Mission accomplished for Friedhelm Engler. He led the design of the breath-taking Opel GT X Experimental and brought it almost unchanged to the streets. The concept car has turned unmistakably into the new Mokka – boldly designed and clearly set on becoming a bestseller. The newcomer is currently receiving lavish praise from the specialist press throughout Europe. The first customers will take delivery of their cars in the next few days.
Opel Experimental GT: First study from European Manufacturer
“After 30 years at Opel, this is the perfect moment to bid ‘farewell’”, says the designer, explaining his decision to retire. Only a few designers before him have achieved such a clean transformation from study to production car. Erhard Schnell, a close friend of Engler’s until his death last year, managed it. The very first concept to emerge from the Design Studio in Rüsselsheim – the Opel GT – was an immediate success. Hideo Kodama later pulled off the same feat with the second generation Corsa, whose form language first appeared on the Junior concept car.
Opel Tigra: First project in Rüsselsheim
Friedhelm Engler’s Opel career began at Kodama’s side. The Japanese was developing a small coupé based on the Corsa – the Tigra – when a newcomer arrived in his team. The son of a wine grower from southern Germany, Engler had studied design at the University of Pforzheim. From there he went to Tokyo for three years. In 1992, he began as Transportation Designer at Opel and later became chief designer of the Meriva A and the Astra H in all its body styles – from convertible to estate. From 2007 to 2010, Engler led the design of all GM brands in Shanghai. In 2010, he returned to Rüsselsheim, where he initially took on the leadership of Advanced Design and later responsibility for the introduction of all cars, right up to production readiness. This was where he sowed the seeds for the Opel GT Concept, followed by the closely related GT X Experimental crossover study. Engler subsequently accompanied development through to the start of production. From study to the street – a rare accomplishment for any designer.
Opel Vizor: New brand fascia
“During the concept phase of the GT X Experimental, we began an intensive process to fundamentally reflect the company and its own values. Already having a clear idea, a vision, we then redesigned the Opel fascia. We integrated the Opel Blitz, the grille and the headlamps into a characteristic design element. This clean front is pure Opel”, says Engler, describing the creation of the Opel Vizor, the new brand fascia.
For the Mokka, the journey to production was about more than just good looks; it was also about making the newcomer desirable: “The weeks and months we worked on the new Mokka were special. We really turned the concept into a production car. Everything felt so natural, so harmonious. It just felt right.”
The reaction of the media and the customers already confirms that what looks right is right. The new model is a big hit.
1 Opel in their blood: Friedhelm Engler and George Gallion, the father of the Opel Manta. / 2 Times past: Engler with GM Design boss, Ed Welburn / 3 Strong team: Friedhelm Engler, Vice President Design, Mark Adams, and Program Design Director, Boris Jacob / 4 Rookie: Engler with former Opel chief designer, Hideo Kodama
Opel GT and Commodore: Classics in the garage
“For me, the Mokka is a dream has come true”, says Engler. He therefore feels that the time has now come for all those things that working in the studio previously prevented. For example, there are two masterpieces from his friend and idol Erhard Schnell awaiting his attention: the Opel GT that Engler and son Matthias are building as a rally car; and the Commodore GS/E that has endured rather too much high speed cruising on the autobahn.
Then there is the special dream of a different kind of travel – all over Europe, with no deadlines to meet, just following the roads until they become too narrow for motor vehicles. To all those destinations that Engler and wife Claudia have never visited. Far removed from all those places that over the last 30 years have been the venues of motor shows and press launches. “Been there, done that”, says Engler. He is now heading off to new horizons and can look back on a unique career.
„Opel und ich – das hat einfach gepasst und das bleibt für immer.“