By on January 4, 2019

Long before Opel became a donor for the badge-engineered Cadillac Catera and Buick Regal, the then GM-owned company shifted its own cars on North American soil. Today’s Rare Ride is a very early example of such a North American offering: It’s a two-door Rekord sedan from 1960.

The first Opels arrived on North American shores circa 1958. They wore their Opel badging proudly, and were distributed via Buick dealerships who’d signed on for some additional German flair in the showroom.

By that time, the Rekord model was in its second generation. The model started off as a compact executive car aimed at the European market in 1953. Originally known as the Olympia Rekord, the model’s success warranted a follow-up album. The new one bore the name Rekord P1 (initially Rekord P), and the small sedan was introduced in 1957 at the Frankfort Motor Show.

Larger than its predecessor, the new Rekord took its styling inspiration from popular large American cars of the day. Windows at the front and rear were of a wrap-around style, aping American favorites like the Buick Roadmaster and Chevrolet Bel Air. Other American car features included daring two-tone paint and matching two-tone interiors.

The model found quick success, earning a repeated second place finish on the West German sales charts. Rekord was bested only by the less expensive VW Beetle. German journalists of the day gave the Rekord a special pet name too: “Bauern-Buick,” or “Peasant’s Buick.” Charming.

The two-door sedan style was the only one available for 1957. The next year, a four-door sedan, a three-door station wagon, and a panel van debuted. Engines supplied to the Rekord varied by build date and trim level. All were inline-fours ranging from 1.2 to 1.7 liters in displacement. A single transmission was available for the majority of the Rekords produced — a three-speed manual. While an automated manual entered service for 1959 and 1960, it proved an unpopular option.

The second-generation Rekord was short-lived, and a third generation (the P2) was ready by summer of 1960. Growing larger and more luxurious with each successive model, Opel produced eight different generations of the Rekord, spanning the years 1953 to 1986. It eventually replaced the model with the Omega, which you’ll remember as the Cadillac Catera.

Today’s Rare Ride is a 1960 example, from very late in the second generation’s run. It’s a base model Olympia trim, meaning it has the smaller 1.2-liter engine. In monochromatic green and decent condition, it asked $5,000 on eBay recently. It received no bids.

[Images: eBay]

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29 Comments on “Rare Rides: Take Note of a 1960 Opel Rekord...”

  • avatar

    Wasn’t sure at first if the pictures were from Miami or a really nice part of Cuba. :P

  • avatar

    They were definitely looking at the 57 Buicks when they styled this one.

  • avatar

    Around this time, Vauxhalls were also coming into the US from the UK (specifically the Victor), sold at select Pontiac dealers.

    • 0 avatar

      And the Victor would later be replaced by a version of the Rekord! It all comes together for Vauxhall and Opel.

      • 0 avatar

        Vauxhall was sold in Canada under both the Vauxhall and Envoy names. Afterwards, they were called Firenzas until the line was dropped by the mid-70s. Pontiac dealers carried the cars, which had a horrible reputation. It seems like GM went through an awful lot of trouble to convert the Vauxhalls to LHD just for middling sales.

    • 0 avatar

      This Rekord and the English Vauxhall Victor FA Mk1 and Mark 11 were near enough identical bodies. The Vauxhall came only with a 1508 cc four. Easy enough to google, faster to do that than the Victors ever were with 28 seconds to 60 mph – you could see next week in the distance, but it never got much closer. Corner-carving sports sedans they were not, although high school seniors tried to prove the opposite as teenagers tend to do.

      When they restyled it for 1962, the FB Victor looked entirely different and much better – sort of a miniature ’62 Chev in profile, but with plunging front and rear ends. These sold much better in Canada, not a bad buggy at all and at least 75% bigger inside than a Beetle. Our town crawled with the identical Envoy version sold at the only GM dealer for 50 miles in either direction, and it was Chevrolet, hence Envoy. Pontiac dealers hoarded Victors, if you could find a Pontiac dealer at all, and could be bothered enough to want to get just a different nameplate on the deal. Nobody bothered – these were cheap and cheerful nothing cars, used as second vehicle to the family chariot. At least the heaters worked, a modern miracle undiscovered by the herr doktor professors back in Wolfsburg, trying to wrap sheet tin over the aircooled VW cylinders and directing the meager trickle of resulting warmth through a skinny air pipe to the windshield, by which time it had gone cold anyway. Subsequent gasoline-fired heaters tested the mettle of adventuresome owners. Whoops, Oh S**t! Get out! So said my pal Steve once. It melted the asphalt and they couldn’t get the tires out.

      Yes we motoring pioneers had it hard, not like the pushbutton looxury you get these days. A 2019 Hyundai Accent would flay an early ’60s car alive! Plus it actually has brakes that work going downhill. Drum brakes – didn’t ya just love ’em? Over-centered at the front to lock up solid with a tap of the “power brakes”. Put you through the windshield from 30 mph with the two-ply rayon butyl Cushionaire tires squealing like crazy, but fading to nothing from 75.

