RIDE OF THE WEEK! James Ritchie and his 1970 OPEL GT…

What goes around, comes around. And that’s this week’s Ride of the Week.

A few days ago, I got an email from an old friend — someone I grew up with.

And although I knew him, I did not know he loved cars as much as I did. After almost 50 years, James Ritchie reached out to me to say that he’s been watching our lives coincide with cars and the car life.

To my surprise, Ritchie was still in my neck of the woods in Newbury Park, and he had a cool car. So off I went to Sports Car Classics, a shop focusing on Jaguars.

As I arrived with another friend via a 1968 Jag E-Type, I was greeted by the smiling face of Ritchie and the reveal of his pride and joy, a 1970 screaming yellow Opel GT.

And thus began the kindred stories…

Among doing a lot of things in his life, Ritchie became a classic car restorer with a specialty in British marques.

And despite being over 6-feet tall, Ritchie found some love in the little yellow rocket parked just outside.

“This Opel GT is powered by 4-cylinder, 2-liter camshaft-in-head engine design, which is an upgrade from the stock 1.9-liter plant,” he explains.

“It’s normally aspirated through a 32/36 Weber carburetor and should, although this engine has never been dynamometer tested, produce somewhere in the 115 horsepower range.”

But it looks like it had to be powered by three really angry squirrels. But let’s move on.

“The mods to this GT put it in the ‘restomod’ classification with upgrades such as a Getrag 5-speed transmission, lower front transverse leaf spring, an exhaust header with a 2-inch exhaust, electronic ignition, polyurethane bushings on all the suspension points and other upgrades.”

Obviously, Ritchie knows what he’s doing, and there’s nothing more exciting than having a unique project car. I mean, when was the last time you saw one of these?

He bought the car in 2005 from its previous owner in Thousand Oaks.

“The plan was to buy the car, fix it up, and have it be for my wife to use,” Ritchie said. “As I started working, I realized that the car was going to need to be brought all the way down and essentially rebuilt.”

The whole family was involved in the restoration and it was completed by 2009.

The 1973 Opel Manta Luxus was Ritchie’s first car as a teenager, and he loved it. But even back then, he knew that eventually he would get the very exotic-looking GT.

“Being able to return to Opel as an adult has been awesome,” he said.

“My family tells me regularly that the car suits me perfectly.”

Ritchie always did have unique taste and, to listen to him talk about it, he epitomizes my philosophy of the importance of doing what you love.

The fact that this whole car, except paint, was torn down and put back together by him is point of pride beyond measure.

“It’s not my daily driver, but I enjoy being able to take drives on the weekends and it’s got terrific sporty handling,” he said.

“You can’t be a passive driver with it.”

His best short story with the car comes from the 2012 Ventura Motorsports show.

“I was being directed onto the lawn and was told to follow the other Ferraris to their show area,” he said. “I needed to point out that I was just a humble Opel GT!”

I guess those guys in Ventura needed a cool car upgrade. Why would you stick something cool like this Opel GT with a bunch of silly Ferraris?

And, finally, Ritchie mentions my favorite town.

“PCH in Malibu is dripping in car culture with extreme examples of freshly birthed hypercars, all the way through pastime classics and antiques,” he said.

“To drive here is to drive the same roads that countless automobile commercials, TV shows and movies have used as a backdrop to show one of the most desirable southern California motoring locations: Malibu!”

I couldn’t have said it better. Be sure to check out Ritchie’s ride at the next Wheels and Waves show at the Malibu Country Mart on Feb. 18!

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

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