In early Januar, as the Volkswagen development was slowly winding down. Porsche decided to expand its business portfolio. Bringing its consulting, constructing, design, research and testing departments under one roof. The firm moved to a bigger facility at Spitalwaldstraße 2 in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, 9 km (5 mi) north of its old office at Kronenstraße 24. Porsche changed its legal entity from GmbH to AG.
Porsche was contracted by the Heereswaffenamt (lit. Army Weapons Agency), HWA for short, on 26 Januar to develop a Volkswagen-based light utility vehicle with off-road capability for the Wehrmacht. Since the HWA was a state-funded organisation, Porsche received an additional grant from KdF for the development. The engineers were allowed to develop a military vehicle around an existing unmodified Typ 60 VW30 chassis.
The young German car enthusiasts laughed with delight while covering their ears at the spectacular 1938 Rekordwoche (Record Week). The streaks bolted up and down a long straight stretch of the Reichsautobahn between Frankfurt am Main and Darmstadt. The Reichsautobahn was only 8 m wide in both directions with many bridges to go over and under. The rivalry between the rival German automakers, Auto Union and Daimler-Benz, was about to reach its peak. They would attempt to set new flying kilometre and mile records on 28 Januar.
Auto Union and Daimler-Benz were obsessed with the speed records. Especially the flying kilometre and mile records. They built faster record cars every year for this very reason. Flying kilometre and/or mile means the car would have to accelerate on a reserved sector before entering the timed sector.
Rosemeyer set new flying kilometre and mile records in his Auto Union Typ C Stromlinienwagen (Streamline Car) during the 1937 Rekordwoche last Oktober. 8,86 seconds at 406,32 km/h for flying kilometre and 14,26 seconds at 406,28 km/h for flying mile.
Caracciola went first in his 571 kW supercharged Mercedes-Benz W125 Rekordwagen (Record Car). He rocketed his streamliner past the kilometre mark within 8,32 seconds at 432,69 km/h and the mile mark within 13,4 seconds at 432,36 km/h. Caracciola broke Rosemeyer speed records.
Enraged by Daimler-Benz’s success, Auto Union put Rosemeyer in its newly developed 415 kW supercharged Typ C Stromlinienwagen and entered them to reclaim the crown. After a poor practise run, the car’s body was slightly modified to improve the aerodynamics. Rosemeyer blasted off for the first run, rocketing his car past the kilometre mark within 8,38 seconds at 429,59 km/h.
Before Rosemeyer could reach the mile mark, a gust of wind suddenly caused the streamliner to turn sideways, veering to the left. The left rear wheel touched the grassy median, making it impossible to regain control at that speed. A timekeeper, desperate to save Rosemeyer’s life, warned him that there would be a bridge 400 m (1/4 mi) ahead. Rosemeyer slammed on the brakes while trying to countersteer. While the car was skidding and wobbling, another gust of wind caused it to turn sharply, this time towards the right shoulder. The car crashed into an embankment and rolled, disintegrating in the air. Rosemeyer was thrown out of the car and landed in the woods a whopping 100 m away from the car.
After a long silence, the loudspeakers announced that the German hero and Auto Union race driver, Bernd Rosemeyer, had passed away. The announcement caused an emotional atmosphere among the crowd. The nearby timekeepers, bystanders and emergency personnels found an unconscious Rosemeyer shortly before his heart stopped. The loss of the symbol of German motorsports was hard on the German car enthusiasts. Rosemeyer’s wife, Elly, who gave birth to their son Bernd Jr. just ten weeks prior, was left heartbroken.
After 2,4 million kilometres (1,3 million miles) of abusive systematic driving performed by soldiers. The fleet of Typ 60 VW30’s was returned to Porsche for inspection. Each car had at least 80,000 km (45,000 mi) on the odometre, and the results turned up satisfactory. Porsche went ahead and moved on to the next stage in the Volkswagen development. The chassis would remain largely unchanged.
After intense study of the fibreglass Typ 60 V303 mockup. Komenda and Mickl made minor corrections and improvements to the body designs for the cabriolet and the limousines. The bumpers and panels were reworked to use fewer parts. The cars with a soft top had their roofs reworked, so that they would appear slightly curved than flat. Reutter was given an order to construct the bodies.