      The Record struggled on (in the form shown above in the article) for 1962, but looking like a blinged-out chrome Oz outback rat by then in German brass band rococo style. Bit of a hoot to look at. Their version of the ’62 Vauxhall Victor for the ’63 Rekord was a really downstyled almost industrial version of the theme, but if you squinted at it you could see the basic similarity. Not much of a lift for the spirits staring at those things, they were austerity no-nonsense personified. A half-dozen years later C&D crucified the smaller Kadett as world’s worst car.

      The rest of the story of these sister GM cars can be found at Wikipedia. Bring some No-Doz. Compared to a ’62 Chevy II, these things weren’t even in the hunt in either styling or power, especially versus the 120hp six. The Chevy II four, however, was a rattling coarse embarassment so people avoided that one. Chevrolet’s 153 and Pontiac’s 195 fours could have used some help from Opel for their two four cylinder engines. Rubbish they were, with zero refinement, maybe on purpose to persuade customers to get a pricier engine – they both needed balancer shafts baad. But that would have cost $12, if GM even knew what they were in the first place.

      The Vauxhall sold more than the Rekord worldwide. Both were entirely unremarkable mass market tin boxes. Then one day you climbed into what looked like a ’46 Ford, a ’63 Volvo 544 Sport with a 90 hp B18D twin carb engine, same weight, stood on the loud pedal and went hunting heeling-over fullsize sedans with small V8s the local fishermen drove. Fun. Was what really started me as an enthusiast. A real car, bucket seats, four on the floor and solid, you could beat on them so who cared how ancient it looked? And the heater on that Volvo would make scrambled eggs over the windshield vents! Damn. All my cars since then never beat that heater. After an hour on the highway the metal dash felt like a steam radiator. Comfy.

      ’50s Rekords? Pfft!

  • avatar

    I’m a little surprised that these never got scooped up by hot rodders (like old Whillys coupes) to drop big V8s in a lighter body.

  • avatar

    A 40 hp 1.2 liter engine must have been a tough sell even in 1960.

  • avatar

    Are there any figures for sales of Opels and Vauxhalls in the US? I feel like the numbers must have been absolutely tiny until the Kadett of the late 60s-early 70s. I don’t recall ever seeing a Vauxhall or Opel in the pre-Kadett period.

    • 0 avatar

      The old Opels were seen in fair numbers in Central Florida during the mid-60s but all of them seemed to have vanished by the 1970s. Vauxhalls were much rarer mainly due to horrible reliability and rampant rust. The looks didn’t help much either.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I had a neighbor with the same car in brown who drove it and kept it well maintained from the 60’s through the 80’s.
      Before the Kadett a few Buick dealerships sold Opels and even fewer Pontiac dealerships sold Vauxhalls. The era of the captive import.

  • avatar

    While I was looking at the interior picture, I noticed the wonderful view the driver must of had, since the A-pillar is set beck.

    I guess today’s aerodynamics rule out a “Jeep” like windshield.

  • avatar

    I can’t imagine anybody looking at this and the Corvair, which probably cost less, and saying “I’ll take the Opel”.

    • 0 avatar

      The Opel may well have been cheaper. The dollar was STRONG before we went off the gold standard. Assuming this car cost even 80% as much as a base Corvair, it is hard to see why anyone would have wanted the Opel. The smart money would have bought a Valiant, which showed the folly of both. The sad thing about GM is that by 1971 you’d have been far better off buying an Opel than a Vega, even though newer Opels gradually evolved while Chevrolet’s new small cars always had to be revolutionary until the Chevette.

      • 0 avatar

        The Opel was apparently priced at about 1800-1900 dollars, the same as a Rambler American. A Corvair or a Valiant cost 2000$.

        Maybe the car was bought for an inexperienced driver: it’s small, easy to park, has conventional handling and very low power.

  • avatar

    Well, it’s not a Trabant

  • avatar

    As a child I recall seeing a lot of these on the roads back in the 1960s and up into the early ’70s. These and the Vauxhall Victor. (OTOH, I don’t recall seeing any English Fords or German Ford Taunuses from the same time period.) There were also a handful of various cars from the Rootes Group and from Simca, but I’m not sure if Chrysler owned those makes by then or not.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The Chevy II was not a bad car. My father ordered in the Fall of 1961 a new Roman Red 1962 Chevy II 300 4 door sedan with a red interior, I-6, Power Glide, AM radio, padded dash, chrome, and white wall tires. It was a good car with plenty of room. My 2 older brothers and I drove it in high school. It was nicer than this Opel.

  • avatar

    The poor Europeans have always been children of a lesser car god.

  • avatar

    “Engines supplied to the Rekord varied by build date and trim level. All were inline-fours ranging from 1.2 to 1.7 liters in displacement.”

    …And I’m proud to be an American…

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The Rambler American was a much better car than this and probably got better mpgs.

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