automobiles since 1990] (in German), vol. 6, Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag, p. 311, ISBN 3-613-02052-1
  2. ^ "Combined stats". How Many Left?. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
  3. ^ "Valmet Automotive Inc. – Over one million cars". Retrieved 19 August 2011.
  4. ^ "Invaluable Resources – C20LET". Max Boost. Archived from the original on 17 August 2018. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  5. ^ "UKCAR, "Coefficient of Drag Factors", UKCAR. Retrieved 9 Dec 2006". Retrieved 19 August 2011.
  6. ^ "Detailed specs review of 1999 Honda Insight offered since mid-year 1999 for Japan".
  7. ^ "1990 Opel Calibra 2.0i 16v Technical specifications". Carfolio. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
  8. ^ Cole, Lance (12 January 2012). "Saab: the end of the road". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  9. ^ Estrada, Zac (27 January 2013). "How Americans Came Close To Getting The Slick Opel Calibra". Jalopnik. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  10. ^ Heij, Casper (29 March 2015). "Video: deze Opel Calibra cabrio ging nooit in productie" [Video: this Opel Calibra cabriolet never went into production]. (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 6 May 2015.
  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
  13. ^ "Report: an Opel Calibra this way comes, inspired by the GTC Concept". AutoBlog. Retrieved 8 September 2012.

External links