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Opel Kadett K38 staff car - case report


    The purpose of this article is to show you a small vehicle that started its career as an excellent transportation option for the family and turned into a low-cost staff car for the German war effort in WWII. Let's talk about the small but brave Opel Kadett K38 staff car.

Opel Kadett 4-door Limousine (K38) 1938


    The Opel automobile manufacturer is part of German automobile history. From the early days of bicycle manufacturing in the 1862s to its first passenger cars, Opel has always sought to improve and develop safe and affordable vehicles.
Opel Kadett K38 4 doors - 1938
    In the 30's, with the frenzy of post-WWI German industrialization, Opel launched on the market one of its most famous products, the Opel Kadett, and the 37/38 models were produced this year, for civil purposes, until the end of 1940, contributing to the German war effort. Civilian vehicles were requested as staff cars and those that remained in production were destined for this purpose.
Opel Kadett K38 soft cabin in its role as a staff car,
with its main customers: Wermacht officers!
    In the top front of  the engine hood, these cars proudly bore the Opel symbol: the shape of a stylized airship.
Opel symbol: A good combination of style and mechanical pride
    The Opel Kadett/Olympia line was virtually identical, with variations in the number of doors and finish. The name Kadett refers to the militarism in vogue among the German people and the Olympia, a tribute to the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.
Opel Olympia 1936 preserved in
    The first Opel car to carry the Kadett name was presented to the public in December 1936 by Opel's Commercial-Technical director, Heinrich Nordhoff, who would in later decades become known for his leadership role in building up the Volkswagen company.
Heinz Heinrich Nordhoff
6 January 1899 - 12 April 1968

 Opel Kadett Limousine - 1936
    The new Kadett followed the innovative Opel Olympia in adopting a chassis-less unibody construction, suggesting that like the Vauxhall 10 introduced in 1937 by Opel's English sister-company, the Opel Kadett was designed for high volume low-cost production.

Kadett serie 11234 - 1937
    For 1937 the Kadett was offered as a small and unpretentious two door "Limousine" (sedan/saloon) or, at the same list price of 2,100 German Marks, as a soft top "Cabrio-Limousine". The body resembled that of the existing larger Opel Olympia and its silhouette reflected the "streamlining" tendencies of the time. The 1,074 cc side-valve engine came from the 1935 Opel P4 and came with the same listed maximum power output of 23 HP  at 3,400 rpm. The wheelbase, at 234 cm, was right between the little P4 and the larger Olympia. The "11234" nomenclature stands for the engine's displacement in deciliters (11)  followed by the wheelbase in centimeters (234).
Kadet 2-door Sedan 11234 - 1936–37
    The brakes were now controlled using a hydraulic mechanism. The suspension featured synchronous springing, a suspension configuration already seen on the manufacturer's larger models and based on the Dubonnet system for which General Motors in France had purchased the license. 
Transparent Opel Kadett 1938.
    The General Motors version, which had been further developed by Opel's North American parent, was intended to provide a soft ride, but there was some criticism that handling and road-holding were compromised, especially when the system was applied to small light-weight cars such as the Kadett. By the end of 1937 33.402 of these first-generation Kadetts had been produced.

Kadett KJ38 and K38 - 1938-40
    From December 1937 a modified front grill identified an upgrade. The 1,074cc Opel 23 HP engine and the 2,337 mm wheelbase were unchanged, with few differences between the cars for 1937 and those for 1938.
Opel Kadett versions - 1938 (Opel brochure 1-2)

