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Here’s to Opel!

How many of you know that it’s Opel’s 150th year of celebration?  There are many cars that have recently celebrated 50 and 100 years but these are spring chickens compared with other car makers like Opel.

Opel started off with sewing machines.  They mastered the sewing machine and then moved on to build bicycles.  Go to any Opel manufacturing plant, and you’ll still be able to buy conventional bicycles and electrically powered bicycles from the company’s outlets inside of Germany.

Opel got into building cars around 112 years ago.  In 1899, Adam Opel and his two sons entered into a partnership with Friedrich Lutsmann to produce cars.  In order to build cars, the partnership signed a licensing agreement with Darracq, a French company.  Opel built the body, while Darracq powered the car with their two-cylinder engine.  What did they call the car?  The Opel Darracq, of course!

In 1906, Opel started to build their own cars.  It was in 1909 that Opels 4/8 hp model became known as the “Doctor’s car”.  The small car’s reliability and durability gave it this name as it was a dependable way of getting about.  By the start of World War I, Opel had become Germany’s largest car maker.

Opel has some of the world’s earliest land and speed records for cars.  The 1924 record is, perhaps, the most memorable where Frits von Opel was at the wheel of the “Rakete” – a rocket car.  Opel’s prowess in building rocket engines saw them involved in designing the first manned rocket aircraft.

Between World War I and World War II, Opel became Europe’s largest car manufacturer, a testimony of how well designed and how popular the Opel cars were for their time.  By 1999, Opel had built its 50 millionth vehicle.

Today sees Opel, and its sister brand Vauxhall, actively producing many types of vehicles for over 40 countries around the globe.  In 2010 Opel and Vauxhall sold over 1.1 million passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, enough to gain a 6.2 percent market share in Europe for the year.

Australia has strong links to the Opel car manufacturer.  Over recent decades, Holden has used Opel stock for their range of cars in Australia.  Yes, Holden still relies on Opel/Vauxhall designs.  The Opel Ampera is a stylish medium-sized car with hybrid technology underneath its sleek lines.  The Ampera is derived from the Chevrolet Volt and will soon be sold in Australia as the Holden Volt.

Astra and Vectra models, even some of the Commodore models, have Opel designer’s handy work.  So, when you think about it, Australia’s car world has been strongly influenced by Germany’s successful Opel/Vauxhall brand.

So here’s to Opel.  Happy 150th !

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