Contact Us




Special Events

About Us

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.




The U.S. automotive trade magazine, Automotive Industries 30 March 1929 announced that General Motors Corporation ["G.M."] had purchased Adam Opel A.G. It was stated that on 20 March 1928, James David Mooney, President of the General Motors Export Company, speaking before the Export Managers' Club of New York referred in his speech to that of "the building of an industrial and commercial empire". The next year, 1929, General Motors Corporation acquired all of the shares in Vauxhall Motors Limited that it did not already own.

On 18 March 1929 Alfred P. Sloan Jnr., President of General Motors Corporation, at Wiesbaden, [near Rüsselsheim] Germany announced that General Motors Corporation had formed an association with the Adam Opel Company in Rüsselsheim, Germany, a substantial interest in that company being taken at a cost of approximately U.S.$30 million. G.M. World Number 8 issue of 1951 confirms that the Adam Opel company was experiencing a decline in its domestic market as it lacked funds for modern machinery and equipment, and had no adequate export facilities either. G.M. were apparently be wishing to expand into those export markets where German-made cars sold, just as the decision was made to increase exports of Vauxhalls from 1930 to the British Empire markets. G.M. had realised that so far as exports were concerned, the larger North American car was losing out to smaller, cheaper, more economical cars favoured by the European manufacturers. G.M. therefore needed a Continental base for its North American and British products, and of course G.M. had assembly plants all over Europe as well as subsidiary sales companies. Thus, during the latter part of 1928, Geheimrat Wilhelm von Opel met and talked to G.M. executives and the many advantages of taking over an existing factory persuaded G.M. to buy-out Opel on a majority basis. From then on, following just behind the tooling for the new Vauxhall Models launched August 1930, and then [Bedford Trucks, April 1931], tooling for new Opel vehicles was underway by July 1930, production starting of cars in February 1931, and later in 1931, Opel's answer to the Bedfords, the "Blitz" or "Lightning" trucks which used an Opel-assembled version of the 1930 Model Marquette L-head six-cylinder engine as all of the Marquette engine manufacturing equipment was transferred from Buick in Flint, Michigan to Rüsselsheim. From then on, Vauxhall and Opel would seem, certainly until 1939, to be running in tandem with each other. The cost

The exact price was put at $28 million. On the 24 January 1929, the Opel family holdings were placed into a new limited liability company. Shares were issued totalling 60,000 with a par value of 1,000 marks each, capitalising the company at over $12 million. This was a holding company for the Opel works, and public offering of stock was made, but the Opel family retained control. It was then surmised that G.M. paid $28 million for 76% of the stock which represented the Opel family holdings, or more than twice the par value of the company! 18 March it was stated that the new board of directors would consist of five Americans and three Germans and that then head of the firm, an American would displace Fritz Opel. However, Sloan went on to say that Adam Opel A.G. would be run as an independent organization by the then present management committee, with G.M. engineering, manufacturing, financing and managerial co-operation. However, this time G.M. had acquired a majority stake in a company five times that of Vauxhall Motors Limited!

Then, just as the recession caused by the Wall Street Crash caused ripples throughout the world, particularly in Germany, when the U.S. companies called in their foreign investments, G.M. acquired the balance of the Opel family interest, so G.M. then owned 100% of the Adam Opel A.G. company in October 1931. In 1932, the recession in Germany was at its deepest, though Opel produced 20,982 units of which 6,804 were exported, or 32.4%! By 1939 this had increased to total production of 118,794 and exports of 36,805 a percentage of 31%. C.K.D. assembly of Opels subsequently started in General Motors Continental, Antwerp, Belgium, General Motors International in Københaven, and then in February 1936 G.M. Suisse S.A. in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.


General Motors had invested in the U.K. because of the expanding and stable home market as well as the threat to American cars in foreign export fields, especially in Australasia, which favoured British goods. If the Corporation were handicapped in those fields then its investment would suffer as a consequence. German manufacture was equally advantageous for the Reich and also for many sections of Continental Europe. The answer was to earn on the investment made by selling in each market, and from each source, the kind of cars the people in those markets wanted and could afford to buy. This required the promotion of Vauxhall and Opel on an equal basis with U.S. manufactures. U.S.-made cars sales abroad dropped from 52% in 1929 to 21% in 1932. However, in late 1932 English and German domestic sales exceed the U.S.-sourced volume of General Motors's total overseas trade. This increased, and in 1933 Opel made its first operating profit under General Motors control. Then in early 1933 the Export figures started to swing the opposite way and overseas shipments of General Motors U.S.-sourced cars were 45% greater in the first half of 1933 than in the same period of 1932, and then in June sales were 133% higher than in June 1932, with Vauxhall and Opel sales correspondingly higher.

1926 118,791 98,156,088
1927 193,830 171,991,251
1928 282,157 252,152,284
1929 256,721 243,046,031
1930 164,112 155,728,304
1931 125,606 110,525,817
1932 71,159 64,722,793


Export 77.1 10.1 12.8
English 2.7^ 97.3 ---
German 5.5* --- 94.5
OPERATIONS 52.3 20.4 27.3

^ This must include Cadillacs, and a small amount of U.S. parts in British Chevrolets.
*These must include assembly by General Motors G.m.b.H., Berlin, which assembled C.K.D. kits until 1932 [1]

By 1929, General Motors Export Division was split into three major Divisions, with General Motors Limited/Vauxhall Motors Limited, and other operating companies, Adam Opel A.G., and the General Motors Export Company, which was responsible for assembling and merchandising organisation for the distribution of all products in the world markets outside the US, Canada, Germany and the British Isles.

From 1930, with the transfer of General Motors Limited and Vauxhall Motors Limited and Adam Opel A.G. out of the Export Division, the new OVERSEAS OPERATIONS GROUP which consisted of the Export Division [General Motors Export Company plus the various overseas subsidiaries] then Vauxhall and Opel. In other words, G.M.C. added another tier it seems on top of the Export Division! The Overseas Operations Group consisted of four territorial regions, each under the charge of a Regional Director, who was responsible in turn to the General Manager in New York, also Vice-President of the Export Company: Graeme K. Howard.

In February 1933, management of the Overseas Operations Group was decentralised, and four Regional Directors were appointed: for Europe; South America & South Africa; Far East and Australasia, with responsibility for all operations in their areas, with H.Q. in New York. The Regional Managers were also based in New York Home Office, but travelled extensively throughout their regions. These regions were:

EUROPE: Plants in France, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Spain and Alexandria, Egypt.
SOUTH AMERICA AND SOUTH AFRICA: Sâo Caetano, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Port Elizabeth, S.A.
AUSTRALASIA: Australia and Wellington, N.Z.
FAR EAST: Osaka, Japan; Bombay, India and Batavia, Java, Netherlands East Indies.
Plus the GENERAL MOTORS EXPORT COMPANY in New York, covering areas not touched by the above, such as Mexico, China, Central and South America apart from Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay; Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific Islands. This presumably included Hawaii.

On then other hand, General Motors Limited, Vauxhall and Opel under their General Managers, or rather in the case of General Motors Limited and Vauxhall Motors Limited, Chairmen of the Board and Managing Director, and in the case of Opel, Geheimrat Willhelm von Opel, reported to James D. Mooney. However, Mooney was also a Director of General Motors Limited as well as Adam Opel A.G. General Motors Limited had become merely a "Real Estate" [property] company from April 1932, leaving Vauxhall and Opel to stand alone.

In late 1933, the policy of decentralised management introduced gave direct operating responsibility to the Regional Directors who then took up residence abroad, instead of being based in New York. [2] One man who played a very important role in Opel's success was Edward Creaser Riley. James D. Mooney brought Riley into General Motors Export Company on 1 January 1923. He was a member of a small team who travelled to Australia with Mooney to agree with the Holden family to build Buick and Chevrolet bodies for imported chassis. He was then appointed Managing Director of General Motors Limited, London, in August 1924, but resigned as a Director in 1929, and after having served as Managing Director of General Motors Continental in Antwerp from 1926 [he must have remained as a Limited Director and resigned as Managing Director], he was appointed Regional Director for Europe in July 1930, based in Antwerp, for 5 years. Riley was then sent to Europe in 1935 to set up the Swiss Plant. He was shortly afterwards appointed Assistant General Manager of the General Motors Export Division, and then. Riley was appointed in late 1935 General Manager of the Export Division. Guy Nicholas Vansittart, who had been General Manager of G.M. Continental since July 1930, replaced Riley as Central European Regional Director, David F. Ladin as North European Regional Director, and G.D. Riedel as Mediterranean Regional Director, in 1937. It appears that Riley's position was commuted into Assistant General Manager of General Motors Overseas Operations Division ["G.M.O.O."] September 30 1938 [3]

The Export Group/Division General Manager from June 1925 to September 1930 was L.M. Rumely, and he shared the position with W.T. Whalen from 1926 to 1929. In 1930, both Vauxhall and Adam Opel A.G., acquired 1929-30, were transferred from under the General Motors Export Division to the Export Division Vice-President's control instead, who was in fact Graeme K. Howard, who was promoted to General Manager to replace Rumely and held the position from September 1930. In February 1938, in the General Manager's office, headed by Edward C. Riley as General Manager was Personnel Officer: William Harvey, Junior, and Opel-Vauxhall Liaison, W.T. Whalen. The Vauxhall Liaison man in New York had been E.C.H. Shillaker from 1934 to 1936. As General Manager Howard would also have been a Vice-President of the Export Division, then in 1932 the Overseas Operations Group. Howard must then have been appointed General Manager of the Overseas Division on 30 September 1938, with the merger of the Opel, Vauxhall and Export Divisions, with Riley as Assistant General Manager. Mooney would then have been President of the Overseas Division.

Who were the General Managers at Adam Opel A.G. responsible for the increases in production and export? R.K. Evans returned to New York in July 1936, to become a Corporation Vice-president. E.R. Palmer who had been Assistant General Manager in March 1933 replaced him. Palmer was in turn replaced by Cyrus R. Osborn in June 1937, having been sent to Rüsselsheim on special assignment in early 1936, and then promoted Assistant to the General Manager shortly afterwards, and then in early 1937, Assistant General Manager. [4]


The first Opel cars were imported into the U.K. in the Autumn of 1907, and were consistently sold until war broke out in 1914. Opel Motors Limited, Company Number 130548,was formed on 7 August 1913, by the Directors of The British Electromobile Company Limited, at Halkin Street, London S.W.1., the previous importers and distributors. Very little is known about this company, but it is certain that it was not wound-up after war broke out and wound-up for trading with the enemy. However, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders placed a ban on all exhibitions and the importing German cars for some years after the war, and it was to be 1928 before any Opels were officially imported again. Opel Motors Limited must have been dormant during the period 1914 to 1927, but Fletcher's Index of Motor Cars for 1931 shows that the company were located in a building at 74 Newman Street, London W.1. The Alt-Opel Club records show that exports were not recorded by Adam Opel A.G. until 1928, with exports running at 10,143 units or 7% of the total production of 145,477, and in 1929 2,403 exports or 6.9% of 34,578 produced. Because there are no records extant of Opel Motors Limited [having been destroyed], it is not known when General Motors Limited acquired the dormant company, but it was definitely before May 1936. [5]


The decision was made by New York that General Motors Limited would take initial imports of Opels from the Rüsselsheim Plant, to be shipped via General Motors Continental in Antwerp to Southampton, though General Motors Limited were not to be involved with the actual distribution yet: they were not equipped to do so at this time. Presumably there was an initial effort to export a model to the U.K. as a trial to see how well they would be received, just as Adam Opel A.G. started a major export drive that saw massive increases annually in the number of cars and C.K.D. kits exported. The U.K. market was an obvious extra one for what would later be criticised as "dumping". What was not known at the time was this was part of the major effort to earn foreign currency for the Reichsbank, and also to receive a return on investment by G.M. Corporation, avoiding the currency restrictions.

The Distributor that General Motors Limited chose to handle the marque was Oldsmobile Distributors Limited ["O.D.L."], with the depot as above at Terrell's Wharf, Townmead Road, Wandsworth Bridge, London S.W.6., and showrooms not in Sackville Street, but 5 Lower Marsh, London S.E.1 more in keeping with the "down-market" segment that the cars were aimed at. The choice of company was logical since there was a dealer network newly set-up for Oldsmobiles, and Rawlence himself had experience with selling OM cars from [Fascist] Italy from 1926 on, and would do so for the supply of spare parts until 1939. There was also a relationship with General Motors Limited over the importation and distribution of Oldsmobile cars, whereby General Motors Limited handled the importation and delivery to London, and O.D.L. handled the preparation and distribution to dealers. However, LEP Transport & Depository Limited [Lep Transport Limited from January 1936] actually handled all of the actual shipping, customs clearances, and port handling as agents for General Motors Limited. Incidentally, the Opels were shipped on German and Belgian ships as well as British, though General Motors Limited attempted to use as much British shipping as well in due course, achieving 96% solely British shipping in 1938.


The first model imported was clearly on a "low-key" basis, as there were no official announcements in the motoring press until early in 1936, though by then Opel commercial chassis were being imported. The first model imported was the Opel 2 Litre Six Saloon, the Opel Model 20103, or 36 P.S. model. This was equipped with a 6-cylinder sidevalve engine of 67.5 x 90 mm, or 1,932 cc. With a Treasury/R.A.C. rating of 16.9 h.p. Power was 37 b.h.p. or 36 P.S. at 3200 r.p.m. Tax liability was £12 15s. The engine was "en bloc" with Bosch coil ignition, a single dry-plate clutch, 4-speed plus reverse gearbox, driving through a bevel gear differential and 5.50 x 16 in. wheels and tyres. The wheels were of the steel disc type. Wheelbase was 104 in. The price was initially a competitive £250 which clearly shows little or no "subsidy" at this early stage. However, the car was well received and proved the way for major importation.

In addition to Opel cars, the decision was made to start the importation of Opel commercial vehicles and chassis as well, for truck and bus/coach work, and these did in fact sell very well. The abundance of power and the competitive prices saw to this.

The first exhibition of any Opel vehicles since 1923 was at the Commercial Motor Exhibition in London in November 1935. The exhibits were:
1. 1. Opel Chassis 183 in. wheelbase [2.5 Ton/50 cwt. Blitz Model 3.5-83, 1935 Rüsselsheim-assembled or 1936 Brandenburg-assembled]. Price of chassis £283.
2. 2. Opel Lorry 157 in. Wheelbase [2.5 Ton/50 cwt. Blitz Model 3.5-57, 1935 Rüsselsheim-assembled or 1936 Brandenburg-assembled]. Fitted with cab and drop-side lorry body. Price, complete, £306. Chassis, £256.
3. 3. Opel Chassis with Cab 134 in. Wheelbase [2.5 Ton/50 cwt. Blitz Model 3.5-34, 1935 Rüsselsheim-assembled or 1936 Brandenburg-assembled].Fitted with cab. Price, complete, £279. Chassis, £249.

The name Blitz actually meant "Lightning"; the term was meant to convey performance, and these Opels did have sufficient which combined with a remarkable amount of new features and a subsidised price, meant that they could compete with the industry leaders, the Bedfords. However, as can be seen, the main differences between the Opel and Bedford chassis was in the engines: Opel staying with sidevalve units derived from the 1930 Model Marquette, whereas Bedfords followed Chevrolet practice and stayed with overhead valves.

5,222 Opel Blitz trucks were produced in 1935: the start of expansion: the 1936 Models were built at the new Brandenburg Plant as against the Rüsselsheim facility used for the 1935 Models. [6] Brandenburg Plant would allocate the "Br" code to identify the assembly plant, found in the chassis number. Brandenburg Plant was built in a remarkable short time next to the Havel Canal, and went into production about October 16th, 1935, though was only officially opened January 6th, 1936. From the outset, right-hand drive truck and bus chassis were produced for export.

1.6. THE 1936 MODELS

The Motor 21 February 1936 reported on the 1936 German Motor Show, "opened with impressive ceremony by Herr Hitler". The only British exhibits were of Austins, but of relevance here was that of the Adam Opel A.G. Stand, which had the latest Opel Olympia model, a first with unitary construction. This was the first reference to the new models that had been named for the 1936 Berlin Olympics: a model that would play a major part in the preliminary history of the Southampton Plant.

The Motor 10 July 1936 published an introductory article entitled "THE OPEL IN ENGLAND": "Popular German Car Now Introduced Into This Country: Independent Front Suspension". Photographs were published of two 1936 Model Opels: an Olympia Cabriolet, and a rare Opel P4 model, again with cabriolet roof open. The P4 was only sold here in very limited numbers, in '36 and '37 and arguably was just too "minimalist" for the British buyer. The article mentioned that the Opel was "extremely well known on the Continent, and particularly in Germany where many thousands were to be seen on the roads. The Opel was a popular car, and "even in England the price is not high". At a moderate price, it was possible to buy a type of convertible body, or cabriolet, which was popular on the Continent. The other model that was announced was the Olympia which had a larger engine of 1,279 c.c. [Rated at 11.3 h.p. again]. However, the Olympia had the "knee-action" type with a coil spring mounted inside a double-acting shock absorber, i.e. independent front suspension. The Olympia was priced at £179 as a cabriolet or £175 as a saloon. There was also a third model, the 2Litre which would "shortly be available in the country", prices of which were: cabriolet £230, 2-Door saloon £235 and 6-seater 4-door saloon £285 which was in fact a 7-seater, all being existing models but these were 1936 Models which were just being imported. The 1936 season marked the first serious efforts at subsidising exports when the Reichsmark had an "official" value of 12.18 to the Pound in 1935, and 12.33 in 1936 averaged. The U.S. Dollar was 4.903 in 1935 and 4.971 averaged in 1935 and 1936 respectively.

