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Great confusion reigns amongst collectors about the different systems used to design what came out of the factory at Wolfsburg; in fact, in the period that interests us,(that is from the early beginnings to the early post-war years) no less than six different systems were in use:

  1. KdF Wagen

  2. O.K.W.

  3. Porsche (Typ)

  4. Porsche (Kar)

  5. Wolfsburg Motor Works

  6. Volkswagen Motoren Werke

The first four were used simultaneously from the beginning to the end of the war; the fifth during production under British Army control and the sixth since then (for the last one, we shall only look at the early years, before 1951).

The first four are independant, the last two derive from the first.

1) Kraft durch Freude (KdF)

KdF used two numbering systems: the first one for prototypes, which had the letters VW followed by a one- or two-figure number: thus VW1, VW2, VW3, VW30, WV38 et VW39; to make things simpler, the VW30 cars were numbered individually from V1 to V30.

The second system was used for the types that went into production. It refers to the chassis model, and comprises the following models :

Model 1 : ordinary chassis, two wheel drive, KdFwagen body
Model 2 : raised chassis, two wheel drive, Kubelwagen body
Model 5 : raised chassis, two wheel drive, KdFwagen body
Model 7 : four wheel drive (among others, Schwimmwagen)

This number prefixes the chassis number; after the 20/12/1941, all engine numbers also had the prefix, with in addition 6- for stationary engines

2) Ober Kommando der Wehrmacht

The German Army added to the confusion by having its own nomenclature for the motors it used; thus it called (leicht gelandefahig Personenkraftwagen) all its light cross-country cars, irrespective of make; this designation was qualified, according to body type, by KfZ (Kraftfahrzeug) followed by a number between 1 and 10. The ordinary 4 seater Kubel belonged to class 1), the 4 seater signals Kubel KfZ 3 and the 3 seater radio Kubel KfZ 2 .

The Schwimmwagen was known as l.schwf.Pkw.(KfZ 1/20) (leicht schwimmfahig Personenkraftwagen).

It is also irrespective of make that all open-bodied cross-country cars were known as 'Kuebelwagen', and all amphibious ones as 'Schwimmwagen'; the KdF being nicknamed 'Kafer' (Beetle) , Typ 87 and 92 were quite logically called 'Kriegkafer'.

You will find in Annex D a list and translation of the military abbreviations that are of interest for our hobby.

3) Porsche Typ

This numbering refers to the number of the Porsche study; it may refer to other than automobile projects: some studies concern a Diesel engine (Typ 309), a wind-powered electrical generator (Typ 135) or even an assault boat (Typ 174).

A great number of these studies never went further than the prototype stage, and some never left the drawing board.

Known studies form Annex A, and the descent of Typ 32 Annex B.

4) Porsche Kar ou K.

Corrresponds to a body type. The best known are K1 : Beetle, K10 : Sports car and K820 : 4-seater Kuebelwagen.

Annex C gives a more complete list.

5) Wolfsburg Motor Works

This system, which derives from 1), was used just after the war, when the factory was working under the control of the British Occupation Forces.
It is based on a two-figures number; the first figure refers to the chassis type and is the same as the KdF model number.

A list of recorded models appears in Annex E.

6) Volkswagen Motoren Werke

These are the numbers which are still used today by VW; they are formed of three figures, the first of which designs the family of the car. This system started as direct continuation of 5), with, in the first figure, 1 for the Beetle on normal chassis, and 2 for the Van on a raised chassis (still the KdF number) . In the third position, a figure (for a short time, a letter) indicates minor variations (LHD or RHD, sunroof etc.)

For more details, see Annex F .

This multiplicity of designations created some confusion, mainly because they overlap, and one vehicle may be known by several designations: for instance, a Kubel can be a Model 2, a Typ 82, a K 820, a 1) or even, built in 1945, a Model 21. The fact that (KfZ 1) can also be used for a Horch or a Tatra does nothing to simplify the situation; neither does the existence of unofficial Typs (see Annex A). We shall in passing mention books, supposedly serious, in which Typ and Kar are mixed with abandon...

For those who are hopelesly lost, Annex G gives some equivalents; Annex H gives some known productions figures.

Many thanks to those who helped and corrected me, and especially Jacques Alvergnat, Rolf Boxberger, Bob Shaill and Andr‚ Lecoq.

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Copyright Renaud OLGIATI 1999