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David Hayward's

Automotive History

This site has been established in order to publish various Working Papers for general study and comment on automotive history.

Reference is made to:
Adam Opel Aktiengesellschaft, "Das Neue Werk Brandenburg", 
                            Brandenburg-am-Havel, January 1936


Adam Opel May'1837
1930 Adam Opel outside the new Plant
Adam Opel May 9, 1837 
1930  Adam Opel alongside a team of engineers 
The first Opel “Blitz” trucks, the Deutsch name for “Lightning” were introduced for 1931 Model Year. The sales director, P. Andersen, announced the name on November 25 1930 at the occasion of a dealers’ convention at Frankfurt-am-Main. Production commenced at the Rüsselsheim Plant, alongside the new Opel cars.
The resemblance to the 1931 Model Chevrolets and Bedfords is remarkable, though it is clear that as with Bedford, the Blitz was intended to succeed the Chevrolet line, though Chevrolets were still being assembled until 1933 in the Berlin Plant by General Motors G.m.b.H.
The 1930 Marquette engine was Buicks’ only L-head unit, a 6-cylinder design of 3 1/8 x 4 5/8 inches Bore & Stroke, producing 67 b.h.p. @ 3,000 r.p.m., Rated at 23.44 h.p., with a capacity of 212.8 cubic inches. The 1931 Blitz engine was 79.38 x 117.48 mm, 3,417 c.c., producing 64PS.
Vauxhall Motors had benefited from the 1929 AC/LQ 6-cylinder o.h.v. engine, and had adapted it with full pressure-feed lubrication and “Anglicised” it for 1931. Opel simply took over the complete production facility for the 1929-30 [1930 Model 30 Series] Marquette 6-cylinder 3.5 litre engine from Buick.
The second law to change the motor vehicle tax laws was passed February 28 1935 to make the requirements for off-road capable trucks known. One year later, the Reich Transportation Minister announced the design requirements for regularly marketed trucks with limited off-road capability. On April 1 1935, the Directors of Adam Opel A.G. decided to build a new truck factory in Brandenburg-am-Havel [Brandenburg on the Havel], a few hundred yards from the Silo Canal. The Company acquired 850,000 square meters of land on the northwest part of the city of Brandenburg after a new 3-Ton Blitz truck had been designed, the 3,5-36 and -47, to satisfy the requirements. Twelve days later, on April 13, 1935, the first sod of earth was turned and over 190 working days, 1,200 men worked day and night to build a dedicated Truck Plant, located between Hohenzollern Strasse and the Silo Canal just mentioned. After only 70 days, the steel frame of the main hall was erected. On October 16, the complete raw structure was complete. A month later, the first 15 Blitz trucks rolled off the assembly line at what was called "Brandenburg" Plant, code "Br.". On January 7, 1936 the Reich Transportation Minister, Baron Eltz von Rübenach, opened the new Plant officially. Plant Manager was Dr. R.A. Fleischer.

The design of the assembly halls was described at the time as a masterpiece of rational planning. A gigantic light-bathed assembly hall of 178 x 136 meters contained all the work processes from raw material to finished trucks. Freight barges brought in fuel by canal, and a branch of the Deutsch Reichsbahn enabled materials to be unloaded and stored right in the factory. There were 13 parallel rows of machines which produced crankshafts and camshafts, cylinder blocks, gearboxes and frames, and front and rear axles. The items were moved on 27 fully automatic transport belts with a total length of five kilometers to the assembly line, from which 50 trucks rolled in every eight-hour shift. The Plant had initially 680 employees, but this more than doubled by the end of 1936, allowing an annual production of about 20,000 trucks. This compares with 29,384 trucks and commercial vehicles built by Vauxhall Motors Limited in Luton in 1936, which must have included Vauxhall and Bedford light commercial vehicles, whereas similar units were still built in Rüsselsheim rather than Brandenburg.

