THE KÜBELWAGEN F.A.Q.
Maintained by R.Olgiati
The Kübelwagen / Beetle / VW was designed by Adolf Hitler ?
- False they were designed by the team of Dr. Ing. Ferdinand Porshe who had directed since the twenties a company doing research and design work for the automotive industry.
A look at the list of studies done by the Porsche company shows that, in the begining, it was working for a number of German manufacturers.
It is only when put in charge of developing the People's Car (Volks Wagen) that Porsche concentrated on this, but still had time for a number of other designs, including the Panther and Maus tanks.
All Hitler did for the VW was to order it built, as a part of his program of social development, and to make funds available through the Kraft durch Freude labour organisation.
The Kübelwagen was built by slave labour ?
True a number of the workmen at the VW factory were foreign workers from countries beaten by the Third Reich, who had been drafted to come and work in Germany to replace in German factories the Germans who were now fighting at the front. This program had been instituted in all the occupied countries because of the lack of enthusiasm of workers in those countries for coming voluntarily to work in Germany.
These drafted workmen must not be confused with concentration-camps inmates: they were paid (badly), could (infrequently) go home on leave, and were not exterminated like the Jews, Communists, Tzigans and homosexuals were in the concentration camps.
The Beetle was test-driven by the SS / German army ?
True; the first extensive serie of road-tests, on a pre-production serie of 30 prototypes, was undertaken by teams of drivers drafted from the Waffen-SS; moreover, during the whole war, all field-workshops were ordered to return to the factory any part which had failed under use; this led to a policy of constant modification of various parts to correct design weaknesses and meant that when the first VWs were sold to the public in 1948, they had had the most extensive test-driving in automotive history: about 70.000 pre-serie prototypes test-driven from the heats of the Sahara to the frozen steppes of Russia.
The VW was built with the money of German workers ?
finance the building of the
factory, German workers belonging to the Kraft durch Freude labour
organisation were offered the possibility to buy their car by
instalments, buying stamps every month which they stuck on a card;
the idea being that once the card was filled, it could then be
exchanged for a car from the KdF factory; only with the war being
declared, the production of civilian models dropped almost to
nothing, and the workers did not get the car they had paid for. It
took a class-action lawsuit in the nineteen-sixties to compel VW to
debt, and redeem the payments made before and during the war.
(KdF stamp and KdF Stamp Book scans used with permission of USMBooks )
The first VW commercially exported went to the USA ?
- False they went to the Netherlands, and they were only two (a breeding couple ?) in the first year 1948. Some military-specification Beetles and Kübels had gone to the States, England, Canada, etc. before that, but as a personal export by Allied military personal returning home.
The first VW exported to England went in 1945 ?
- False A Kübelwagen captured in North Africa was sent to the UK, to be studied by British automotive manufacturers, to compare it with Allied military vehicles; the result of the study was published by the Humber Car Co in 1943 (See the Bibliography)
The Kübelwagen is a poor vehicle for off-road driving ?
- False Although it has only two-wheel drive, its design with the rear-engine on top of the driven wheels ensures a high adhesion; in addition, it is fitted with a limited-slip differential, ensuring better traction even if one wheel is loose on ice or mud; finally, its flat floorpan and high ground-clearance keeps it from snagging on low obstacles, and enables it to slither over obstacles that would stop a Jeep.
The Kübelwagen was better than the Jeep ?
In 1945, among occupying troops (who after all were the end-users), the going rate of exchange was of two Jeeps for one Kubel ! The independant-arms suspension of the Kübel and its lighter steering made it much more confortable than the Jeep, its fuel consumption was much lower, and with off-road capacities that were more or less equivalent, the limited slip-differential and higher ground-clearance making-up for the absence of four-wheel drive.
The production of the Kübelwagen stopped in 1945, with the end of the hostilities ?
- False Kübelwagens kept on being produced after the end of the hostilities, first as service vehicles for the occupying forces, and then for the essential services in occupied Germany (Post-office, fire brigades, etc.) They were produced from parts and bodies left in store in the Wolfsbug factory. The Kübel bodies were produced in Berlin, in the zone occupied by the Russians in 1945, but incredibly, even after the partition of Germany, Kübel bodies kept on arriving to Wolfsburg for some times, enabling the building of more Kübels.
The Wolfsburg factory built cars under US military control after 1945 ?
- False if was under British control, under the direction of Major Hirsh that the factory was used, first as a front-echelon maintenance workshop for the Allied forces, and later started again building cars needed by both the Allied forces and the nascent German Government.
Henry Ford Junior turned down the Wolfsburg factory ?
True when offered the possibility to dismantle and ship to the US the Wolfsburg factory to use it to produce Beetles in the US, Henry Ford turned the offer down saying that "that car would never be a success in a democracy"....
The Kübelwagen could be used to start tank engines ?
True some Kübels, fitted with a PTO, could with a special linking shaft be used to start the engines of tanks in cold weather conditions.
The designation Type 2 came into being when the bus/combi came out in 1949 ?
- False it was already the type class of the Kübelwagen and all 2-wheel-drive vehicles with reduction gear; so it was re-used for the bus when this came out.
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