One Family Owned: 1950 Opel Olympia

Do you remember that fateful moment when you decided to part with your first car? Was it an easy decision, or was it one that you agonized over? Well, just imagine if that vehicle wasn’t just your first car, but the first car that any member of your family had owned…ever. That decision would have to even more difficult if the car had been part of your family for 70-years. That is the story behind this 1950 Opel Olympia, which you will find listed for sale here on Tradera. It is located in Linköping, Sweden, where the bidding has now reached kr11,000 (US$1,134). I have to say thank you to Barn Finder Carl L for not only spotting a truly unusual classic for us but one that has a fascinating backstory.

Ragnar Andersson was a flax and rapeseed farmer in Askeby, Sweden, during the first half of the 20th century. If he and his family needed to travel, the choices were between catching the bus or breaking out the horse and buggy. Farming had been kind to Mr. Andersson, so in 1950, he felt that the time had come for the family to acquire its first car. He was trying to decide whether he should purchase a secondhand Ford or Citroen but then concluded that this momentous occasion should be celebrated by buying a new car instead. He settled on a new Opel Olympia and placed his order for one finished in pale blue from his local dealership. When the car arrived it must have been an attractive proposition, because a relative of the salesman jumped the queue and took delivery of that vehicle himself. This resulted in Mr. Andersson having to wait for a replacement car to be shipped, which was the beige car that you see here. The Opel served as reliable family transport until 1965 when it was replaced by a black Opel Rekord. Mr. Andersson then made the decision to sell the Olympia for scrap, but his son Göran (aged 28) intervened. As a result, Göran found himself the custodian of the vehicle. He parked it away in a shed on the family farm, and now at the ripe old age of 83, he has decided that the time has finally come for it to move on. That original Beige paint is showing its age, and if the Opel is to be returned to its former glory, then a complete repaint will be required. There is plenty of surface corrosion to be found around the vehicle, but actual penetrating rust is quite minimal. The worst of this is said to be in the floor on the driver’s side, and given the fact that the car is of unitized construction, addressing this correctly will be very important. All of the exterior trim and chrome is present, although it will all require restoration. Below the layer of dust, the glass looks like it is free from cracks or major flaws.

It isn’t clear just how much use the Opel had once it came into the custody of Göran Andersson, but we do know that the vehicle was eventually parked in the shed that you see at the top of the article and that this happened many decades ago. Given those facts, the shed must be well insulated, because the interior has survived in reasonably good condition. Some of the cloth upholstery is a little bit frayed around the edges, but I think that it could provide a surprise if it was treated to a deep clean. The seats, door trims, and the headliner are very dirty, but all seem to be free of obvious rips or tears. Some of the painted surfaces like the dash and the spokes on the wheel are showing surface corrosion, but they all should be able to be restored without any dramas. The rubber mat on the floor will require replacement, but one important feature remains in place. That is the heater, which would never be considered to be an unnecessary luxury during the depths of a Swedish Winter.

Göran doesn’t supply any photos of the engine, but the Olympia rolled off the production line fitted with a 1,488cc 4-cylinder OHV engine, producing 46hp. That power then found its way to the rear wheels via a 3-speed manual transmission. That isn’t a lot of power at the disposal of the driver, but with the Opel tipping the scales at a mere 2,030lbs, it could still push it along to a top speed of 69mph. The car doesn’t currently run, and it isn’t clear whether the engine even turns freely. However, the Olympia was fired-up in 1991 using an external fuel source and was taken for a quick drive around the farm. Even that is a great story because the fuel was gravity fed from a bottle attached directly to the carburetor. Göran’s son, Henrik, jumped behind the wheel, while Göran hung out the car window, swinging in the breeze. He needed to do this in order to keep the bottle high enough for the fuel to flow to the carburetor. That must have been quite a sight! While the Opel doesn’t currently run, it does roll freely and should be easy to load onto a trailer.

This 1950 Opel Olympia is a great old classic, and it comes with a wonderful history. That a car should remain within the one family for 70-years is by no means unprecedented, but it also isn’t commonplace. Göran Andersson must have anguished over the decision to part with the car, especially in light of how hard he fought to prevent his father from selling it for scrap 55-years-ago. I really hope that someone buys this classic and is able to restore it to its former glory. It would be brilliant if they could do this, and then allow Göran to see his beloved Opel looking as it would have the day that it drove up their driveway for the first time. I would like to think that the next owner will prize it so highly that they will also choose to keep it for the next 70-years. I know that it’s a long-shot, but a person can always dream, can’t they?

