Adam Opel started the corporation on January 21, 1862, in Rüsselsheim, Hesse, Germany. Opel began by manufacturing sewing machines in a cowshed in Rüsselsheim. Above all, his success was built on his meticulously tailored sewing machines. Because of the rapid expansion of his firm, manufacturing was moved from the cowshed to a larger structure in Rüsselsheim in 1888. Encouraged by his success, Adam Opel introduced a new product in 1886: penny-farthings. Furthermore, Opel's two boys competed in high-wheel bicycle races, promoting this mode of transportation. As a result, the output of high-wheel bicycles quickly surpassed that of sewing machines. Opel was the market leader in both areas at the time of his death in 1895.
After Opel's sons formed a cooperation with Friedrich Lutzmann, the first automobiles were constructed in 1899. The collaboration was terminated after two years since the automobiles were not particularly popular, and Opel's sons secured a licence arrangement in 1901 with the FrenchAutomobiles Darracq S.A. to manufacture vehicles under the brand name "Opel Darracq." These vehicles were built with Opel bodywork mounted on Darracq chassis and driven by a two-cylinder engine. The business initially displayed automobiles of its own design at the 1902 Hamburg Motor Show and began producing them in 1906, with the manufacture of the Opel Darracq ceasing in 1907.
Fritz Opel in 1908
The Opel 4/8 PS type, often known as the "Doktorwagen" or "Doctor's Car," was introduced in 1909. Its dependability and toughness were widely appreciated by physicians who had to drive long distances to see their patients back when hard-surfaced roads were still uncommon. The "Doktorwagen" was just 3,950 marks or approximately half the price of the premium cars of the time. By 1914, Opel had risen to become Germany's leading automobile manufacturer. In the early 1920s, Opel would be the first in German automotive history to use a mass production assembly lineup to produce its vehicles. In 1924, they used their production line to create the "Laubfrosch," a new open two-seater. The Laubfrosch was entirely finished in green lacquer.
In 1928, Opel had a 37.5 per cent share in the German market and was the country's largest vehicle exporter. General Motors (GM), pleased by Opel's advanced manufacturing facilities, purchased 80% of the firm in March 1929, raising this to 100% in 1931. The transaction netted the Opel family $33.3 million. Following that, in 1935, a second plant was created in Brandenburg to produce "Blitz" light trucks. In 1935, Opel became the first German automobile company to produce more than 100,000 vehicles per year. This was based on the well-known Opel "P4" model. The automobile cost only 1,650 marks and had a 23 horsepower 1.1 L four-cylinder engine with a maximum speed of 53 mph.
1962 Opel Rekord 1500
Opel also built the first mass-production car with an all-steel self-supporting body. The Olympia was the name given to the automobile when it was first introduced in 1935. Because of its lightweight and aerodynamics, it improved both performance and fuel consumption. Opel won a patent for one of the most significant advancements in car manufacturing history. The 1930s were a decade of expansion, and by 1937, Opel's Rüsselsheim facility was Europe's top automotive manufacturer in terms of output, ranking sixth globally. The immensely successful Kapitän was first shown in 1939. With a 2.5 L six-cylinder engine, an all-steel body, independent front suspension, hydraulic suspension systems, hot-water heating, and a speedometer. Before the onset of World War II brought vehicle manufacture to a halt in the autumn of 1940.
When it became evident that the war would go longer than expected in 1942, automobile and truck manufacturing began to shift to war labour in a limited capacity, with Opel producing aviation parts and tanks. As the war continued, military leaders placed a larger emphasis on the development of air-cooled engines, believing that they would be more resistant to damage from weather, shellfire, and overuse. Other specialised tasks were completed at the Rüsselsheim facility. The building of an intercooler for the supercharger of the legendary Junkers Jumo aviation engine. To make this critical assembly from very thin sheets of aluminium, special technologies had to be created. With such activity, Germany's adversaries inevitably took note of the numerous Opel plants and, beginning in August 1944, began hitting them by air. Both Rüsselsheim and Brandenburg were heavily damaged as a result of Allied bomber raids. The outlook at Adam Opel AG was never more gloomy than in the opening months of 1945.
Under Allied Forces plans, the Soviet Union petitioned the Allied Military Government for the tools, jigs, dies, fittings, and designs for the Kadett as compensation for war devastation. This, they said, would be used to start car manufacture at an Opel affiliate in Russian-occupied Leipzig. The equipment was shipped to the Soviets in June 1946, and that was the last time Opel saw it – but not of the Kadett. A year later, the Moskvitch 400, a new Soviet automobile, rolled off a Moscow production line. It appeared to be identical to the Opel Kadett in most aspects, with the exception of the name. By late 1950, the Russians were marketing Kremlin Kadetts to Belgium, emphasising that spare parts could be easily purchased from Germany. It wasn't until 1959 that a Moskvitch model devoid of Opel engineering was launched. And by that time, Opel was almost ready to launch its own Kadett.
Just as the battle was coming to a close, a minimal workforce began removing the plant's debris. By May 1945, this effort had progressed sufficiently to allow the fabrication of vitally required Opel parts to commence. Obtaining the resources for them was more reliant on barter and illegal markets than on traditional sources, which were mostly gone. In response to the urgent demand for new trucks in a rebuilding Germany, the American authorities in charge of Rüsselsheim obtained authorization for the company to create a 1.5 s tonne truck driven by the 2.5 L Kapitän engine. On 15 July 1946, Opel finally welcomed the creation of the first post-war Opel Blitz vehicle. The truck was meant to run on either gasoline or wood gas, with a generator installed on the wood-gas models.
After being announced in November 1947, manufacture of the postwar Olympia began in December 1948, allowing for a small resumption to export sales that year. Changes to Opel vehicles under GM administration did not show until January 1950, when a face-lifted Olympia was unveiled. The front and back fenders were lengthened, and a large horizontal chrome grille was installed. The four-speed gearbox was replaced with a three-speed unit with a column shift lever; a step backwards. The engine produced 58 horsepower at 3,700 rpm and reached a maximum speed of 80 mph.
In the lack of the equipment needed to construct the Kadett, Opel found itself in the midst of Germany's postwar car market, wedged between Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz. This was a stance that was known to both GM and Opel, and it performed admirably. In 1953, output surpassed 100,000 units for the first time since the war, and in 1954, when the huge plant by the Main River was deemed totally restored, Adam Opel AG employed 24,270 people and produced 167,650 vehicles—an all-time high. Opel did, in fact, fully recover from the effects of the post-war era.
The Opel Rekord 2.3 TD was the company's first turbocharged vehicle, debuting in March 1984 at the Geneva Motor Show. Following the 2008 global financial crisis, GM decided to sell a 55 per cent share in Opel to the Magna company on September 10, 2009, with German government consent. The transaction was eventually cancelled.
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