Opel started making cars in 1899. It was a revolutionary move. But just the first of many more revolutions to come … Take a look at the history of Opel cars.
“Opel Patent Motor Car, System Lutzmann” is the name given to the first Opel automobile. It marks the beginning of production in Rüsselsheim, and forms the basis for building the first utility vehicles. Within the year, the company makes its international motor sport début.
In March 1901, Opel scores its first victory in motor sport, when Heinrich von Opel wins the Königsstuhl hill climb.
In a specially built 45 kW (60 hp) car, Opel test driver and company race-car driver Carl Jörns wins the Kaiser’s Prize Race in the Taunus region: Opel is awarded the Kaiser’s Prize for the best German automobile and is designated purveyor to the court.
Opel introduces an affordable compact car. The 4 kW (8 hp) two-seater, designed for customers who place great importance on dependability, becomes known as the “Doktorwagen” (Doctor’s Car).
The ten-thousandth Opel motorcar rolls out of the plant. A new flagship model is introduced: a substantial 40 kW (100 hp) four-cylinder vehicle.
A record-breaking race car is developed, based on the engine technology that led to the 1913 Gran Prix triumph. The cutting-edge vehicle is not only one of the first cars to feature four-valve technology – at a swept volume of 12.3 liters, its four-cylinder, 16-valve power unit is the largest displacement engine to emerge from the Rüsselsheim facilities. Opel becomes Germany’s largest automobile manufacturer.
The Opel Racetrack, located south of Rüsselsheim, is inaugurated. The oval course with banked curves, paved in concrete, is the first permanent track for racing and testing in Germany – years ahead of other well-known racetracks, such as the Berlin AVUS and the Nürburgring.
Opel builds an eight-cylinder engine, which proves itself in a number of races – notably in the Eifel race of 1922.
Investing one million gold marks, Opel completely modernizes its automobile production. The Rüsselsheim plant is the first German manufacturer to introduce the high-volume production methods of the future, including assembly-line processes.
With a market share of 37.5 percent, Opel is by far the largest German carmaker. In preparation for an alliance with General Motors, the company is converted into a listed stock corporation.
General Motors acquires 80 percent of shares in the company Adam Opel AG for just under 26 million dollars, becoming majority stockholder. Opel is the first German manufacturer to establish an insurance company. Another first: the “Opel Bank” finances car purchases and arranges payment in installments.
The Rüsselsheim plant builds the first “people’s automobile”, an affordable vehicle equipped with a 1.2-liter engine. Between 1931 and 1935, 100,000 units are built – a volume never before reached with a single model in Germany.
General Motors acquires the remaining 20 percent of shares in the Opel corporation.Opel becomes the first carmaker to establish a school for customer service training.
Production of the one-millionth Opel, a Kapitän model. In October, a directive from the Nazi regime brings passenger-car production to a standstill.
In addition to truck models, including four-wheel drive and track versions, military equipment such as landing gear, cockpits, and fuel tanks for aircraft etc. are produced.
Allied bombs destroy half of the Rüsselsheim plant; the Brandenburg plant is almost completely destroyed.
The entire Kadett production facilities are dismantled and sent to the Soviet Union as reparations.
Production of Frigidaire household refrigerators recommences. The first postwar Opel, a 1.5-ton Blitz truck, is built.
Passenger car production resumes with the Olympia model.
Reconstruction of the Rüsselsheim plant is completed.
The two-millionth Opel, a Kapitän, leaves the plant.
The Opel Rekord P2 arrives. About 755,000 units are to be built in total.
Opel celebrates its one-hundredth anniversary.
A plant is inaugurated in Bochum for the production of the new Opel Kadett.
Opel unveils three new luxury models: Kapitän, Admiral and Diplomat. These prestigious six- and eight-cylinder flagships capture the spirit of the times. All three are well received and become immediate market successes.
The Bochum plant celebrates a milestone: the one-millionth Kadett leaves the assembly lines. Opel opens new automotive proving grounds at Dudenhofen in the German state of Hesse, as well as a plant for manufacturing components in Kaiserslautern.
The Rekord C goes into production, and the legendary Rallye Kadett is introduced to the market.
The Opel GT arrives on the scene. Its advertising slogan “Only flying is better” is adopted as a popular figure of speech.
The mid-class model Ascona A and the sporty Manta A are born.
The Commodore GS/E with electronic fuel injection goes into production.
The ten-millionth Opel rolls off the assembly line in the Rüsselsheim plant. The Rekord D goes into production, also in Rüsselsheim.
A modified Opel GT with the new Opel diesel engine sets two world records and 28 international records at the Dudenhofen proving grounds.
Seatbelts become standard equipment in all Opel models.
Walter Röhrl and his navigator Jochen Berger become European Rally champions in an Ascona A.
Two new stars enter the big leagues of the automobile market: the luxurious four-door Senator and the sporty fastback coupe Monza.
Opel becomes the first carmaker to use environmentally friendly water-based paints.
A new plant is commissioned in Saragossa, Spain, for the production of the Opel Corsa. The compact model rapidly advances to become the bestselling vehicle in its class.
Opel becomes the first German manufacturer to include a vehicle with a catalytic converter in every model line.
The Omega is elected Car of the Year.
Opel becomes the first automaker to implement a recycling chain for plastics. The move reflects the company’s commitment to environmentally friendly technology: the Rüsselsheim engineers systematically eliminate hazardous materials such as asbestos and cadmium from the manufacturing process. At the same time, sustainable reductions of paint solvents and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) are achieved.
After years of outstanding performance on the road and in the market, Kadett production comes to an end. Its successor: the Astra. The new vehicle is equipped with the Opel Safety System, including side-impact protection, anti-submarining ramps in the seats, and seatbelt tensioners.
The company launches its first off-road vehicle, the Frontera, which becomes European market leader in its class within a year.
Opel introduces the Vectra B.
Another first among German carmakers: Opel equips all of its passenger cars with full-size airbags for the driver and front-seat passenger.
Opel marks a century of automotive excellence. The Opel Millennium Express, an award-winning multimedia exhibition occupying an entire railway train, rolls through Europe.
The 50-millionth Opel, an Omega, rolls off the assembly line in Rüsselsheim. With the Zafira, Opel launches a new class of compact vans, featuring the widely versatile interior concept Flex7.
Production of the Opel Agila begins. Germany’s first microvan is the perfect city vehicle. A Zafira variant powered by natural gas is introduced.
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