Opel Kadett versions - 1938 (Opel brochure 2-2)
    The manufacturer now offered two versions of the Kadett, designated the "Kadett KJ38" and the "Kadett K38" the latter also being sold as the "Kadett Spezial".  Mechanically and in terms of published performance there was little to differentiate the two, but the "Spezial" had a chrome stripe below the window line and extra external body trim in other areas such as on the front grill. The interior of the "Spezial" was also better equipped. The major difference was that the more basic "KJ38" lost the synchromous springing with which the car had been launched, and which continued to be fitted on the "Spezial". The base car instead reverted to traditional rigid axle based suspension similar to that fitted on the old Opel P4.
Opel P4 1935
    The base car was available only as a two-door "Limousine" (sedan/saloon). Customers looking for a soft-top "Cabrio-limousine" would need to specify a "Kadett Spezial". For the first time Kadett buyers, provided they were prepared to choose a "Kadett Spezial" could also specify a four-door "Limousine" (sedan/saloon) bodied car.
    Competitive pricing led to commercial success, and Kadetts continued to be produced during the early months of the war: by the time production ended in May 1940, following the intensification of World War II, 106,608 of these Opel Kadetts were produced on the assembly line at Opel's Rüsselsheim plant, which had been the first major car plant in Germany to apply the assembly-line techniques pioneered by Henry Ford.
Workers in the assembly line of the Opel Kadett
 Opel factory -  Russelsheim, Germany -  1938.
    The car had a well-used interior, with reverse-opening rear doors (four-door version). For the time, it was an excellent investment option for a fast, economical and accessible vehicle, with good internal use. 
View of the interior of an Opel Kadett K38 restored
and maintained in serviceable condition

View of the interior of an Opel Kadett K38 restored
dashboard and front seats

View of the interior of an Opel Kadett K38 restored
rear seats
   These details made it an excellent option as a low-cost staff car. Its engine, though only 1.1 liters of displacement, was robust and reliable, an important detail in a military vehicle. See (and listen...) below the 1.1 liter engine of Opel Kadett 1936 running:
    During the war, the Opel Kadetts served in every theater of operations, gallantly handling their transport and liaison duties from the dizzying start of the World War to the final bitter days of the German III Reich.
A Opel Kadett 4 doors with whitewash cammo, in
the Russian Winter. Notice the rear wheels with chains.
Right view
Same Opel Kadett K38 4 doors above, in left view.
Notice the aerial in the intermediate column and
the same chains on the rear tires.
Opel Kadett K38 soft cabin being the center of the soldiers attention.
A good study of dust on the sides of the vehicle... It must be winter,
because of the overcoats and the thermal blanket on the radiator.

Maintenance time, for this battered Wermacht Opel Kadett K38 two doors
with drive chains on the rear wheels.The soldier seems to be worried...

Typical Russian winter thaw landscape.
The Opel Kadett 2-door has seen (and lived...) better days...

Opel Kadett 2 doors soft cab with Kriegsmarine markings
Medical Corps - Norwegian Front

Opel Kadett 2 doors from 1. Skyjäger Division - Wermacht
Russian Front - Winter 1944.
There are many pictures with this same Kadett and driver...

Our friends (Opel Kadett and driver...), again.
In this photo, our friend is in cammo summer uniform and full weaponry.

Same Opel Kadett ( and soldier...) above, at the beginning of
the 1944-45 thaw. Notice the absence of the radiator thermal blankets.
1. Skyjäger Division - Wermacht

Russian Front Miseries. Rasputitsa taking its toll:
oxen unhooking an unfortunate Opel Kadett from
the sticky embrace of the mud...

Opel Kadett K38 two doors from Wermacht
 with his happy, carefree driver.
France - 1942.

Opel Kadett K38 between two Sd.Kfz. 232, on a railroad car transport
somewhere in France, in 1942.

This photo is a beautiful inspiration for a diorama!!
An Opel Kadett K38 staf car patiently waits for officers
to inspect the Russian T-34 that appears to have been abandoned intact.
Riders and motorcyclist complete the picture.
Russian front - 1942
    At the end of the war, with the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, the assembly line of the Opel Kadett was transferred completely to the Russians, as compensation for the war, and the Soviets started to manufacture the 1938 Kadett as Moskvitch 400, in the Factory ZMA Moscow, from the year 1947 to 1956. It was exactly the same car, with minor alterations such as an external rearview mirror (which Kadett didn't have) and logos and friezes.
Moskvitch 400 - 1947.

