In this article, we are going to discuss the history of oplet in Indonesia and where the name came from.
THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM OPLET
Oplet is actually a term coming from the word, or rather a car brand, Opel. Opel itself was a popular car brand in Indonesia before World War II.Oplet is derived from the word Opel Lettewhich means small Opel. In Indonesia, it was a brand name coinage into a word to define a 4-5 passenger-seat car that was turned into public transportation.
There was actually a lot more brand found in this era that was also used as public transportation. There was Austin, Morris, and small Opel, which all were called oplet. However, others also say that the word oplet coming from Chevrolet or auto let.
MODIFYING A SEDAN INTO A PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Morris Minor 1000 Traveler is a sedan-type classic car that was the basis for oplet car. It was an English-manufactured car with modifiable tires. However, Austin was also commonly used as public transportation. Therefore, people of Betawi usually refer to it as ostin instead of oplet.
When it was released from manufacturing, it was actually a car that can carry up to 4-5 passengers. There was a factory that modifies this car in the Meester Cornelis, Jatinegara. This was where this classic car received a modification which turned it into public transportation that can carry up to 10 passengers.
When modified, this car was divided into two parts, the first one is a room for the driver and 1 passenger with side doors. While the second part is for the passengers behind with one door. The back part was modified so much that there will be additional seat and room that makes it possible to carry up to 10 passengers.
THE USE OF THIS CLASSIC CAR FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Oplet appeared to fulfill the needs for transportation for the colonial community in big cities such as Batavia. This need was fulfilled with bike and car. Since the 1920s, cars in Batavia were significantly increased and at the same time, people demand for public transportation also increase.
People gradually replaced animal-powered transportation like sado or delman in cities and move to trams, and around the 30s, autolettesor oplet came out as a smaller means of public transportation.
In the 50s, oplet use grew significantly in Jakarta, connecting people from one place to another, from villages to cities. It became the backbone of public transportation in the capital city of Indonesia. When the use of tram was revoked in the 50s, the number of operating oplet kept growing until the 60s. In 1971, oplethas become the second largest public transportation after becak with 6,128 units.
Additionally, the failure of buses as a replacement for tram also makes the oplet thrived. The buses were unable to fulfill the demand for public transportation. It was uncomfortable and always full of passengers to the point where people have to hang on the bus' doors. Oplet, despite old, closed this gap and fulfill the demand for a more comfortable public transportation.
Not only gaining popularity in Jakarta, but Oplet was also said to replace the use of other public transportations like a medium-sized bus in Padang. For a couple of years, people prefer Oplet than another type of public transportation.