In early Februar, three all-steel bodies on steel frames, 60K7 (limousine), 60K8 (limousine with a roll back sunroof) and 60K9 (cabriolet), were delivered. The 60K7 was painted Blaugrau (blue-grey) and the others were painted Schwarz (black). They were mounted on top of existing modified Typ 60 VW30 chassis at Porsche’s new Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen facility. The prototypes bore the same name as the Porsche Typ 60 V303 mockup, so they went identified by their licence plate numbers. IIIA-42801 was Typ 60 V303/801 with the 60K7 body, IIIA-42802 was Typ 60 V303/802 with the 60K8 body and IIIA-42803 was Typ 60 V303/803 with 60K9 body. They were already cruising the streets of Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen before the 1 März deadline. The Typ 60 V303’s would be present at a major event in Mai.
Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg was pressured by the German-speaking Austrians into uniting with Drittes Reich. Instead of a diplomatic solution, Hitler, who was tired of Austrian politics, forced Schuschnigg to step aside and resign from the office. The Wehrmacht marched into Austria and annexed the country without any resistance on 12 März. The incorporated Austrian territory was renamed Ostmark (lit. East March). Czechoslovakia was now surrounded on three fronts by Deutschland. The action was a direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles, but it was again ignored by the incompetent British and French governments. This establishment was called Anschluß (Connection).
Another ceremonial shoving took place in Salzburg, Salzburg, Deutschland, on 7 April. The RAD expanded to Ostmark, creating many local jobs and putting tens of thousands of people out of unemployment. They immediately began constructing two sections of Reichsautobahn that would connect München to Salzburg to Linz, Oberösterreich, Deutschland, and Vienna.
Over seventy thousand people were welcomed at the attractively decorated ceremony on the site of the Volkswagen plant in Fallersleben. Most of them arrived by train because the small town of Fallersleben couldn’t handle the intense traffic. To share the memorable experience at the ceremony. Two mobile post offices were set up nearby so people could write and send postcards and souvenirs. German reporters were ready to broadcast the one-hour long event on radio and television. Journalists from all over the world were present as well. They were about to be part of history.
The event began with a marching band playing the national anthem. Filling every smiling man, woman and child with German pride and hope. They thrust their right arms diagonally with a straight hand and sang along.
Deutschland, Deutschland above all,
Above everything in the world!
When, always, for protection,
We stand together as brothers!
From the Maas to the Memel,
From the Etsch to the Belt.
Deutschland, Deutschland above all,
Above all in the world!
Flag high! Ranks closed tight!
The stormtroopers march with bold, firm step.
Comrades shot by Reds and Reactionaries.
March in spirit within our ranks.
Clear the streets for the brown battalions!
Clear the streets for the stormtroopers!
Millions already look hopefully up to the Swastika.
The day is dawning for freedom and bread!
For the last time now the call is sounded!
Already we stand all ready to fight!
Soon the Hitler banners will flutter over the barricades.
Our bondage will not last much longer!
Flag high! Ranks closed tight!
The stormtroopers march with calm, firm step.
Comrades shot by Reds and Reactionaries.
March in spirit within our ranks.
BDA, DAF, KdF and Porsche, between large swaying red NSDAP banners, stood with a proud Hitler. The foundation stone of the Volkswagen plant before them.
Hitler thanked those who were involved in the development of the Volkswagen. In front of him, three Volkswagens were unveiled, a limousine with a roll back roof, a cabriolet and a limousine. They gleamed under the sunlight, reflecting the faces of the crowd. Hundreds of small children were seated on their fathers’ shoulders to get a better look. Hitler shared his dream of motorising every working German with the crowd. Presenting the cheapest domestic economy car before them. As the cheering subsided, Hitler announced that the cars would be called the...
...instead of Volkswagen. The crowd exploded in applause. The Porsche staff, who had been developing the Volkswagen for four years, however, was in dismay. After exchanging looks, they applauded half-heartedly.
Hitler continued, announcing that the Volkswagen plant would be the largest automotive plant in the world. The production of 150,000 KdF-Wagens per year would start in September of the following year. The delivery would start in early 1940.
