Opel's expedition into the luxury class
In recent decades, Opel has mainly been known for MPVs, hatchbacks, crossovers and a German football trainer advertising their cars.
This used to be different. In the 1930s, after having made some pretty affordable and compact cars, Opel decided to present the Admiral and Kapitän, which were cars of the luxury and executive class.
1937 Opel Admiral.
The Admiral however only lived until 1939, when the engines it was supposed to get were instead used for Opel Blitz transporters in the war. The production of the Kapitän on the other hand was continued after the war had ended, it took the Admiral's place of being Opel's flagship sedan and with that downgraded the brand with the lack of a luxury car like the Admiral.
1948 Opel Kapitän.
The Kapitän was a dream car for many people, but didn't really compete with the best Mercedes and BMW had to offer. It was the car for people who wanted an American car that isn't a Ford. Apart from the size and engine - a V8 wasn't available - the Kapitän really seemed like it's from America, since the people at GM used the same styling elements they knew from their American cars, like panorama windshields and tail fins, although they remained very small.
1959 Opel Kapitän.
In 1964 however, Opel had enough of being laughed at by BMW and Mercedes. They introduced the so-called KAD series consisting of a new Kapitän, Admiral and a completely new model called the Diplomat. This change meant a step upwards for the Kapitän directly into the luxury class, although it had to subordinate itself to the Admiral and Diplomat and actually got a bit less luxurious. Its new proportions made it a luxury sedan though.
Opel Diplomat, Admiral and Kapitän.
In the two most luxurious models, the Diplomat and Admiral, you could now also have a V8 to go with the American looks and with a lenght of 5 meters a size that at least went into the direction of American cars. However, BMW and Mercedes weren't really impressed by the new Opels and instead of worrying about them stealing their customers just minded their own business.
Another picture of a Kapitän, Admiral and Diplomat A (from left to right).
To stop them from simply ignoring Opel, in 1969 the KAD B Series was introduced, the luxurious Diplomat was now easier to distinguish from the other two models thanks to its different headlights. The Opels of the KAD B Series were generally slightly smaller than the ones of the A Series and had a more simplistic design.
Opel Admiral A and Diplomat B.
To finally show BMW and Mercedes that they were serious about making luxury cars better than them, Opel had several coachbuilders making special versions of the KAD B models, like Vogt making a fastback version of the Diplomat and Admiral.
Opel Diplomat B Vogt.
The most prestigious project consisted of four Opel Diplomat Bs that were sent to Karmann together with a request on them turning the cars into convertibles. Since Karmann was very busy though, they sent the cars to Italy instead, and sent fabric roofs they had made with them. The cars landed in Italy, where Fissore turned them into convertibles. This convertion cost 70.000 D-Mark alone, more than three times the price of the actual car, but it served its purpose of being used by VIPs and being representative.
1971 Opel Diplomat B Cabriolet.
While the Kapitän was discontinued in 1970, because its interior was too plain for a luxury sedan, the Diplomat and Admiral were made until the second half of the 1970s, after sales already have shrunk heavily since people who wanted a luxury car often preferred buying a Mercedes, especially when the S-Class arrived in 1972.
The KAD B models - seen as Opel's last luxury sedans by several people.
The end of the KAD Series meant the end of Opel's luxury cars according to many. There was a luxurious coupe planned, this plan was discarded again though. From 1978 you could get the new Senator and its coupe version, the Monza.
Opel Senator A.
Opel insists on the Senator being a luxury sedan, however with its more compact size it's become a victim of decisive authors calling it an executive sedan. Many Opel dealers were quite obviously convinced of the Senator not being a luxury sedan as well, since some of them now offered Cadillac sedans they imported from the USA.
Opel Senator B.
The Senator B, which came in 1987, received very good reviews from the media. However, while it was slightly bigger than the Senator A, it still was rather compact for a luxury sedan. The main problem though was that people had forgotten about the KAD models by now. They knew Opel for making the Corsa A and Kadett E, and apart from the lady in the picture above, nobody wanted to drive a luxury sedan from the same brand as these two.
Opel Corsa A.
While the Senator B wasn't a complete failure - in its six years of production 70,000 units were made - it wasn't popular enough for Opel to give it a successor. Only the Omega kept Opel at least in the executive segment, but after it was discontinued in 2003, Opel disappeared out of this class completely.
Opel Omega B.
Until today Opel has kept a safe distance from the luxury and executive class, with the Vectra and Insignia making Opel's flagship sedans cars of the D-segment. Or underling class as people who would have driven an Opel flagship in the 1960s might call it.
Opel Insignia B.