Today’s post starts out above with an interesting video showing the Opel Rennwagen. It was produced recently by the Opel Klub of Denmark, when the automaker brought the car back to Fano Island, eighty-nine years after its record setting runs there on the hard-packed sand beach. Information on this special is hard to find, but it appears to have been built in 1914 just before the outbreak of World War I. What follows is the story that we were able to piece together about a pair of the company’s early racing cars.
Opel first started out in the metalworking business, with its first product, a sewing machine in 1862. Later in 1886 the German company entered into the production of bicycles. The first automobile followed in 1899 and was named the “Opel Patent Motor Car, System Lutzmann”. During the year of 1901, an Opel won the Konigsstuhl Hill Climb, and the company also signed and agreement with the French car builder Darracq to produce that car under license.
Around the year of 1902, Opel went back to the drawing board and designed another car of their own that finally entered into production in 1906. By 1907, the 60 hp racing car seen above was built, and the company test and racing car driver Carl Jorns finished third in the Kaiser’s Prize Race behind the wheel with it; the car was also selected by the emperor to win the prize for the best German automobile and thereafter became the official car used for his court.
In 1913, the firm designed and built a shaft and bevel gear-driven SOHC engine much like that produced by Mercedes, in both 4-liter and 4.5-liter sizes for its Grand Prix racing car. The photos of this engine below, were found the following year in The Automobile magazine, July 9, 1914 issue, which covered Grand Prix engines and developments for the season.
Also in 1914 or earlier, it appears that the decision was made to build the Opel Rennwagen record car, with a larger four cylinder sixteen-valve engine of 12.3 liters (750 CI) that was quite similar to the Gran Prix version. It appears to have shared the same basic design with the exception of the rocker arms actuating the valves from below the valve springs.
World War I may have intervened with plans to run the car as we were unable to find any mention of it running until the postwar era on Fano Island. There, off of the coast of southwestern Denmark, was the location of the Speed Trials that were held on Fano Beach from 1919 to 1924. The first reference we were able to find of this car running in an event was there in 1922, where Carl Jorns covered the flying kilometer 19.81 secs.
The video above is captioned that he returned to Fano in 1923 after being the Champion of the event in 1922, it also states that he “brought an even bigger car” in 1923. Wolfgang H. Scholz states in the video, that this car was a one-off, which would seem to indicate that the engine size was larger for the second running. That year Jorns ended up finishing second, after having set a time that would have been good for a record in an earlier qualifying run. In 1924, the last year trials were held, he again won the event with the Opel.
Opel Media, who provided the racing car photos in this post reported that Jorns once more ran the 12.3 liter 260 HP record car in the Schauinsland Hill Climb. During the August 1925 competition, running in the over 5000 cubic centimeter class, he and his mechanic again finished in first place. In the photo below, it appears to have lost the aerodynamic tail visible in the image above. If you can add anything about this interesting car or its history, please send us a comment.