Although the sheetmetal reconstruction looked great, due to the Opel GT's unique chassis design, it created a whole new set of issues. "These Opels used monocoque construction, which means that the body panels serve as structural support for the chassis. They don't have a full frame, and they don't have subframes like a unibody car, either," Ricky explains. "The stock suspension attaches directly to the body, and since I cut out the floorboard I thought 'man, I better build a full frame for it.' I bought a Fatman Fabrications Mustang II front clip and a Quarter Max rear clip, then connected them together by making some custom square-tube framerails. My son, Callahan, and I did all the chassis work in our garage. Afterward, I channeled the frame into the body by building custom floorpans."

Ultimately, Ricky amped up the Opel's visual kick so much that pictures can't accurately convey how seductively voluptuous the car's proportions are in person. To put things into perspective, stock Opel GTs measure nearly 2 feet shorter and 8 inches narrower than a 1968 Corvette. A car this small packing 315mm-wide rear meats, massively flared fenders, and a sinister stance looks borderline ridiculous, but in a very good way. Given the Opel's diminutive dimensions, Ricky didn't want to ruin the car's balance with a big lump under the hood. "A small-block Chevy would have made the nose too heavy, while an aluminum Buick 215 only weighs 280 pounds. Since Opels were originally sold through Buick dealerships, I thought it would be cool to put a Buick V-8 in my car," Ricky says. "After GM sold the tooling and manufacturing rights for the Buick 215 to the British Rover company in 1967, they became very popular in the U.K. I figured that if people figured out a way to shoehorn a Buick motor into small cars like MGs, Triumphs, and Morgans, then it should fit in an Opel GT, too."

In order to get some more grunt out of the all-aluminum mill, Ricky shipped it off to McMurtry's Engines for a complete rebuild. The Buick was bored .030 over, fitted with a fresh set of pistons, then finished off with ported factory cylinder heads, an Edelbrock 500-cfm carb, and a Crower 214/218-at-.050 hydraulic flat-tappet. Although Ricky has never strapped the engine combo to a dyno, he estimates output at roughly 300 hp, which is more than enough for the 2,800-pound Opel. The motor is tied to a Tremec T5 five-speed manual transmission, which channels torque back to a Ford 9-inch rearend.

Considering this is a hobby built on backyard engineering, the tale of Ricky's Opel GT will resonate with people who have never even seen one in person before. The fact that a devastating wall of saltwater served as the impetus for such a wild creation makes this saga that much more impressive. It kind of makes you scratch your head and wonder, what have you got to lose?

By The Numbers
1969 Opel GT
Ricky Slade
Gulfport, MS

Type: Buick "215" 220ci small-block
Block: stock aluminum, bored to 3.530 inches
Oiling: Melling pump, factory pan
Rotating assembly: GM 2.800-inch stroke forged steel crank and rods; Hastings 9.0:1 pistons
Cylinder heads: ported factory Buick aluminum castings
Camshaft: Crower 214/218-at-.050 hydraulic flat-tappet; .488/.488-inch lift; 112-degree LSA
Valvetrain: Crower lifters, stock rocker arms
Induction: factory Buick dual-plane intake manifold; Edelbrock 500-cfm carb
Fuel system: custom aluminum fuel cell, Carter electric pump
Ignition: MSD billet distributor, 6AL ignition box, coil, and plug wires
Exhaust: D&D Fabrications 17/16-inch long-tube headers, stock Corvette mufflers and side pipes
Cooling system: Ron Davis radiator and dual electric fans
Built by: David McMurtry

Transmission: Tremec T5 five-speed manual, Centerforce clutch
Rear axle: Ford 9-inch rearend with 31-spline axles, 3.89:1 gears, and Strange limited-slip differential

Front suspension: Fatman Fabrications front clip, control arms, and spindles; AFCO coilovers
Rear suspension: Quarter-Max four-link and subframe connectors; S&W sway bar; Strange coilovers
Brakes: Engineered Components 11-inch discs, front and rear

Wheels & Tires
Wheels: American Racing Torq-Thrust 17x8, front; 17x11, rear
Tires: Goodyear Eagle F1 215/40ZR17, front; 315/35ZR17, rear