This is the closest I’ve come to seeing a Holden Calibra in the metal in years, craning over a chain-link fence to snap a long-distance photo of a beaten up example in a body shop’s yard. When (if?) I stumble across a better example, I will do a proper Curbside Classic. The Holden (née Opel) Calibra was a shapely coupe variant of the Opel Vectra, which was launched in 1989. Upon its release, it was touted as the most aerodynamic production car, with a cD of 0.26. The Calibra would outlive the family car from which it was derived, but would die in 1997, unreplaced and, at least in Australia, unmourned.
The Calibra may have sunk without a trace in Australia, a notoriously coupe-averse market, but it wasn’t for lack of Holden’s trying. Initially launched with only a 2.0L 16-valve, 147 hp four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual, or a 113 hp, 8-valve four mated to a four-speed automatic, the Calibra would later receive a smoother, 167 hp 2.5L V6. Even more exciting, the Calibra would receive a 201 hp Turbo 4×4 variant. Poor sales means Calibras are thin on the ground in Australia, and Opel reliability wasn’t exactly exemplary either. The Calibra’s dynamics weren’t exactly as racy as the styling but still, don’t you wish GM had gotten over its Not Invented Here syndrome and launched the Calibra as a sporty Oldsmobile or Pontiac captive import?
And if you don’t agree with me, let’s just look at what Pontiac’s J-Body looked like at the same time. Nice, but not Calibra nice, and certainly no Turbo 4×4 variant to be found!
Another J-Car I only knew of, not about. There is very little visual resemblance to other J-cars, which is a good thing. If only it wasn’t a J-car.
You bring up a good point about selling it in North America as a Pontiac or Oldsmobile. The front looks especially Oldsmobile with those slim headlights. Just needs a split grille.
It certainly doesn’t resemble other J-cars of the period, but that greenhouse looks like it was borrowed for the 1995 Chevy Cavalier coupe.
That’s because it’s not a J Car. This one slipped by me while I was on the road home. I’ve changed the title.
It has a Saturn look.
If only our American J cars were this attractive.
Is anyone else seeing a hint of BMW 8-series in the design? Maybe it’s just me.
At any rate, even if it is “just a J-car”, I think I could enjoy time spent behind the wheel of a 201 HP turbo AWD Calibra…
Yes! There are a handful of cars that manage to look like they’re three classes above what they really are (Peugeot 406 coupe comes to mind). If BMW had used this shape for the e36, no one would’ve batted an eye.
I had no idea the Calibra was a J-car, but now that I see it, I can’t unsee it!
It’s not; this one slipped by me while I was on the road. Unsee it!
Good grief I saw one yesterday very rare in NZ too, Holden being purely Australian is a myth that really gained traction.
Here’s an Opel I shot in Dresden. Not too many still out on the streets.
Wayne Cherry’s finest production model. Was it really a J though? I thought J cars were the Mk.2 Cavalier/Opel Ascona C model rather than the Mk.3 Cav/Opel Vectra A.
This isn’t a J-car. This is based on the Vectra, the J’s successor. If you consider this car a J car, then you should also consider the NG Saab 900 to be a J as well.
As far as I know, the last of the original J-cars was the Daewoo Espero (unless the 95-02 Cavaliers are considered original Js).
A Quick Google Scan learned it’s the GM2900 platform, introduced in 1988.
This slipped by me while I was on the road. I’ve changed the title.
Like pretty much all other Opel models in the past decades the Calibra was also widely used as a rally and racing car.
From a 280 hp 4×4 rally car…
…to a 500 hp 4×4 DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft) monster.
When these were launched, they seemed impossibly glamorous and futuristic for a “Vauxhall”. After a few years they seemed fairly boring, part of the furniture. Now you hardly see them.
I saw one a few days ago and thought of taking a picture, but thought “Ach, it’s only a Calibra”. It was painted in a fetching shade of rattle-can black, complete with bubbles.
This is what happens when one writes a capsule article at 11pm! My apologies, the Calibra is indeed NOT a J-Car. It is still, however, easily the sexiest car on its platform (GM2900) on which the Opel Vectra (generations 1 & 2), Saab 900/9-3, Saturn L-Series and Saab 9-5 were based.