Moskvitch 400 - 1948.

"Opel" Russian ZMA Moscow Plant - 1946
Moskvitch 400s under construction.


Opel Kadett K38
Production1936 – 1940
Assembly                                Germany: Rüsselsheim
Body and chassis
LayoutFront-engine, 4x2
RelatedMoskvitch 400/420
Engine1,074 cc side valve 4 cyl.
Transmission3 front x 1 rear
Wheelbase2,337 mm 
Length3,765 - 3,840 mm
Width1,375 mm 
Height1,455 - 1,545 mm
Curb weight757 kg 

The kit:
    I built this model in 2001, long, long time ago. I used this resin relic, which was found in Tutankhamun's tomb, intact:  Opel Kadett Spezial 1938-1939 from Roy Models (#RM0005). The grave robbers were frightened by the thing...
Opel Kadett Spezial 1938-1939 - Roy Models (#RM0005)

Polyurethane resin is almost eternal...

Very good internal details...

The little monster staring at you...

The body was very good!!!

Starting the cleaning of the parts...
My old camera kept changing colors at its own pleasure...

Chassis ok..seats ok... steering wheel ok

Some thinner resin parts were useless... Replacement more than necessary
for copper wire, more reliable and faithful to scale...

Classic example: seat supports.

Drilling through the panel for passing the steering bar...

The correct angle...

Bar and steering wheel in position...

Same solution for the gearshift...

The roof of the trunk remade in plasticard...

Internal rear mirror...another detail...

Interior in brown tones, typical of the time...

The kit was old, from the time of Queen Hatshepsut,
but still totally acceptable....

The seats perfectly aligned...

And the body closed...

Rear differential (1), rear suspension (2), exhaust silencer (3)
and cardan shaft (4) ready to be installed in their positions...

Wheels. Notice the markings for Rear (R) and Front (F) ones.
    When building the exhaust system, the exhaust pipe was made with thicker copper wire. Note that the barrel is divided into an anterior and a posterior portion, which facilitates the "folding" of the wire. Also notice the small piece of yellow sprue I made to compensate for the somewhat short length of the cardan shaft. Another great detail are the aluminum foil strips that act as clamps for the muffler and the tail end of the exhaust...
Exhaust pipe made of metal...

Final finish of the exhaust made with a little bijoux tube

And the little Cadet standing on its own legs,
for suspension alignment testing...

Perfect legs!!
    The front suspension has been carefully aligned and bonded with Cyanoacrylate and Epoxy. I made the steering bar in copper wire which, in addition to detailing the kit, increases the suspension's structural reinforcement.
Front suspension steering bar, in metal scratch....
    Taking advantage of the work with copper wire, I made the peculiar holder for the taillight and license plate of this car. This detail is very interesting... Also note that the rear bumper is already glued in place...
License plate and tail light holder in copper wire...
    Continuing the detailing of the car, the installation of the Notek lamp and the view of the license plate and the taillight on its holder... Also note that the front bumper is already glued and aligned.
Notek lamp and license plate in position...

Small and simple details that make a difference...


Almost ready for painting...

   The gas tank nozzle was made with a piece of styrene tree (scrap) heated (sprue) and, while still hot, its end was compressed to form the boss that would be the cap of the gas tank. See details below.
But first, the gasoline supply pipe...

Stretched sprue with heat...
    As I decided to make a vehicle on the Russian front, my goal was to paint it with the base color (Panzer-Gray) and then apply the famous white-wash camouflage (originally made with lime and applied with large paint brushes), to then make a heavy weathering on the vehicle.
A slight "smoky" with Panzer-gray...

