The Long Illustrious History Of The Multi-Talented Opel Kadett - SUV VEHICLE

The Long Illustrious History Of The Multi-Talented Opel Kadett



  • The Opel Kadett has a rich history dating back to the 1930s and has influenced the family car segment significantly.
  • The Kadett has evolved over the years, transitioning from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive with various body styles and powertrains.
  • Despite its longevity and impact, the Opel Kadett remains an affordable classic car option with a strong reliability record and lasting appeal.

Opel is one of the auto-makers that may not set your world on fire or make your top-ten list of the best car brands, but they have a long and illustrious history that stretches back as far, and sometimes even further, as household names like Ford, Chevrolet, Audi, and BMW. If you have noticed or not, over the years, Opel has produced some of the family car segments leading, but unfortunately to some, not the most exciting, models.

Cars that make great family cars today have a lot to thank Opel for. There is one model in particular though, that, throughout its long history, has gone on to change the way in which family cars are made, viewed, and produced.

That model is the Opel Kadett. With a history that started before WWII and all the way through to the 1990s, the Opel Kadett has been there for some of the most significant moments in 20th Century History. We have gathered information from a range of sources to bring you the history, specifications, interesting facts, and influence of the rugged Opel Kadett.

In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from Opel (Stellantis Media) and other authoritative sources, including, Sports Car, Bring A Trailer, Toyota, Car, The Telegraph, and Bureau Of Transportation Statistics.

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The Opel Kadett Story

The original Opel Kadett was first produced, under GM, in 1936 by German automaker Opel, until 1940 when German resources had to be used for the production of military vehicles, engines, and munitions during WWII. Originally designed as an everyday compact car at a cheap cost, which could be mass-produced quickly using techniques adopted from Henry Ford’s plants in the U.S.A., the Kadett was being produced at a time of hot competition between other German brands such as the newly formed Volkswagen.

Original Opel Kadett Line-Up

From 1936 to 1940, Opel produced the Opel Kadett 1, which included four different models. The Kadett 1, the Kadett Series 11,234, the Kadett KJ38, and the Kadett K38 Spezial.

Boasting a rear-wheel drive, all-steel monocoque unibody, front-engine configuration, a 1-liter side-valve flat-head inline-four engine, elegant exterior design, and a three-speed manual transmission, the original Kadett’s powertrain could produce 23 horsepower. All models of the Kadett 1 feature the same engine and configuration, with the only differences between the models being their styling and size.

The Series 11,234 boasts a streamlined limousine saloon style and showcases a hydraulic brake system, optional soft-top (Cabrio-Limousine), and synchronous springing suspension, designed to ensure a smooth ride for the time. The mass-produced and very rugged K38 Spezial was also used extensively as German military staff cars.

The KJ38 and K38 Spezial were produced to be cheaper than the Searie 11,234 but had an upgraded front grille. The KJ38 is also a limousine-style saloon, whilst the K38 Spezial features more chrome trim, is available as a four-door, and is available as a soft-top. The major difference between the Kadett 1 and these two models; to cut cost in production, was to remove the synchronous springing suspension.

Post-WWII Life

After WWII, the Soviet Union took over the factories where the Opel Kadett was produced and requisitioned the original plans, as part of war reparations, to be used by their own Soviet home-grown automakers.

From the scarce original blueprints and models that were reverse-manufactured, Soviet automakers produced the Moskvitch 400/420 from 1946 to 1956 using the base model from the Opel Kadett and adding their own touches to distinguish between both.

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Opel Kadett Model Years

1967 Opel Kadett B in red Rear-end
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Production, and the re-introduction of the Kadett, returned to Germany in 1962 with the release of the Opel Kadett A (1962-1965) with a subsequent and long line of releases of the Kadett B (1965-1973), Kadett C (1973-1979), Kadett D (1979-1984), and Kadett E (1984-1995).

Throughout the years, the Opel Kadett remained a front-engine layout family car, but the driveline did change from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive. The Kadett A was marketed as a two-door saloon, as a coupe, and as an estate. The Kadett B was available as a coupe, saloon, estate, or featuring a fastback, like the Kadett B Saloon LS. There was also a special legendary version of the Kadett B that was released in 1967, but we will cover that below. The Kadett C was the last model to feature rear-wheel drive and, for the first time in the line-up’s history, resembled a model from sister company Vauxhall, the Vauxhall Chevelle.

The Kadett D was where Opel stepped things up for the model. Releasing the D with a range of powertrains and configurations that include a three-door van, an estate, a hatchback, and a saloon. It was also the first model to give customers the option between a manual transmission and an automatic transmission. By doing so, Opel provided a car that was open to more customers.

The final model years for the Kadett were between 1984 and 1995 and the Opel Kadett E. Released as an estate, featuring three doors or five doors, and as a sedan, the Kadett E was also released with a higher roof as a van. Featuring classic 1980s styling and aerodynamic design features, the final years of the Kadett E were shrouded in huge sales numbers and brilliance after being voted European Car Of The Year in 1985.