The 1936 Model Opel commercial car line was continued over from 1935 unchanged. The range consisted of four chassis:
2½ Ton/50cwt 6-cylinder sidevalve engine. However, the chassis varied in the wheelbase lengths:
134 inch wheelbase: Chassis overall length 16 ft. 2 in., Chassis weight 31 ½ cwt., 11 ft. 2 in. wheelbase [Model 3,5-34].
157 inch wheelbase: Chassis overall length18 ft. 9 in., Chassis weight 32 ½ cwt., 13 ft. 1 inch wheelbase [Model 3,5-57].
183 inch wheelbase: Chassis overall length 22 ft., Chassis weight 34 ½ cwt., 15 ft. 3 in. wheelbase [Model 3,5-83 Bus chassis].

Distributors were still Oldsmobile Distributors Limited, as per the Opel car line. This line-up would continue without change until the end of January 1937, though in the meantime there must have been negotiations between Mr. L.C. Rawlence and General Motors Limited which would result in changes in the distribution arrangements as explained next. However, there is no evidence of any subsidy being applied to the export price of the Opel trucks from 1935 to 1939: in comparison with other non-Canadian sourced vehicles, the prices demanded all compared reasonably well. This does not mean that there was no subsidy, as because of the limited volume of Opel commercial vehicles compared with the cars, any subsidy there was may have been "absorbed" as profit by General Motors Limited, or was siphoned-off and eventually passed on to New York.

Opel cars were not exhibited at the London Show in 1936, but The Light Car of 9 October 1936 published details of the current Models nevertheless.
Concessionaires were listed as PRIDE AND CLARKE LIMITED of 237 Brixton Hill, London S.W.2.
Models listed were:
P.4 de luxe Model [Model 1190]. Prices:
2-door saloon £155
Cabriolet-coach £150

Olympia Model [Model 13237]. Prices:
2-door saloon £175
Cabriolet-coach £179

1.7. THE 1937 MODELS

The Motor 26 February 1937 commented on the 1937 German Show, and referred to the new Opels on display. Considerable interest was apparently expressed that Opel had entered the above-2-Litre class with a 2½ -Litre model known as the Super Six, and with a new 3.6 Litre model, the Admiral. As a 4-Door six-light saloon, the former car sold at 3,850 Marks and as a 2-Door four-light cabriolet, 4,200 Marks, which were very low for this type of car in Germany. This equated with approximately £313 and £342 respectively. When offered on the market in due course, the prices had transmuted to £225 and £285 respectively, inclusive of shipping, and port charges, and also 33 1/3% import duty. There were 4-Door four-light saloon and cabriolet versions of the new Admiral available, as with the Super Six. However, the Admiral models were not imported until 1938 Model Year, presumably as Brandenburg Plant was preoccupied with l.h.d. versions and also truck production.

The Light Car of 5 March 1937 announced the new Opel Models, as did their rivals The Motor 5 March and also The Motor 9 March. However, what is significant here is that the announcement of the new Opel Cadet/Kadett and Olympia models, which used an all-steel electrically welded body structure in lieu of an orthodox chassis, was not by Oldsmobile Distributors Limited, but by General Motors Limited of 3 St James's Square, London S.W.1. This indicates that with the establishment of the new London Headquarters, reporting to Antwerp, General Motors Limited took over the importation and distribution of Opels, not only cars but also commercial vehicles as well in due course. However, Pride & Clarke Limited still remained as Distributors for London and surrounding area.

The Motor 9 March 1937 announced that General Motors were to enter the small car field with a new range of Opel models to be actively marketed in England {sic}. The magazine commented that "An interesting range of Opel models at very attractive prices is announced for sale in England during the coming season by General Motors Limited of 3 St. James's Square, London, S.W.1." These could be examined at the showrooms of British and Colonial Motors Limited, Long Acre, who were the main wholesale agents for Greater London; the distributors for London and South East England being Pride and Clarke Limited of 237 Richmond Hill. The article went on to say that from the point of view of its low price and popular appeal, the most interesting model was the "Cadet", which was taxed at £9 and had a 4-cylinder engine of 1,066 c.c. capacity. This was in fact the "Kadett", the name anglicised as per a Vauxhall model of the same name. The standard saloon version listed at £125 and provided 4-seater accommodation with an overall length of only 12 ft 6in. The two-door coachwork was welded from pressed steel components and was so strong structurally that the designers dispensed with a separate chassis frame. When sitting in the car the wide range of vision made possible by extremely narrow pillars was noticeable. The wide doors contained hinged ventilating panes ("No draught" system) and gave reasonably easy access to the rear compartment. The luggage compartment in the tail was reached by hinging the rear-seat squab. Safety glass was standard on all models. Another Cadet model was the drophead [convertible] saloon listed at £128 with a neat and practical form of folding roof, so arranged that the car could be completely open from the windscreen to the rear seat squab. The Super Six was the largest model available, both in de luxe saloon form at £225, or as a convertible Cabriolet at £285.

General Motors Limited as Concessionaires for Adam Opel A.G. added a third G.M. commercial vehicle line in 1937 with the importation of r.h.d. Opel light commercial, truck and coach chassis, after the successful launch of the car lines. However, the evidence is that the involvement between St James's Square and Rüsselsheim was considerably more than might at first appear. Although never imported, Opel designed a "forward control" van of modern design that in many ways was years ahead of its time, for the English market. Further details of this unique and mysterious vehicle appear below in the "1938 Model Commercial Vehicles".

As part of the expansion by Adam Opel A.G., a brand new Truck Plant was built at Brandenburg-am-Havel, near Berlin, which opened in 1936. The Plant produced trucks that mirrored and competed in certain markets with Vauxhall Motors' Bedford trucks. The name used for the trucks was "Blitz" as before. The word actually means "Lightning", and was meant to reflect the performance of the powerful engines fitted. Brandenburg-built chassis were prefixed "Br."; Rüsselsheim continued to not allocate any separate indication. The truck and Coach chassis proved immensely popular with bus and coach companies, being not only very competitively priced, as might be expected, but also affording ample performance for hill-climbing in areas such as South Wales. In other words, the same markets that General Motors Limited's G.M.C. chassis were popular in from 1928 after Buick engines were installed in most chassis. Details of all Opel commercial vehicles and cars were included in a special propaganda style brochure that was printed by Rüsselsheim for British Opel dealers, and was sent out to coincide with the launch of commercial vehicles on the market. This also included interestingly, data for past models back to 1932.

The rest of the Commercial Car Range as it was called changed in 1937 and requires explanation. The 1936 Models generally carried-on in production to the end of January 1937. The light delivery van based on the car Model P-4 was imported, namely the P-4 Lieferwagen delivery van, 1937 model #1396 11.3 h.p. 1.3litre 4-cylinder 96"wheelbase and also the P-4 Lieferwagen 8-10cwt. Delivery van converted to brake with side-windows, 1937 model #1396. This predated the 1939 Bedford "Utilabrake" conversions by Martin Walter of Basingstoke, who converted a light van to a combined Utility and brake [another name for station wagon] vehicle. These were all assembled in the Rüsselsheim Plant. However, the 1937 Model brochure destined for the U.K. dealers states that the van was also available as a chassis only. The engine was the 1.3 Litre 4-cylinder unit, the wheelbase measuring 96 in., or 2460 m.m., rating being ¾ Ton or 15 cwt. These directly competed with Bedford's light vans and chassis. The next model in the 1937 line-up was the 1-Ton model, with a 2.0 Litre 6-cylinder engine out of the 2,0 Liter Model 20103, the commercial chassis being Model 2,0-12, prefixed 2V, assembled in Brandenburg Plant from 1936 onwards, 1934-35 Models having been assembled in Rüsselsheim. The 1937 Brochure quotes a wheelbase of 112 in., or 2,851 m.m. The model was available as a Chassis, Chassis with Cab, Chassis with Cab and Dropside Body with/without tarpaulin, and a Panel Van. The 1-Ton Line it said was to be continued without change for '37 and replaced in production in the middle of 1937 by an entirely new 1 Ton and 1 ½ Ton Truck design. However, the official Opel serials/engine number details show that this model continued into 1938 Model Year. The replacement models will be referred to below. In the meantime, there has been little evidence that either the 1936 or 1937 1-Ton chassis were in fact imported. The picture in the 1937 Brochure is of a l.h.d. chassis, and it is therefore not proven that any were imported.
The 1937 Model Brandenburg-assembled Trucks and Coach chassis continued into 1937 Calendar Year, ostensibly being produced until the end of January 1938. The models available were:
23.5 h.p. 3,485 c.c. Side-valve 6-cylinder 2.5 tons/50cwt:.
134" wheelbase chassis model 3,5-34
134" wheelbase chassis with cab model 3,5-34
157" wheelbase chassis model 3,5-57
157" wheelbase chassis with cab and drop-side body model 3,5-57
183" wheelbase chassis model 3,5-83 [coach chassis]
Archer's Commercial Motor Index for 1939 suggests that the 134 inch, the 157 inch and 183 inch wheelbase chassis were called the "134 IN", "157 IN" and "183 IN" respectively, and there was also an additional model:
23.5 h.p. 3485 c.c. 6-cylinder 3 tons/60cwt. "3-Tonner", Model 3,5-36.
3 Ton/60 cwt. with the same engine, Overall chassis length 17 ft. 8 in., Chassis weight 34 cwt., 11 ft. 10 in. wheelbase. The explanation was that the 2½-Ton chassis were discontinued, and replaced by a new 3-Ton Truck line, the 3 Tonner, with the same engine. In addition, the Bus chassis, was replaced for 1937 by an interim 3-Tonner Model 3,5-47 or Model 9V, with the same engine as the truck chassis, but with a 183 inch wheelbase chassis with a new engine.

The new additions to the line-up for 1937 were as follows:
The new 1-Ton chassis was equipped with a 1.5 Litre, 4-cylinder model with a 96 inch wheelbase, 2,400 m.m., available as a Chassis, Chassis with Cab, or Panel Van. There was also a 2.5 litre version, with a 6-cylinder engine, available as a Chassis, Chassis with Cab, or Chassis with Cab and dropside lorry body with or without tarpaulin. However, this design, which was apparently intended for the U.K. market, was never in fact executed and the 1 Ton chassis continued as before into 1938 Model Year, i.e. the Model 2,0-12 with 2-Litre engine. These details above refer to an Opel van of a design which seems at first glance to anticipate by several years vans with engines mounted between the front seats to allow a forward-control arrangement. However, the vans never went into production so far as is known, and they were only intended for the British market! There are no details of the proposed vans other than those contained in the brochure which was printed in Russelsheim and distributed to Opel dealers in the U.K. for 1938 Model Year, so was probably sent out at least by February 1938. Note that the engines used were the 1938 Olympia 4-cylinder unit and the 2.5 litre Super Six 6-cylinder unit. It appears that General Motors Limited were involved with Russelsheim to have designed and produced especially a van which can only have had a limited market if imported solely into the U.K. However, it makes much more sense if the design was intended for assembly in the Southampton Plant, and then exported. However, none were ever produced, and the whole project seems to have been cancelled and forgotten until now!

Before the 1937 Commercial Motor Exhibition in November 1937, the Opel engines were changed in the 3-Tonner range, and the models were improved and launched with a new 3.6 Litre overhead valve engine in three wheelbase lengths, the new models being the 3,6-36; 3,6-42 and 3,6-47, with chassis prefixed 6W-; 7W- or 8W- respectively. The engines were based on the 1937 Chevrolet engine, but with metric measurements and thus slightly different bore and stroke from the North American engines. The 1937 3-Tonners were available as a Chassis, Chassis with Cab, and Chassis with Cab and Dropside Body with or without tarpaulin, as before, in either 136 inch or 142 inch wheelbases. The Coach chassis, Model 3,6-47 had a 183 inch wheelbase chassis with a double drop frame, though.

At the 1937 London Motor Show, General Motors Limited exhibited various Opel cars as concessionaires for Adam Opel A.G. By then, the Parts and Service Department were advertised as being at Corney Road, Chiswick, London W.4, next to Lep's transport depot. The cars exhibited were:
1. 1. 11.3 h.p. 4-cylinder "Cadet" Standard Saloon [1938 1,1 Liter Kadett normal Model KJ38], £135.
2. 2. 11.3 h.p. "Cadet" Drophead Saloon, £143.
3. 3. 11.3 h.p. 4-cylinder "Olympia" Saloon de Luxe [1937 1,3 Liter Olympia Model 13237], £168.
4. 4. 2½ Litre 6-cylinder "Super Six" Foursome Drophead Coupé [1937 or 1938 2,5 Liter Super Six Model 25104], £265.
1937 and 1938 Models were prefixed serial number 104-, but there were also 1938 Models prefixed 104A- up till the end of production at the end of April 1938.
5. 3.6 Litre 6-cylinder "Admiral" Cabriolet [1938 3,6 Liter Admiral Model Ad38], £485.
6. Opel Special "Olympia" made of Plexi-Glass. This enabled a view of the inside construction of the car through specially constructed glass body. This might have been 1937 Model 1.3 Litre Olympia Sedan Motor Number S-29, Chassis number S-1. This car was destroyed in the Wien [Vienna] Opel dealership during the War.
Note that the Admiral, which was comparable with a Chevrolet or large Vauxhall, was offered on the market in the U.K. for the first time, though incomparably better engineered than either the Canadian or British offerings.

At the 1937 Commercial Motor Exhibition, General Motors Limited exhibited imported G.M.C. trucks and through Oldsmobile Distributors Limited, Oldsmobile trucks, all sourced from Pontiac, Michigan, Plant. These competed in various ways with Opel trucks. The Opel exhibits were as follows:
1. 1. 8-10 cwt. Van [1938 1,1 Liter Lieferwagen model 1196]; Treasury rating 11.3 h.p; price, complete, £150.
2. 2. 2.3 ton chassis 3,6 Liter 3 Tonner 3,6-36 S-Type [Short Chassis] and 3,6-42 N-Type [Long Chassis]; prices of short chassis were £250 and long chassis £265.
3. 3. 3 ton Truck, chassis details as above, but fitted with drop-side body.; Price, complete: Short chassis £310; Long chassis £330.
4. 4. 3 ton Luton Van; chassis, details as above, but fitted with Luton body; price: chassis only £265.
5. 5. Coach Chassis [3,6 Liter 3-Tonner model 3,6-47 Bus Chassis]; price of chassis, £295
There is no evidence of any subsidy as mentioned above.

1. 8. THE 1938 MODELS

The 1938 Opel cars were actually announced in February 1938 to coincide with the Berlin Show. For 1938, the model range was completely revised, although the 2½ litre Super 6 was only produced until the end of April 1938. The 3.6 litre Admiral had in fact been introduced to the U.K. market at the London Motor Show and was carried forward. As to the Cadet (Kadett) and Olympia models, new editions were launched and were marketed at "unusually low prices", i.e. at a subsidised price.

The Opel line up started as before with the Cadet. The bottom of the range was the Cadet Standard Saloon with a 4 cylinder 1.1 litre side valve engine Rated at 11.3 h.p.: his was in fact the model Kadett Normal. Supplementing the base model, were 3 Master Kadett types (Kadett Spezial) all of which had independent front suspension of the Dubonnet type. The engines and wheelbases of these cars were similar to the standard and the chassis was of the composite type introduced by Opel two years previously. However, the latest models were distinguishable from the previous models by the entirely new front end, which combined streamlined mounting of the headlamps with a modern treatment of the radiator cowl. There were three main body types on this chassis: Saloon, Drophead, 2 door and Saloon 4 door, obtainable in de Luxe form with leather upholstery. All had safety glass, built in luggage trunks and trafficators. The Olympia models were next and incorporated a completely redesigned chassis. The engine of the car was entirely new and had been increased from 1.3 litres to 1.5 litres and had overhead valves as against side valves. The new bodywork reflected the Kadett design with an entirely new front end combining the streamlined mounting of the headlamps with modern treatment of the radiator cowl. There were three main body types on the chassis:- Saloon, Drophead 2 door and a Saloon 4 door. These could also be obtained in de luxe form with leather upholstery, though all models had safety glass, built in luggage trunks and trafficators. Prices: Kadett 1.1 litre, Kadett Standard Saloon £135. Kadett Master 2 door Saloon: £149.10.00, Kadett Master 2 door Drophead Saloon £159.10.00, Kadett Master 4 door Saloon £159.10.00, Master de Luxe models £15 extra. Olympia 1.5 litre 2 door Saloon £180. 2 door Drophead Saloon £190, 4 door Saloon £195, de Luxe model £16 extra. 2.5 litre Super Six 2 door Saloon £215. 4 door de Luxe Saloon £235. Foursome Drophead Coupé £265. 3.6 litre Admiral de Luxe Saloon £440, de Luxe Cabriolet £485.

