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Kadett B Celebrates 50th Birthday: “Opel Kadett. Das Auto“

08 Jul 2015

  • Opel used this advertising slogan for its bestseller that sold over 2.6 million units

Opel News - 50 years of Opel compact class cars: The new Astra descends directly from the 1965 Kadett B that was built 2.6 million times

Rüsselsheim. B follows A, and in 1965 the new series Kadett B replaced its successful predecessor, the Kadett A. The successor to the first post-war Kadett was 18 centimeters longer, exceeding four meters in length and was available in three body versions right from market launch: as a two or four-door sedan, of course again as a CarAvan station wagon and as a chic coupé. The coupé’s fashionable figure was clearly inspired by fastback models such as the Chevrolet Chevelle from the USA: a flat, sloping rear gave the coupé a dynamic form that promised speed. The three ventilation slots in the B-pillar have gone down in the annals of automotive history: today these models, known as “gills coupés”, are especially coveted and fetch top prices.

Downsizing is tradition at Opel: In the beginning there was the one-liter engine

Opel News - Opel Olympia A: The Kadett B’s stylish brother with the legendary 90 hp 1.9-liter, four-cylinder engine under the hood

Matching the overall sportier design, power was also stepped up by 5 hp. The bore of the four-cylinder unit was enlarged by three millimeters and now the 1,078 cm3 unit developed 45 hp. Also available was a higher-compression 1.1-liter S engine with 55 hp. This was joined in 1966 by a twin-carburetor version of the short-stroke engine with 60 hp. The engine highlight was the 90 hp 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine – introduced in 1967 for the rallye version of the Kadett B – from the Rekord C. This unit was also featured in the Opel Olympia, already well-equipped in its premium variant, which also differentiated itself from the Kadett with visual elements such as grille molding wrapped around its front. In addition to the classic four-speed transmission, from 1968 the Kadett was also available with a three-speed automatic gearbox, which was still unusual in this class at the time. Initially the three-speed automatic was only available with the 1.7 and 1.9-liter engines; one year later, buyers of the 1.1-liter Kadett with 60 hp were also able to forego the manual transmission. Also unusual was the 12-volt on-board voltage in the compact model made in Bochum – the competitors from Cologne, Wolfsburg and Munich were still content with six volts.


Now, for the first time, a Kadett was officially approved as a five-seater. But this applied only to both sedan variants, the coupé models remained four-seaters. The increased length benefitted mainly the interior, whereby the luggage compartment also grew by 12 percent to a volume of 337 liters according to the VDA (German Association of the Automotive Industry) standard.


The Kadett B was an instant success, with more than 105,000 units leaving the plant in the first year. While today over 60 percent of compact models are station wagon variants, back then the CarAvan share was just around 17 percent. And its success went beyond Germany’s borders, with around 50 percent of annual production being exported. The Kadett was at home on the roads in 120 countries and, without ever officially being called a global vehicle, really was an international car.


Opel goes for sport: Rallye Kadett becomes series winner

Opel News - Opel Kadett B Rallye: Available from 1966 – the ancestor of all sporty compact class cars

Long before VW entered the GTI class, the Rallye Kadett introduced in 1966 was the forerunner of all compact sports cars. The striking coupé with matte black hood and stripes was initially available with a 60 hp twin-carburetor version of the 1.1-liter engine, and from 1967, even with a 1.9-liter unit. By the way, the matte black hood was not a design whim, it served to keep the reflection of strong sun rays from blinding the driver – an issue first identified during rallying at the time. The 90 hp unit accelerated the coupé to 170 km/h, and a sporty chassis ensured additional safety reserves. With its sporty features and very good driving performance, the Rallye Kadett offered an excellent basis for amateur sports. It grabbed attention at home and abroad with victories on all types of tracks. The list of victories is endless: the reliable and affordable Rallye Kadett celebrated success at the Rallye Stuttgart-Lyon-Charbonnières, the Hessen Rallye, the Rallye Trifels and the Tour de Luxembourg. Opel tuner Günther Irmscher won the Tour d’ Europe in 1967. The same year the Kadett celebrated its greatest victory until then: the Lambart/Vogt team was class winner at the Rallye Monte Carlo. Just how popular and successful the Rallye Kadett was in motorsports at the time is shown in the statistics from 1968: in a total of 238 events, this model scooped up 222 class victories as well as 345 gold and 287 silver medals.

For Individualists: Opel Kadett’s elegant brother is called Olympia

Opel News - Opel Kadett B “gills-coupé“: The three vents in the c-pillar gave the classic car its name

Opel was again a pioneer in niche vehicles with the Olympia A based on the Kadett B. “The Olympia is the consistent use of the successful Kadett concept on a higher level,” stated the Opel press information from that time. “With the same compact exterior dimensions, the Olympia convinces with high driving performance and exceptional equipment and driving comfort.” The Rüsselsheim automaker was proven right: more than 80,000 customers bought the Olympia A between 1967 and 1970. The luxurious coupé was available with 60, 75 and 90 hp, and its upgraded equipment included special tufted carpets and a padded instrument panel “with real wood character”. A modified radiator grille wrapped around the fender with chrome trim, rectangular headlamps and larger rear side windows made up the exterior visual upgrade.


The Kadett B’s career ended in July 1973 after 2.6 million models had been built. Its diverse range of variants and numerous styling possibilities were exemplary for the automotive industry. And with the Rallye Kadett, Opel established the compact sports car segment for the broad public.