Cohort Classic: Opel Kapitän P2 (1960-1963) – Der Deutsche Buick

CP a12

(first posted 12/20/2015)  Opel’s “senior” cars (Kapitän, Admiral, Diplomat) are a very compelling subject. from an American perspective, as they look rather like intermediate-sized GM cars, a category didn’t exist at GM in the US market until 1964.  The big Opels were always quite popular, both in Germany and the rest of Europe, for offering a lot of car for the money compared to a Mercedes. And this generation Kapitän P2 (MY 1960-1964), shot by Curtis Perry in Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay, was the most popular six cylinder car sold in Europe in 1960, and as such, represents the peak market share for the “German Buick”.

Opel kapitan P2

This generation Kapitän sports Carl Renner’s “flying wing” rear window design, as first used on the 1959 GM cars, and then the 1960 Corvair.

corvair 1960 fq

Speaking of, it’s easy to see why the Corvair, which came out at the same time as this Kapitän, made such an impact on the Europeans. It was so clean, low, smooth, and…just about the same size too. Even its 2.3 L six was similar sized to the Kapitän’s also new ohv 2.6 L inline six.

Opel kapitan P1 1959

But then the Kapitän P2 wasn’t really new; it was heavily based on the P1, which rather oddly, was built for only one year (MY 1959). That’s a highly unusual thing to do, as Opels did not do annual model changes like in the US, and usually built the same car for 3-4 years or more. But then the P1 was somewhat poorly received, for its panorama windshield that impacted front seat egress, and the very heavy Buick-like C Pillar.

Opel 3

The P2 got a whole new roof, although the dog-leg windshield was too expensive to toss out after just one year. Here’s one posed in front of the famous Vienna Riesenrad, built in 1897, and the world’s largest Ferris wheel from 1920 until 1985. How well I remember my first ride in it.

Opel 4

I’m not sure of the location of this shot, but these two are from the Opel calendars that were a staple of Opel marketing for several decades.

One of these times we’ll have to do a complete history of the Kapitän, the car that competed successfully against the Mercedes until it…no longer did. Folks wanted the real thing, and were willing to spend more for it. And American style just went out of fashion, in Europe. The Europeans had long played second fiddle in the larger classes of cars to the Americans, but from the mid 60s on, that would no longer be the case.


The last Kaptitan (B) arrived in 1969, but was gone by 1970. The Admiral and Diplomat soldiered (officered?) on until 1977, the end of the road for the “senior” Opels. BMW and Audi were now muscling into the luxury sedan market, and Opel threw in the towel. The ascendancy of the German premium brands affected the top offerings in a number of countries, both in Europe, North America, and elsewhere.