Hitler welcomed the crowd to a new town that would be called Stadt des KdF-Wagens bei Fallersleben (City of the KdF-Wagens at Fallersleben), KdF-Stadt (KdF City) for short. Not only would KdF-Stadt house factory workers, the town would have fun public places for social gatherings such as theatres, track and field, stores and so on. Hitler promised people could start a new life in KdF-Stadt.
The ceremony ended with the cornerstone to the Volkswagen plant having been laid. Once it was laid, brilliant white fireworks were launched over the grandstand.
The DAF, KdF and RDA hired people, who were desperately in need of a job, at the ceremony. Many skilled German and Italian workers were immediately put to work constructing the KdF-Stadt and the Reichsautobahn. Some engineers were sent to the Daimler-Benz plant to learn the process of manufacturing and assembling automobiles. The organisations employed over eleven thousand people on the following weekend.
The sea of devotees stepped aside and saluted when a KdF-Wagen cabriolet, occupied by Hitler, Ley, Dr. Porsche and Ferry, drove through the crowd. Ferry chauffeured Hitler, Ley and Dr. Porsche to Banhnhof Fallersleben, a train station nearby.
Volkswagen was officially born on this day. It was already popular among the German car enthusiasts.
Despite the abrupt name change from Volkswagen to KdF-Wagen. Porsche was pleased that its Volkswagen development gained support and popularity. Since the Typ 60 V303’s were in limbo between Typ 60 VW30 and the next Volkswagen prototype. Porsche had to produce a batch of preproduction prototypes of the Typ 60 V303’s for testing and promotional purposes.
Daimler-Benz and Reutter produced and delivered twenty-seven chassis and twenty-seven bodies, mostly 60K7 and 60K8, to Porsche. They were immediately assembled thanks to a large workforce of newly hired and trained engineers. A batch of twenty-seven preproduction Volkswagen prototypes, Porsche Typ 60 VW38, was completed. A very few Typ 60 VW38’s had the 60K9 cabriolet body, which roof had been slightly reworked. A rear split windscreen and rear side windows were added to the 60K9 body for the first time. Other than that, they were completely identical to the Typ V303 prototypes. The 60K7- and 60K8-bodied Typ 60 VW38’s were distributed throughout Deutschland for testing and promotional purposes.
Several towns and districts in the Gifhorn region, Fallersleben, Hattorf, Heßlingen, districts of Mörse, Bamstorf, Hattorf and Mörse, Rothehof-Rothenfelde and Sandkamp, as well as the land near Wolfsburg (Wolfs Castle, a medieval castle), were merged to form KdF-Stadt on 1 Juli. Although the construction of the Volkswagen plant began as early as Februar of that year. The pace of the construction increased dramatically with the help of many new workers.
Just when the pace of the Volkswagen plant construction was increasing, it quickly decreased. Deutschland literally drew a line between itself and France with the construction of the Westwall (Siegfried Line). To start the construction of a 650 km (400 mi) long defence line. Most of the workforce, which was constructing the plant, was redeployed to the western German border. The construction of the plant dragged on.
Starting 1 August, with payment of 1 RM fee, a KdF-Wagen Sparkarte (Saving Card) would be issued to people interested in buying the KdF-Wagen. Due to the average weekly income of 35 RM, most people couldn’t afford to buy a KdF-Wagon outright. Instead, people pay a little at a time.
The payment plan would allow people to pay 5 RM weekly, or when possible, until they reached 990 RM for the limousine, 1,000 RM for the limousine with a roll back sunroof or 1,050 RM for the cabriolet. The KdF-Wagen would be available in any colour as long as it was Blaugrau. For each payment a fuzzy rubber stamp would be issued. A full booklet of 198, 200 or 210 stamps would be required to redeem a KdF-Wagen. Two years insurance coverage would be offered for an additional 200 RM. Due to the lack of dealerships, people would have to buy their KdF-Wagens at the Volkswagen plant. If the buyer couldn’t pick up their KdF-Wagen at the plant, it could be delivered for an additional 50 RM.
Towards the end of 1941, the DAF took over the programme. The organisation changed the colours from yellow KdF-Wagen Sparkarte booklets and red stamps to blue booklets and green stamps.