The toilette paper is very good to prevent
painting accidents...
      At the time (twenty years ago...), I chose a thick winter camouflage for my painting, with Kadett featuring the markings of the 1st Skijäger Division, Wermacht's specialist Division in the Russian Front, in the winter of 1944. 
    Interestingly, years later, ICM chose these same colors and markings (but with poor historical research, as the ICM profile is dated Winter 1942 and this Division was created in 1943-44) to adorn their Kadett K38 2-door. Of course, the inspiration came from photos of this valiant division of ski soldiers.
Opel Kadett K38 colors & markings profile

The true inspirational photo...(for me and ICM)

ICM Kadett K38 Saloon kit (#35478)  markings. Just a vague quote...
No research on the Unit...
...and with wrong time reference:1942??  Ouch!!

    But let's get back to the project... After the first gray paint  coat dries, a bath with a rough and grainy matte-white paint (like the true picture above...) , to give a coarse appearance to the painting that was originally done with lime and brush...
A white painting made with brooms and lime!!
    Note the irregularities in the paint... As I was going to do a heavy weathering, I'm not worrying about making an immaculate finish at this stage...
Opel Kadett wearing a rough winter cammo...

Notice the rust bubbles in the lower back corner of the front door...
Dude...those skijagers know how to mess with a cart...

Left view...
    As at that time (2001) there was neither the ICM kit (Kadett K38 Saloon - #35478) with its decal sheet nor the aftermarket decal options we have today (Star Decals - #35-851), the way was to make the decals with a transparent decal and a laser printer. Luckily the white "background" was ready!
Opel Kadett K38 Saloon 2 doors - ICM box art

Star Decals stuff...Man, I love this stuff!!!
    But first, let's do a little more historical research (which ICM seems to be too lazy to do...). Let's locate the Military Unit in the time and space... and behold the most beautiful photo: our Kadett, in good mechanical and human company!!!
RSO Steyr tractor and Opel Kadett from 1. Skijäger Division
The Opel and driver are the same of some pics above...
It's very comforting to see that even in the war there were
good people who shared bread with children...

    Well, decals made with transparent decal sheet and laser print. piece of cake!!

The door stencils and big WH is from my decal spare box...
Wheels in dry-run

A little badass staff car!!

Opel Kadett - rear view

Starting the weathering...

These winter camouflages suffered a lot...

Signs of "speed" wear in the roof!!!

Rear view...

        And that's how this little staff car model remained, which I immensely enjoyed building: with you, the Opel Kadett K38 (1938) 4 doors staff car, attached to Wermacht, Army Group Centre; 1. Skijäger Division, Skijäger Regiment 1; 8.(Schweren) Kompanie, in the cold days of the Winter of 1944, Russian front.
Opel Kadett K38 (1938) 4 doors staff car
Wermacht - Army Group Centre - 1.Skijäger Division
Skijäger Regiment 1 -  8.(Schweren) Kompanie
 Russian Front -Winter - 1944

Opel Kadett K38 (1938) 4 doors staff car

Opel Kadett K38 (1938) 4 doors staff car

Opel Kadett K38 (1938) 4 doors staff car
left view

Opel Kadett K38 (1938) 4 doors staff car

Opel Kadett K38 (1938) 4 doors staff car

Opel Kadett K38 (1938) 4 doors staff car
right view

Opel Kadett K38 (1938) 4 doors staff car

Opel Kadett K38 (1938) 4 doors staff car
with Kojak.

Opel Kadett K38 (1938) 4 doors staff car with
Austin Tilly 4x2 light truck

Opel Kadett K38 (1938) 4 doors staff car
Wermacht - Army Group Centre - 1.Skijäger Division
Skijäger Regiment 1 -  8.(Schweren) Kompanie
 Russian Front -Winter - 1944

Bis später, meine Freunde!!!
Auf Wiedersehen!!!

4 comentários:

  1. Precioso el Opel Kadett, un gran trabajo de nuevo.

    1. Muchas gracias, Juankar!! ¡¡¡Muchas gracias por su amable aliento !!! Un abrazo fuerte y cuidado !!

  2. Serra, seus trabalhos com kits de resina sempre impressionam. Parabéns mais uma belo trabalho!!!

    1. Muito obrigado, Marcão.Muito obrigado mesmo!! Um grande abraço e se cuide!!!