We’re back at the anniversary game again for this Saturday morning. Is it really forty years since the Opel Kapitan, Admiral and Diplomat cars first appeared (in their “B” incarnations)? No, it´s fifty.
I must confess that this anniversary did not leap into my conciousness unaided. The people at Oldtimer Markt did the classic-car world the service of putting the 1969 K-A-D cars on the front cover of the current edition of magazine. I am sure you all knew the cars were from around the late 60s. But did you know they they staggered on until 1977? That was the same year you could buy a Citroen CX, a Ford Grannie Mk 1, a Peugeot 604, a Lancia Gamma, Rover SD1 (if you were a sucker for pain) or a Mercedes W-123. Only an actual Cadillac could be said to offer something more outlandishly transatlantic than the Admiral.
That, I think is a point in the KAD cars’ favour. How pleasant that you could get a Chevrolet engined V8 in something European sized, an interesting blend of America and Europe (making the Admiral something like the European equivalent of the 1963 Buick Riviera).
The cars didn’t fly out of the showrooms, alas, not the “A” series. The KAD cars’ scale may have been a deterrant, being just 20 cm shorter than a Silver Shadow. They were though the same length as the Mercedes W-116 S-class. The oil crisis didn’t help though again, the Admiral and Kapitan had straight sixes that were not especially more profligate than the other large cars.
The KAD cars are in interesting hybrid of trim level differentiation and model differentiation. I will have to think of another similar case but off -hand can’t. The three cars clearly have the same main structure and panels. As the header photo shows the had markedly different trims. The Diplomat had a V8. And they had different names; custom has it that a model name is handed out to a car body distinct from other car bodies in a manufacturers range. Does a different front wing make for a different car?
The Admiral and Kapitan did differ that much and they get a name each. Only Ford seems to be trying this at the moment with the body known as the Mondeo being also sold as a Vignale.
Opel produced about 60,000 units of the KAD series cars between 1969 and 1977. BMW and Mercedes in the same time sold about five times as many of their entrants in the same price/size class. Presumably Opel felt rather uncomfortable about this. In the game of “car business as sport” its typical to declare such products as failures.
I am not going to do that. It’s not my money for a start and it all happened a long time ago. From this distance, I see three rather imposing cars showing a kind of alternative take on American car design. And I also see three alluring objects onto which I can project ideas: it’s our old friend surplus of meaning again.
In 1977 the KAD cars ceased production, to be replaced by the Senator.
**Notice that the gent in the black and white photo is wearing a bowler hat. It looks like a bowler hat to me. That is a fascinating concatenation of influences: British, German and American. I have recently taken ownership of a bowler hat, by the way (not the one from Lock & Co, sadly). I can recommend wearing such a hat.