FASCINATION DESIGN It is the first time since it opened 60 years ago that the Opel Design Center at Opel's headquarters is opening its doors to the public.

Opel Design Up-Close

At dawn on Friday, Artem Shevchenko climbs into his Corsa D and drives the 1,500-kilometre route from Kaunas in Lithuania to Rüsselsheim, in order to attend the “Open Day” at Opel headquarters the next morning. Now, in the afternoon, the 23-year-old taps Niels Loeb on the shoulder in the Opel Design Center: “Aren’t you the designer of the Corsa D? I’m a big fan of your work!” Indeed, he is.

And Niels Loeb wastes no time. “I’ll be right back,” he calls, and shortly afterwards appears with an overflowing folder. Inside: sketches, visualisations, details of the instrument panel, the front – virtually the entire creative development process of the fourth Corsa generation, for which Loeb was responsible as chief designer for small cars since the early 2000s. The young student can hardly believe his luck. The story of Artem Shevchenko and Niels Loeb is one of many moving moments that this special day has in store.

“Aren’t you the designer of the Corsa D? I’m a big fan of your work!”

– Visitor Artem Shevchenko – 

BOLD VISION The Monza Concept, presented in 2013, provides a first taste of the bold and pure form language of the current Opel design under the direction of Vice President Design Mark Adams.
INSPIRATION Pierre-Olivier Garcia, the Opel’s Global Brand Design Director, gave the impetus to open the Opel Design Center to visitors for the first time.
SOUVENIR PHOTO Artem Shevchenko is a fan of Niels Loeb’s work. He poses with the designer in front of the latest brand concept, the Opel Experimental.
EXCLUSIVE INSIGHTS The designer shows the student (centre) his collection of design sketches of the fourth Corsa generation from the early 2000s.
MERCHANDISE The Corsa launch in 2006 is accompanied by the quintet of figures called “C’mon”. “The air vents in the centre console were the source of inspiration for their eyes,” Loeb reveals.

On June 8, Opel is not only celebrating “125 years of automobile manufacturing”, the Opel Design Center is also celebrating a milestone birthday and is opening its doors for the first time: On June 10th 1964 – almost 60 years ago to the day – the new design studio in Rüsselsheim was inaugurated. It is the first design center of its kind, a milestone in European automobile manufacturing history. From the Experimental GT, the first concept vehicle ever developed in Europe, to the current Opel Experimental brand study – visitors can marvel at groundbreaking concept vehicles and innovations that have been developed over the past six decades and incorporated into production models.

A prime example of this is the GTX Experimental concept car. It is on the streets today almost unchanged – as the Opel Mokka. The then chief designer who created this masterpiece has travelled here especially today. “It’s a matter of honour,” says Friedhelm Engler, laughing, stroking his long beard, which he grew when he retired three years ago. Normally he and his wife tour all over Europe – “with no time limit, just follow the road until it gets so narrow that you can’t go any further in the car.” But he definitely didn’t want to miss today: “This is unique: Which car manufacturer opens its design center? Only Opel!”

“This is unique: Which car manufacturer opens its design center? Only Opel!”

– Friedhelm Engler, former Opel Design Director –

SCULPTURAL DESIGN The Rad e study of a modern e-bike from 2012 is a stylish reminder of Opel’s early days as a bicycle manufacturer. The 1983 Junior and 1995 Maxx concept cars can be seen in the background.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE Equipped with the latest lighting technology embedded in its 4D Vizor, the battery-electric Experimental concept presented in 2023 represents Opel’s automotive future.  
EXCITING CONCEPTS Opel has invited design students to design the “Iconic Opel 2040”.
YOUNG TALENT Olivier Awveyard, French exchange student, colours the sketch of the new Frontera.
COLLAB BANDWERK X OPEL Exclusive straps for Apple watches have been created from original Manta A seats.