General Motors Limited imported and distributed the 1938 Model Opel commercial car range, which was varied as a consequence of the new models introduced, starting from February 1937 onwards. No 1,5 Liter/ 2,5 Liter forward control vans/chassis were imported, and as mentioned before the 1937 Models intended to be replaced carried on into 1938 Calendar Year. The line-up for 1938 was as follows:

1. 1. 8/10 cwt. 1,1 Liter Lieferwagen model 1196 or 11.3 h.p. 1.1 litre van, with a 4-cylinder sidevalve engine based on the Kadett Normal/ Cadet Standard. Price £150.
2. 2. 1-Tonner Model 2,0-12 with the 2-Litre 6-cylinder engine as before, prefixed 2V-, production ended early 1938. The old Tonner was available as a Chassis, Chassis/Cab, Chassis with Cab and dropside lorry body with or without tarpaulin, or Panel Van, built in Brandenburg.
3. 3. 1-Tonner Model 1,5-29 or 15.9 h.p. 1-Ton/20 cwt. truck chassis with a 4-cylinder overhead valve engine of 80 x 74 m.m. based on the Olympia Chassis prefixed 2W-. The 1-Tonner was available as a Chassis, Chassis with Cab or Panel van, built in Brandenburg.
4. 4. 1½-Tonner Model 2,5-32 or 23.8 h.p. 1 ½-Ton/30 cwt. truck chassis with a 6-cylinder overhead valve engine of 2.5 Litres. Price of chassis £185. Chassis prefixed 3V-. The 1 ½-Tonner was available as a Chassis, Cab/Chassis, or Panel van, built in Brandenburg.
5. 5. 3-Tonner Model 3,6-32 or 30.1 h.p. 3-Ton/60 cwt. truck chassis with a 6-cylinder overhead valve engine of 90 x 95 m.m. Rated at 30.1 h.p. based on the Admiral engine; price of chassis £250. Chassis prefixed 6W-.
6. 6. 3-Tonner Model 3,6-42 as before but Chassis overall length 20 ft. 11½ in.; price of chassis £265. Chassis prefixed 7W-.
7. 7. 3-Tonner Model 3,6-47 as before, but 26/30 Seater bus chassis as before but overall length 24 ft. 1 ½ in. Chassis price £295. Chassis prefixed 8W-. However, the bus chassis were apparently still being bodied and registered into 1939!
The 3-Tonner range was available as a Chassis only, 3-man Cab/Chassis, Luton van or Dropside Lorry in each case.
It can thus be seen that the commercial car lines used the car line petrol engines, and thus it was possible to cater for common spare parts and consumables for both lines.

Opel cars were exhibited for the last time before the war at the October 1938 London Motor Show. The Motor 12 October 1938 commented that the Rüsselsheim factory was placing three cars on the British market for 1939, two with engines of 1 litre capacity and one with a 1,488cc engine. In each case bodies were available as saloon of Cabriolet types, two door bodies being used on the cheaper chassis and four door on the most expensive. Cabriolet bodies were of the type in which the sides of the steel body remained in position and the fabric top rolled down to the rear end of the car. These cars were notable for the striking treatment of the front end, in which the headlamps were built into the wing and radiator assembly with composite construction.
The show exhibits were:
1. 1. 11.3 h.p. 4-Cylinder "Cadet" Master Saloon [Kadett spezial 1,1 Liter Model K 38]; price, complete as shown, £159 10s.
2. 2. 11.3 h.p. 4-Cylinder "Cadet" Standard Saloon, [Kadett normal 1,1 Liter Model KJ 38]; price, complete as shown, £135 ex-depot.
3. 3. 15.9 h.p. 4-Cylinder OPEL "Olympia" Drophead, [Olympia Model 1,5 Liter Olympia Ol 38]; price complete £182 10s.

The Autocar added further data on all of the available models in their 14 October 1938 issue:
11.3 h.p. Cadet Standard, Tax £9: price £135.
11.3 h.p. Cadet Standard, Tax £9: prices £149 10s to £174 10s.
15.9 h.p. Olympia, Tax £12: prices £180 to £211.
30.1 h.p. Admiral [Model 3,6 Liter Admiral Ad 38], Tax £22 10s; prices £440 to £485.


Opel 8W coach chassis proved extremely popular with bus and coach companies, and were bodied by various Coachbuilders. However, the vast majority it seems were registered in 1938, with a few in early 1939. There is no evidence yet that any 1939 Model Opel commercial vehicles were imported in any numbers. The registration evidence suggests that all 1939-registered cars were 1938 Models as well.

The Port of Southampton had been used as the port of disembarkation for Opel cars and commercial vehicles for some time. With the completion of the assembly plant, the operations changed emphasis. Commercial Motor 4 November 1938 under "General Motors New Factory", stated that General Motors Limited had completed on 31 October, its arrangements for concentrating wholesale activities in its newly constructed factory in Southampton. The new premises covered an area of 237,000 square ft. The company planned, its said, to assemble Chevrolet goods chassis and commercial bodies, whilst the plant would also be the distribution centre for Opel commercial vehicles. The Motor 4 November mentioned that the then newly-constructed factory built for General Motors Limited at Southampton now housed the administrative side of the business, and it was intended to assemble Chevrolet trucks and commercial vehicles under the same roof. It would also be the distribution centre for the Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Opel cars. The new plant had excellent quayside connections and a railway service. Commercial Motor 23 December 1938 mentioned that then-new Southampton factory was the 20th big-scale assembly plant built for G.M. since the inauguration of an assembly plant in Copenhagen 15 years previously [General Motors International]. A new standard type of commercial vehicle would, it was stated [by General Motors Limited] be produced at a later date. This last comment is open to interpretation, but may have meant to refer to Opel chassis?

The Motor published their "1939 New Car Review" in a series of issues starting from 24 January 1939 and running over many weeks. In the issue covering models up to £150, the cars featured were Austin 7, FIAT 500, Ford 8 h.p. and Prefect, Morris Eight Series E, Opel Cadet Standard, Renault 8 h.p., Singer Bantam and Standard Flying Eight. Of these, the Opel, Renault "copy" and the Morris used all-steel chassisless construction, and the FIAT was the smallest car on the U.K. market and apparently subsidised in the export market as was the Opel. [Note that the Morris and Opel were designed with unitary construction with the benefit of the Budd patents, whereas the Renault of course was not!]. The Opel Cadet was the biggest car for the money available in the price range reviewed, "a 12 h.p. model with an 8/9 h.p. capacity". This was because the Cadet engine was rated at 11.3 h.p. but the engine was only of 1,100 c.c., annual tax being £9. The price for '39 was £135 whereas the Master model with independent front suspension as against the semi-elliptic springs fitted to the Standard was £149 10s. All-steel chassisless construction was used for rigidity, and the car stood up to rough usage without developing rattles.
The Standard was a 2-Door saloon type with an enclosed luggage space behind a hinged squab. Equipment was basic, namely a single windscreen wiper, front bumper and small hubs as against the Master's large disc-type hubs. Both cars were 4-seaters though. The Master version was a de luxe saloon with independent front suspension, a better steering lock and better equipment which included dual electric windscreen wipers, a better steering lock and no-draught ventilation, and front and rear bumpers on the 4-Door saloon version. Both cars used hydraulic brakes.
The 3-speed gearbox in both cases lacked synchromesh, but the gear change was nevertheless easy. The top gear ratio was 5.41: 1, and second 8.89:1. There was a good power-to-weight ratio that gave liberal flexibility, second being low enough for most hills. First was 18.09:1, incidentally.
In addition to the 2-Door saloon there was also a cabriolet which had a fabric roof and permanent body sides and cantrails.
1.1Litre Cadet [Kadett] with 4-cylinder sidevalve engine of 67.5 x 75 m.m., 1,074 c.c., rated @ 11.3 h.p. producing 24 b.h.p. @ 3,400 r.p.m. Tax £9.
Engine: sidevalve type with a 3-bearing crankshaft; pump and fan cooling; Bosch coil ignition [6-volt 70 a.h. battery]; Bosch plugs; Opel downdraught carburettor; 5 ¾ gallon rear petrol tank with mechanical pump feed. Firestone tyres of 4.75 x 16 in. on disc wheels.
Prices: Standard Saloon £135
Master 2-Door Saloon £149 10s
Master 2-Door Drophead Saloon £159 10s
Master 4-Door Saloon £149 10s
Master de luxe models, £15 extra

The Motor 7 February 1939 issue referred to the 1.5 Litre Olympia. Reference was made to the "fine front-wheel suspension" and the "square" engine Rated at 15.9 h.p., with a tax liability of £12 although the capacity was only 1½ litres. The engine was an overhead valve unit which developed 43 b.h.p. at 3,400 r.p.m., giving an outstanding power-to-weight ratio and an unusually flexible top-gear performance plus "snappy" acceleration. The body was of all-steel construction and hydraulic brakes and safety glass were fitted all around. Wide doors gave easy access and no-draught ventilation was standard. Also featured were double-sprung cushions and liberal leg and elbow room plus a large luggage compartment in the tail accessible by moving forward the rear seat squab. There were three body styles, standard 2-Door saloon with hinged front-seat squabs and wide doors, 4-Door saloon and drop-head saloon. The latter had permanent side panels and cantrails but the whole of the head or top could be furled back to just above the waistline. Equipment included electric dual windscreen wipers, sun visor, direction indicators, and two glove pockets, front and rear bumpers on the 4-Door salon and 6-volt Bosch electrical equipment with automatic voltage control. The de luxe versions of the Olympia had the more lavish equipment listed for £16 extra.
1.5 litre Olympia with 4-cylinder o.h.v. engine of 80 x 74 m.m., 1,488 c.c., Rated @ 15.9 H.P producing 43 b.h.p. @ 3,400 r.p.m. Tax £12.
Engine: o.h.v. type with a 4-bearing crankshaft; pump and fan cooling; Bosch coil ignition [6-volt 85 a.h. battery]; Bosch plugs; Opel downdraught carburettor; 7 gallon rear petrol tank with mechanical pump feed. Tyres of 5.25 x 16 in. on disc wheels.
2-Door Saloon £180
2-Door Drophead Saloon £182 10s
4-Door Saloon £195
De luxe models, £16 extra

The Motor 14 February reviewed the "Super Six" model, and published a drawing of the front passenger side view of the interior. The salient features, they said, of the 2 ½-Litre Opel Super Six were its high power-to-weight ratio giving good acceleration and performance, independent front-wheel suspension with semi-elliptic springs at the rear, spacious bodywork and comparatively economical running. It was the biggest car in the price range reviewed. The engine had overhead valves, Rated at 24 h.p., producing 60 b.h.p. at 3,600 r.p.m. The crankshaft was a 4-bearing unit, and the electrics were 6-volt with centrifugal ignition advance-retard control. The gearbox was a three-speed unit with a rather high top gear, though the "square" engine gave good flexibility and acceleration. Brakes were hydraulic, and the rear springs synchronised with the front ones, controlled by hydraulic shock-absorbers and a stabiliser bar.
The body styles were a 2-Door four-light and 4-Door six-light saloon, plus a foursome drop-head saloon de luxe. The coupe gave full opening: the lower windows lowere7d, except for the front quarter ventilator panels. When closed, the car had full saloon comfort.
2.5 Litre Super Six with 6-cylinder overhead valve engine of 80 x 82 m.m., 2,473 c.c., Rated @ 24 h.p. producing 60 b.h.p. @ 3,600 r.p.m. Tax £18.
Engine: overhead valve type with a 4-bearing crankshaft; pump and fan cooling; Bosch coil ignition [6-volt 72 a.h. battery]; Bosch plugs; Opel downdraught carburettor; 8 ¾ gallon rear petrol tank with mechanical pump feed. Tyres 5.50 x 16 in. on pressed-steel wheels.
2-Door Saloon £215
Foursome drophead coupé £265
4-Door de luxe saloon £235

The Motor 25 April 1939 referred to the Opel Admiral selling at £440.
Kapitan: 2.5 Litre with 6-cylinder overhead valve engine of 80 x 82mm, 2,473 c.c., Rated @ 24 h.p. producing 60 b.h.p. @ 3,500 r.p.m. Tax £18.
The Kapitan was the 2,5 Liter Kapitän Model Kpt 39. The engine was essentially the same as the Super Six, though the Kapitan was a completely revised all-steel car of modern styling. No price was referred to in the magazine, though.
3.6 Litre Admiral, 30.1 h.p., Tax £22 10s, 6-cylinder 90 x 95 m.m., 3,626 c.c. producing 86 b.h.p. @ 3,200 r.p.m. [Admiral Model Ad 38]. Engine: overhead valve with 4-bearing crankshaft (6-volt 88 a.h.); 15 gallon rear tank (17 m.p.g.) 3-speed synchromesh gearbox. Ratios: 4.3 : 1; 7.1 : 1 and 12.64 :1. Top speed 85 m.p.h. Suspension "Dubonnet" type front with rear semi-elliptic springing. Tyres: 6.50 x 16 in.
Dimensions: wheelbase 10 ft. 4 in.; track 4 ft. 9 1/16 in.; length 17 ft. 3 in.; ground clearance 7 ½ in.; turning circle 41 ft. 3 in.
De luxe Saloon £440
De luxe Cabriolet £485


There does not appear to have been any official announcement of the cessation of imports through Southampton. The only hard evidence therefore is known registrations from County and County Borough archives. The last car registrations known were in March 1939, and that includes Southampton County Borough. The last trucks were registered just after war broke out. Comparison of truck serials has shown that there was a batch of 1938 Models that was delivered through Southampton, all in sequential order. These took months to sell, and the best estimation is that all importation for the domestic market had ceased in the spring of 1939.

The advantage of the registration evidence is that it is possible to establish how long these 1938 Models were used on the roads. Apart from a handful of cars that have survived into preservation, the majority appears to have been used until 1959, with a few as late as 1962. It has not been possible to establish how long the commercial vehicles were used for, as the Ministry of Transport requisitioned trucks. However, a Southampton-registered 1938 Model 1.5 Tonner platform lorry, registration BOW 275, was bought new by a Charles Westal of 41 Braeside Road, Bitterne, Southampton, and then requisitioned. This truck served with the local fire services during the War, and was finally scrapped by 4 April 1944. Another Opel truck used by the local fire services was EYW 254, sold originally in London, and a car, FGC 879, which may have been used for towing reels with hoses. Opel bus chassis bodied in the U.K. served with distinction as essential transport in rural areas including Scotland.

As petrol was rationed during the war, cars and trucks were converted to run on Producer Gas created by cooking coal. Trailered or car-mounted systems were used to power large American cars that were in demand for the towing of water tanks, hose reels, etc. Another alternative source of power was conversion to electric power! An Opel Olympia was converted to electric power by British Electric Vehicles Limited and tested by various motoring magazines.


By comparison with the Allied production, assembly by Adam Opel A.G. continued until 1944, the two factories being subject to allied air bombardment. Cars were also produced during the war as follows:

1,1 Liter Kadett Spezial Model K38-
1,1 Liter Kadett Normal Model KJ-38
both in 1940 Model Year, 376 and 899 being produced respectively.

The other cars produced in 1940 were the 2,5 Liter Kapitan Model Kpt-39 with the 2.5 Litre 6-cylinder engine: 952 were produced in 1940.

Kadett Standard KJ38: 3 [1942]; 2 [1943]
Kadett 38: 4 [1943]
Olympia 38: 2 [1943]
Kapitan 39: 3 [1943]

On the commercial vehicle side, the following vehicles were produced:

1,1 Liter Lieferwagen Model 1196 [1940: 410 ]
1,5 Liter 1 Tonner Model 1,5.29 [prefix 2W-] [1940: 379 ]
2,5 Liter 1 ½-Tonner Model 2,5-32 [prefix 3V-] [1940: 1,678; 1941: 3,485; 1942: 604]

3,6 Liter 3-Tonner Model 3,6-36 [prefix 6W-]
3,6 Liter 3-Tonner Model 3,6-42 [prefix 7W-]
3,6 Liter 3-Tonner Model 3,6-47 [bus] [prefix 8W-]
3-Tonner production was in total: 1940: 17,605; 1941: 15,947; 1942 18,262; 1943: 23,232; 1944: 16,146.

Brandenburg plant assembled all 3-Tonner Blitz models, and 1941/2 Model 1½-Tonners

In addition to the conventional 4 x 2 trucks, Opel also produced at Brandenburg the 3,6-Liter 3-Tonner Allrad [4-wheel drive] Model 6700 Typ A, prefix 1Z- which were produced to military specifications. Production was as follows:
1940 Serial # Br1Z-1 to Br 1Z-419; Engine # 40 Br-1 to 40Br-333
1941 Serial # Br1Z-420 to Br 1Z-4815; Engine # 41 Br-340 to 41 Br-4733
1942 Serial # Br 1Z-4816 to Br 1Z-12150; Engine # 42 Br-4725 to Br-7415
1943 Serial # Br1Z-1233 to Br 1Z-19362; Engine # 43 Br-92 to 43 Br-7299
1944 Serial # Br 1Z-19482 to Br1Z-24976; Engine # 44 Br-8 to 44 Br-5634

In addition there were the following Blitz Trucks:

1 Ton Blitz 1,5 Liter Typ 5200: 379 [1940]
1,5 Ton Blitz 2,5 Liter Typ 2,5-32: 1,678 [1940]; 3,485 [1941; 604 [1942]
Blitz 3,6 Liter S-Typ 3 Ton -36: 13,685[1940]; 7,759 [1941]; 9,545 [1942]; 14,585 [1943]; 10.016 [1944]
Blitz 3,6 Liter N-Type 3 Ton -42: 2,601 [1940]; 3,022 [1941]; 1,049 [1942]; 313 [1943]; 282 [1944]
Blitz 3,6 Liter 3 Ton -47 Niederrahmen-Chassis: 900 [1940]; 770 [1941]; 333 [1942]; 1,117 [1943]; 234 [1944]

By comparison, Vauxhalls at Luton, Dunstable and Hendon produced 2,548 cars for the Ministry of Supply, 249,000 trucks and 5,640 Churchill Tanks between 1939 and 1945.


The relationship between Austin, Morris, Rootes Group, and General Motors can be traced back as far as 1922. G.M. Limited enjoyed a fruitful relationship with the Rootes brothers and their various companies from 1923 to the second world war: their dealership was a G.M. car and truck distributor and dealer in London and various other areas, and was also a dealer for components made by AC-Sphinx and Delco-Remy & Hyatt. During the war, the Rootes Group made a considerable amount of money from sub-contract work including manufacture of bodies for assembled military trucks. The relationship with Austin Car Company Limited started in 1920 when Holden's Motor Body Builders in Australia started bodying Austin and FIAT chassis. Holden also bodied Rootes' Hillman chassis in limited numbers from 1927 through 1929 to 1934, and then after the war. This was whilst 60% of Holden's output was devoted to G.M. bodies, and then after 1931, when Holden's and G.M. (Australia) had merged. Bodies for Austins were produced through the depression years, until at least 1936, and only Chevrolet and Buick bodies were produced in greater numbers.