Following Rosemeyer’s fatal accident in Januar of that year. Auto Union decided not to participate in the speed records again. With the help of Werlin, Stuck decided to take a stab at the speed records. This time he would drive for Daimler-Benz. Mickl, Stuck and Werlin persuaded Daimler-Benz to develop a new streamliner for the Rekordwoche soon. Without realising that HFB were behind the construction of the Auto Union GP race cars, Daimler-Benz signed a contract with the firm in September. The automaker later supplied HFB with one of its newly developed liquid-cooled 44,52 L DB-601 inverted V12 engine prototypes. The engines were developed specifically for a fighter aircraft, Messerschmitt Bf-109. This engine in particular was tuned to produce over 2,250 kW. HFB was asked to wrap an aircraft-like streamliner around it.
The GEZUVOR programme was evolved into Volkswagenwerk (Volkswagen Plant) GmbH, VWW for short, on 16 September. Dr. Porsche and his wife, Aloisia Johanna, moved into a new home, Porschehütte (Porsche Hut), in the forests of Klieversberg near KdF-Stadt. Now that Dr. Porsche would be spending more time getting VWW off the ground, Ferry was put in charge of Porsche. Porsche continued its projects.
The Berlin-Rome endurance race was supposed to take place on 27 and 28 September. The construction of the Reichsautobahn in Ostmark, which would connect to Italy, was incomplete. The NSKK postponed the race to September of the following year. Porsche had yet to start its Volkswagen-based sports car development.
The incompetent British and French governments were dragged to Deutschland for an urgent meeting on 29 September. There the British and French Prime Ministers, Neville Chamberlain and Édouard Daladier, met with Hitler and the Duce (Leader) of the Italian Fascist Party, Benito Mussolini. The Prime Ministers signed the Münchner Abkommen (Munich Agreement) in the early hours of the following day. Giving Hitler permission to annex Sudetenland, German-speaking regions of Czechoslovakia, without starting a war.
The German workforce, which was constructing the Volkswagen plant and KdF-Stadt, was too small and making progress slowly. The DAF didn’t want to slow down the construction of the Westwall by dividing and sending the workforce back there. It was originally planned that no churches would be constructed in KdF-Stadt. Mussolini, who understood more about labour than Hitler, explained that no churches in KdF-Stadt would discourage many Catholic workers from moving there. He offered to send 2,500 skilled Italian workers to speed up the construction pace of the plant and KdF-Stadt; only if Hitler would allow churches to be built in the area. A deal was made between the Axis leaders. The president of Confederazione Fascista dei Lavoratori dell’Industria (Fascist Confederation of Industrial Workers), CFLI for short, Tullio Cianetti, was put in charge of housing Italian workers and putting them to work. A large barn near Banhnhof Fallersleben was converted into an office building, Tullio Cianetti Halle. The facility opened its doors on 14 Oktober for the Italian workers, who arrived a month prior. Tullio Cianetti Halle housed many CFLI representatives who would help put the Italian workers to work and house them. Without a proper office at the Volkswagen plant, VWW executives used the Tullio Cianetti Halle temporarily to hold meetings.
Porsche demonstrated its light utility vehicle prototype, Porsche Typ 62, before the HWA committee on 3 November. The Komenda-designed, Reutter-constructed all-steel ribbed body was heavily based on the Typ 60 VW38. It had many weight- and cost-cutting measures such as lack of doors, roof and windows, flat and fixed boot with headlights riveted onto the front, smaller engine compartment and fewer parts. Due to the lack of doors, it had bucket seats installed to keep the occupants from falling out. The body was mounted on top of a spare Typ 60 VW38 chassis with the same power output. Despite having no off-road capability, the committee was satisfied with the Typ 62. The single prototype was handed over to Panzer- und Motorisierungsabteilung (Tank and Motorised Equipment Department, a HWA research branch) for testing. Porsche was given the go ahead to continue development.
Porsches demonstrated its all-steel small tractor prototype, Porsche Typ 110, before the Landwirtschaftsschule Hohenheim committee in Januar. It bore the characteristics of the Volkswagen: Backbone chassis with torsion bar suspension in the front and swing axles at the rear, an air-cooled 8 kW flat twin diesel engine mounted above the front axle, decent fuel economy and low cost. Porsche was asked to develop variants of the tractor for different purposes.
