Rampside Classics: The Stratocruiser Captain’s Kapitän – Updated With Two Videos

BL Opel-Kapitan

(first posted 6/24/2013.  Updated 5/25/19)   The big Opels always looked the most like their Detroit cousins, and this 1954 Kapitän certainly doesn’t belie its stylistic origins. In Germany at the time, this was very much a “big” car. What does that translate to? 108.” wheelbase, 185.8″ overall length, or very much the classic size of American “compacts”. It sported a 2.5 L (153 CID) ohv six, making some 67 hp. Which also was very similar to the specs of the aborted Chevrolet Cadet, but with conventional rear suspension. And what was the Captain flying?

Boeing 377-4a

A Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, the 747 of its time, with a partial two decks and long-distance capability that was unparalleled at the time (first flight 1947).  The B 377 was a direct evolution of Boeing’s very advanced B29/B50 bombers, and it  was Boeing’s opportunity to capitalize on that expertise to potentially leap-frog both Douglas (DC-6) and Lockheed (Constellation).

boeing _377_stratocruiser

The Stratocruiser offered very comfortable accommodations for between 55 and 100 passengers on long over-water flights to Europe and Hawaii, with sleeper berths and a lower-lever lounge.

Boeing 377 int

This is one of the two main cabins. Ah, the good old days of airplane travel…

Boeing 377 cockpit

The cockpit crew of four had plenty of room and the best views ever.

Boeing 377 engine

Unfortunately, the incredibly complex 3000hp 28 cylinder Pratt&Whitney R-4360 “corncob” engines were very maintenance-intensive, which only further exacerbated the B 377’s rep for being an uneconomical proposition for the airlines. Only some 55 were built, and the DC-6 and Constellation cleaned up the long-distance market.

Here’s the first of two vintage videos, this one by Pan Am, that goes into some of the history and design of the 377.

This one is by United Airlines, shorter but covers the actual flying experience well.

Boeing b 377 Pregnant_Guppy_NASA

But some B 377s went on to have a useful life as rocket-booster haulers, known as the Pregnant Guppy.