James D. Mooney referred in a speech [7] to "my old friend Lord Austin" who was on the Top Table with him and Lord Nuffield, William Morris. However, Mooney did not reserve such pleasantries for Lord Nuffield. Holden's started bodying Morris cars from 1922, right through to 1934, of course after the merger with G.M. (A.). James D. Mooney had taken over on 1 January 1922 Mooney as Vice-president and General Manager of the General Motors Export Company, and then when J. Amory Haskell resigned on 15 November 1922 as President of the Export Company, Mooney replaced him as President of the Export Company instead and became a Corporation Vice-president. He was subsequently appointed President of the G.M. Export Group, and then ultimately of the Overseas Operations Division. Mooney was also a director of G.M.-Holden's from 1932 through to 1938 at least, and was therefore in ultimate charge of worldwide operations as well as being a director of the Australian operations and thus well-placed to acknowledge Austin and Nuffield. G.M. had tried, and were very close to acquiring Austin in 1925. Mooney had discussed the possibility of buying the company with Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. several times in 1924-25: a 12,000 car a year business in 1924. In 1925, Mooney had advised Sloan that the company could be purchased for $5,495,050. However, some of the directors refused the terms and on 11 September 1925, the offer was withdrawn. "On the rebound", Mooney secured the acquisition of Vauxhall Motors Limited for $2,575,291 some weeks later [8].


However, the inter-relationship between G.M. and Morris started in 1922. Mooney stated [9] that in 1922 he had visited Morris Motors, and inspected the company's operations. Nothing was mentioned in the speech, but it is assumed that G.M. were thinking of acquiring Morris, as they had done in 1919 of André Citröen's Paris operations. William Morris was said to be aggrieved that it was widely rumoured in mid-1923 that Ford was going to buy the Cowley works, which seems to confirm that G.M. did in fact try to buy Morris in 1922. Morris then tried to acquire Austin in turn in 1924, but this was rejected 15 June. Then, G.M. made another offer for Morris after they had Vauxhall, in 1926, as Morris was perceived as a good opening into the British market. G.M. offered £11 million @$4.861 to the £ Sterling, but Morris rejected the offer saying "I should have been selling my country to another country and that I refuse to do so. I should have felt a traitor". [10]

Coincidentally or not, in 1926 G.M. bid with Morris and Austin for the acquisition of the Wolseley Company after it went into receivership. Morris reputedly had no idea that he was bidding against G.M., but he was apparently determined he had no intention of letting Wolseley going to a foreigner, though he had a high regard for the Wolseley cars and its extensive, modern and integrated plant. Morris put in an offer of £600,000 and a deposit of £60,000 was paid over. However, G.M. offered the receivers more than Morris. There then ensued a three-way "Dutch auction", and Morris finally secured the deal at £730,000. Wolseley Motors (1927) Limited stayed in Lord Nuffield's personal ownership until 1935-36 when, with all the other private companies, it was sold to Morris Motors Limited. G.M. never bothered to acquire any more British companies until 1929 when they bought out all of the stock that they did not already own, and then Opel Motors Limited, the dormant company, by 1935. Morris is said to have "always preferred a fight to a merger, but he was always a very fair and open fighter in business." He would always fight, but fight straight. Thus, although he was determined not to sell to G.M., or allow the Corporation to acquire a[nother] British company that he was after, it certainly suited him to deal with the American Budd company, and also, as explained above, with G.M. in Australia.


By 1925, Morris had come to realise the importance of new technical developments in the construction of motor car bodies. He visited the U.S. that year to study what American manufacturers were doing, and concluded that all-steel bodies were the way forward. The Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company if Philadelphia were pioneers in this field and held a number of patents relating to all-steel bodies. Morris arranged that Morris Motors Limited, the Budd Company and J. Henry Schroeder & Co. should together finance and establish a new company, to be called The Pressed Steel Company of Great Britain Limited, to be located at Cowley on a site adjoining Morris Motors. Later, Baring Brothers were invited to associate themselves with the company. Morris Motors eventually put up £500,000 in cash, represented by £200,000 in 6% debentures and £300,000 in 7% cumulative participating Preference shares of £100. Morris Motors was to be issued with £200,000 in Ordinary shares in Pressed Steel, deemed fully paid, as consideration for its goodwill, for advisory services and a supply agreement on a cost-plus-basis. The Budd Company retained the controlling interest in Pressed Steel, which in turn was given the sole right to operate the Budd Company's patents and processes in the U.K.

In 1930, Morris Motors surrendered its shareholding as it was decided that Pressed Steel had to produce bodies for other, non-Morris, companies to attract business from other manufacturers. Morris Motors continued as a debenture holder only until the debentures were finally redeemed in 1949, although the old Morris Motors Limited financial obligations passed to the new company, Morris Motors (1926) Limited. The two Morris directors that had been appointed to Pressed Steel's board resigned in 1930 as well. [11] In 1934, the then Lord Nuffield found that he had at least £20 million to dispose of, because he felt that he began to dislike the prospect of getting more wealthy. He valued the spending power of his fortune, and had no intention of leaving its disposition to others. Ordinary shares in Morris Motors Limited [£2,000,000 nominal value since 1926, consisting of 1 million £1 Shares] represented by far the greater part of his fortune, and the capitals of the various other private companies. On 1 July 1935, Morris Motors acquired Wolseley, M.G. Car Company, representing production of 100,000 cars annually. In October 1936, Morris Commercial Cars Limited, Morris Industries Exports Limited, and SU Carburettor Company Limited were acquired by Morris Motors as well, financed by issuing Ordinary shares to Morris Industries Limited, the vendor, which was Nuffield's holding company. In 1935, Morris Motors' Ordinary Share issue was increased by £269,000 to purchase M.G. and Wolseley, and then in 1936 the Ordinary shares were subdivided in 5s shares. In October 1936, further £381,000 Ordinary shares were created in order to purchase the remaining companies. The Ordinary share capital therefore increased to £2,650,000, of which £2,000,000 represented the original capital of Morris Motors Limited, a considerable under-valuation compared with the real assets. In October 1936, the 5s. shares were converted into stock units to cut down on clerical work. That same month, Nuffield arranged for 2,650,000 5s units to be placed on the market, that is one quarter of the whole issued capital, with Nuffield holding on to the remaining three-quarters. Early in 1937, Nuffield endowed a special trust with 1 million Ordinary stock units in Morris Motors, with annual dividends to go to employees. Nuffield therefore retained a considerable portion of the stock in Morris Motors, and therefore an interest through the Debentures in Pressed Steel. [12]

From 1936, Nuffield became increasingly remote from day-to-day management, and the company was left to the managers to run. Output and profits dipped slightly in the recession of 1938, but recovered and new records were set in the first eight months of 1939. On 22 May 1939, the millionth car left Cowley, the first British factory to reach such an output total. In 1938, Morris acquired Riley Motors of Coventry, because Nuffield "wanted to make sure that an enterprise which had done so much to enhance the prestige of British cars should go on". In 1939, Morris Pressings Branch was established on land adjoining Wolseley's factory on land owned by the Wolseley company because the demand for pressings had increased considerably and because of the broken link with Pressed Steel, the Morris Group felt the need for expansion in its own output. However, it appears that the 1939 Model Morris 10 h.p., introduced at the 1938 London Motor Show, was assembled by Pressed Steel, using the benefits of the Budd patents. The other British cars assembled in a unitary body using only Pressed Steel panels and benefit of patents were the Vauxhall 14 h.p. J-type saloons, though Pressed Steel produced panels for Armstrong-Siddeley, Austin, B.S.A, Daimler, Ford, Hillman, Humber, Lanchester, MG, Morris, Rover, Singer, Standard, and Wolseley. Commer and Morris-Commercial vehicles used pressings in cabs. Nuffield therefore had a personal financial interest in Morris Group, and through the Debenture stock, Pressed Steel. However, Pressed Steel supplied two U.S.-owned companies, Ford and Vauxhall, as well as the Rootes Brothers' Hillman, Humber, Singer, and Commer Cars.

The British motor industry achieved an average profit per vehicle of £20 in 1930, though this reduced to £17 in 1937, while car production increased 130%. Morris's share stabilised at around 29-33% and profits rose accordingly from £700,000 in 1931 to £1,700,000 by 1939. From 1929 to 1939 internal funds provided £4,860,000 for investment in the company and external funds only £650,000, 12% of the total. Total net assets from 1934 to 1938 increased by £3,617,000 to a peak of £11,464,000 in 1938.


(long term) NET PROFITS
MORRIS 3,617,000 11,464,000 2,997,000 4,472,900
FORD 467,000 12,555,000 819,000 1,097,200
AUSTIN 525 5,138,000 1,625,000 2,736,000
STANDARD 1,218,000 1,771,000 565,000 638,300
VAUXHALL 1,506,000 3,055,000 1,589,000 ---
HUMBER 908 2,633,000 103,000 ---

Note Humber was part of the Rootes Group, and figures for the whole group were not available. Overall share in 1939 was 27%, two or three times greater than most of the Big Six except for Austin.

The success of Morris was achieved by finding new products and new ways of selling. Leonard P. Lord, who later joined Austin, was appointed managing director in 1933, and then oversaw the expenditure of £300,000 in 1934 alone on the entire reconstruction of the Cowley works. Morris Motors took advantage of interference with production to introduce new models at the best-selling end of its range, with new cars designed to take advantage of new production methods. The new Morris Eight [8 h.p.] was introduced at the 1934 Motor Show, and the Morris Ten [10 h.p.] in May 1935, and then a new Morris Twelve [12 h.p.] which was much the same as the Ten but with a more powerful engine. The new models were winners, and production leapt to meet expanding sales in 1935. These were then replaced in 1938 by the Morris Eight Series D [1938] and E [1939], Morris 10 Series L [1938] and M [1939], Twelve-Four, Series II and III Fourteen-Six and Twenty-Five. The 14 h.p. had a six-cylinder 1,818 c.c. engine and competed, say, with the Vauxhall J-type, and the Twenty-Five was a 25 h.p. 6-cylinder with 3,485 c.c. engine that competed with the Vauxhall Twenty-Five [GY], Opel Admiral, and Chevrolet offerings. The various series of Morris Eight proved one of the best selling cars ever marketed in the U.K. [13], and was thus arguably the fulcrum around which Morris Motors, and thus arguably the British motor industry turned.

The 1939 Model Eight Series E had a new design 918 c.c. capacity engine rated at 8 h.p., and thus incurred an annual tax liability of £6. The Opel Kadett/Cadet was rated at 11.3 h.p. with a tax liability of £9, both cars having side-valve engines: the Opel's was of 1,074 c.c. Morris Motors managed to keep the prices down from £128 for the 2-door saloon to £149 for the sliding-roof 4-door saloon. The German rival cost £135 for the Standard 2-door to £159 10s for the Master 4-door saloon. In fact, the two marques rivalled each other in model availability as well, with drop-head cars in both cases. It can thus be seen that Nuffield may have perceived a "threat" to the most popular car assembled in the country by German Opels, and with or without his agitation, the press and ordinary citizens alike may have thought that here was a wilful attempt to undermine the British industry. However, there were other rivals as mentioned above and there was no apparent public outcry drummed up against them. The cheapest Ford 8 h.p. was a mere £115, and the FIAT 500 which was also subsidised by the Italian government cost just £120 with an annual tax of £5 5s. The French Renault Eight, with its Opel Kadett-copy unitary construction body was only £140. Other British rivals to these and the Morris were the Singer Bantam from Rootes, a 9 h.p. at £150, the Austin Seven and Big Seven [7 h.p.] from £108 and £137 respectively, and finally the Standard Flying Eight at from £129 to £159. It is therefore hypocritical in the extreme for Morris to have singled out Opels for his "treatment", without reference to, and with wilful ignorance of other non-British cars that rivalled and undercut his own manufactures.


No attempt was made to emphasise or even refer to the Gallic origin of the Renault ["The New Renault Eight Has Got You Taped"], the Italian origin of the FIAT, nor of the Germanic of the Opel, which was instead emphasised as "A Product of General Motors". However, the Morris advertisements stated "If you don't buy Morris at least buy a car made in the United Kingdom". Austin advertisements stated "BRITISH CARS-BEST IN THE LONG RUN", but only in 1939. There was no such patriotic entreaty in the Singer and Standard advertisements, nor even in Morris Motors' owned Wolseley Motors for that matter. Vauxhall could only compete in the low-price class with their cheapest 10 h.p. at £163, which was priced near the Opel Olympia. The 1939 Vauxhall advertisements crowed "DEPENDABILITY-PERFORMANCE-COMFORT-ECONOMY", whereas G.M. Limited's slogan was "PERFORMANCE-ECONOMY-RELIABILITY"! Clearly, the advertising agents were the same or like-minded! There was of course no reference at any time to General Motors in Vauxhall advertisements pre-war.

The reason for the "Buy British" tone is because William Morris fervently believed in protectionism. Morris felt that the continuance of the McKenna Duties, which had been removed by the Labour government in 1924, and then reinstated by the Conservatives in 1925, was politically very uncertain. This from a right-winger who had refused an invitation to stand as Conservative candidate for the City of Oxford in 1924. He wanted to make clearer the case for the retention of the duties, and came to believe from his own experience that British industry required the shelter of protection at that time if it was to be efficient, lower its costs, and compete effectively with the foreign producer. In these sentiments lay his core principles which came to the fore over ten years later. Morris believed that the foreign companies had a generally secure protected home market and were selling vigorously in the British, and in many cases were not competing on a straight cost basis, but dumping. This was certainly the case with General Motors in the period 1920 to 1922 with the disposal of large numbers of unsold U.S.-built Chevrolets, though with the 1922 Models, G.M. turned its export emphasis to Canada, and the apparent benefit of Imperial Preference in exports to the U.K. However, although Canada continued to export large numbers of [McLaughlin-]Buicks with the advent of the 1925 Models, G.M. took the opportunity provided by the temporary abandonment of the McKenna Duties to export much larger numbers of U.S.-built vehicles. Studies of the actual costings prove that even the 1/3rd discount on duties for Canadian imports could not offset the bulk savings on the huge numbers of exported knocked-down vehicles for British assembly. The Canadian motor industry was extremely concerned in 1924 that the abandonment of the McKenna Duties would sound a death knell for their export industry, and yet history has proven that it was not. They just exported to non-British countries instead. Apart from the limited period of dumping that was past history by 1924, there is no evidence that there was any importation at less-than-cost prices in the period to 1930: what did happen is that one after the other U.S. automotive companies fell by the wayside and protectionism was not required: Churchill's budget was intended to raise revenues.

The second issue that Morris was a keen protagonist of pre-1935 was that it was essential for industrialists to provide the public with more information on the value of a private enterprise system otherwise industry's case would go by default in a time when doctrines were being spread that the interests of the working man and ordinary citizen were opposed to that of large businesses. A number of important businessmen led by Sir William Morris as he then was, founded the National Council of Industry and Commerce, the first meeting of which was held on 25 September 1930. When the National Council came to survey its tasks, its own ideals caused it to broaden its basis and include representatives of any citizens who accepted its principal aims of tariff protection with Empire preference. The National Council then formed the League of Industry with Morris as its first President. The objects of the League were set out at its first conference in Leamington Spa in 1932. The objects included:
1. 1. Adoption of fiscal policy capable of meeting the needs of the times and of opening and preserving Empire markets for Empire produce.
2. 2. To secure immediate legislation to provide for a special emergency tariff.
3. 3. To establish an independent economic statutory tribunal to examine and decide which industries should be protected on a permanent basis, and the measure and order of their protection, having regard to the economic well-being of the nation as a whole.
4. 4. The creation between employers and employed of a spirit of co-operation so as jointly to promote and further any proposals for the improvement of their respective industries and the general industry of the nation.
5. 5. To maintain an organisation, free from all sectional control and influence, whose object should be in general and in the widest possible sense to watch over the interests of all of those engaged in industry including agriculture and commerce as a whole.

The League operated on the basis of branches in individual works. Morris always provided the greater part of its finance, and the immediate task was to was to carry out vigorous propaganda in favour of tariffs and in public meetings, manifestos and in conferences, Morris as President "energetically carried out his duties". The 1931 National Government, possibly reeling from the fallout from the Wall Street Crash and the rapid response internationally to establish protectionism as a response to the Smoot-Hawley Act, adopted the principal recommendation of the League, and the extent of tariff protection should be taken out of politics and placed in the hands of those who had no interest in the decisions which they had to make: the Import Duties Advisory Committee, established in 1932 following the 1932 Ottawa Agreement and the passing of the Import Duties Act 1932. [14] Morris fervently believe in Imperial Preference: in 1929 and 1930 alone 90% of British cars exported went to the Empire, and nearly half of those to Australia, and yet even with Imperial Preference, because of the Horsepower rating the U.K, supplied only 10% of Imperial demand [Canada and the U.S. far-outstripped the British industry]. Various overseas selling companies had been set up, mostly by Morris-Commercial or Wolseley, and all between 1927 and 1931. In Australia, however, the importation was by a factory representative in Sydney under the control of N.C. Seeman [15]. Holden's Motor Body Builders were bodying imported chassis, and the complete car were then marketed by Morris New South Wales Pty. Which was purchased by Morris Motors in 1927 from the then private distributor for £100,000 as a rescue package. Difficulties in operating the company independently resulted in the assets of the subsidiary being sold off, and the NSW distribution was thence handled by a private company. With the formation of Morris Industries Exports Limited in 1933, which consolidated all export trading in one company, total Morris sales exports increased from 12% in 1933 to 21% in 1939, or 3,188 cars in 1933 to 108,000 vehicles between 1934 and 1938 or over 38% of total British industry exports. As to individual models, from 1931 the Minor became a substantial part of total exports. However, it took some time for the Eight and Ten to become established overseas, while medium h.p. sales fell especially in Australia which had become a large part of the M.I.E. market. [16]


William Morris was able in 1927 to proudly boast that his cars no longer had any American parts in them, and the slogan of the company became "Buy British and Be Proud of it". He maintained that "every penny spent on materials and labour in car construction helps to swell the volume of British trade and employment…This is something on which we can reflect with a feeling of patriotic pride and is a point that intending purchasers of cars will, I hope, bear in mind". This from a man who had never believed anything but that the market was capable of absorbing more and more cars [17]. However, Morris always seems to have had a "very friendly" relationship with Ford. Even though there was fierce competition, it was apparently always fair competition. In 1928, Henry Ford himself toured the Morris works, and again on his last visit to England. Ford was a self-confessed anti-Semite, and Hitler seems to have been an avid reader of Ford's views and took a lot of pointers as regards Germany's motor industry. Ford was presented with a medal by Hitler in 1938; James D. Mooney being presented with his the year before [18]. There would appear to have been a degree of personal agreement between Morris and Ford which perhaps excused the fact that the Trafford Park, Manchester, then Dagenham factories used imported parts. Morris's beliefs in "British is Best" cannot stand up to scrutiny.