The first Opel truck to conform with the Ministry's requirements was the Opel Blitz "S" for steuerermässig, or "lowered taxes" which qualified for a 33.3% tax reduction, with a yearly tax payable of 252RM instead of 378 RM. This truck had the original 3.5 litre 64 b.h.p. engine, and then in 1937 the new 3.6 litre 75 b.h.p. engine replaced it. In 1937, 1,256 of these trucks were delivered to the Wehrmacht, the first vanguard of military order trucks. However, what was not made abundantly clear that a large proportion if not practically all of the very first trucks to come off the lines in October 1935 were destined for export; Opel built altogether 5,222 trucks in 1935, and from early in 1935 right-hand drive exports had started to the U.K. The 1935 Commercial Motor Exhibition in London saw three trucks exhibited: 2.5 Ton/50 cwt. Blitz Model 3.5-83; 2.5 Ton/50 cwt. Blitz Model 3.5-57, and 2.5 Ton/50 cwt. Blitz Model 3.5-34 with 134", 157" and 183" wheelbases. These are likely to have been amongst the first trucks built in the new plant, illustrating the importance attached to the export market for foreign currency earning purposes under the Four-Year Plan.

However, US military intelligence stated that the Brandenburg Plant, 200 miles away from the Rüsselsheim Plant was in accordance with government efforts to "move important truck facilities to the less vulnerable sections of Central Europe….in anticipation of war." US Strategic Bombing Survey, Munitions Division, German Motor Vehicles Industry Report 6, 3 November 1945. This decision had been placed at the feet of James D. Mooney, for which he was awarded a Medal by Hitler in 1938. However, it was proven in the middle of 1944 that the Plant was indeed reachable by bombers and was repeatedly attacked.

In 1936, and I assume here that the American deputy chief engineer at Opel Russell S. Begg was responsible, a new engine was designed for the forthcoming Opel Admiral model. The engine for this large Chevrolet-sized car was based on the new 1937-on 216 cu. in./3,549 c.c. 6-cylinder Chevrolet engine, with four main bearings. The Opel engine was copied from the Chevrolet by redrawing the original blueprint drawings and converting from Imperial to Metric measurements. In fact, at the end of the day the engine more closely corresponded with the Canadian Pontiac car engine for 1937, the 224 cu. in. unit, which was fitted into a Chevrolet-based bodyshell to create the Pontiac 224 model and also in Canadian GMC trucks. The "224" unit was created by increasing the Chevrolet 216.5 unit bore by 0.0625", with aluminium pistons instead of cast iron. The Bore & Stroke were then 3.5625 x 3.75 in. [3 9/16 x 3 ¾ in.] [30.2 H.P. rated engine measured exactly at 224.1 cu in. The Opel engine became 90 x 95 m.m. Bore & Stroke, the nearest Metric equivalent, or 3.5433 x 3.74015 ", for 3,626 c.c. [Rated at 30.1 H.P., producing 86 b.h.p. @ 3,200 r.p.m.]. The Opel car engine had a 6:1 compression ratio as against the Chevrolet 6.25:1, and used the same transmission ratios as the Chevrolet: 2.94:1, 1.68:1 and 1.0:1.

In November 1940, Opel had produced prototypes of US-styled normal-control and forward-control [Cab-over-Engine] trucks with remarkable similarities to GMC and Chevrolet trucks, with 4 x 4 versions or Allrad: the Typ 6500S. These were for wartime requirements and then peacetime production for export as 1941 Models, although they never proceeded unlike Ford-Werke's 1940 Models because there was not enough time nor capacity to introduce changes just as the requirement had been made for 4 x 4 or Allrad versions of the existing models that were needed for the forces.

The Brandenburg Plant had a peak wartime production total of 25-30,000 trucks, 30-40% of total German truck production.

On the basis that General Motors Corporation lost the Brandenburg Plant as of November 25 1942, when placed in the control of a Custodian of Enemy Property, the value at the time of the loss was set at [$]:
1. 1. Land: 311,754.74
2. 2. Buildings including 12% depreciation: 1,883,544.00
3. 3. Machinery & Equipment including 10% and 30% depreciation: 2,900,101.75
4. 4. Inventory: 3,786,014.00
5. 5. Miscellaneous Property: 63,430.50
6. 6. TOTAL: $8,944,845.00

According to the claim of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission in 1967, under the War Claims Act 1948. The Rüsselsheim Plant was valued for loss purposes at $19,777,032.05!

By October 1944 General Motors Corporation had invested $52,002,562 in Adam Opel A.G.: US Foreign Economic Administration, Business Holdings in Germany of US firms, October 1944. This compares with Ford's $8,385,442.