January 21, 1862 – Opel is founded

Long before Opel ever made a car, they produced sewing machines. Founded on this day in 1862 by Adam Opel, the business finally moved from the cowshed in 1888 when they added bicycles to their production catalog. After Adam’s passing in 1895, his sons took over the business and soon created a partnership with a locksmith named Friedrich Lutzmann who had been working on automobile designs. This led to the first Opel autos, which were produced in 1899. 

Opel Patent Motor Wagen circa 1899

The vehicles were a hardsell to local consumers, resulting in the partnership dissolving. In 1901 the brothers signed a licensing agreement with Automobiles Darracq France and produced cars with Opel bodies on Darracq chassis that were powered by a two cylinder engine. At the 1902 Hamburg Motor Show, Opel debuted its first vehicle of its own complete design. The cars would go into production in 1906 and Opel Darracq was discontinued the following year. From that year on Opel was an independent automaker until it was purchased by General Motors in 1929. In 2017 ownership was sold to Groupe PSA, a French multinational automaker that owns owns several brands, including Citroen, Peugeot, DS and Vauxhall.

1902 Opel. By allen watkin from London, UK – Opel(1902), CC BY-SA 2.0

Cover: A red 1970 Opel GT alongside a 1975 VW Karmann Ghia, from the author’s personal collection.

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