Morris was not the only protagonist of Imperial Trade: by 1928, the Baldwin administration was losing support, and the Press Barons, Lords Beaverbrook and Rothermere were most outspoken of Baldwin's critics. When Baldwin refused to court either newspaper proprietor leading up to the 1929 General Election, Beaverbrook and his Express papers threatened "to bust the Conservative Party unless it toed his laughable line of Empire Free Trade and Isolation". [19] Lord Vansittart claims in his memoirs that in 1937, as the fight against apathy and Germany "waxed hotter", he felt that Beaverbrook was not on his side [20]: this from a committed and virulent Germanophobe.

The World's Carriers [21] stated that the in its peak year, 1929, the Hendon factory of General Motors Limited employed over 1,000 employees, and salaries and wages totalled nearly £200,000 per annum; around £40,000 per year was paid in freight of which 96 % was carried in British ships G.M. Limited paid £300,000 in Import Duty in 1928. Import Duty figures from H.M. Customs and Excise show that in the Customs Year 1927-28, 16,801 vehicles were imported worth £3,150,273, earning £973,987 in net customs duties, and £5,171,749 in Parts & Accessories which brought in £1,557.665 net. In 1928-29, 14,721 vehicles were imported, value £2,794,799 earning £851,200, and Parts & Accessories worth £5,131,737 bringing in £1,607,089. Thus can be seen the percentage of the Import Duty that Chancellor of the Exchequer Churchill had legislated for with the reintroduction of the McKenna Duties in 1925. The figures for the very important April 6 1929 to April 5 1930 period were: 10,355 vehicles, worth £1,908,524, net duties £592,779, and Parts and Accessories: £5,679,084-worth bringing in £1,808,458 of duty! As can be expected, these figures were to drastically drop for 1930-31, with the loss of something over £1 million in duty as a result of the fall-off in demand for imported chassis and components, and the replacement by British-built chassis and components. This is why G.M. Limited aimed for as near 100% British construction as possible: to save a huge amount of money being paid to the Exchequer each year on duties, something that was almost achieved by switching Chevrolet production to Vauxhall Motors' Luton Plant. A rough calculation suggests that total sales of the 1929 Model 30 cwt. Chevrolet chassis alone must have been in the order of £2.5 million gross. Just because a British motor company did not have a British owner did not stop firstly, there being a considerable benefit to the economy, local and national, nor were the McKenna or more correctly post-1925, "New Duties" achieving protection: they earned revenue and the Imperial Preference was beaten by the ability of the U.S. manufacturers to produce at a lower factory-gate price than the Canadians. Until 1935 it was anti-American sentiments because the populace in the U.K. and Australasia blamed the U.S. for the depression after October 1929 that favoured Canadian manufacturers: they responded by claiming that their exports were "British", and "Empire-built", even though they were not. Being blinkered in his views, Morris as self-appointed spokesman for the motor industry became an active political figure in the defence of free enterprise, as he saw it, and the threats of encroachments of growing state power and socialism.

In the early 1930's, Morris financed Moseley's New Party with £50,000 though remained on the sidelines. Nuffield as he then was openly admitted that he believed in government by benevolent dictator. As time went on Nuffield began to champion industrialism and its leadership increasingly occupied his time and energy. The motor trade acknowledged this special position and kept a special place for him as its spokesman. What is not mentioned in either of the two quoted biographies is that Lord Nuffield was a member of two organisations that "kept Berlin in touch with leading members of the ruling classes": the Anglo-German Fellowship and The Link. The former had as members 16 peers and the Governor of the Bank of England, Frank C. Tiarks and a Bank director, Lord Stamp, as well as former MP's, and Lord McGowan, chairman of ICI, trading partner with I.G. Farben. Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, through their subsidiary Nobel Finishes Limited, produced "Dulux" or "Duco" automotive paint for General Motors vehicles [a nitro-cellulose paint having been invented by DuPont and G.M. in the U.S. in 1923: Farben produced the paints for Opel and other German companies and an Australian company manufactured Duco in a factory at Cabarita, N.S.W. [22]]. Another member was Sir William Strang, Chief Political Adviser to the Foreign Office [Sir Robert Vansittart, Germanophobe, was Chief Diplomatic Adviser from 1938 to 1940]. The Link was formed in 1937 as an "independent non-party organisation to promote Anglo-German friendship", and by 1939 The Link had 35 active branches and more than 4,300 members. This organisation boasted the 11th Duke of Bedford and the 2nd Duke of Westminster as members. The leading Nazi official before he was expelled in May 1939 was Dr R.G. Rosel who ran the Anglo-German Information Service, which was a Nazi propaganda channel by another name. [23] Nuffield's pro-German empathy seems to go with his political views, but this did not fetter his belief in protectionism, and Imperial trade. The reason for this arguable dichotomy was because after the National Government had established the I.D.A.C., he felt that the Government had the question of tariffs in hand, and instead turned his attention to notions of patriotism as a type of veiled protection for British motor vehicles.

Whilst not directly relative, when Dr. Hjalmar Schacht was cross-examined at the Nuremberg Trial, a letter was produced in evidence written by a certain Morton, a former citizen of Frankfurt-on-Main, who emigrated to England, a man who was apparently highly respected in Frankfurt. The letter was directed to the Treasury Solicitor in England. Its text included "I last heard from Schacht indirectly. Lord Norman who was then Mr. Montague Norman, Governor of the Bank of England, told me confidentially in 1939 shortly before the outbreak of the war, that he had just come back from Basel where he had seen Schacht who sent me his greetings. Lord Norman also told me that Schacht, who had returned to Germany from Basel, was in great personal danger as he was very much in disgrace with the Nazis." [24]

However, even Nuffield's critics came to recognise the importance of the role that he had come to play in his industry, a role fully confirmed by the campaign against the so-called dumping of subsidised Opel cars. [25] The Economist in their issue of 3 November 1934 [26] referred to Dr Schacht's attempt to make Germany self-sufficient in oil by the [inefficient] conversion of coal into oil, and also the agreement between the British and German Governments regarding the settlement of Germany's debts to the U.K.: in the latter case exporters were advised to continue to proceed with caution in their dealings with Germany and there was no automatic removal of the difficulties in Anglo-German trade. The issue also commented on Lord Nuffield's constant entreaties to buy British cars. The magazine commented that Nuffield was then reiterating almost weekly that it was the patriotic and apparently moral duty of every "Englishman" (sic.) to refrain from buying foreign cars. The magazine stated that they thought it was not clear how far Nuffield's convictions extended in this direction: did he consider all international trade immoral or would he feel justified in purchasing some of his raw materials from foreign countries if he could not get them as cheaply in the U.K.? "We do not gather that he objects to foreigners purchasing cars in this country", they expressed. Was his belief that all countries should be allowed to import, but Great Britain (sic.) alone to export? In the alternative would Nuffield be willing to grant absolution to British motorists who buy petrol from foreigners? Nuffield should expound his system of ethics more fully, as they could not suppose him to mean that the whole duty of an Englishman consisted in his buying British cars.

Evidence of Nuffield's ranting about Opel cars was reported in an issue of The Economist 3 September 1938 [27], one year to the day before war broke out. "A Potentate Protests-Lord Nuffield chose the occasion of the introduction last week-end of his new improved and cheaper Morris Ten [Series M] to deliver more words in season to the powers that be. He was careful to congratulate Mr Chamberlain on his foreign policy, but in the field of fiscal policy he was less commendatory. Protesting against unfair competition from German cars exported to this country under subsidy, he declared that it was impossible for British manufacturers to compete without countervailing aid from their own Government; and he went on to utter a striking threat. If further burdens were placed upon the motor industry by taxation, he would "throw up his hand and walk out." Lord Nuffield is a power in the land, and his stature has not been diminished by the philanthropic disbursement of the Morris millions. Once before he clashed with the Government, over the production of military aircraft. That dispute is now happily ended and Lord Nuffield has lately been called upon to assume an important rôle in re-armament. His latest pronouncement is not, of course, to be taken literally. And in any case it is difficult to see what can or should be done about it. The absorption of the McKenna duties in the general tariff has made possible measures against German dumping, but nobody, not even Lord Nuffield, can say with certainty how much of the cheapness of German cars is due to export subsidies and how much to economies of manufacture. And, although the total revenue of the Exchequer and local authorities from motorists in 1937-38 is estimated at £90,560,000 from all sources, it is by no means certain that it is for the manufacturer, very heavily protected as he is, to raise the alarm. The motorist who pays these sums for the use of inadequate roads is the direct sufferer; and while these disabilities undoubtedly tend towards caution in the buying of motor cars, there is no evidence at all in the trend of new registrations that Lord Nuffield is being taxed out of business."

Wolseley Aero Engines Limited was created as new venture on 27 June 1935, which acquired the Wolseley aircraft engine side of the Wolseley company when Morris Motors bought out the car business. After Hitler came to power, Nuffield became seriously worried over the problem of national defence and at a time when the populace at large was against rearmament, Nuffield was one of the individuals inside and out of the Services who "looked ahead to the need that was to come". In 1935, Nuffield sought an interview with the Air Minister to express his anxiety about the supply of aero engines and the lack of support which he felt Wolseley Aero Engines was receiving from the Ministry. He let it be known that he thought that the Ministry were paying too much for engines, but the response was that as a matter of policy they preferred to rely on existing industry. When he found that his own engines were not wanted, Nuffield offered to make the Pratt & Whitney engines under licence or any other engine that was wanted, but he was turned down. Possibly in a fit of pique, Nuffield decided to close down Wolseley Aero Engines and withdrew Wolseley from the shadow factory scheme to build aero engines that had meant to consist of Austin, Daimler, Rootes, Rover, Standard, Singer and Wolseley. The Ministry's order for 300 Scorpio engines in August 1936 was too late to save the closure. Nuffield then turned to tank design, importing a U.S. tank without turret, etc. so that it passed as a "tractor" under the Neutrality Acts. The first prototype tank was ready by late 1937, and production started in 1938. The reference to aircraft manufacture in the article was to the request by Sir Kingsley Wood, the Air Minister in 1938 for Nuffield to enter aircraft production. The Nuffield Organisation agreed to construct and run for the Ministry a Spitfire production factory with Nuffield as Controller, though at no remuneration from the Ministry as he regarded it as national service. [28]

Lord Nuffield may have believed that he was indeed a "Potentate" in the motor, and perhaps the aircraft industries. However, he was arguably hypocritical in the extreme, and even the time of the Munich crisis, he was not calling for an outright ban on subsidised cars, but rather countervailing duties that were intended to level the playing field by adding duties to negative the effect of any deemed subsidy. Despite Nuffield's protestations and demands action, the inability in practice to actually impose such additional duties lies at his feet: in 1932 the Import Duties Advisory Committee [or Committees since there were also virtually identical arrangements in Australia and Canada, and no doubt other Dominions as a result of the Ottawa Agreements 1932 and 1937] had responsibility for duties and the Committee in the U.K. was free from political control and also industrial magnates.


The Canada-United Kingdom Trade Agreement ["the Ottawa Agreement"] signed in Ottawa 20 August 1932 and effective 13 October 1932 allowed free entry of motor vehicles into Canada under the preference, and may have provided for preferential rates in the reverse direction as covered by the U.K.'s Import Duties Act 1932. The Ottawa Agreement was effective in British law by virtue of the Ottawa Agreements Act 1932, chapter 53.

This was further amended as a result of negotiations between the two Governments at the Imperial Conference in London in the summer of 1936. The Report of the Import Duties Advisory Committee of 2 July 1935 which had reviewed not only Canadian import duties but also all Empire duties [especially Australian] and also the United States' investigated amongst other things the considerable price differential between Canadian and U.S. automobiles had made a number of recommendations to the Canadian Government. As a result, the then Prime Minister, the Honourable Charles Dunning reported to the Ottawa Parliament on 1 May 1936 and consequently to the Canadian people, that the existing tariffs on cars and trucks was to be reduced down to 17.5% except those from British countries, which would be free. As a consequence, and because of concerns at the effect of the 1932 Agreement, the trade negotiations resulted in the second Canada-United Kingdom Trade Agreement ["the Ottawa Agreement"] signed in Ottawa on 23 February 1937, and which was put into effect in the U.K. by the Import Duties Act 1938. The Agreement provided that as regards Motor Cars which were covered by Article 2, "The Government of the United Kingdom undertake that the goods the manufacture of Canada enumerated in Schedule I appended hereto when consigned from any part of the British Empire shall not on importation into the United Kingdom be subjected to duties of customs higher than those specified in that Schedule". In relation to Motor Cars and accessories and component parts, [but not commercial vehicles note] the rate of duty was 22 2/3rds% ad valorem. Automobiles and motor vehicles of all kinds and stated component parts set out in Schedule IV were able to be imported into Canada by virtue of Articles 6 and 7 as being subject to a discount, which was stated to be "free", i.e. duty-free as before. The 1937 Agreement replaced the 1932 one when it came into force, but was limited to 20 August 1940, unless terminated by six months' notice by other Government.

The Import Duties Act 1932 Section 3, established the Import Duties Advisory Committee: it was the Import Duties (Emergency Provisions) Act 1939 which repealed the Committee's statutory footing, and suspended the Committee accordingly. The Committee were empowered to recommend that additional Duty [sometimes referred to as "countervailing duties"] should be charged on goods that in their opinion "were either articles of luxury or articles of a kind which are being produced or are likely to be produced in the U.K. in quantities which were substantial in relation to the U.K. consumption". Section 3 (2) of the Act set out "in deciding what recommendation, if any, to make for the purposes of this Section, the Committee shall have regard to the advisability in the national interest of restricting imports into the United Kingdom and the interest generally of trade and industry in the United Kingdom, including those of trades and industries which are consumers of goods as well as those of trades and industries which are producers of goods".

An elaborate procedure was however laid down for this purpose involving many stages. Representations had to be made to the Committee, advertisements by the Committee of such applications as they received had to be made and the Committee had to have time to consider the recommendations and take evidence. They then had to decide whether or not to make a recommendation to the Treasury or to suspend action or reject the application. The Treasury, when making an Order under the Act had to consult the appropriate Department, e.g. the Board of Trade. The Committee intended to try and foster British trade and to develop new industries in the U.K. In this respect, the Committee could request that the Treasury grant exemptions with the Board of Trade from customs duties in the case of machinery, iron and steel goods, and certain other imports.

There were in fact three members on the Committee, who seem to have worked hard throughout the period to September 1939! However, it must be made clear that the intention was to protect the home market, inasmuch as this did not conflict with the Ottawa Agreements!

The overall effect was that by 1938, although Chamberlain, or other members of the Cabinet were reputedly concerned at the effect of cheap German imports, the threat of introducing heavy tariffs to keep small-engined imported cars out, and that included the FIATs [and in my opinion the Renaults as well], the procedure was so long-winded and subject to potential delays, that it was in practice of no real help and there were no prospects at all of raising a "Chinese Wall" in time.


In November 1935, the Managing Director of G.M.-Holden's wrote to the Australian Prime Minister concerning the possibility of building a quantity of Opel cars to be sold in Australia, which would be approximately 75% Australian manufacture. Hartnett suggested that there would be objections or complaints from U.K. motor car manufacturers as Australia had encouraged the import of German material rather than British. The reply to these objections was that the Opel design allowed a high local-content percentage, and that by purchasing components, more wool was exported to Germany. However, there was concern that the company did not wish to invest the money and then find that they were hindered or handicapped by new legislation, this point being made with the Imperial Conference and a new Ottawa Agreement in mind.

As a consequence of the agreement on tariffs etc. relating to motor vehicles in the second Ottawa Agreement, during 1937 and 1938 an Australian Tariff Board Enquiry took evidence from interested parties relating to complete auto manufacture, though it soon became clear that the major auto companies were against the idea. Representatives from Ford, Chrysler, G.M.-Holden's, the British Industry and the Australian Automobile Manufacturers Association all raised objections. No major automotive companies submitted a proposal for a subsidy on imported chassis in order to promote an Australian motor industry. The British Motor Industry representatives stated that a motor industry required an infrastructure of general and specialised engineering expertise behind it and this was undeveloped in Australia: rather condescending!


If the machinations of the Empire Industries Association, Lord Nuffield, and others who had a vested interest in Empire trade for their own personal and business reasons had no real effect on the cessation of imports of Opels after the spring of 1939, what were the reasons? Certainly the German invasion of Czechoslovakia resulted in popular germanophobia, and yet G.M. Limited never hinted in all of their publicity that Opels were sourced from Germany: "a product of General Motors" was however emblazoned, and the man in the street would have associated General Motors with the U.S.A. Neither did Vauxhall Motors advertise that General Motors owned them: the two marques competed in numerous markets around the world, including the British, and also with other G.M. marques and had done since 1932. G.M. Limited experienced a sharp fall-off in demand for cars in the spring of 1939 and discussed the possibility of sub-letting their Southampton Plant. There had to be another reason, and it started in the winter of 1938/9.

