The lightning bolt – Blitz in German – has been the company logo for over nine decades, albeit not present in this form and not universally adorning the grilles of Opels from its inception. First stylized on the company’s famous commercial vehicle line from 1931, the overstretched Z was chosen after the name of the then-new truck model was coined.
In 1931, Opel became a fully-owned subsidiary of General Motors – the American giant had already acquired 80% of the German company in 1929 – and launched a new light truck model. The vehicle’s name was carefully chosen through a prized public competition in the fall of 1930.
Opel’s advertising department chose a novel approach to find their name: a high-profile, high-prized campaign that invited everyone to make a suggestion, or a proposition, give a hint, come up with an idea, or deliver a straightforward solution.
In full-page ads in the wide-coverage newspapers of the time, Dr. Wilhelm von Opel, grandson of Adam Opel, the company’s founder, wrote a very compelling invitation (see it in the gallery): “Win an Opel! We are looking for a name that we want to make famous all over the world! The new truck is to set off on its successful career in Germany and beyond its borders under a name that identifies it as a German make and is also an expression of its superior quality.”
By October 6, 1960, roughly 1.5 million entries had been submitted. The selection took a while as every single letter had to be opened, read, and processed by hand. Six weeks, to be precise: At the Opel Dealer Conference on November 24, 1930, in Frankfurt, the company Sales Manager pronounced the winner. “Blitz” was the name, and it proved to be a good omen for the German manufacturer (the nation’s most important automobile maker at the time).
The new truck quickly adopted the name on its grille, spelling it on the two vertical halves of the radiator grille, gently slanted to the left at an easy ascending angle. The words “Opel” and “Blitz” were inscribed on two ribbons, partially overlapping.
Chosen for its attributes of representing the origin, power, and performance of an Opel truck from 1930, the name – and its associated symbol – have come to symbolize over 160 years of German industrial production.
The company started as a sewing machine manufacturing family business, established by Adam Opel in 1862. After pioneering wine cork-making machines in Europe several years later, Opel began building bicycles under the prophetic name “Victoria Blitz.” That was 135 years ago, in 1888, and Opel quickly became the market leader in the sewing machine and bicycle-making segments.
In a sense, Opel now parts ways with a significant portion of its history –internal combustion has been at the core of the German carmaker since 1899. That’s when the first automobile built by Adam’s sons saw the light of day. Fast forward 125 years, and the brand will offer electric powertrains for its entire lineup beginning 2024.
Opel was one of the pioneers of rocket propulsion in the late 1920s, essentially opening the way for rocket flight and, ultimately, the space age. At one point, liquid-fueled rocket-propelled Opel vehicles held the speed records on land and in the air.
Having recently celebrated its 75 millionth automobile in 2022 (a Grandland GSe plug-in hybrid), the German carmaker was the first in Europe to surpass 100,000 units per year in the 1930s. The company, now part of Stellantis, through its Peugeot Citroen ownership, is looking forward to its fast-coming all-electric future.