Later that month, Porsche held a closed-door design competition within its design department for a new VWW logo. Reimspieß, who had been designing VWW logos in his spare time, cleverly designed a logo that incorporated elements from KdF’s boat propeller-like emblem. He won the competition with a prize of 100 RM.
The crowd, who didn’t attend the cornerstone ceremony last Mai or didn’t see a Typ 60 VW38 in the wild, had the chance to view the KdF-Wagen at the 1939 Berlin IAMA on 17 Februar. Hitler welcomed the crowd to not one, but nearly a dozen Typ 60 VW38’s. One limousine, one limousine with a roll-back sunroof and one cabriolet were on the show floor. Two limousines, two limousines with a roll-back sunroof and a bare running chassis were decorated outside the entrance. He gave a brief speech, congratulating the German workers for fulfilling his wish to motorise Deutschland. Shortly after his speech, excited young German car enthusiasts formed lines near the three cars; demanding the show organisers to allow them to sit in the national cars. The organisers reluctantly responded to the demand, allowing them to do so. The DAF had a booth nearby where KdF-Wagen brochures, Sparkarten and stamps were being issued to new and existing buyers. Some people applied for work at the booth.
It was announced that over 175,000 KdF-Wagen Sparkarte were issued by 1939. The text on the left pillar reads „100.000 KdF-Wagen sind in einem Monat verkauft worden” (“100,000 KdF-Wagens have been sold in one month”). The text on the right pillar reads „Der Kraft durch Freude Wagen erschliesst uns die Heimat” (lit. “The Strength through Joy Car shows us home”).
Now that Porsche was inching towards the end of the Volkswagen development. It was decided to make a few cosmetic tweaks to an existing Typ 60 VW38/27 (car #27, licence plate: IIIA-43027) before it could reach production in September. Various aspects of the body were slightly reworked. The banana-shaped blades on the front and rear bumpers were reversed for improved sturdiness in case of an accident. The front and rear windscreens were replaced with laminated glass (a type of safety glass). An interior heater, radio and rear view mirror were introduced for the first time. A handle was added to the boot, ditching the pull latch. The semaphores (directional devices, where an orange flap pops out from the car to indicate the turn signal) were flush into the B-pillar near the door, instead of on the body above the front wings, for improved visibility. Due to the lack of thick B-pillars on the 60K9 body, semaphores remained near the front wings. Some of the edges and corners were made rounder. Recessed elements, such as door handles, were no longer recessed to cut the manufacturing costs. The chassis remained largely unchanged.
The #27 Typ 60 VW38 was converted into the Porsche Typ 60 VW39, and it was ready for testing. Daimler-Benz and Reutter produced and delivered their last batch of chassis and bodies to Porsche. The batch consisted of an additional seventeen chassis and seventeen bodies, mostly updated 60K7 and 60K8. The bodies were immediately mounted, and the last batch of Volkswagen preproduction prototypes was completed in Februar. Two 60K9-bodied Typ 60 VW39’s were later delivered to Hitler and Göring. The rest was distributed throughout Deutschland for testing and promotional purposes.
Erzgebirgische Schnittwerkzeug- und Maschinenfabrik (Erzgebirgische Cutting Tools and Machine Factory) GmbH, ESEM for short, a German cutting tools and stamping press manufacturer in Schwarzenberg, Provinz Sachsen, presented its first sheet steel stamped KdF-Wagen body at the 1939 Leipziger Messe (Leipzig Trade Fair) on 5 März. The people were amazed by its simplicity.
Hitler, tired of the Czech government’s desperate attempts to negotiate, threatened the already vulnerable Czech President, Emil Hácha, with air raids on Prague, capital of Czechoslovakia, in the early hours of März 15. The threat would be withdrawn if Hácha stepped aside to allow the Drittes Reich to annex Sudetenland. A few hours later, the Wehrmacht marched into Sudetenland to a warm welcome and annexed the regions without any resistance.
Now that Sudetenland was incorporated into Deutschland, the Czech justice system in the regions was incorporated into the German’s. The action inevitably allowed now-German Czech companies to file infringement lawsuits against German companies. Since Moravia, a Czech region where Tatra headquarters in Kopřivnice was laid, was part of now annexed Sudetenland; Tatra used the opportunity to start drawing up multiple infringement lawsuits against German automakers.