The Motor 31 January 1939 [29] featured an article by the Technical Editor, Laurence Pomeroy Junior, calling for he called "The Mini-motor": a car smaller than the then "baby car", and what we would call the "mini" series. The claim was made that economic necessity might bring forward a smaller car than had been produce previously, not exceeding 6 h.p. when the Austin Seven 7 h.p. was the next step up from a motorcycle and sidecar. The previous year Pomeroy claimed had been of considerable interest to the motor industry as for the first time in 1932 there had been a drop in the number of cars registered. This had been put down to a general decline in trade [the "Roosevelt Recession" had hit the U.S. and to a lesser extent Canada], and although this was true it was a fact that the rate of increase in registrations had been falling off for some time.

@ 144,000 CARS IN 1931
1931-32 + 1.2%
1932-33 +24.8%
1933-34 +20.6%
1934-35 +23.8%
1935-36 +11.2%
1936-37 +8.2%
1937-38 -12.2%

The 1938 sales fell back to little more than the 1935 sales. It was therefore impossible for the motor trade to rely upon a naturally expanding market for its products.

There were roughly 2 million motor cars registered in the U.K., and on average 10% were scrapped each year, so that an output of 200,000 was required to ensure that existing car owners remained so. What should be done to obtain additional owners that in 1937 amounted to 155,000 or so? The answer was ton be sought in discovering if there were many people who could then afford to buy a new car and who had not got one, and if the general level of British income was such that it could support in considerable numbers the smaller and cheaper cars which were most in demand. The well-to-do who did not run a car, or could afford to have two cars instead of one were proportionately few, and so the emphasis centred around the many people who could afford to buy and run a 8-10 h.p. car, and that includes Opels which were priced at the 8-10 h.p. range but had larger engines than the British offerings. Practically the entire growth of motoring in the previous few years had been cars of the 8-10 h.p. type. Gains in registrations in the previous ten years were:
Up to 10 h.p. 420%
11-15 h.p. 9%
16-20 h.p. 68%
Over 21 h.p. 6%

This assessment proves that firstly because Opels were taxed in the 11 h.p. plus range, though priced in the lower, must have suffered in the perception of the buyers as being a "larger" car, and secondly the larger Opels and G.M. cars were in a limited market with minimal scope at any time in those ten years and extrapolating, Southampton-assembled Chevrolets and Pontiacs stood no chance at all on the British market.

The small car was necessary in the U.K. because of a comparatively low average personal income and the comparatively high price of running a car. Pomeroy stated that the high cost of running a car in the U.K. was because of the penal taxation system: the horsepower tax and fuel tax. The S.M.M.T. calculated comparable costs based on a then average of 8,000 miles per year [today although the annual tax is a significant cost for commercial vehicles, it is less important relatively for the car buyer, and yet if anything the burden of fuel taxation has increased disproportionately:

UNITED KINGDOM 12 £26 £1 15s
U.S.A. 27 £7 £0 4s
GERMANY 14 £16 £0 18s
FRANCE 14 £19 £1 2s

In the era before the Volkswagen, the average horsepower would have been influence by German Ford and Opel cars. Chevrolet, Ford, Chrysler, etc would have averaged the Americans'.

Even taking the 8 h.p. car as a minimum, taxation and insurance amounted to £20 per annum and depreciation to about £40 p.a. To this was added £10 p.a. for fuel costs and therefore the basic cost of running a basic 8 h.p. car was about £70 p.a. In the eyes of the prospective buyer, although he or she could afford to purchase an Opel, could they afford to pay the annual running costs of a car in the next bracket upwards?

Statisticians had divided the country into various groups and stated that there were approximately 507,000 families with an income of over £500 per annum and about 2½ million with incomes between £250 and £500 per annum. Out of these 3 million it was suggested that all the first and about half the remainder were in the position to afford the necessary annual expenditure to maintain a car. This was very close to the numbers of registered cars, namely 1,913,100 as at 30 September 1938.

There were other means of checking how nearly the registration of cars corresponded with the type of people expected to be able to run a car. In the Home Counties, 35% of the population had a domestic servant and around 32% ran a car. In the Midlands, 13% or so had a servant, 15% lived in eight-bedroomed houses, and 18% owned cars. In Wales, it was 5% for servants, 7% for houses and 4½ % for cars. In the whole country, there was a close approximation to the ownership of cars at that time to what could be considered possible on an income basis.

If sales were to be increased, then this could be achieved only by selling new cars to people who were previously unable to afford their purchase, and thus the cost had to be brought down. This could be achieved by lowering depreciation and by lowering tax and petrol costs. A 20% saving in the first would have saved £8, and a saving of the same percentage would save only £6, a total of £14. In practice, it was argued, these two reductions were on one side of the same problem as the smaller the car, the more economical it was to run, and the lower its production costs. However, that was not necessarily the case, as improvements in engine design had resulted in overhead valve units, compared with less-efficient sidevalve designs, and four-speed gearboxes were replacing three-speed gearboxes, again affording better fuel economy.

Pomeroy stated that all over the world quantity-produced cars were sold on the basis of pence per pound: the easiest way to make cars lighter was to make them smaller. Reducing wheelbase and decreasing engine size would lower depreciation, improve fuel consumption and reduce taxation and insurance. Taking the then current 1939 Model cars, the 8 h.p. range would then cost 20% less than the 10 h.p., and the 10 h.p. range of cars then cost 15% than the 12 h.p. Pomeroy called for a new sub-8 h.p. car, a 6 h.p. which would sell for £90. "Such a reduction in price will alone ensure tremendous sales, for past experience shows clearly that price and volume are closely related." In 1929, the cheapest 10 h.p. car was priced at £189, and in 1936 £135, though the 1936 Model were nearly ten times that of the 1929 Model. Pomeroy took a leaf out of Nuffield's book: he claimed that the British 6 h.p. car would "ensure the retention of our home and export market in small cars in the face of competition from the German Volkswagen, which will be put on the market next year". The Volkswagen was stated to sell for just under RM1,000, which meant that if it was marketed in the U.K. at a sterling price comparing in price the same ratio to that of "another well-known German imported vehicle" [i.e. Opel Kadett!], it would retail at a little over £100. Using the last known Reichsmark: Sterling average rate of 12.17, the Kdf-Wagen would have been on the market at the equivalent of £82.0.0. or so, and therefore the calculated figure of £100 would have included, as per Opels, import duty at 33 1/3%, shipping, profit margin, etc. and must therefore have involved a hefty subsidy: if the 1938 prices held sway in 1939, the Kadett actually sold at RM1,795, considerably more than the KdF-Wagen was intended to sell at. Although output of the Volkswagen would be initially absorbed by domestic demand, it was a potential competitor that had to be treated with considerable respect. The German Labour Front, the Volkswagen's sponsors, had tremendous resources in money and brains, and the organisation was relieved entirely from both normal commercial anxieties in selling and from other overhead charges. Pomeroy believed that from the viewpoint of the British market and Britain's export trade, the economic case for a British car of around 6 h.p. was clearly established. His "Mini-motor" echoed Alec Issigonis' Morris Mini-Minor and Austin Seven of 1959, although the engine of the 1939 "Mini" would have a capacity of 600 c.c. as against the Austin-design A-series 850 c.c dating to 1955, and would have a power output of 18 b.h.p., practically the same power as a typical 8 h.p. car of 1935-36. However, the 1939 car would out-perform the earlier models because of lighter weight, etc. If Pomeroy had any concerns over the competition from Opels, he would have said so. However, he highlighted the genuine concern that the KdF-Wagen would be so cheap, with levels of subsidy applied to Opels, that it would sell in Britain and by implication in traditional export markets because it was affordable to the proportion of the populace that bought the cheapest cars.

Pomeroy's justified call for cheaper and most importantly affordable [to buy and run] cars lagged considerably behind Germany's efforts. The additional costs on top of the purchase price were meant to have been solved by the introduction of the Volkswagen in Germany, although James D. Mooney had previously tried to persuade Hitler in 1934 that such costs were dissuading German buyers [of Opels] even before the KdF-Wagen was approved as the official "People's Car": see below.

The Motor 7 March 1939 [30] noted that the Motor Legislation Committee of the British Road Federation had sent a memorandum to the Chancellor of the Exchequer urging more taxation reform in view of the then severe competition from abroad "now faced at home and in the export markets". It was pointed out that then, as now, the "present heavy tax burden is handicapping the industry and that motor taxes have shown an excess over expenditure on roads which has become a special tax on motor uses." The memorandum called for conference with the industry so that a thorough investigation could be called.


Any apparent prejudice against German cars was not restricted to Opels: a considerable amount of vitriol was reserved for, and aimed at the perceived threat of the K.D.F.-wagen, the Volkswagen, which Dr. Ing. Ferdinand Porsche had designed to meet a Nazi brief. The first attempts at a "People's Car" was in 1932 when he was in contact with Fritz Neumeyer, head of the Zundapp motorcycle company. Both engineers thought the time was right for a kleinauto, ideal for the owner who wanted to progress from a motorcycle to a car. This idea only reached the prototype stage. The next attempt was Fritz von Falkenhayn, head of the NSU company let it be known that his company was interested in building a volksauto. Porsche designed the Project No. 32 for the NSU company, and three prototypes were built. After Hitler became Chancellor on 30 January 1933, the self-confessed car enthusiast officially opened the 1933 Berlin Motor Show, and took the opportunity to speak out on his grand plan to motorise Germany, and build a network of motor roads or autobahnen along which Germans could travel in their very own cars. The speech sent a shocking message out to the German car industry, as few at the time were interested in a volksauto, though this stimulated Porsche into composing a lengthy paper on such a car which he sent to the German transport ministry after NSU dropped the Type 32.

In January 1934, Hitler addressed the crowds at the Berlin Motor Show, as Führer this time, and talked further of his wish to see a car for the people. Porsche was asked to meet Hitler shortly afterwards, and ordered the Reichsverband der Deutschen Automobilindustrie [R.D.A.], the German motor industry association, to proceed with the scheme with Porsche as designer. The contract that was drawn up between the parties called for three prototypes to be built in ten months, and the cost would be no more than RM900. The R.D.A. then called on the rest of the car industry to become involved with the project, though there was little enthusiasm for the scheme in response. However, Porsche continued regardless, though Hitler had to make a stalling speech at the 1935 Berlin Motor Show as the prototypes were still not ready. Also at the 1934 Berlin Motor Show, Hitler personally ordered the industry to standardise production so that "all the chief parts of any manufacturer's car should be interchangeable with those of all other makes". As part of a broader effort to regulate the Reich economy, the regime formed the Wirtschaftsgruppe Fahrzeuginduatrie or WiGruFa [an Automotive Industry Economic Group] in May 1935: just after the 1935 Show; all members of the R.D.A. as well as companies such as Ford Werke A.G. that were not previously part of the R.D.A. were joined together in the WiGruFa. The WiGruFa acted as a liaison between the Reich government and automobile manufacturers. In addition to overseeing efforts to standardise and rationalise the automotive industry the WiGruFa requested raw materials from the Reich government and distributed allocations to its members based on the contracts it had received. [31]

It was on 12 October 1936 that the three Porsche-designed prototypes were passed over to the R.D.A. for testing, and it was 26 May 1938 when Hitler laid the cornerstone of the new factory at KdF-Stadt [post-war Wolfsburg] in a grand ceremony. In his impressive speech, Hitler referred to the new car not as the "Volkswagen" but as the KdF-Wagen, Kraft durch Freude, for "Strength Through Joy". The idea was that Germans could save up for their car by buying weekly stamps in a Sparkate scheme at RM5 each, 50 stamps to a book, towards the car's total cost of RM990, plus RM50 delivery charge, and RM200 for two-year's compulsory insurance. The average worker's wage was little more than RM200-300 per month [£16 to £24 at the average exchange rates, which cannot give a correct impression], though 336,638 people signed up for the scheme, generating RM268 million for the Government! The figure quoted was for the basic regular saloon, but a sunroof model and cabriolet were also available at extra prices, with the sunroof [the majority electing this model] was RM60 extra. However, not a single card-payer, and there were savers who had reached their target, ever received their cars. Until August 1940, a grand total of 54 KdF-Wagen saloons had been built, plus six cabriolet cars, and all were used for testing purposes or handed to high-ranking officials. Official production started 11 July 1941, with first cars delivered 3 September, and final production was 7 August 1944 after 630 saloons and 13 cabriolet cars had been built for the military or government departments. There is no evidence that exports were ever intended, as this might have been possible given the incredible demand for domestic production, and any would have earned foreign currency [32]. However, the posturing as mentioned below about a German fifth-columnist in the shape of a modern Model T Ford was merely that, and totally without justification.

The Motor 7 March 1939 [33] mentioned that if the Volkswagen was marketed in the U.K., then despite its then 986 c.c. engine, it would be Rated at a hefty 13 h.p. because its engine measured 70 x 74 mm, representing a Tax charge of £9 15s [£9.75]. Thus Pomeroy's concerns over the perceived threat over the Volkswagen must be wrong: the 13 h.p. rating would, as with the Opels, be perceived as a more expensive car to run than 8 h.p. British cars that cost more to purchase new. Pomeroy was the Technical Editor of the magazine, and it is suggested that he did not make a rated horsepower calculation because he did not have the figures in front of him, and the magazine corrected themselves quietly when they had the correct information.


Although the KdF-Wagen was of no practical threat to foreign manufacturers, it was not the only car that could have been a volksauto. General Motors World, June 1934 [34] referred to James D. Mooney's discussions with Hitler on 1 May 1934. Mooney was in Berlin at the time on a European trip, and apart from visiting Berlin, he also visited London. The 1 May was celebrated as the first anniversary of the German "New Deal" under Hitler's guidance [not to be confused with Schacht's New Plan of September 1934]. Mooney was invited to see Hitler's landing at Tempelhof airfield, and the triumphal motorcade to the Chancellery. The next day, Mooney was invited to meet the Chancellor and was accompanied by Ronald K. Evans and R.A. Fleischer of Opel. They discussed the automotive industry in Germany, and Opel's important place in it as the leading manufacturer of cars. Hitler characterised the 1.2 litre Opel [the Model P-4] as his conception of the true Volkswagen, the car for the German masses. The G.M. men apparently thought that this was welcome news as many interpretations of what Hitler would consider a Volkswagen had leaned towards a baby or cyclecar class vehicle, as per Porsche's first attempt through NSU. Hitler definitely stated that any car giving less package size and less performance than the 1.2 litre Opel "would be an imposition upon the German people". Hitler estimated that using the U.S. as a standard, Germany should have 12 million cars, but realised that the difference in conditions would make 3 million more logical.

In a discussion on how to benefit more German families to enjoy the benefits of car ownership, Dr. Fleischer demonstrated to Hitler that whilst the buyer paid only RM1,880 for the 1.2 litre Opel saloon [RM12.80 = £1 Sterling official rate, so say £150], he had to spend an additional RM7,700 in operating costs during the expected seven years of use. Simply reducing the acquisition cost would not make much wider use of cars that Hitler was calling for. The Chancellor then admitted that this was valid, and said that he would definitely see to it that operating costs were reduced. There was no logic in a small and dark garage costing RM30-40 per month when comfortable furnished rooms were available at RM25. To bring down garaging costs, he promised to rescind the rigid building regulation regulations relating to garages, as well as making street parking legal. Hitler also asked that Opel's experience with car insurance be placed at his disposal as he thought insurance costs could also safely be cut. He also mentioned the possibility of reducing gasoline taxes and prices to accelerate Germany's motorization. The German concern of IG Farben built a synthetic oil plant to convert coal into gasoline after devising its own hydrogenation process. However, it was hopelessly uneconomic: "Leunabenzin", as it was called, was ten times the cost of imported fuel and by 1937 required subsidies. [35] After the interview, all automobile operating laws were taken out of the hands of local authorities and placed under federal control, and were to be liberalised and made more uniform in Germany.

The Berlin Motor Show in February 1935 saw the launch of the introduction of the 1.3 litre Opel Olympia, with its unitary construction body. The new model was evidently viewed by Hitler as well as by the German Minister of Propaganda, Dr. Joseph Goebbels. General Motors World April 1935 [36] published a photograph of Goebbels being shown the car by Domestic Sales Manager for Opel, Adam Bangert. There was also a photograph of Hitler inspecting the Opel bus. The Opel stand at the show had maps of Germany and then world showing the location of Opel dealers: African countries on the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coasts seem to have been indicated. The new Olympia was to sell at RM2,500, between the 1.2 litre and standard 1.3 litre 97 inch wheelbase series. However, the new Olympias were not to be available on the market until May 1935.

General Motors World January 1937 announced the new Opel Kadett/Cadet/le Cadet, shown first at the Export Sales Meeting at Rüsselsheim in early November 1936, and which made a "highly favourable impression upon the representatives of the overseas plants". On 3 December the Kadett was displayed and introduced to the German press at a large reception in Berlin. Within eight days after the car had been shown to the German dealer organisation, 6,000 orders for Kadett models had been received at Rüsselsheim, a figure never before equalled on any new model in a similar period after its introduction. The new Kadett was to fit between the P-4 and the Olympia which sold at RM1,000 [£175 in the U.K. list price], which suggests that the quotation of the price was wrong: it should have been RM1,175 although RM1,000 was the intended selling price of the KdF-Wagen. If the price quoted had been correct then this presents an interesting scenario: Adam Opel A.G. being able to actually sell the most basic Kadett at the price of the Volkswagen, then British motor industry should have been very concerned along with many other countries. That this is never likely to have been achieved is because of the power of the National Labour Front as sponsors of the KdF-Wagen.


