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Opel History Page
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In 1862 Adam Opel had turned the automotive industry on it's side by transforming his craftsman's business into a factory which built revolutionary machines including the sewing machine and the bicycle. And, that was how Opel came to be... they built state-of-the-art machines. At the close of the century, another revolutionary machine made its appearance - the automobile.
1899 The year that started it all. Adam Opel signed a contract with a farmer, (Friedrich Lutzmann) from Dessau, Germany and they started their automotive manufacturing factory in Anhalt, Germany. The Opel brothers (Adam's sons) worked two years in partnership with Lutzmann building up the production of automobiles in Rüsselsheim. Together they produced Their first model, the OPEL patent engine car system called the "Lutzmann."
1901 Adam Opel separates from Lutzmann and signed a new contract with a Frenchman, Alexandre Darracq. Together, in 1902 they began producing French Darracq models under license and selling them under the brand name "Opel-Darracq." They were Opel bodies mounted on a Darracq chassis and powered by a 2-cylinder engine. The first Opel motorcycle was also built.
In the autumn of 1902, the Opel brothers their first design, the 10/12 hp model, which made its debut at the Hamburg Motor Show.
By 1906, Opel had produced it's one-thousandth vehicle and business was developing fast.
In 1909, the Opel 4/8 hp model, known as the "Doctor's Car" was produced. Its reliability and robustness were greatly appreciated by physicians, who drove a lot to see their patients, back when hard-surfaced roads were still rare. The "Doctor's Car" sold for only 3,950 marks, about half as much as the luxury models of its day.
By 1914, Opel had become the largest German manufacturer of motor vehicles.
In the early 1920's, Opel became the first German car manufacturer to incorporate a mass production assembly line in the building of their automobiles. In 1924, they used their assembly line to produce a new open two-seater called the "Laubfrosch." The Laubfrosch was finished exclusively in green lacquer. The car sold for an expensive 4,500 marks, (expensive considering the less expensive manufacturing process) but by the 1930's this type of vehicle would cost a mere 1,990 marks - due in part to the assembly line, but also due to the skyrocketing demand for cars. Adam Opel led the way for motorized transportation to become not just a means for the rich, but a reliable way for people of all classes to travel.
Many modifications were being developed through the end of the 1920's. The OPEL rocket program drew enormous attention. With the OPEL "Rak" of 1928, on a course south of Russelsheim, Germany, the citizens of Berlin witnessed the car using 24 solid propellant rockets accelerate to 238 km/h.
In 1935, OPEL became the first German car manufacturer to produce over 100,000 vehicles a year. This was based on the popular OPEL "P4" model. The selling price was a mere 1,650 marks and had a 1.1 liter four cylinder engine with 23 hp and a top speed of 85 km/h.
In 1935, Opel also produced the first mass-production vehicle with a self-supporting all steel body. They called it the "Olympia." With it's small weight and aerodynamics came an improvement in both performance and fuel consumption. Opel receives a patent which is considered one of the most important innovations in automotive history.
1939, presents the extremely successful, "Captain." With a 2.5 liter six cylinder engine, all-steel body, front independent suspension, hydraulic shock absorbers, hot water heating w/electric blower and central speedometer. 25,374 Captains left the factory before W.W.II, by order of the government, brought automotive manufacturing to a temporary stop.
The Opel Captain of 1951 and the Opel Lightning of 1953 were the first new developments after the war. The Ruesselsheimer factory had been nearly completely destroyed. Reconstruction began in 1945 and shortly thereafter in 1946, the Opel Lightning trucks began to leave the factory. 1947 began passenger car production with a revised version of the Opel Olympia. By 1950, the annual production of the plant once again reached over 100,000 vehicles.
In 1953, leaflets went out describing the Opel Record as, "a star of it's class." With it's, "shark fish muzzle" it took on an aggressive look. The Opel Record was inexpensive, roomy, fast and extremely durable.
In June of 1958, the Opel Captain P appeared on the market. At 4.8 meters long, the Captain P had a completely radical body style and two colored lacquer finish. By mid 1959 approximately 35,000 units had left the plant.
Probably Opel's most well know car was the beautiful OPEL GT. Opel revealed the "Experimental GT," in September of 1965. It was not a production vehicle, but was used primarily in research. A brochure was made available to the public to put the GT on the map. It was to be sporty and affordable. Opel also wanted the car to be aerodynamic, so the GT-designers used a wind channel at the University of Stuttgart to test the car's design.
The result was a car with classic styling and clean curves. The frame and spring rear axle and the stabilization bar originated from the Opel Kadett B-Series as well as the double-armed front axle with leaf spring. Late in the summer of 1968 Opel launched the Opel GT, with two versions, the GT 1100 producing 60 HP and cost 10,767 DM and the GT 1900 with 90 HP went for about 1,100 DM more. In 1969 a targa style model, the 'Aero-GT' was shown at the Auto Show in Frankfurt, Germany, but it was never put into production. Production of the GT ended in August 1973 with a total production of 103,463 cars