Emilia Romagna

Saloonigan 1991 Opel Omega Lotus

If you hear the name Opel Omega Lotus, you should believe the hype: it’s the cult-hero that you won’t be disappointed in meeting. Hailing from the era of super-awesome collaborations between Constructors, the Omega Lotus was a classic german saloon which benefited from a massive makeover from those British geniuses at Hethel. 

In the late eighties and early nineties, Opel was developing its super-saloon game with the 3.0 24v and the limited edition Evolution 500, which had to promote the DTM efforts of the Company. Sure enough they were performing, but they lacked the proper punch required to compete with the “big-boys-club” made by the Alpina B10 Biturbo and the Mercedes 500 E. Since General Motors, which owned Opel at that time and bought Lotus in 1986 decided it was time to produce an exclusive and high-output flagship saloon, made specifically for the ultra-performance-conscious family man. 

Known internally as the Lotus 104 but called also Omega Lotus (or Lotus Carlton in right hand drive form), it achieved the goal of being the classic daily car able to embarrass top-class supercars such as the 911 Turbo and the Ferrari Testarossa. Developed under the guidance of Bob Eaton, the 104 rapidly became a cult car: not a commercial success as fewer than 1000 were built, but surely a car that made every true enthusiast’s heart beating. Production of the Omega started at Opel’s facility in Russelheim before being transferred at the old De Lorean development area at Hethel for the proper Lotus-vitamin injection. The standard 3 litre straight six of the Omega was strengthened and its stroke enlarged from 70 to 84mm, upping the displacement to 3.6 litres. A pair of Garrett T25 turbos was added to increase power figures from 206 horses and 204 lb of torque to some staggering 377 horses and 420 lb! With strict performance requirements from GM, Lotus had to develop a better engine than the Corvette C4’s 32 valve LT5 V8: during tests, were the engine was ran at full power for 300 hours the charge-cooler produced enough heat to power a small house! To width-stand the torque, Lotus used the same transmission of the ZR1 Corvette, the only unit strong enough to take the punishment from that monster of an engine. 

At the Nordschleife, the car achieved an impressive 300 kph top speed using worn tires to prevent them from self destructing due to the high temperatures. Goodyear was also developing the specific tires for the car, as they were of a new compound to contain the power. The rear suspension was taken from the Holden Commodore and modified with the adding of an extra link to the semi-trailing rear suspension arms and self leveling to keep a neutral camber, while the front used twin tube shocks with a classic McPherson scheme. Four wheel drive was considered but in the end the engineer chose a more traditional two wheel drive solution.

In total 10 or 12 prototypes were built and all were used for extensive tests in Nard√≤, the Arctic circle and in the most demanding conditions: also, among the test drivers was Mika Hakkinen. Despite some of these cars were painted in Silver and only one in Red, all production cars were in a mean and gorgeous looking Imperial Green. 

Presented in 1991, the Omega Lotus became immediately a force to be reckoned with. Angry-looking with its flared wheel-arches and massive Ronal wheels, it was the saloon from hell: almost 30 years have passed since its launch and it’s still one of the most entertaining cars ever made. How does it drive in 2020? As you might imagine, surprisingly well. The plush Recaro leather seats are comfortable and offer enough lateral support, while the car is never ever short of power. The delivery is smooth and consistent, with a massive wall of torque pushing you forward with great force: think of a giant hand pushing your back ever so powerfully. The steering is a slow in the response, while the gearshift has a long throw: not as nimble as you might expect, the Omega is yet more agile than you would imagine. 

Think about long stretches of highways with long and fast corners: that would be the car’s most ideal driving scenario. While flooring the throttle, you cannot help but think what kind of impact it would have had when it was new! in the Bible, the letter Omega is associated with the word “end”: in the car world, you cannot think of a better name to be associated with a car that was in its own way, “definitive” of a specific automotive genre.


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