James D. Mooney states that two German representatives travelled to New York in the autumn of 1936 to plead that G.M. put up $1,000,000 to finance Adam Opel's own rubber requirements in Germany as demanded by a newly-introduced government ruling. G.M. put up the money, but only after receiving assurances that the expenditure would be liquidated by means of barter transactions and exports of Opel cars and trucks. One of the two representatives was an Adam Opel director from 1935, and President of the company, Professor Dr Karl Lüer, who was appointed Chairman of the company in 1942 [37]. R.K. Evans was General Manager of Adam Opel at the time.

The U.S. economics magazine Business Week 25 June 1938 [38] published an item of major significance. It was stated that for some time previously, there had been private concerns at the threat to Imperial trade by German imports, and also the worsening political situation. The Ottawa Agreement had been signed in June 1937, and had given effect to the preference for British Empire goods, and also to British goods, which could enter duty-free. The magazine commented that British business was "shocked" when the U.K.'s import business in cars for the first four months of 1938 were revealed, confirming that imports from Germany had trebled 1937's "fairly large total".
January-April 1938 inclusive:

1936 1937 1938
81 1,049 3,103
United States
3,675 3,187 2,003
1,042 947 581

The U.S. figures would have G.M. marques, i.e. Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Cadillac, La Salle, plus Studebaker, Packard, Graham, Willys, Lincoln, Hudson, and the Canadian some Fords, plus Chevrolet, and Buick.

Detailed study of trade figures showed that the average value of German cars imported in the first quarter of 1938 was about $450 in comparison with $930 for U.S. cars and an average of $665 for all imported cars, in U.S.$. These figures did not include the 33 1/3% import duty on all non-Canadian imports, as Canadian cars were allowed a 1/3rd discount.

It was also revealed that Adam Opel A.G. that was a subsidiary of G.M., manufactured nearly 90% of the German cars imported, and General Motors Limited handled distribution. British manufacturers, who viewed the influx as competitors had assessed the Opel as a 12 h.p. under the Horsepower taxation system, whose base price was $675 compared with $887.50 for a Morris 12 h.p. which sold at $887.50 or $800 for the Austin 10 h.p., with only the cheapest Ford 10 h.p. selling at the same price as the Opel. However, the 1938 price lists show that the cheapest 11.1 h.p. Opel Kadett/Cadet was the Standard saloon which cost £135; the 1,550 c.c. Morris 12-4 Series III, 11.9 h.p., Saloon cost £205. A better comparison was the 15.9 h.p. Opel Olympia four-door saloon, which was £195, plus £16 for the de luxe version. The Austin 9.9 h.p. "Ten" Cambridge fixed-head saloon was £185, although there were cheaper Austin Sevens. The Ford 10 h.p. Double-entrance saloon was £163, though the engine was the [what would later be termed a "classic" 1,172 c.c. side-valve engine. The smallest Opel was therefore subsidised to such an extent that it was a bargain compared with the British comparisons, though the Olympia was almost the same price as the Morris, and the subsidy catered for import duty, transportation costs, etc. However, for a few Pounds more, the discerning buyer could purchase an Anglo-Canadian Ford 22 h.p. V-8 Double-entrance saloon at £240, with the altogether much better 30 h.p. version at £260: phenomenal value for money! [39]

The magazine had found out that the Opel sold for RM1,795 in Germany, which was about $718, and yet after freight, customs duties at 33 1/3 %, distributors' charges and profit, the cars were being sold at the equivalent of $675. This indicated that a subsidy was paid on the exported cars. However, this must have been as just mentioned, the Opel Kadett, which had an 11.3 h.p. engine. By comparison, General Motors Corporation assessed the 1939 Model Olympia at a domestic price of RM2,950 which they calculated was $702 when the equivalent U.K. price was £195, and the 1939 Opel Kapitän at RM3,975, or $1,049. This gives a wider perspective on the assessments: these compare with the 1940 Model Vauxhall 10 h.p. saloon at £169 or $784, and 14 h.p. J-type at £220, or $1,021, [40] and the unitary construction Morris at £175 as a four-door saloon, and also the Renault Kadett "copy", the 8.3 h.p. at £140 and with a sliding roof at £147 10s: these were brought over from France unfinished, and the trimming in British leather, coach painting and general finishing were completed at Acton, London. [41] The "official" product was priced at £135 for the Opel Standard Kadett/Cadet and £149 10 for the Master 2-door saloon, which rather debunks that suggestion that the Opel was unique in its price range.

Reference was made to The News Chronicle publication of "an inspired article" which put the official subsidy at 43% of the ultimate selling price. Funds for this subsidy were provided by a levy on all German car manufacturers that amounted to 3% of their turnover. The paper claimed that the Opel was billed to export dealers at $325 [£66.46 @ an average of $4.89 to the £ Sterling], then the amount of the duty was stated as $130 [£26.58], and with all other costs, the all-in landed cost to G.M. Limited was about $520 [£106.33], [which meant a margin for the Concessionaires, G.M. Limited, delivery charges and dealers' profits of $155 or £31.70]. These figures would have applied to the cheapest Kadett model though.

The claim was that British manufacturers, as with U.S. manufacturers, had problems with getting their capital or profits out of countries with exchange control restrictions. Both were well aware that there were two purposes behind this deal: Germany got $325 [£66.46] worth of Sterling exchange which was due to Adam Opel for each car exported to the U.K. [RM810 @ RM12.19 to the £ Sterling], but G.M. was getting the difference, about $350 [£71.57] per car in £ Sterling which it was free to transmit to the U.S. This practice was not unique and atypical of similar schemes by aggressive exporters. This project came to light because the British were alarmed at the influx of cheap cars, and had threatened to increase the import duties on small h.p. cars in order to keep them out, though they thought that this was not necessary as the flood was "already subsiding to a trickle".

Business Week of 2 July 1938 [42] published a table showing U.S. trade for the first 5 months of 1937 and 1938. Exports of automobiles and parts had decreased from $146.4 million to $138.4 million, a drop of 5% from 1937 to 1938. The Balance of Trade overall had increased from a deficit for the first 5 months of 1937 of $126 million to a surplus of $546 million! Foreign trade was showing "striking changes" over the same period in 1937 because of the agricultural situation rather than the recession, and imports had declined considerably. The import of wool had declined from 30 million lbs. in the first 5 months of 1937 down to 4 million lbs., which must have had a substantial effect on the Australian economy, and consequently made the exchange of wool with Germany on a barter basis far more attractive than in 1935/6.

The magazine also published a photograph of several hundred Opels, Kadetts and Olympias, outside Dock Shed 108 at Southampton Docks, a stone's throw from the GM Limited plant which was then in the course of being constructed. Also, a front cover of a pamphlet issued to British firms by the Empire Industries Association, entitled "THE GERMAN CAR INVASION: The facts disclosed in the following pages prove not only that the British Motor Car Industry is in the gravest peril, but that the same threat hangs over nearly every other Industry in Great Britain". Evidently, matters had come to a head since the previous report, or perhaps just more information became available. The claim was made that subsidised exports were becoming of great concern in the U.K. The problem had come to a head by the flood of German Opel automobiles that came into the U.K. in the first three months of 1938. Government authorities had protested publicly that the sharp decline in imports of cars in April 1938 indicated that it was due to an abnormal condition and would not be repeated, but that they were secretly worried over the implications. The controversy had reached The Times and they referred to a column by E. de G. Carr. Carr had stated that during the two years ending the summer of 1937, he was commercially concerned in the importing into the U.K. of a "well-known make of German car". During this period he had attended many business conferences in Germany when subsidies for exports were made no secret of. The amount of the subsidy was as a result of a negotiation and agreement with the administrative authorities and was governed by a variety of considerations, including the nature of the commodity, the duty and freight charges and the competitive conditions in the importing country. The export price ex factory was lower to the U.K. than to some, but not all other countries. The introduction of the small FIAT [the Topolino or 500], which sold at a [subsidised?] low price was the occasion for an application for an increase in the subsidy allowance. The FIAT 6.7 h.p. 500 Saloon was priced at £120, and £131 for the de luxe version, and the larger 11.4 h.p. Balilla 1,100 [1,089 c.c.] four-door saloon was £198 [43].

The difference between the export prices and the German retail list prices varied appreciably according to the model but showed an average discount of about 60%. Experts claimed that German manufacturers were forced by the German Government to undercut export prices sufficiently in each foreign market to reach a planned figure of export trade. The bureaucracy even allowed for a levy on the domestic sales of textiles to supplement the levy on domestic auto sales if required. It was British concern that German export subsidies had gone far beyond the field of the individual industries concerned and that the Government would minutely regulate them. The flood of Opel cars into the U.K. in the spring was suggested to be but a taste of what was coming in other product lines. "Scouts" were suggesting that there was no doubt that the Germans intended to export the new Volkswagen on a large scale. Observers were suggesting that these "flivver" [A] exports would amount to 50% of production if this was necessary in order to build up foreign exchange accounts for the purchase of raw materials abroad, and that consequently the German people would see less of their "People's Car" than the people of other countries! If this was true, then U.S. manufacturers would be equally concerned over the long-term trend of German competition.

In October 1936 the Four-Year Plan under Göering had been announced, under which amongst other things the gaining of foreign currency was give priority. This was followed by the appointment in November 1938 of the Plenipotentiary for Automotive Affairs, Adolph von Schell. Schell then headed the new Automotive Office Group, which was to accelerate efforts to rationalise domestic production to meet the demands of mobilisation and subsequently called a meeting on 24 November 1938 where he and Göering explained to invited leading automotive companies of the task of harnessing the industry to military needs. [44]


The Motor 24 January 1939 [45] published details of British motor export and import trade statistics. In the early part of 1938, export of all types of motor vehicles and parts were maintaining steady increases, with the highest £646,790 for the period to 30 April 1938, but by 30 June, the increase had fallen to £446,308 and £228,900 by the end of July. The first decrease was recorded on 31 August when the drop for the eight months was £128,000, and then steadily declined by the 31 December 1938 by £951,668. Imports increased in January by £53,369, which fell to £10,000 in February, and then the first decrease was reported in March when imports fell by £46,787. By the end of June the decrease had reached £751,000 and at 31 December 1938, the value of imports had fallen by £1,773,130 as against the £951,668 drop in exports. In December 1938 compared with December 1937, export values of all types of motor vehicles and parts declined by £215,000. Private cars had declined by £222,468 and a decline in the year of £926,763. There was a decline in exports to New Zealand of £312,142 which had been previously a steadily increasing market, plus substantial drops in exports to South Africa, India, Malaya, Ceylon and other British countries. However, private car imports from Germany [90% being Opels if we take the figures mentioned above [B]] fell by £81,408 in 1938, though the returns did not show the value of any re-exported, if any. Private car imports from the U.S. decreased in 1938 by £603,210, but French car imports increased by £27,385 and other countries' imports decreased by £95,648. Exports of motor vehicles exceeded imports by £11,927,092 and exports of private cars exceeded imports by £4,164,733.

The Motor 25 April 1939 announced "Fewer Cars From Germany". The March Board of Trade returns recorded an increase in the value of motor vehicles of all types including parts exported during that month. There was also an increase of £72,976 in the value of private cars exported. During the first three months of 1939, export values of vehicles of all types and parts showed a decrease of £501,412 and private car exports declined by £128,215. Overseas markets that showed increases in the value of private cars during the three months were: South Africa £25,493; Denmark £36,838; British countries £10,833. Car exports to Australia fell by £107,161 and to New Zealand by £68,531. Exports of British engines increased by £61,000 and chassis exports declined by £105,216. Imports of motor vehicles of al types decreased by £118,707 in March and in the three months there was a decline of £311,367. The value of private cars imported fell by £77,159 in March and declined by £330,652 in three months. The chief contributor to the decreases was said to be Germany: in March 1938 the value of German cars imported was £83,267. In March 1939, imports dropped to £2,312, a reduction of £80,955. In the first three months of 1938, the value of German imports was £283,781, and the same period in 1939, this fell to £5,319, a reduction of £278,462! These figures represented a reduction of 3,151 cars imported from Germany in three months, and this seemed to indicate that in 1938 a considerable number of the German cars were re-exported from the U.K. Imports of U.S. private cars declined by £61,467 in the three months to March 1939, but French car imports increased by £30,591. The balance of trade showed that for the first three months of 1939, exports exceeded imports by £2,619.056 and private car export values exceeded imports by £1,179,427.

These figures compare with vehicles and parts supplied by Canada to the U.K. and Australia which had the benefit of Imperial Preference and a reduction of 1/3rd in Import Duties, including inter-Dominion trade. [46]


1936 2,685
C$2,326,089 4
C$2,091 C$10,626 C$2,338,806
1938 1,395
C$1,118,924 3
1,946 C$27,388 $C1,148,258
1939 1,031
C$818,059 20
C$13,920 $C60,214 $C892,643


1936 21,262
C$4,894,541 5,227
C$1,522,087 C$917,150 C$7,333,778
1938 20,554
$5,710,870 6,931
C$2,471,487 C$621,642 C$8,803,999
1939 20,237
$5,684,837 7,090
C$2,423,582 C$579,944 C$8,688,363

Though another comparison is of Ford's own information, which shows that 3,847 complete vehicles and chassis were imported from the U.S.A. of all makes in 1938, and then 1,633 in the first three months of 1939. This compares with 1,061 and 517 for the same periods from Canada. Of these figures, 85 and 41 were U.S. Lincoln cars and 60 and 32 Built-up Ford cars from Canada for the same periods. [47]

1936 $4,971
1937 $4.944
1938 $4.890
1939 $4.460 [48]

There were no known Australian vehicles imported in 1939, and therefore the trade was one-way between the U.K. and that Dominion. There was a reasonable export trade to Canada of British trucks, such as Leylands, though, but nothing of substance that would have been affected by fiscal policy such as abolishing the Imperial Preference.


1930 26,127
EXPORT 1,354/ 7.0% 8,930
1931 26,689
EXPORT 7,092/ 26.6% 14,836
1932 20,982
EXPORT 6,804/ 32.4% 16,329
1933 39,193
EXPORT 7,672/ 19.6% 27,636
1934 72,061
EXPORT 8,441/ 11.7% 40,456
1935 102,293
EXPORT 11,305/ 11.1% 48,671
1936 120,582
EXPORT 15,705/ 13.0% 50,704
1937 130,267
EXPORT 32,611/ 25.0% 59,746
1938 140,580
EXPORT 36,444/ 25.9% 60,111
[35,415 cars and 24,696 commercial vehicles]
EXPORT 20,271/33.7%
1939 118, 794
EXPORT 36,805/ 31.0% 61,454
1940 25,592
EXPORT 7,266/ 28.4% 55,353
UNTIL 1940 1,003,585
1 millionth
October? 1940
1941 19,432
EXPORT 4,551/ 23.4% 43,010
1942 18,869
EXPORT 711/ 3.8% 47,316
1943 23.243
EXPORT 959/ 4.1% 41,598
1944 16,146
EXPORT 144/ 0.9% 38,493
UNTIL 1945 1,081,275
EXPORT 190,410/ 17.6%

This is a comparison of production of smaller capacity Opel versus Vauxhall cars. Note the difference in production of comparable models, although all Opels were of unitary construction and only the Vauxhall J-type 14 h.p had a unitary body:

OPEL [50]
All 4-cylinder and taxed at 12 h.p. 1938 1939 1940
11.1 h.p.
1.1 1.1 litre Kadett Standard [Normal] Model KJ-38 11,249 5,089 376
11.1 h.p.
1.1 1.1 litre Kadett
[Spezial] Model K38 31,879 22,004 899
KADETT 43,128 27,093 1,275
11.3 h.p.
1.48 litre Olympia Model OL38 46,666 36,954 3,193
1938 1939 1940
10 h.p. 1.2 litre
HB and HI 16,988 15,856 9,398
10 h.p. 1.2 litre HC
Commercial Chassis 2,508 1,860 1,841
10 h.p. 19,496 17,716 11,239
12 h.p.
1.45 litre
4-cylinder I
Chassis 803 8,560 2,691
14 h.p.
1.8 litre
JB Unitary body and
JI Chassis 8,535 6,359
14 h.p.
1.8 litre
JC Commercial
Chassis 2,939

Vauxhall had expanded their Plant by another 10 acres in 1938, and in that year they had 8,589 employees, with 10,000 more Luton residents relying on those jobs: the Vauxhall workforce was 18.5% of the Luton working population in 1939. Vauxhall Motors produced 60,111 vehicles in 1938, and exported 20,271 [33.7% of production] out of 84,000 total British exports [or 24.1%]. [52]

There would have been some exports to Europe, to General Motors Nørdiska, Stockholm [no information exists], G.M. International in Copenhagen [no information exists], G.M. Continental in Antwerp [no information exists, but 178,072 vehicles were assembled 1924 to 1940], and G.M. Suisse in Biel/Bienne: 117 in 1936, 180 in 1937,84 Vauxhalls in 1938, 71 in 1939 and 61 in 1940 compared with Opel assembly at 316, 1,375, 1,319,.1,045, and 502 for the same periods [53].

Exports to Australia of British Vauxhalls was: [54]

1937 1938 1939 1940 1941

4,804 6,431 6,671 4,480 304


10 h.p.: 1938 1939 1940 1941

SEDAN 1,923 1,926 1,508 72
OPEN TOURER 1,112 1,075 1,087 57
TOTAL 10 h.p. 3,035 3,390 2,603 129
J-TYPE 14 h.p.:
SEDAN 2,430 1,715 161
CHASSIS 264 76 14

Compare with Holden-bodied Canadian-sourced Chevrolet cars:

1937 1938 1939 1940 1941

9,009 7,005 6,857 4,160 1,520

As to commercial vehicles, the numbers of cabs assembled were Canadian Chevrolet ["C"], British Bedford ["B"] , and U.S. Oldsmobile ["O"] truck chassis:

1938 1939 1940 1941

C 2,796 2,860 2,625 5,941 2,826
B 1,364 1,333 839 162
O 394 280 338

Light truck bodies produced for Canadian Chevrolet and British Bedford were:

1937 1938 1939 1940 1941

C 644 457 217 129 15
B 932 1,183 356 21

From an export/import standpoint, it can be seen that higher production meant less unit costs, and thus the Opel unitary construction cars, available with economical and low-tax 12 h.p. engines could have been more attractive than the Vauxhall 10 and 12 h.p. equivalents with their chassis construction requiring Opel-sourced or Holden-sourced bodies depending on importer.


