Wednesday, July 3, 2013

1958-1960 Opel Olympia Rekord P

"German made  . . .  American style  . . .  this is OPEL."

Perhaps looking a bit too flashy for the contemporary European taste, the Opel Rekord fits well into Cuba's automotive landscape. In fact, as a GM subsidiary, Opel was well known for offering "dwarfed" versions of GM designs. The 1953-1957 Opel Olympia, predecessor of our pictured Rekord looked a bit like a Chevrolet with altered proportions. Opel chief Edward W. Zdunek proudly announced that the Olympia Rekord should be a "German Chevrolet", which in that time was a compliment rather than a threat. Its replacement, presented in 1957, took inspiration from Buick, instead.

Unlike its bigger brother Kapitän, the Opel Rekord P (as in "Panorama windows") was entirely styled in Germany. Opel's designers, of course, were well aware what happened in Detroit, and there was a constant flow of GM designers that were sent for some time to Germany, usually meant as an accelerator for their career within the GM organisation. These guys didn't care too much for local taste or needs, but applied their desired styling themes on these little European cars. Thus, Opel models from that era sported the latest trends in (American) automotive fashion, such as wraparound windshields or two-tone color schemes inside and out, and were perhaps the best embodiment of the "American Way of Drive" in Europe. The Opel Rekord, unsurprisingly, soon was nicknamed "Bauern-Buick" (Peasant's Buick) in common parlance.

In 1958, the Opel Rekord received some minor improvements, among them the replacement of the rear view mirror from dash to roof. Our pictured car shows this roof mounted mirror. Thus, we think, it was produced after the summer of 1958. 

The Opel Rekord fared well on American shores: as a result of the economic recession in 1957-1958, the demand for economic compact cars suddenly went through the roof. The "Big Three" had completely missed this trend, and now had nothing to compete against the compact cars from Studebaker or Rambler. In 1958, GM hastily began importing Opel and Vauxhall cars from overseas to fill the void of compact cars at their dealerships. Opel cars were sold and serviced through Buick dealers. Hence, the synonym "Bauern-Buick" wasn't all wrong.

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