Tatra soon learnt that its Typ 97 had a new competitor, the KdF-Wagen. Despite being five and a half times more expensive. Tatra made the mistake of drawing up lawsuits against the newly established manufacturer of Deutschland’s national car, Volkswagenwerk GmbH. Before Tatra could schedule a formal court hearing, the lawsuit was quickly dismissed, but the trouble didn’t stop there.
In a matter of days after the suspicious dismissal in the German courts. Tatra headquarters and its adjacent plant were raided and ordered to bring the Typ 97 production to a screeching halt. The remaining Typ 97’s at the factory were destroyed. With the help of a registry, the Wehrmacht went to great lengths hunting down and destroying privately owned Typ 97’s that were on the streets of central Europe, including countries outside of Deutschland. Only 508 Typ 97’s were produced since 1936, but it is unknown how many survived the eradication. Tatra was slapped with orders to produce military vehicles, but allowed to continue producing other civilian cars under NSDAP supervision.
Führergeburtstag (lit. Birth of the Führer), a one-time national holiday, took place on 20 April 1939. Every man, woman and child of Deutschland was off from work and school to celebrate Hitler’s fiftieth birthday. Although the actual celebration took place in the early hours of that day. Many party guests were forced to stay up past midnight to give Hitler his birthday gifts. Three of the many over-the-top gifts for Hitler were, of course, a dark blue KdF-Wagen cabriolet (Typ 60 VW39 with 60K9 body), a scale model of the Porsche Typ 112, a tractor that would be developed in the near future, and a photo album of the Volkswagen development from none other than Dr. Porsche and Ferry themselves. Much to the Porsches’ dismay, Hitler didn’t bother to sit in the car of his dreams, but allowed Ley to do so.
Maximilian Hoffman, an automotive importer, Fuchs and Ganz went to Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris, France, with the ERFIAG in August. There they demonstrated the car before Lucien Rosengart, CEO of Automobiles L. Rosengart, an investment firm that produced small cars under licence. Rosengart was interested in putting the ERFIAG into production.
A small silver streamliner threw colourful, autumn leaves behind as it bolted past curious bystanders at full speed through the forests of the Schwarzwald. It wasn’t an Auto Union, KdF-Wagen or Mercedes-Benz. The mysterious streamliner fuelled the excitement among the German car enthusiasts. But what was it?
The streamliner, Porsche Typ 64, was completed just in time to fuel the propaganda at the Berlin-Rome endurance race. The prototype was based on an existing Typ 60 VW38 chassis, using a different body and engine. Thanks to the absence of many parts, such as backseat, luggage compartment, spare tyre and other weighty components, the Typ 64 weighed only a mere 550 kg. Reutter constructed the Reimspieß-designed body, which was made of precipitation-hardening Duraluminium alloy. An aluminium-copper-manganese-magnesium alloy to be specific. The 60K10 body was only 0,5 mm thick and had enclosed wheel wells and a full belly pan for improved aerodynamics and fuel economy. It was the first Porsche-developed prototype to use plexiglass (glass-like plastic) windows. Its rear windscreen was beautifully oval and curved. The air-cooled flat four engine was enlarged to 1,13 L in which produced 24 kW. Ferry spent many hours stress-testing the prototype by travelling at speeds of 140 km/h on the Reichsautobahn. It would easily qualify for the race.
On 31 August, the NSDAP sent SS-Waffen (Armed SS) soldiers, in Polish uniforms, to Poland. There they staged a phoney invasion of Deutschland alongside the Polish border. The propaganda machines (radios) alerted the German civilians that Poland was attempting an invasion. To make the situation more credible, the SS-Totenkopfverbände sent German concentration camp prisoners, in Polish uniforms, to the border only to murder them. Displaying their bodies there for the German civilians to see.
In the early hours of 1 September 1939, the Wehrmacht surprise attacked Poland by marching into the country, destroying everything in its path. Polish airbases and military bases were bombed by the Luftwaffe (Air Force, German air force) and naval bases were bombed and torpedoed by the Kriegsmarine (War Navy, German navy).