The Motor of 11 April 1939 [55] published a letter from British Mercedes-Benz Limited, which was headed by the magazine "A Defence of German Trade". The letter stated that quite apart from the "recent increase in anti-German feeling, partly arising from the recent European events, but at the same time obviously inspired, there have been articles in the Press dealing with the general menace occasioned by German imports, most particularly German cars, and the terrible consequences which will arise when the much-talked-of "Volkswagen" makes its appearance" They wanted it to be publicly known that Germany was the U.K.'s largest foreign customer and the adverse balance of trade with the U.K. as a result of such trading was "a mere" £3.5 million, compared with the adverse balance of £89 million with the U.S., who had bought far less goods from the U.K. than Germany. There had been 400 "English" manufactured motorcars imported into Germany in 1938 [these would have included Austins] and the present figures showed a proportionate increase for the year [1939]. Therefore, in endeavouring completely to stop German importation of goods, and most especially cars, which some people were striving to do, they were behaving foolishly as the reaction would undoubtedly result in eventually decreasing trade "from our best foreign customer" and raise the adverse balance against the U.K. on trade exchange figures.

The Autocar of 25 April 1939 [56] published a letter in reply to the previous one. Mr Edwin A. Perry of London S.E.4 commented that in reply to the letter written by the "German motor manufacturers", he wished to draw attention to the facts that the raw materials that Germany bought in "our markets" were paid for in "Blocked Marks", that is currency that could only be used in Germany. Thus, the British had to spend these Marks on German manufactured goods in order to release the money. In the case of the U.S., the U.K. wanted large supplies of foodstuffs, that is wheat and fruits, that they could supply, hence the adverse trading balance.


Test Pilot Anthony Phelps wrote an interesting piece in Motor Sport January 1945 [57]. Phelps must be accepted as having sufficient engineering knowledge to make valued judgements. He bought an Opel with 23,000 miles on the odometer, which had been first registered in August 1937. The car was actually a '37 Model Cadet [Kadett Model 11234]; the car being equipped with Dubonnet-style independent front suspension, and of unitary construction. This latter aspect is extremely interesting from the point of view of hindsight as he comments "This I entirely dislike on principle, and sincerely hope that manufacturers of real motor cars will never become bitten by the bug. The thing becomes on giant resonator, which encourages drumming, it would be expensive and difficult to repair, and encourages inaccessibility. In my opinion the value of the stiffness factor is over-publicised to cover the disadvantages, by manufacturers taking the easy way out again". He then went on to suggest that if there had to be this type of construction, then it would be all right for cheap cars and even after 6 years of hard life it was still relatively free from the annoying squeaks, rattles and other noises from the chassis experienced as the chassis in a then "orthodox" car aged. Phelps makes some very important points that were made just as peace was on the horizon, which makes his comments all the more relevant. He starts by stating that pre-War, the Opel marque was "one of that regrettably long list of machines hardly to be called motor cars at all within the meaning of the act: a thing not to be mentioned in decent society….and if there was anything worse then I just did not want to know". However, he goes on to say that fate conspired to make him "Opel-conscious to the point of frankly admitting openly and without shame that there were not only worse things than Opels, but that some English manufacturers have been making them for years". However, what clinched it was that he needed a car to get to and from the airfield with sufficient petrol economy and cheap enough to satisfy the Bank Manager to finance the purchase. However, it seems that the Opels suffered severe depreciation, making them the best value for money on the market, put down largely by Phelps because of the concern at being unable to obtain spare parts, and also "the average British citizen apparently felt sheepish about being seen in a blatantly fifth-column conveyance". To explain what this meant, it referred to the perceived threat that German infiltrators and supporters dressed in British clothes might try and use guerrilla tactics behind British lines or in the British Isles. However, the FIAT marque, although an Axis product, did not instil the same instinctive feelings. Despite concern by others, Phelps reasoned, quite justifiably, that spare parts availability would be no worse than other marques, and decided to go for the Opel.

The comment was made that apart from German writing in the Opel, many of the components were in fact American! The carburettor was in fact a Carter Automatic, though Bosch in fact manufactured the ignition and dynamo. He went on to comment that the answer to this interesting mixture of componentry was to be found in the international financial situation. He maintained that Opel production was definitely not subsidised by the German Government, and suggested that this is what many of the lay public imagined. G.M. had he said spent large sums of money on the development of the Opel factory before the Nazis raised the ban [in 1934] on the export of currency and that the production in large quantities at low cost for export to the rest of Europe represented one way in which G.M. could get a return on capital tied up in Germany. The suggestion that there was no subsidy when the cars were exported is fallacious, and it is queried whether he was ill-informed or blinkered in that respect. The latter comment, was, however, absolutely correct: the truth was that Opels were exported for both reasons.

However, when writing, Phelps had covered 33,000 miles on top of the previous owner's 23,000, and oil consumption was negligible and tickover almost inaudible. In the end he was forced to admit that compared with a British-built equivalent in price and class, there was just no comparison either from a technical or value for money standpoint: the Opel won hands down. The pre-war price was stated to be £125 and he maintained that there was no evidence that the price had been deflated, "reasoning would indicate that the reverse is true". This however, was in fact totally incorrect, but his comments otherwise make interesting reading, and it is queried as to whether the sales of Opels would have been significantly more if there had not been not only the anti-German sentiments, but also that there had been recognition of the positive engineering aspects?


Why then did General Motors Limited fail to consummate their relationship with Adam Opel A.G. after the Southampton Plant opened? The evidence has shown that there were myths, half-truths and lies bandied about from the spring of 1938 to the spring of 1939 that were spread by those with a vested interest in Imperial Trade and protectionism of the domestic market. Lord Nuffield was the self-professed spokesman for the motor industry, and yet he had no official status or authority to do so. Nuffield can be proven to be keen to express his right-wing patriotism, protectionism leanings, and the need to save British industry by keeping out foreign industry and yet he was extremely cosy with Henry Ford and his company, and when out of sight of the British public he was only too happy to do business with General Motors. Nuffield was a member of Germanophile organisations in the U.K. and yet was only too willing to trade with U.S. companies in order to produce war munitions for "patriotic reasons". Nuffield moved into tank and through Morris-Commercial, War Office design standard military vehicles pre-war. He thus joined Ford, General Motors, and numerous other U.S. companies cited post-war such as Exxon and DuPont who had a tie-in with I.G. Farben, in being able to trade and benefit from both the German/Axis and British Empire/French sides in the period through to the winter of 1940. Claims that Imperial trade would suffer because of imports of Opel cars had no grounding: apart from the desire for Australia to build her own cars she was more interested in larger cars more suited to their country. Southern Africa had been importing Opels for years with no effect on British exports, and there would have been no effect on limited exports to Canada either.

The Volkswagen was perceived as a real threat to the British industry, and certain individuals in the press and positions with the power of publicity wrongly associated Opels with the symbol of Nazism. However, the Volkswagen was never a threat in practice and exports would have had to follow after domestic demand was satisfied: was 1941 too soon for likely first international supplies? Even so, given the experience of how long the post-war cars took to become established in the export market, including the U.K., there was never a real threat because perceived design flaws required considerable efforts to be overcome by the importers from 1951 and the same would have applied ten years earlier. The Opel product was an infinitely superior product, but "mud stuck" simply because of the association through the subsidies expected to be applied to Volkswagen as per Opels and the result was an unjustified "flivver export" allegation.

Were the Opels actually on sale in the U.K. truly less expensive than British cars? The answer is that they were not, and were comparable with British cars though import duties, etc. had to be added on to the Rüsselsheim factory gate price. Having said that it is proven that U.S. motor vehicles could be sold in the U.K. at prices cheaper than those from Canada because increased volume and specialist packing resulted in cheaper factory gate prices, cheaper shipping prices through the bulk charter of ships and greater occupancy per ship, and shorter distances from factory to port. Cost-cutting more than countered the 1/3rd discount in import duties on Canadian exports. Adam Opel A.G. was five times bigger than Vauxhall Motors Limited, with brand-new equipment, a brand-new purpose-built commercial vehicle factory, and cheaper labour. Exports sent via Aachen by rail to Antwerp for onward shipping allowed exchange control problems to be circumvented and because deliveries would have been paid for in Belgian Francs or even Sterling, it is impossible to equate the official value of the Reichsmark with Sterling and then to add in subsidy values.

Criticism of any subsidy and exchange control manipulation, as being unique to Germany was unfounded. No visible clamour was made of the Italian marketing of the FIAT, nor of the French Government who assisted Renault and his Opel copy which sold at the same price as the genuine article, and yet such activities had been a part of business activities for some considerable time before, and would continue to be post-war.

Although German imports may have been thought by a layperson as being curtailed after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, this was not the case. The last German chassis imported were in August 1939, and were B.M.W. chassis for A.F.N. Limited, owned by Archie Frazer-Nash the famous racing driver,. who bodied them as Frazer-Nash BMW sports touring cars, at £750 or so!

What was significant, though, in assessing the cessation of imports by May 1939 was the drop in demand for motorcars generally except for the smallest horsepower rating. Opels could be sold at comparable prices to the 8 h.p. to 10 h.p. rivals, though the ridiculous horsepower assessment which dated from 1906, and re-enacted by the Finance Act 1920, reduced in turn by 25% by the Finance Act 1934, taxed cars with large bores and therefore favoured less-efficient long-stroke engines. It was to be the Labour Government who finally repealed the 1920 Act and replaced the 1935-on 15s per horsepower unit with a flat rate of £10 per annum. The horsepower rating was an anachronism, and yet pre-war the potential buyer made his calculation of running costs according to established figures calculated without reference to engine efficiency. Opels lost out because their 12 h.p. plus engines meant that they were classed in a category above the biggest-selling segment.

Despite my conclusions as to the failure to make any further gains in the British market in 1939, nothing herein is to be taken as proof that Opels could not succeed abroad. Given the different taxation and other rules, and different requirements in Empire countries, importation of part-assembled or crated cars could have been assembled in Southampton from "Belgium", and then re-exported to Australasia and the rest of the Empire with the benefit of Imperial Preference overcoming local restrictions on the importation of chassis which favoured the U.K. as against the U.S. The motoring press acknowledged that the U.K. imported and then re-exported Opel cars [and trucks?], and this would have continued in 1940 and beyond without any intervention by the Import Duties Advisory Committee. Crates of engines and components amounting to no more than 25% of the total vehicle would have been welcomed into Australia to be assembled by General Motors-Holden's, and given Australia its own car eight years before this was finally achieved using the abortive 1940 Model Opels as a template.

I conclude that it was a mistake by G.M. management as to the continued growth of the U.K. market that stymied imports immediately pre-war, and after war broke out, the failure of the Axis to reach a peaceful settlement or a successful invasion by November 1940 resulted in the 1940 Model car assembly and 1941 commercial vehicle assembly being abandoned: economics and war!

David Hayward, December 2001?


"Once there was a time - Do you remember? - Car Order Divisions submerged in a deluge of orders, Sales Managers crying for production increase, Capacity strained to breaking point and all the time a world scrimmaging for American cars and at the end a grand all time record for General Motors.

This was the time when the Corporation, in a farseeing conception and understood by only a few, decided to link-up with one of the oldest Automobile Factories in Germany, the Adam Opel A.G. at Rüsselsheim.

Certainly, the Plant at Rüsselsheim was quite an imposing factory, certainly, it could - for German conditions - point to a comparatively high output, and certainly, assembly at Rüsselsheim was based on American methods, but what indeed did this "tiny little Plant" with its "insignificant production" mean to a Concern like General Motors where a week's production of Chevrolet was more than a year's output of Rüsselsheim. In addition there were quite a lot of old established and excellently managed Assembly Plants of the Export Division at many points in Europe and also a rather voluminous Plant in Berlin. Wasn't this affiliation a risky investment not only in a troubled and war-scarred Europe but even more in a then poor and badly managed country like Germany?

Today, after seven years have passed, we know what constructive ideas lay behind the Rüsselsheim venture and as to its success all doubts have been swept away. The characteristic of a sound idea, that it can be explained in few words, is certainly applicable to the creative thought which lay behind the connecting of General Motors with Opel.

The American car was and is built for American standards and conditions. But outside the New World there were millions upon millions of people needing transportation just as well, who even in prosperous times could never afford to run such a car. To get to those broad masses who - in the famous pyramid - live in the wide floor just below the Chevrolet and Ford prospects, a car had to be offered - not bound to American ideas of power and comfort, but a car-small, light and designed mainly for economy, low taxation and sturdiness.

Here at Rüsselsheim Opel was already producing in series a car, embodying similar features, which drew the attention of General Motors, and it was logical, therefore, that General Motors decided to materialise their small car ideas at Rüsselsheim. This was in 1929.

Years of reconstruction followed, - a reconstruction rendered most difficult by the World crisis of 1930 to 1932 - when production dropped continuously - when millions of dollars had to be invested for the rearrangement of production and new machinery. Serious misgivings were appertained by many when viewing the alarming drop in production followed by serious losses. Even so, - the confidence of General Motors once established could not be shaken and this tenacity in adhering to their plans was rewarded in 1933, the year which brought the turn of the tide.

"Motorization" became the battle-cry in Germany. New laws and regulations of a motor-minded Government - abolishment of motor car taxes, new motor highways etc. enabled the Automotive Industry to become the Leader out of the Depression. Production soared to untold heights. From 22,000 for 1932 Opel raised its production to 39,000 for 1933 and 72,000 for 1934 and to the outstanding figure of 102,000 for 1935; hoisting Opel to 8th position of world's automobile factories. For the year 1936 with the addition of the new Works in Brandenburg, the most modern truck plant in the World, Opel expects to reach a production figure of 125,000.

At the same time the total passenger car production in Germany increased from 42,193 in 1932 to 201,438 in 1935, and in 1936 the figure will probably be approximately 240,000.

An unimpeachable confirmation of the light car idea was the fact that of all these cars 92% were of a class unsaleable in America, i.e. light cars as produced by Opel. This development did not only apply to Germany alone. In all automobile-producing countries, except in America [C] the importance and the market share of cars up to 2.0 litres progressed in no uncertain measure.

In time, no doubt, all these cars will become bigger, more comfortable and faster, but the balance will always be in decisive favour of cars with less than 3.0 litres engine capacity. This development may appear strange to Americans, when considering the failure of putting over similar small car ideas in the States. But American conditions are not World conditions and it speaks for the pioneering spirit of the General Motors Corporation in preparing for this contingency when scarcely in its teens.

The demand for a smaller car than is customary for the Americans to build [D], exists not only in Europe but in many other countries of the World where in consequence of the high price of gasoline, high duties on weight, Horse-Power taxes, freight etc., the small car of European design is given preference. General Motors merely had to add the Opel range of models to their Export Sales Program, and thus they were able to immediately meet this new demand. No other car was more adaptable for this purpose than Opel, as it gave the Export Organisation an additional range of models which in no way interfered with the sales possibilities of lines already in their hands, but with which they could approach a new class of prospects not within reach heretofore.

This smoothness with which the Opel program fitted into the General Motors Program, made it possible, after preparations had been completed, to export in 1931 to practically all countries simultaneously. The last year before merging the Opel-General-Motors-Export, shipments amounted to 1,354 cars. And then things began to hum!

In the very first year Opel's export jumped to 7,000 units, in 1935 the figure was over 11,000 and this year [1937] Opel expects a new record of about 17,000 cars and trucks. To attain such figures was naturally only possible with the whole-hearted co-operation and the intensive assistance of the General Motors Export Division.

We even go so far to say that these figures are but a beginning and there is every reason to believe that the time is not far distant when Opel in Export will march in line with Chevrolet and Ford. In the World of today, unbalanced economic conditions, exchange restrictions and raw material difficulties lead to economic policies which favour the one source and discriminate against the other, but which open up possibilities for the Opel Export which to their full extent are not yet recognised In many export countries Opel and Blitz have become such a volume proposition that One-Make-Distributorships are getting more and more important and here the lack of a big Opel car has always been found of some disadvantage, It will meet with the unanimous welcome of the entire Organization that this gap is now closed by the "ADMIRAL" Line. A car that will because of its size, specification and appearance enjoy considerable popularity in most of the export markets, especially where one-sided trade policies render the importation of big American cars difficult or even impossible. Here the "Admiral" will step in to the advantage of the entire G.M. Sales Organization. Thus the "Admiral" does not constitute a breaking into but most definitely a further supplementing of the G.M. Program. [E]

If you have closely followed the development of the Opel Program during the last few years, then you will have found that the planning of Opel's Line Program incorporates the step by step alignment to the requirements of the Export Field, and it is not betraying a secret that, what we are announcing in the following for 1937, is again but a step forward in our Lay-out for years to come [F].

The decisive progress made in this direction with our 1937 line gives us the greatest confidence when looking forward to these years. When you have made yourself familiar with the details of our Program you will agree with us that the proven service of the Rüsselsheim Organization and the intensive co-operation of the General Motors Plants, with such models to hand, are bound to ensure an exceptional success for the Opel Line in 1937"
"I have seen no evidence of any communications between Opel and Vauxhall
after the war began. In fact, I have the impression that there was little, if any, direct communication between the two even before the war, since both, like GM's other European subsidiaries, reported to General Motors Overseas Operations rather than with one another." [58]