Opel Calibra

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Opel Calibra
Opel Calibra front 20071212.jpg
Manufacturer Opel (General Motors)
Also called Chevrolet Calibra
Holden Calibra
Vauxhall Calibra
Production 1989–1997
239,118 built[1]
4x4: 3,385
V6: 12,015
Assembly Rüsselsheim, Germany
Uusikaupunki, Finland (Valmet Automotive)
Designer Erhard Schnell
Body and chassis
Class Sport compact car (S)
Body style 2-door hatchback coupé
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 Astra G Coupé

The Opel Calibra is a sport compact coupé, which was engineered and produced by the German automaker Opel between 1989 and 1997, but sold until 1999 in the United Kingdom as the Vauxhall Calibra by Vauxhall.[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 late 1980s and early 1990s. It employs the running gear of the first generation Opel Vectra, which had been launched in 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 badge

The Opel Calibra was styled by GM's designer Wayne Cherry and German designer Erhard Schnell.[citation needed] As a front-wheel drive 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 Opel 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 10 years, until the Honda Insight, along with the Audi A2, were launched both in 1999, with a Cd of 0.25.[citation needed] 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.[6]

Commercial life[edit]

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.

In 1990, after General Motors bought a stake in Saab,[7] it was reported the Calibra would be badged as a Saab in the United States, but these plans did not materialise.[8] 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.[9]

Throughout the production run, several special edition models were launched. This began with the 1993 SE1, 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.

In September 1995, the Vectra A was replaced, but Calibra production continued until 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 2000, and with the introduction of the Opel Speedster in 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 5-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 as car 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.

  • 2.0-litre 8-valve SOHC I4 – 117 PS (86 kW) (all years) (C20NE)
  • 2.0-litre 16-valve DOHC I4 – 152 PS (112 kW) (1990–1995) (C20XE or redtop)
  • 2.0-litre 16-valve DOHC Ecotec I4 – 138 PS (101 kW) (1995–1997) (X20XEV)
  • 2.0-litre 16-valve DOHC turbocharged I4 – 207 PS (152 kW) (1992–1997) (C20LET)
  • 2.5-litre 24-valve DOHC Ecotec V6 – 170 PS (130 kW) (1993–1997) (C25XE from 1994–1996; X25XE in 1997)

The last Calibra Turbos were produced in early 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.

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) 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. 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 15.000rpm, which is a Formula 1 territory.

Last one 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.


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 5-speed gearboxes, except the 6-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). 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.[10]

2007 GTC Concept[edit]

Since March 2007, the Calibra name has been connected with the Opel GTC Concept, however, no new vehicle has yet appeared.[11]


  1. ^ Eberhard Kittler: Deutsche Autos seit 1990, vol. 6. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-613-02052-1, p. 311.
  2. ^ "Combined stats". How Many Left?. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "Valmet Automotive Inc. – Over one million cars". Valmet-automotive.com. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "Invaluable Resources – C20LET". Max Boost. Retrieved 14 February 2008. 
  5. ^ "UKCAR, "Coefficient of Drag Factors", UKCAR. Retrieved 9 Dec 2006". Ukcar.com. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  6. ^ "1990 Opel Calibra 2.0i 16v Technical specifications". Carfolio. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  7. ^ Cole, Lance (12 January 2012). "Saab: the end of the road". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  8. ^ Estrada, Zac (27 January 2013). "How Americans Came Close To Getting The Slick Opel Calibra". Jalopnik. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  9. ^ Heij, Casper (29 March 2015). "Video: deze Opel Calibra cabrio ging nooit in productie" [Video: this Opel Calibra cabriolet never went into production]. Autoblog.nl (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 6 May 2015. 
  10. ^ Vauxhall Cavalier 4x4 Dos and Don'ts Special care and maintenance requirements for the Vauxhall Cavalier/Calibra 4x4 transfer gearbox
  11. ^ "Report: an Opel Calibra this way comes, inspired by the GTC Concept". AutoBlog. Retrieved 8 September 2012.