One of the most versatile small German military vehicles, the Kettenkrad, a blend of a tractor and a motorcycle, was powered with a 1.4 L Olympia four-cylinder engine. Produced by NSU, it had motorcycle-type front-wheel steering for gentle turns and negotiated tight corners with brakes on the propelling caterpillar tracks. The Kettenkrad towed antitank guns and transported troops and signal gear in several theatres of war. NSU continued to make it after the war for use in mines and forests. It was one of the few vehicles that could do jobs formerly performed by horses for which, owing to the shortage of oats, even less fuel was available than for motor vehicles.
The Kadett’s role in facilitating that is a major piece of automotive history I’ve been wanting to tell for years, but finding a Kadett in this country has been impossible, despite Opel having dumped almost half a million on our shores. It took my son’s recent trip to the old country to find one, sitting on the street in Innsbruck, no less. Maybe folks back there have a greater appreciation for Kadetts and the role they played; Americans’ fling with the Kadett was a very fleeting one, and perhaps many would just as soon forget it. Not me.
In 1982 Opel once again accomplished a great feat with a small car: the Corsa A joined the range below the Kadett, which by now was becoming a compact model. Designed by Chief Designer Erhard Schnell, who also penned the legendary Opel GT, the only 3.62m-long Corsa was notable for its prominent rally-car wheel arches and a drag coefficient of 0.36. Offered initially as a two-door hatchback and sedan, and a five-door as of 1985, the Corsa again demonstrated how masterfully Opel can generate space on a small platform. The 100hp GSi also combined frugality with fun. Originally conceived as an entry-level model for those on a tight budget, the Corsa A had become a bestseller by 1993 with a total of 3.1 million units sold.
The car was roughly the same size as the dreaded Audi V8, but lacked the power and four wheel drive traction to keep up. Owing to Group A’s strict homologation rules, Opel had no way of bringing the car up to speed without building a dramatically expensive road car as well. In the much looser environment offered by FIA Class 1 however, this was no longer an issue.
At the first round of the season held at the former Grand Prix track of Zolder in Belgium, Opel Team Joest’s misfortunes continued. Manuel Reuter retired in the early stages, with both John Winter (16th) and Keke Rosberg finishing a lap down on winner Alessandro Nannini (ITA) in the Alfa. Race 2 was more positive however, with only John Winter dropping early on. Reuter lead the Opel charge in 7th, with Rosberg in 10th.
Depending on the model version, the Corsa is as suited to singles and couples as to whole families. So it comes as no surprise that more than 13.5 million units have been produced since 1982. “The Corsa remains one of our most important models across Europe”, says Xavier Duchemin, Managing Director Sales, Aftersales and Marketing. The bestseller therefore plays a leading role in this anniversary year. “Opel has been democratising mobility for 120 years”, added Duchemin. “In our cars we make pioneering technology and comfort features affordable for all. This is what we stand for and the best example of this is the Corsa! Our anniversary model line-up has the right car for everyone – with extensive equipment and at best prices.”
In 1909, the Opel 4/8 hp pioneered the introduction of affordable mobility. It was modern with solid technology, easy to operate and manoeuvrable, enabling ambitious car owners to drive it themselves instead of relying on a chauffeur – considerably reducing the overall cost of ownership. And the quality of materials and workmanship created confidence. The first officially designated “small car” in automotive history was considered fully suitable for everyday use. The vehicle ideal for “doctors, veterinarians and lawyers” according to the adverts was available at prices from 4,000 to 5,000 Marks, while models from other manufacturers cost around 20,000 Marks. Thus the means of transport for the upper class became a vehicle for the middle class - thanks to the “Doctor's car”.
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In March 2017, Groupe PSA agreed to buy Opel, its British sister brand Vauxhall and their European auto lending business from General Motors for US$2.2 billion. In return, General Motors will pay PSA US$3.2 billion for future European pension obligations and keep managing US$9.8 billion worth of plans for existing retirees. Furthermore, GM is responsible for paying about US$400 million annually for 15 years to fund the existing Great Britain and Germany pension plans.