The horn is a big hit. When the brass button in the middle of the wooden dashboard is pressed, a loud, rhythmic honking is heard. How does it work? Werner Hüppe, an Opel dealer and avid collector from Raesfeld in the Münster region, explains. The button affects one of four decompression levers. And during a compression stroke, literal hot air is pressed through a valve. The result: a little ‘La Cucaracha’ in a car that is otherwise dignified down to the last detail. Although there was no longer a German kaiser when Opel built the 18/48 hp in 1919, this monument of a car would have served an emperor well (it just so happens that Kaiser Wilhelm actually learned to drive in an Opel).
Everything about this Opel is impressive, from the brass cooler housing and headlights and polished steel hood to the wooden body. When restoring a vehicle, Werner prefers to do everything himself. But wood is not his medium, so he had to bring in a cartwright. And the outcome is plain to see.
Not only is everything perfectly matched and ideally proportioned right down to the slightest detail, but even the grain of the wooden parts was carefully selected to provide beautiful contrasts. Under the hood, there’s a smoothly running four-cylinder engine with 3.5 liters of displacement. 48 hp may not sound like much, especially given how long and tall the 18/48 hp is.
But the stately Opel not only has a punchy engine, it’s also surprisingly flexible. Want to step on the gas at 25 km/h in direct gear? No problem at all. Ventilated by an updraft carburetor (made of brass!) the machine motors on without misfires or vibrations.
15/60 hp, the crown of the age of brass
You can’t stand on one leg for long, which is why Werner Hüppe has a second 18/48 hp. It has a conventional steel chassis, four seats, and two foldaway seats in between for trips with the extended family. In those days, people were smaller and families were larger. But the Westphalian is also especially proud of his 15/60 hp, Opel’s top model and the crown of the age of brass. It’s also the automaker’s first six-cylinder. He had to look a long time for the engine, before finding it at last in Sweden.
Werner both opens up and grows introspective when he drives one of his classic cars, or tinkers with them, or even talks about them. His eyes light up. “I have something very special there.” No doubt about that. It’s not often one sees a 1.8-liter Moonlight Roadster or two Motoclubs, much less a Super 6 Cabriolet, even though the chassis is a replica. Only one other original cabriolet built by Autenrieth is known to exist today.
What modern challenges does an Opel dealer face? Girl’s Day. The girl has to screw in a spark plug for the first time in her life. And to make the job more appealing, she has to install it in the single cylinder of a Motoclub. Werner explains: “When we got the machines, they were fitted with valve guides made of red brass. Red brass! Just think of it! They had to be made of gray cast iron with a high percentage of graphite due to the lubricating effect!” Werner hauls a second Motoclub out of the showroom, which houses a few other classic cars. Quite a few.
No one said ‘showroom’ yet in 1936, and there was no such space when the company was founded that year. Hüppe has been selling Opels since 1962, a tradition spanning three generations. The Kadett was introduced that year, and the momentum it generated quickly translated into growth and success. With a population of only 12,000, Raesfeld hardly offers a large sales market. And to make matters worse, there are 12 independent garages, which meant lots of competition. Werner’s son Volker concedes that new vehicle sales alone aren’t enough to get by.
The secret to sucess? Strive, strive, and strive.
The secret to success? Strive, strive, and strive some more to offer competent repair services. “Of course we repair transmissions!” And when selling used cars, try each day to fulfill your customer’s every request. Werner and Volker Hüppe believe in the Opel brand and the future of our company. Two new jobs will soon be created in the front, alongside direct reception, Volker explains. Werner’s grandson Leonhard nods. Where he’ll work and what he’ll do later on is already determined.
“The main goal has always been to meet the customer’s needs by providing competent advice and individual service,” Volker emphasizes, adding that being an Opel dealer is not like running a sales business. “We see ourselves as our customers’ partner for mobility and for every service connected with the automobile.” Werner the Opel dealer is a trained machinist and car mechanic. He rarely talks about himself, and when does, he keeps it brief. He prefers to talk about his brass cars and his passion for the Opel brand. A typical sentence from Werner Hüppe goes something like: “Come on, you have to see this!” And then: “Isn’t it wonderful? The things they came up with in those days? And it still works a hundred years later!” It’s an Opel dealership where passion for the brand has flourished for three generations.
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