The NSDAP alleged it was an act of defence. However, after ignoring Hitler and the NSDAP for a while, the British and French governments were finally brought to their senses by the panic. They didn’t buy the story and threatened the NSDAP with war unless the troops are pulled out of Poland within forty-eight hours. On 3 September 1939, it was clear that Hitler was ignoring the threats and was willing to start a war. The British and French governments declared war on Deutschland.
Dr. Goebbels assured German civilians through propaganda machines that the war would be brief. He claimed it was due to the superiority of the German army. Despite the assurance, many things in the German automotive and racing industries took a turn for the worse. The overhyped Berlin-Rome endurance race, set for 14 and 15 September, was cancelled. The Rekordwoche, set for Januar 1940, was cancelled. The 1940 Grand Prix season was cancelled. The production of civilian cars dwindled. The licence agreement between Erfiag and Automobiles L. Rosenbart was eliminated before it could be finalised. Some automakers, such as BMW, Daimler-Benz, Opel, Steyr-Daimler-Puch, Tatra, VWW and Zündapp, were ordered to produce motorcycles, halftracks, trucks and utility vehicles for the Wehrmacht. Porsche was pressured by the HWA to speed up its Typ 62 development to put it into production.
A 8,25 m long, six-wheeled, aircraft-like streamliner, Porsche Typ 80, thundered to life and came forward out the garage at Porsche in September. Unlike the other streamliners HFB developed for Auto Union, it had small functional aircraft wings that could manipulate the airflow. It was estimated that it would reach 750 km/h. Due to the outbreak of the Second World War, Reichsautobahn was being used to mobilise the military. HFB never had the chance to test drive the Typ 80 before it could be delivered. Daimler-Benz picked up the car only to store it away. Stuck, whose career was ruined by the war, nicknamed it Schwarz Vogel (Black Bird).
The KdF-Wagen production was about to start. When the war broke out, the production was switched to wartime production. The Typ 62 was still being developed, so the Volkswagen plant was being used to produce military equipment. The delivery of civilian KdF-Wagens was repeatedly delayed. No one had the courage to complain. They would rather wait or lose money than face the possibility of being conscripted.
To improve the off-road capability, Porsche had to make the Typ 62 lighter with more ground clearance. Its original body had too many parts and wasn’t sturdy, so it had to be redesigned. The rear swing axles had to be reworked. Trutz, a German military vehicle coachbuilder in Gotha, Thüringen, Deutschland, landed a contract with Porsche to develop a new, lighter, robust body around the Typ 62 chassis. The rear swing axles were replaced with a portal axle. Not only did the new axle increase the ground clearance. It also allowed the vehicle to travel at the speed of marching soldiers (about 5 km/h) without stalling the engine.
A trio of light utility vehicle prototypes with a boxy all-steel body and canvas half-doors, Porsche Typ 62B, were completed by Oktober. Porsche hurriedly handed them over to Panzer- und Motorisierungsabteilung for testing. Porsche was later ordered to produce a small batch for real field testing.
Porsche and VWW ran into problems. First, their partnership with Daimler-Benz ended after the automaker delivered the last batch of Volkswagen prototypes a few months prior. Second, Reutter didn’t have the technology to produce ribbed bodies at a rapid rate. Third, VWW had the steel stamp press machines that were designed specifically for the KdF-Wagen production, not the Typ 62B’s. Porsche and VWW were on their own.
They wasted no time, searching desperately for a contractor to help produce the bodies for the Typ 62B production. Ferry, who spent most of the time testing cars and making connections in the automotive industry, came across a company that could help. Ambi-Budd Presswerk (Press Factory) GmbH, ABP for short, a German steel pressing company in Berlin-Johannisthal, was quickly contracted by Porsche and VWW in Oktober to produce the bodies.
Within weeks, a large shipment of bodies arrived at the Volkswagen plant by train. The plant went to work, producing chassis and mounting the bodies on top of them. This time the Typ 62B’s were produced in two versions, one with canvas half-doors for tropical regions and other with steel doors with windows for cold regions. A fleet of Typ 62B’s were deployed to soldiers in Poland for real field testing in Dezember.
During the war, Ganz was wholly overlooked and unheard of. All the attention was on two of the most referred to contractors, Porsche and VWW. They were busily developing and producing various military equipment and vehicles for the Wehrmacht.
