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Let the Sun Shine in – the Story of Opel Convertibles

Mar 27, 2013

  • From Kapitän to Cascada – Opel at the Techno Classica


Opel News - The tradition of large convertibles is experiencing a renaissance with the new Opel Cascada (pictured). The nearly 4.7-meter long mid-size convertible has four full-sized seats, high-quality, classic soft-top technology and a load volume of up to 380 liters.

Essen/Rüsselsheim. With thirteen cars spanning more than 100 years of car manufacturing, Opel exhibits a selection of its most popular convertibles at this year’s Techno Classica (April 10-14, 2013) in Essen, Germany. The display includes the first Opel Patent Motor Car, System Lutzmann of 1899, the 10/18 Doppelphaeton with its ’American top‘, the Rekord A Cabrio from the company Deutsch, the Monza Keinath C5, and the current Opel Cascada presented at this year’s Geneva Motor Show.

 

The elegant Cascada extends a tradition for premium convertibles, like the famous Opel Kapitän presented 75 years ago which was offered as a two and four-door sedan and convertible at its debut in 1938. At Opel’s stand in Essen, the Cascada and Kapitän convertibles will be flanked by conversions from renowned coachbuilders who constructed dream cabrios based on Opel cars well into the 1980s.

 

Opel News - In the mid-80s, Opel’s dealer Keinath, based in Dettingen, started building a convertible conversion of the Monza coupé. Fairly similar to the Cascada today, the Opel Monza KC 5 convertible was just about 4.70 meters long, sat four persons and could feature quite a luxurious leather interior.

Using the stately Opel Admiral of 1937 as a basis, the Hebmüller Karosserie company in Wülfrath created a luxurious, two-seat sports cabrio, and Gläser of Dresden took a similar approach with the Opel Super 6 in 1936. Coachbuilder Deutsch from Cologne converted the four-seat Rekord C in the late 1960s, and Keinath in Dettingen crafted an attractive cabrio from the sporty Monza coupé.

 

 

 

Opel’s Essen display also includes: an Opel 6/12 hp from 1910, the successor to the legendary 4/12 hp Doctor’s Car, an ultra-chic 1.1-liter luxury two-seater; a sporty 1.8-liter Moonlight Roadster from 1933 and an Olympia cabrio sedan from 1950. All are part of Opel’s Classic collection in Rüsselsheim.

 

As in previous years, Adam Opel AG’s historical vehicle department shares the over 700 square meter stand at the 25th Techno Classica in Hall 2 with Alt-Opel-IG, the largest Opel brand club in the world.

Opel News - Considered a sporty convertible, the 1953 Kapitän was powered by a 2.5-liter 6-cylinder in-line engine that reached a top speed of almost 130 km/h. Its elongated front wings stretch into the doors to give it a “faster” look.

The beginning was open

The very first Opel was, in fact, a cabrio. Like all cars built at the dawn of the automobile age, the Opel Patent Motor Car, System Lutzmann from 1899 followed traditional carriage design principles and had a body without an integral roof. By the time production ended in 1901, 65 Patent Motor Cars had left the Rüsselsheim factory.

 

 

The Opel 10/18 hp from 1908 and the 6/12 hp from 1910 also came without a top – a roof and side panels were available at extra cost. While an open body was still standard as late as the 1920s, closed bodies followed in the 1930s and open-air driving then became a symbol of luxury and status.

 

 

Opel News - The Deutsch company from Cologne-Braunsfeld built 51 units of their sporty Moonlight Roadster (pictured). The basis for this racy two-seater was the 1.8-liter model line presented in 1931, with which Opel became the first volume manufacturer to introduce an affordable straight-six engine in the mid-size class.

Vehicles from Rüsselsheim inspired famous coachbuilders to create their own beauties using Opel models as a starting point. The Deutsch company from Cologne-Braunsfeld built 51 units of their sporty Moonlight Roadster. The basis for this racy two-seater was the 1.8-liter model line presented in 1931, with which Opel became the first volume manufacturer to introduce an affordable straight-six engine in the mid-size class.

 

 

To celebrate the company’s 75th anniversary, Adam Opel AG presented two novel vehicles with trend-setting design on February 17, 1937: the Super 6 and the premium class Admiral model. Both cars were equipped with advanced overhead valve engine technology. The Super 6, for the upper mid-size class, featured a smooth-running 2.5-liter straight-six with 55 hp, and the premium class Admiral had a powerful six-cylinder with 3.6-liter displacement and 75 hp. Both models were offered ex-works as a sedan, as well as a two-door, and in the Admiral’s case, also as a four-door cabrio.

 

In addition to coachbuilders Buhne (Berlin), Autenrieth (Darmstadt) and Hebmüller (Wülfrath), Gläser from Dresden built special bodies based on the Super 6. The Gläser cabrio was a roadster-like convertible with two jump seats in the long rear body. Based on the Admiral, the sport cabrio from Hebmüller featured similar elegant, but even larger, design and was more luxurious and exclusive.

Another cabrio for more discerning tastes is the Kapitän convertible presented in 1937, which was available in addition to the sedan. The first Opel Kapitän – whose successors were among the best-selling six-cylinder cars in Germany into the early 1960s – achieved sales of 25,374 units, 4,563 of which were cabrios. The Super 6, Admiral and Kapitän were, for the time being, the last cabrios offered by the company.

 

The diversity of open-top driving was then reduced to one model. Unlike a full cabrio, the Opel Olympia cabrio sedan had fixed window frames connected to the windshield – a pre-war style of open-top driving that was well-established with manufacturers and popular with buyers. In 1956, the last car with this design, in the shape of the Olympia Rekord model line, rolled off the assembly line. The role of a popular compact cabrio was then assumed by various versions of the Kadett and Astra.

 

Opel News - Another conversion from the Cologne-based coachbuilder Karl Deutsch, the Opel Rekord C convertible boasts classical beauty with a touch of sportiness. The operation of the soft top in the Rekord C was greatly improved compared to the A model, but it (of course) remained manual. Soft-top operation is electric in all Cascada and only takes 17 seconds – even while driving at speeds of up to 50 km/h.

Predecessors of the new four-seat Cascada include creations from Karl Deutsch in Cologne. The coachbuilder converted the Rekord A of 1963 into a cabrio, as it did with the Rekord C in 1966 and its sporty sister model the Commodore A. The entry-level price for a two-door Rekord C base car was 7,590 German marks, and the conversion cost another 4,000 marks. Only around 30 open-air Rekord A and B models were built, while about 50 Rekord C and Commodore A cabrios were produced before the model change in 1972. Instead of a mid-size class sedan, Opel’s partner, Keinath in Dettingen, chose the sporty upper-class Monza coupé as the basis for its conversion in the early 1980s. Just like the production model, the sophisticated Keinath C5 – with two individual Recaro seats in the rear cabin and a modified notchback – was available with four or six-cylinder engines with outputs up to 180 hp. The base price was 81,000 marks and the total units built of the exclusive custom-made model remain in the two digits.

 

The tradition of large convertibles is experiencing a renaissance with the new Opel Cascada. The nearly 4.7-meter long mid-size convertible has four full-sized seats, high-quality, classic soft-top technology and a load volume of up to 380 liters. The Cascada features a wide range of economical, technically sophisticated engines led by the new 1.6-liter SIDI Turbo ECOTEC gasoline engine with 125 kW/170 hp and direct injection. The Opel convertible is once again being built in an Opel plant, just like the Kapitän and Admiral in their day.