Opel Manta
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Opel Manta History

The Story of Opel

The story of the Manta is one thing, but what do we know about the company behind it all - Adam Opel?

Adam Opel Logo - c. 1862Founded in Germany in 1862 Adam Opel (1837-1895) first manufactured sewing machines from a factory at Rüsselsheim near Frankfurt. His five sons Karl, Wilhelm, Heinrich, Friedrich and Ludwig worked at the factory and were all competing cyclists. Being involved in competititive cycling they urged their father to start making cycles. By June 1886 the Opel factory was producing bicycles and they were selling well, promoted by the sporting success of the boys.

The car industry started booming as the 20th century saw innovations in mass production of motor cars, and by the 1920s Europe was developing a growing opposition to the sales of cars from the United States. Import taxes were imposed on vehicles and the sales of US vehicles started to slip.

In 1923 General Motors established its first European plant in Copenhagen, Denmark to produce trucks for the European market. Then in 1925 GM acquired Vauxhall Motors Ltd of Luton, England to further its foothold in Europe.

By 1929 GM took a $30 million dollar stake in Opel who were already building nearly half of Germany's cars. GM invested in a program of improving and building factories in order to boost production in the main factory at Rüsselsheim plus Eisenach and the Brandenburg Truck Factory. By 1936 Opel was shifting 100,000 units and by 1938 this was up to 140,000 units.

With the rise of the National Socialist Party in '30s Germany the mood was turning to one of political uncertainty in Europe and in 1939 the German government seized control of the Opel factories in order to turn out Military vehicles. Opel produced trucks and cars during the Second World War and production centres became the targets of Allied bombers.

By 1945 the Rüsselsheim factory was a ruin. Eisenach was in the hands of the Soviets and the Russians had removed all the production equipment from Brandenberg in order to build their own copies of Opel trucks. In 1946 they acquired what was left of the facilities in Rüsselsheim to copy their cars too.

On 1st November 1948 GM resumed management control of Opel and rebuilt the Rüsselsheim plant in 1950. Then in its centenary year, 1962, the Opel plant at Bochum, Germany was opened, and the budget Kadett launched.


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