Saturday, October 12, 2013

1958 Opel Kapitän P1 L


"World class!", entitled the sales brochure Opel's flagship in 1958. Cars from Germany are admired around the world since a long time, and nowadays usually the three "premium brands", Audi, BMW and Mercedes get mentioned first. But after the Second World War, another make ruled the german Autobahn: Opel. From the 40s through the 70s, the fast and smooth Opel cars could easily take on any Mercedes. A six-cylinder Opel was the car of choice for many entrepreneurs and directors.

The reason for this was a rather simple one: Opel was a subsidiary of General Motors since the 30s, and many Opel models, although developed in Germany, looked like scaled versions of their american counterparts. And while most german car companies produced tiny vehicles with meager engines to tackle the essential transportation needs of destroyed postwar Germany, Opel's top models offered the "American Way of Drive" with their powerful engines and a refined, smooth ride.

The 1958 Opel Kapitän was not different, as it was even styled in Detroit by Harley Earl's "Art & Color Section". Clay models that echoed GMs 1957 styling, were sent to Germany, and Opel designers refined front- and rear ends, adding some "Opel-ness" to the proposals.

Upon its introduction in June 1958, the new Opel flagship earned rave reviews by the german motor press for it's handling and elegance. But all too soon, the buying public discovered that a design that looked good on large Buicks or Cadillacs didn't work so well on a much smaller car. Complaints about narrow rear doors, insufficient headroom and bad rearview visibility through the low rear screen spread around, and sales plummeted seriously. After just one year and 34.282 cars, Opel presented the modernized Kapitän P2, with an updated design that addressed the shortcomings of the Kapitän P1.

In Cuba, you can find quite a few Opel cars from the 50s, most of them being the smaller Opel Record: when "compact" cars became more and more popular in the late 50s, GM began to import german Opel and british Vauxhall cars, to get a share of this growing market without spending money on the development of an own "compact" car. All Opel models were sold though Buick dealers, and GMs cuban dealer network supplied the island with a fair amount of cars. The Opel Kapitän found its way across the Atlantic in two versions: the standard version was topped by the better equipped Kapitän "L" (read: "Luxury"), which is pictured here.

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