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Comments

  1. Paolo

    Man is that thing fugly. In the best way.

    Like 3
  2. ken tilly UK Member

    I bought a 1953 model of these in a station wagon form, for my Father-in-law back in 1963. The family arrived by train, attended my wedding, and then promptly drove it back to their home over 1000 miles away with no problems. The wife and I then emigrated to join them a year and a half later and we formed a building contracting business. That wagon became our hauler of everything we could think of either inside or on the roof rack, and never missed a beat for the next 2 years before coastal rust nearly broke it in half and it was scrapped. Wonderful old wagon that.

    Like 8
  3. dabig kahuna

    Looks like a shunken 41 Chevy. Lower and add rear fender skits and it would make a great baby La Bamba lowrider!

    Like 2
  4. Bob C.

    Didn’t know they made Opels back then. This looks dated , even for 1950.

    Like 1
    • ken tilly UK Member

      They produced their first automobile in 1899.

      Like 5
    • RayT Member

      The first Olympias were built in 1935. This one has a slightly updated body — introduced in 1950 — but the family resemblance is pretty strong.

      I remember seeing a first-series Olympia in a museum in Germany. Wouldn’t mind having one, even though the smaller engine almost certainly means a much slower car.

      Seems doubtful even Rock Auto could help with parts, though.

      Like 1
    • Bob

      <Didn’t know they made Opels back then.

      From 1928/29: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrMKfxM6yXs

    • Poppapork

      How does this unibody compact from the 1950 look dated?

      By 1950 Opel as a company was nearly a 100 years old (founded in the mid XIX century) and was under General Motors ownership for 21 years

    • Kang

      The Opel factories were bombed into oblivion by the end of WW2. Surviving workers stepped up, rebuilt the factories, and through sheer determination managed to resume producing pre-war models, starting with trucks.

      So, excuse them for producing an outdated-looking car.

  5. Mark in WNC

    Great story! Great write-up! Thanks,Adam.

    Like 3
  6. JTHapp

    Ideally, bought & sent to the guys at ‘Vintage Voltage’ for a restoration/upgrade for the 21st century…
    It would then be very, very unique!

    Like 2
  7. Paolo

    The front looks something like a 1938ish Oldsmobile, The profile has a late 30s GM look. Opel was owned by GM, yes? The rear however is straight from the FoMoCo playbook. It suggests a 1941-1948 Lincoln.
    It’s cute like a mongrel puppy when you try and figure out the origins.
    The more I look at it the more I like it. Weird.

    Like 4
  8. Brakeservo

    The Russians built an almost identical car, having taken the design as reparations for WWII. I don’t blame them, but I would have taken the plans to the 540K myself!

    Like 1
  9. charlie Member

    And the window treatment from the side is ’39 Mercury, almost no B pillar showing.

    Like 1
  10. Bob

    Either the car is smaller than it looks, or that is one long door!

    • Paolo

      Smaller, like 3/4 the size of an American car. I have some photos of a very similar 1940s era Opel German Staff car on the Russian front being pushed through the mud by several Wehrmacht officers. They provide a measure of scale to the size of the car.
      I need to post those photos somewhere. It is somewhat funny to see these poor bastards trying to extricate their ride from the gumbo. Don’t know the exact date, pre or post Stalingrad. They don’t look happy.

      Like 2
      • Poppapork

        That would be either an Opel Kapitan or an Opel Admiral,
        Later versions in the 60ties used Chevrolet V8

        Like 1
    • Poppapork

      Bob the car is similar in size to vintage VW beetle, maybe a tad longer, its unibody.

      Like 1
  11. Bob

    Around 20 years ago I was in Havana and riding in a taxi that looked like a little Nomad. I asked the driver what it was? And he said it was an Opel.

    • Poppapork

      Google Opel Rekord P1. I belive thats what you saw (or Opel Olympia)

      Like 2
  12. Bob Mck Member

    I wondered why I had never seen one before. Want something rare? This is it.

  13. Stevieg

    What a neat little car, with a great story! I wish I could adopt it, but I can’t adopt anything at this time. This one, being in Europe, makes it far more impossible for me lol. I hope it gets a great home, someone restores it in honor of Goran & his Dad, and no one chops it up in any way.

    Like 1

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