Opel Motorcycles – A Short History

Opel Motorcycle: Motoclub S
1929 Opel Motoclub S

2022 marks the 160th anniversary of Opel, a German company founded by Adam Opel that got its start building sewing machines in Rüsselsheim am Main. Opel’s bespoke sewing machines were a success and were exported throughout Europe. Opel expanded into the bicycle business in 1868, one of the first German companies to do so. The Opel bicycles were also a hit, featuring the latest technology of the time—ball bearings, pneumatic tires, and free-wheeling hubs. After Adam died in 1895, his widow and children took over, and Opel began manufacturing automobiles in 1899. Two years later, the first of many Opel motorcycles appeared—the Opel Motorzweirad.

Opel Motorcycle: Motorzweirad

The product of a successful bicycle manufacturer, it’s no surprise that the 1901 Opel Motorzweirad was very much a motorized bicycle. By modern standards, we would describe it as a moped, as it has pedals to assist the single-cylinder belt-drive motor. The sprung seat is very bicycle-like, as is the chassis, including the hard-diameter wheels. The engine put out just under two horsepower, giving the Motorzweirad a top speed of 25 mph. That was enough to make it a success.

Opel continued making motorcycles until 1930, ending with the 1929 acquisition of 80 percent of the company’s shares by General Motors and the subsequent worldwide economic depression.

Opel Motorcycles: Motorrader

The final Opel motorcycle was the Motoclub, a design licensed from another German company—Neander. It featured Küchen (German), J.A.P. (British), and Motosacoche (Swiss) engines, depending on the buyer’s preference.

The 1929 Opel Motoclub S, shown in action, used a 496cc overhead, dual-port powerplant that produced 22 horsepower. The matte-sliver cadmium-plated pressed-steel frame—a manufacturing innovation at the time—is set off by several red accents. The footpeg, kickstarter, grip, and tire rubber were red, as was the leather seat. The front suspension is a leaf-spring design, with coil springs keeping the rider and passenger isolated from the bumps transmitted by the hard-tail frame.


Today, Opel is owned by Stellantis—an Italian-American conglomerate—that owns 15 other automobile brands, including Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, DS, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Mopar, Peugeot, Ram, and Vauxhall. If they want to bring back Opel motorcycles, we won’t be complaining.