Fritz von Opel, son of Wilhelm von Opel, grandson of Adam Opel, the founder of the Opel company, and a father of Formula One driver Rikky von Opel, in 1920s – 30s has worked as testing director of the company. In 1928, when he was 29, Fritz decided to take an active part in the rocket research project of the publicist and astronomer Max Valier (1895-1930). The idea was to build a rocket-powered record car to break world speed record. He invited Friedrich Sander (1885-1938) to participate in the project to achieve rapid deployment of the rocket engine, since the Sander company manufactured signal rockets with solid fuel. On April 11 1928, the Opel RAK1 with Opel engineer and racing driver Kurt Volkhart at the wheel, reached 100 km/h in eight seconds. The vehicle, which had small wings on its sides (being a first car tio use wings), was based on the Opel 4/12. It was powered by twelve Sander rockets with about 40 kilograms of explosives. The next rocket-powered vehicle, Opel RAK2, was specially designed to try to break the speed record on the Avus track. It was based on the chassis of the Opel 10/40 and was an improved version of the RAK1 in many ways. It was longer than its predecessor, with a length of 4.88 meters , aerodynamics had been improved, the upper wings were larger and carried 24 solid fuel rockets that developed a thrust of six tons. Sequential electrical ignition of the loads was maintained by a foot pedal on the ground. The futuristic-looking 560 kg race car lacked an engine and transmission. With Fritz von Opel himself at the wheel, on May 23 1928 the RAK2 reached a speed of 230 km/h (143 mph) at the Avus track in Berlin. Some 3000 guests, including journalists, celebrities, athletes and politicians, flocked to the event. Spurred on by success in Berlin, Fritz von Opel and Friedrich Sander continued to experiment. On June 23 1928, they set a new record for rail vehicles by reaching 256 km/h with the Opel RAK3 rocket-powered rail vehicle. On the second run the vehicle jumped off the track and was destroyed. Next rail vehicle, Opel RAK4, was destroyed when a solid rocket explodes on the track, exploding all the other rockets. Railway authorities prohibit further runs. Then the tireless enthusiasts moved to another element – into the air. On September 30 1929, they accomplish another pioneering feat: the first rocket-powered flight of the Opel-Sander RAK1 high-wing aircraft , manufactured by Julius Hatry.
|1928||Speed Record Trials||Avus Record Run|
|Fritz von Opel|
|1:43||IXO||Eaglemoss Opel Collection|