I found my Kübelwagen waiting for me in the scrap-yard of a garage in the Drome, in the French Alps; I was there on holidays in the summer of 1973, and my brother-in-law asked me whether I had seen the "German Jeep" in the nearby town; I went to have a look, and while I was looking, a voice asked me "You interested ? you can have it for 2400 Francs." (or about 400 US$)
Upon inquiring, the garage-owner explained to me that under the new environmental regulations, he had been ordered to clean-up the surroundings of his establishment, and was ready to let the Kübel go for the value of the almost-new (1500 km) 1200cc Beetle engine that was in it.
The poor thing was a rather sorry sight at the time ( see picture on the right ) with a bashed-in front, missing front and read under-body panels, GMC headlight grills weighing down the wings, and as the fuel line in the tunnel had rotten, a jerry-can with a nifty brass tap brazed at the bottom was bolted above a rear wing to provide the fuel; this tap would shut itself with the vibrations after about half an hour running, which made driving interesting, as the engine would then die without warning; the Kübel at that time had no starter-motor, no silencer system, no rear lights whatsoever, no rear-seat, the front seats from a Vespa 400 micro-car, and the while the foot-brake system only operated on the front-left and rear-right drums, there was no hand-brake. Oh happy days before we introduced MOT testing !.
Garage man promissed to have an exhaust and starter-motor fitted in two-weeks time, and I returned then to collect my new prize.
Which I did, and first spent a day installing a temporary wiring harness and a dashboard, made from a biscuit tin, with a few switches to control tail-lights, turn indicators and headlights; the head-lights mirrors received a coat of alulminium paint, to hide their scandalous condition, but at least I could now emit some light front and rear to show my good faith. The car now had a silencer (ex Beetle), and a starter motor, but still did not start; I found out much later it lacked an earth strap between engine and body.... But the car started well enough if bump-started, one just had to take care not to stall on a hill; I later found out that with a 32 mm socket and a ratchet handle, one can very easily start it too.
And so I got home, 600 km away, without any mishap or encounter with the Gendarmerie (for the latter, it may have helped that I was driving wearing my French Army uniform) but frozen stiff, there was no hood and I arrived with two inches of snow on the front passenger seat.
And now the search started in earnest to find all that was missing; first stroke of luck was a frined who had recently picked up a Notek black-out head-light at a meet; from then on it was easy; between the friendly neighbourhood VW dealer, who would put his spares catalogue on the counter as soon as he saw me enter, through getting involved with a Military Vehicle club, the Escadron de l'Histoire, in France, where I was for 15 years the membership secretary, I got to find sources of spares, to know people who had stocks of old parts to swap, or who made reproductions bits and pieces; I made some myself to swap with others; And when I had to sell it in 1998 to emigrate to Paraguay, one must admit that my Kübel was in a better condition than when I had got it. I had in the mean-time managed to swap the 1968 1200cc engine for a 1954 1200cc, which in turn I swopped for a 1944 1131cc someone no longer wanted; this was less powerful, but surprisingly enough did not affect the capacity when driving off-road; less power seems to mean less wheel-slip on the mud.
I am sorry I had to abandon it, but it would not have been reasonable to ship it here, where spares would really be difficult to get, I know it went to a good home, and while I owned it, it gave me great pleasure, and got me to know a number of other collectors and old-cars enthusiasts, most of whom I remember with affection.
Renaud OLGIATI 1999
Chassis number : 6345
Dates of fabrication :
Ambi-Budd Presswerke December 1941
Volkswagenwerk January 1942
First French civilian registration:
1948, in the Constantine district of Algeria
KSTORYE R.Olgiati 26 05 1999