Astra/Kadett celebrate 80 years 0
The name may only be 37 years old, but the linage of the ‘Astra’ goes back much further – to 1936 in fact, when it was known as the Opel Kadett. That means the popular hatchback can legitimately celebrate its 80th birthday this year.
The Kadett was launched three years before the start of the Second World War, and its affordable price made it a real competitor to the VW Beetle. It was far more advanced than the Beetle too, offering monocoque construction and a engine cooled by water – a huge advance on the German car’s air cooled flat-four. It took many of its design inspirations from the larger Opel Olympia, and the integrated headlights and fastback back it stand out in interwar Germany.
After being in production for four years, the Kadett disappeared as the German automobile industry concentrated on armaments and military vehicles. It wasn’t seen again until 1962, this time in the guise of a two-door saloon and optional estate. The Kadett evolved through two further generations before 1979, and the release of the Kadett D – otherwise known in the UK as the Astra.
The collaboration between Opel and Vauxhall had resulted in a compact car, both available as a three or five-door hatch, two or four-door saloon, or a five door estate.
It was new territory for both companies, and marked their first front-wheel drive powertrains and whole new range of engines that would power the Nova and Cavalier.
In 1991, the Kadett name was formerly retired, and Opel adopted ‘Astra’ for its European market cars. As far as both companies are concerned, the Kadett lineage is alive and well in the modern-day Astra. Over 24 million of both incarnations have been sold, making them some of the most well known cars on the roads, especially in the UK, where the Astra is a regular best seller.