Contributor: David Stubblebine
ww2dbaseResponding to instructions from Hitler himself, Ferdinand Porsche began developing the Volkswagen (people's car) in the early 1930's. In 1938, before the Volkswagen Type 1 could enter full production, wartime demands caused the design to shift to a military variant (production of the Type 1 did begin after the war in 1945 in what became known as the Beetle - among the most successful car designs in history).
ww2dbaseThe military variant used what was essentially the Type 1's suspension, drive train, and a reinforced chassis but had a body and interior more suitable for military use. The model became known as the Kübelwagen, short for Kübelsitzwagen or "bucket seat car." The prototype was called the Type 62 but the production models were known as the Type 82.
ww2dbaseFull scale production of the Type 82 Kübelwagen started in February 1940, as soon as the VW factories became operational. Except for a larger engine in 1943, no major changes took place until production ended in 1945. Only small modifications were implemented - mostly eliminating unnecessary parts and reinforcing some which had proved unequal to the task.
ww2dbaseSome early prototypes were assembled with four-wheel-drive (Type 86) and different engines, but none offered a significant increase in performance or capability over the existing Type 82 and the designs were only implemented in limited numbers.
ww2dbaseDespite lacking four wheel drive, which was a mainstay of the American Jeeps, the Type 82 proved very competent at maneuvering its way over rough terrain. When the German military took delivery of the first vehicles, they immediately tested them on- and off-road in snow and ice to test them against the European winters; using several four-wheel-drive vehicles as reference points. The two-wheel-drive Kübelwagen surprised even those who had been a part of its development, as it handily out-performed the other vehicles in nearly every test. Most notably - thanks to its smooth, flat underbody - the Type 82 would propel itself much like a motorized sled when its wheels were sinking into sand, snow or mud, allowing it to follow tracked vehicles with remarkable tenacity. The vehicle's light weight, gear-reduction wheel hubs, and self-locking differential more than compensated for the lack of 4X4 capabilities.
ww2dbaseUsed by both the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS, the Kübelwagen was for the Germans what the Jeep was for the Allies. The Kübelwagen was 3 cm longer than the Willys MB but the Jeep outweighed the VW by over 300 kg. Capable of 80 km/h (8 km/h faster than the Jeep), the air-cooled engine proved highly dependable in both very hot and very cold climates. It was also less vulnerable to bullets due to the absence of a radiator. As the body was not a load-bearing part of the vehicle's structure, it could easily be field-modified to special purposes. The Kübelwagen also had many factory variants. The Type 155 was a half-track variant that never went into production and the Type 166 was a 4-wheel drive amphibian known as the Schwimmwagen (Floating/Swimming car) that was widely produced with great success.
ww2dbaseIn March 1943, the Kübelwagen received the bigger 1,131 cc engine, originally developed for the Schwimmwagen, that produced more torque and power than the original 985 cc motor. When Volkswagen production ceased at the end of the war, 50,435 Type 82's had been produced and the vehicle had proven itself to be surprisingly useful, reliable, and durable.
ww2dbaseSources: Wikipedia, Ray Mudway
Last Major Revision: Jan 2011
|Machinery||One air-cooled flat-4 985cc or 1,131cc engine rated at 23hp or 25hp|
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Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, 16 Mar 1945