CONTRIBUTED BY PER SCHROEDER
The real story of the Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle begins long before the first VWs were imported to the United States in 1949. Born during a troubled time, the KDF (Kraft durch Freude-Wagen, or “Strength Through Joy Car”) was conceived and incubated prior to the start of World War II. Ferdinand Porsche’s design team took four years to finalize the innovative design and the final batch of 20 prototypes hit the road in 1938. Precious few of these first proto-Bugs still survive, as the Factory ordered their destruction in 1942.
Things rarely go as planned—especially during times of war. Several pre-production KDF Wagens were saved from certain doom and plenty of 1941-1945 war era cars survived, including ones adapted for combat, like the Thing-like Kubelwagen and amphibious Schwimmwagen. Whatever wasn’t destroyed during the war was liberated by Allies and spread to the wind. They found their way to museums and private collections like the fossils they are.
The modern chapter of one particular 1938 prototype starts about six years ago when it surfaced in Lithuania. It was determined through some very clever sleuthing that it was the sixth prototype built in 1938. While not quite as primitive as the first few built in 1937, it still had enough unique characteristics to make it recognizable and identifiable, despite being cut up and placed on top of the chassis from a Volga.
With over 4500 posts and three million views, the thread on The Samba that chronicles the find and restoration process is good for hours—days of entertainment as the tale unfolds. Fair Warning—don’t expect to get much work done once you start reading.