Monday, March 10, 2014

1955 Opel Olympia Rekord

"Opel der Zuverlässige."

"Opel the reliable"
, truly is a befitting slogan for the 1953-1956 Olympia Rekord. At that time in postwar Germany, Opel was what marketing people today would call a "premium brand". These cars weren't cheap, and certainly not for everyone.

Presented in March 1953, the Olympia Rekord was the first all-new postwar Opel. As it should become common practice for the next Opel generations as well, the car was designed in Detroit by Opel's mother company GM. Opel's German designers merely added "Opelness" to details of the clay models that arrived from Detroit. Hence, the Opel almost looked like Harley Earl's stylists had shrunken a 1953 Chevrolet, which wasn't bad at all, because GM styling in these years generally was considered as being ultra modern. Upon its presentation, Opel chief Edward D. Zdunek even praised the new Opel a "German Chevrolet", which at that time certainly was a positive connotation.

Yet for most Germans, the fashionable Opel was not just too expensive, but also a bit too ostentatious. The country was still recovering from the devastation of World War II and personal mobility was all but common. For the few solvent middle class buyers who could afford the new Opel, it still was a huge investment. That said, the fashion of yearly facelifts, "imported" from Detroit, confused many customers who had rather wished for a stable value in their car. According to Edward D. Zdunek, these facelifts should give customers the opportunity of "social differentiation", but in fact, they were meant as an instrument to stimulate new car sales. What worked well in the U.S., however, wouldn't work in Europe, because people simply didn’t have the money for frequent new car acquisitions.

But at least technically, the Opel Record excelled with stable value: a solid unibody construction and reliable engines meant very few unexpected stops at the garage. Somehow, the little Opel truly exuded new-found "German virtues" of thriftiness and zeal, which made the car very popular outside of Germany, too: soon, the Opel had earned an excellent reputation for being very reliable. In Cuba you'll find quite a few Opel Rekord. Most were shipped disassembled in boxes from Germany as "CKD kits" and, after assembly in Cuba, distributed through GM's Cuban Buick dealer network.

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