It does bring up an interesting thought, though: why did GMNA stick with the J platform long after every other part of the corporation ditched it? Could an Americanized Opel Vectra have been successful in the late 1980s, rather than so many years later with the L-Series?
No problem; I’ve made worse mistakes 🙂
Why did GM stick with the J for so long? Very good question; many would like to know. FWIW, the best guess is that after the J got off to a poor start (covered in my Cavalier DS the other day), GM turned it into a low-end el-cheapo mobile, and decided they didn’t want risk another $5 billion or so tooling up for a new version. Given their high overhead, GM just gave up trying to make money on small cars; they just kept cranking out Js to meet the CAFE requirements. Undoubtedly, the Vectra would have been more expensive to build.
Ummm…those could be imported from Latin-America or Europe for example…without any tooling costs!? For example Vectra/Calibra had a V6 version among 4 cyl. types. The V6 wasn’t so popular in Europe…but might be popular in the North-Americas… We’ll never know…
…imported as what else than Chevrolet Calibra…
So Saab was still using a 1988 platform in 2010. Yikes – no wonder they were doomed. Then again, the fleet-only “Impala Limited” (still in production) also arguably dates back to 1988. At least the 2014+ Epsilon II Impala is an excellent car.
You’re right about these being thin on the ground now. I haven’t seen one in many years either, but I can remember when they were a common sight. I thought it was a good looking car at the time, but it does nothing for me now. I don’t think the calibra aged well, but it’s still miles ahead of any J-car variant that I know of.
I’m still waiting for someone on here to find an infamous Holden Piazza. I think I’ve seen two or three tops, and that was at least a decade ago.
Wow, the Pizza! That was a good looking heartbreaker I’d successfully blotted from my mind.
The Holden nee Opel Calibra is fairly thin on the ground here in New Zealand now too. It’d be 2-3 years since I last saw one (blue, lowered, huge wheels and exhaust pipe).
@marlin: there used to be a Piazza here in my town, haven’t seen it for a while, but it wasn’t used much anyway. Elderly lady owned it; will keep an eye out for it.
AKA Vauxhall Calibra in the UK,never a big seller and quietly dropped after a few years(like the Ford Cougar)
I see them occasionally in Melbourne.
There’s five on Carsales at the moment, including one claiming to have only 33,000km (20,000 miles) on it!
Back in the days…in Europe it was a(n affordable) killer… Some Opel folks thought that Calibra is a good kinda replacement for Manta… From time to time nowdays could be seen too on the roads.
Saw one in Vienna on Monday but was late for an appointment hence no pic. They still make as appearence here too. Many succumbed to rust and that killer of all sports coupes, the young but impoverished modifier. The ones still alive are either in bad, “just going” condition or pampered examples at the hands of collectors.
A few years after the Calibra this Opel Astra Coupe was introduced. Bertone-styling and Lotus (suspension) engineering. The top-model had a 200 hp 2.0 liter turbo engine. A sort of downscaled Calibra.
Maybe not a great success, but in 1990 that was a cool looking car, and much better against its contemporaries than the Capri ever was.
If it had a better badge, it could become a bit of sleeper classic.
In Germany the Calibras were being hailed as the reborn Opel Manta, which had a somewhat shady / shaky yet legendary reputation.
Nowadays its a car that Opel would desperately need as aside from the OPC (Opel Performance Center) version they have no real sporty cars.
Yeah, I do agree. Like with the Senator based sporty Opel Monza (somewhat a 2 door coupé Senator) IL6. No replacement acquired for continental Europe after the discontinuation. Counter to the British where they resurrected and pushed IT to the market as the newer Omega based Vauxhall Monaro V8 (somewhat a 2 door coupé Omega).
The Calibra was a quite comom sight here in Brazil.. They were sold as Chevrolet, but were imported from Opel !!!!
You can see a strong resemblance to the first Chrysler Sebring in the first picture.
Were they as shitty as our j-cars?
more of a modern day torana hatchback than anything except there were no six cylinder variants in the early days.the fact this in either four cylinder variant had more punch than a 3.3 torana hatch sl at the end of it’s life in 1979 in spite of it being hi tech and only a 4 at best did help a little but it was outclassed by the best of honda,mazda and nissan and toyota plus the small suv introduction in the nineties didn’t help things.