Pierre-Olivier Garcia nods: “Yes, that is indeed pretty unique.” It has never happened before that a car manufacturer opens its design center to visitors. The Global Brand Design Director is the “mastermind” behind the idea of opening the doors and giving insights into the future world of design. To show how the modern-German brand is shaping the automotive future with high-tech equipment such as virtual 3D glasses and augmented reality. But the idea is the easy part, he stresses. You also need a team that is willing to see it through: “Above all, I am infinitely grateful to Mark (Adams, Opel Vice President Design, editor’s note) for putting his trust in us to actually implement the idea.”

And because cars are made to move, there are not only static exhibits to see. The Manta GSe, the GT Concept, the RAK e and the GT X Experimental are driving around in the inner courtyard. It is the place, normally strictly shielded from the public, where the designers see their latest creations in daylight for the first time. In the darkened hall next door, models from the “Transportation Design” course at Pforzheim University can be seen, showing how the students imagine the “Iconic Opel 2040”.

DESIGN SKETCHES The “Father” and lead Designer of the iconic Opel GT was Erhard Schnell. This GT sketch was drawn by him. It is one of 20 original Opel sketches that you can download here.

Design Center

When Opel opened its new design studio in Rüsselsheim in June 1964, it was the largest of any manufacturer on the continent – a milestone in European automotive history. To this day, three departments are united here: Interior design determines the shapes and materials of the interior, designs seats and instrument panels. The exterior department deals with the body, creates the face, the silhouette, the proportions of the car. And the third department does pioneering work. A team of top-class advanced designers looks to the future, away from day-to-day business; they further develop well-known models, develop concept vehicles, and think about design language and emotions.

“What Opel has achieved here today is simply fantastic!”

– Visitor Stefanie Vogelsang –

VIRTUAL WORLDS Using 3D glasses, even the youngest visitors can immerse themselves in the fascinating world of futur automotive design.
TANDEM TWO-SEATER The RAK-e (2011) shows that urban mobility can be very desirable. The emissions-free lightweight vehicle weighs just 380 kilogrammes. 
FIRST EUROPE CONCEPT CAR Revealed at the Frankfurt Show in 1965, the reactions to the Experimental GT were so euphoric that the sports car went into production three years later as the Opel GT.
TIMELESS BEAUTY Opel presented the “Opel Genève Concept” at the Geneva Motor Show in 1975.
OPEN FOR THE PUBLIC This avant-garde Opel GT Concept (2016) drives around the usually secret courtyard of the Opel Design Center.
VIRTUAL REALITY The legendary “Schwarze Witwe” (Black Widow) in orange? The computer makes it possible, as the design colleagues demonstrate.

“What Opel has achieved here today is simply fantastic!” Stefanie Vogelsang and her children have been at the Opel headquarters for almost six hours – starting with a visit to the pop-up exhibition in the morning. And they are far from finished. Olivier Awveyard, the family’s French exchange student, is sitting engrossed at the digital drawing board, colouring a sketch of the Opel Frontera according to his ideas. Around the corner, there is a station where visitors can virtually immerse themselves in the Experimental brand study using 3D glasses and review 3D concepts explorations of the Opel Designers, showcased in a futuristic interpretation of the Opel-RennBahn racetrack.

HISTORY THAT MOVES The designers let the 3D concept studies compete against each other on a futuristic interpretation of the historic Opel RennBahn racetrack.
WHAT WOULD OPEL ICONS LOOK LIKE TODAY? Designers have reinterpreted the Commodore Steinmetz Jumbo 6000 (left) on the basis of the modern Opel design philosophy.

The Designer’s animated movies “Opel icons, re-imagined”, are also played on the wide screens of the 18 meters long presentation VR room. This is the place usually reserved to important reviews and where big decision are taken. In the evening, the Opel Design Center closes its doors. And the designers return to their daily business, shielded from prying eyes, working on automotive designs for the coming decades. Many more exciting ideas and concepts will emerge in the process – guaranteed! Will it take another 60 years before the studio opens its doors again? „Who knows – Opel is an emotional and approachable modern brand that is always good for a surprise,“ says Pierre-Olivier Garcia.

June 2024

Photos: Opel/Andreas Liebschner, Thorsten Weigl, Opel Design