Opel Kadett Powertrain Options (1962-1995)


1.0-Liter OHV Inline-Four

1.1-Liter OHV Inline-Four

1.2-Liter OHV Inline-Four

1.3-Liter Inline-Four

1.4-Liter Inline-Four

1.6-Liter Inline-Four


Three-Speed Manual

Four-Speed Manual

Three-Speed Manual or Four-Speed Manual

Three-Speed Automatic or Four-Speed Manual

Three-Speed Automatic or Four-Speed Manual

Three-Speed Automatic or Four-Speed Manual


39 Horsepower

49 Horsepower

73 Horsepower

60 Horsepower

72 Horsepower

75 Horsepower









Rear-Wheel Drive

Rear-Wheel Drive

Front-Wheel Drive

Front-Wheel Drive

Front-Wheel Drive

Front-Wheel Drive

(Data gathered from Stellantis Media)

Opel Kadett Usability

One of the main selling points of the Opel Kadett line-ups over the years is the usability and convenience offered. All models were designed and built with the mass market in mind without too many niche features that would make them unobtainable to the masses.

Because of their ‘everyday design’, the Kadett was designed with a spacious trunk, four or five seats, and ample head and legroom. That is even from the compact models. For example, the 1963 Kadett A had a trunk storage space of 10.2 cubic feet, though that may not be a lot compared to an SUV with the most trunk space in America, but it was a lot for a compact car of the time.

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Hatchback, Sedans And Station-Wagons

1974 Opel Kadett Wagon in white Posing in studio against white background
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As mentioned, since the launch of the Kadett A, the option was given to customers if they wanted a sedan, coupe, or hatchback (a little later on). With this, the illustrious Kadett became a compact car that could be used by families of all sizes at the time.

Renowned for its sturdy powertrain, and reliability, with one owner of a 1967 Kadett Fastback saying that ‘reliability comes as standard with the Opel‘, and plenty of choices of powertrain in the later years, the Kadett was popular among a wide spectrum of people.

A Stand-Out Station Wagon

The Opel Kadett has had some of the best station wagon models over the years. One standout model is the Opel Kadett C Caravan, which, when produced from 1973 to 1979, came as a modern car for the time, with a blend of practicality, thanks to boasting a spacious interior, varied engine choices, and versatility, thanks to a decent, for the early 1970s at least, combined MPG rating of 28 MPG.

There are a lot of station wagons/estates today that have the Opel Kadett to thank for their layout. Based around the T-Platform unibody, it has since become an industry standard because of its higher safety credentials in collisions. Perfect for family cars.

Stand Out Hatchbacks

It isn’t just the ideal family car that Opel Kadett is useful for. Up there with some of the most legendary hatchbacks to grace the race and rally scene. In 1967, the Opel Kadett Rallye was released, and it took the auto word by storm and took some American automakers by surprise. Featuring the standard 1.1-liter inline-four as found in the other Kadett Bs, the compression rate was raised from the standard 7:8:1 to 9:2:1 and the horsepower was raised to 67 horsepower.

The 1967 Rallye also boasts a four-speed manual transmission, disk brakes, rally lights mounted to the grille, twin exhausts, and dual Solex carburetors, which made the little Kadett a new breed of European GT. Owners likened the Kadett Rallye at the time to some of the best Alfa Romeos of the 1960s and helped gain Opel a foothold in the American market.

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The Kadett Becomes The Astra

1991 Opel Astra F in gray Posing on hill-road
Stellantis Media

The Opel Kadett (as a name) took a final bow in 1994, when, in 1995, General Motors aligned model names across their brands and the Kadett became the Opel/Vauxhall Astra and became one of the most recognizable family cars of recent times.

The Astra has been around since 1980 in some parts of the world, but only when GM changed the name for the final time, did it become a concrete household name.

The Opel Kadett As A Classic Car Today

If you are looking to own a classic Opel Kadett, according to, they have an average used price of $7,033, making them an affordable classic car. Also, according to, there have only been 13 recorded sales of the Opel Kadett since their records began.

A greater number of later generations of the Opel Kadett are available for sale, with only 1 recorded sale of the original 1936 model being recorded. The most frequently purchased Opel Kadett is the 1993 Opel Kadett E but, still only 2 have been sold. If you can get hold of an Opel Kadett of any age, it can be an affordable classic car with bags of individuality due to there not being many left on the market, despite millions of them being made.

The Opel Kadett, A Car Built To Last

Unfortunately, Fuel, Repair Pal, and Car Edge do not hold any records of any Opel Kadett miles per gallon or reliability statistics, but according to owners who have left reviews on Car, the Opel Kadett has a reasonably good reliability record.

One owner of a 1988 Opel Kadett which features the 1.3-liter engine, scored it 9 out of 10 for reliability and the most recent mileage on the clock was 248,548 miles. So, not bad at all for an old family car from the 1980s. With most modern cars only having an average life of around 12 years, it shows that the Opel Kadett was certainly built to last for the masses, and still lives on strongly today.


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