Opel cars were first made in Germany by Adam Opel GmbH, a German automobile company founded by Adam Opel in 1863. It became a subsidiary of General Motors (USA) in 1929 with GM holding an 80 per cent interest. General Motors was very impressed by Opel’s modern production facilities and in 1931 GM increased its ownership to 100 per cent.
In 1935, Opel became the first German manufacturer to produce over 100,000 vehicles in a year. This was based on the popular Opel P4 model. Opel also produced he first production vehicle with a self-supporting all-steel body, called the “Olympia”.
When Opel switched to making all its vehicles in this unitary form, no doubt many customers were initially disappointed in the lack of model variety. By 1936 the first Opel Kadett was introduced.
This model was produced not only as a two-door sedan but also as a Cambrio-limousine. This latter version was a good half-way solution as it was not only a stock sedan but having a full-length roll-top with fixed sides it suited a much broader market. In 1938 the four-door version was added to the Kadett range, which turned out to be one of the cheapest cars sold in Europe at that time.
Whilst Opel cars were very sophisticated in their design their cost was heavily subsidised. Due to these Government subsidies Opel cars sold cheaper in markets outside of Germany enabling their exports to climb substantially from the 1920s to the 1940s.
Because of the subsidies buyers missed out on many innovations provided by other companies and had to settle for things like simple knee-action suspension at the front end, austere car interiors and were denied the excellence of synchromesh.
At the end of World War II the Americans seized Opel’s Kadett tooling as reparations.