After a series of tests with the Typ 62B’s in Poland, they were proven to be successful. It officially went into production in Februar 1940 as the Porsche Typ 82. ABP was partnered with VWW to supply the bodies. The Typ 82 was nicknamed Kübelwagen (Bucket Car, shortened from Kübelsitzwagen (Bucket Seat Car)) by VWW because of its bucket seats.
The KdF-Wagen finally went into production in Juli 1941, but in a very small quantity. Unfortunately for the German civilians who paid for a KdF-Wagen in full, they never received one. The cars were delivered to hand-picked, high-ranking NSDAP officials. Apart from a different engine, which was enlarged from 985 cc to 1,13 L in which produced 18,5 kW, mechanical cables, chrome fittings, black headlight masks with slits for low visibility and optional accessories, such as fog light, radio and wing-mounted side view mirror, they were no different from the Typ 60 VW39. The single colour option was switched from Blaugrau to glossy Schwarz. The plans to produce 60K8- and 60K9-bodied KdF-Wagens were cancelled due to rationing of canvas.
The DAF began investing in KdF for additional funds for war efforts and wartime production. The action led to the collapse of the KdF organisation in autumn 1941. Without KdF, VWW’s boat propeller-like logo was irrelevant. Reimspieß redesigned the logo. Simplifying it by ditching the boat propeller-like elements. The DAF took over the KdF-Wagen Sparkarte programme. Hence the colour change in the booklets and stamps.
The Typ 82 wasn’t the only Volkswagen-based military vehicle to go into production. Due to the simplicity of the chassis, it was the most flexible military vehicle to work on. There were many models and variants for different purposes throughout the war. A very few updated versions of the 60K7, 60K8 and 60K9 bodies were produced at the Volkswagen plant for some military vehicles. The bodies were slightly modified for different purposes. Starting März 1943, Volkswagen-based military vehicles were equipped with the 1,13 L engine.
The other Volkswagen-based models and variants were as follows:
Dr. Lafferentz, Dr. Porsche, Dr. Piëch and Werlin, who were involuntarily drafted into the SS, were ordered by Himmler in Januar 1942 to use slavery labour. Speer was ordered to develop a small temporary concentration camp near the Volkswagen plant. In April, KZ Arbeitsdorf (Labour Village) was opened, housing at least 800 skilled inmates from KZ Neuenggamme nearby. Speer and the VWW executives hated the idea of using slavery labour to produce military vehicles. They managed to keep most of the inmates alive and well fed until the camp was shut down in September. Inmates from other nearby concentration camps returned in a larger number during the war. KZ Arbeitsdorf was never used again for unknown reasons.
Hitler ordered Porsche and Henschel und Sohn (Henschel and Son), a German automotive manufacturer in Kassel, Provinz Hessen-Nassau, in Mai 1942 to develop a heavy tank. Porsche was more aware of the scarcity of fuel than its competitor. Porsche developed diesel-electric hybrid V16 engine prototypes. The hybrid engines weren’t strong enough to bear the weight of the tank when the deadline arrived. Henschel’s heavy tank prototype were consequently selected and hurried into production. The Panzerkampfwagen (lit. Armoured Combat Tank) VI, nicknamed Tiger 1, was far superior to any tanks during the war. Many Allied ground forces avoided these tanks, relying on bomber aircrafts to immobilise them.
With nearly a hundred heavy tank chassis lying around from the failed attempt to develop a heavy tank, Porsche was able to put them in service. Porsche reluctantly fitted the chassis with standard diesel engines. The modified chassis were then converted to heavy tank destroyers and nicknamed Elefant (Elephant).
The Volkswagen plant and KdF-Stadt were not on Allied maps. Due to the secrecy, production of the fearsome pulse jet-powered guide missile, Fieseler Fi-103, more commonly known as the Vergeltungswaffe-1 (Retaliatory Weapon 1), V-1 for short, started in März 1943 at the plant. It was produced along with the KdF-Wagen and Volkswagen-based military vehicles. Most of the missiles were launched from a heavily forested area near KdF-Stadt. The V-1 attacks on Allied front were rather successful, leaving many Allied forces cowering in fear. They flied at speeds as fast as 650 km/h at an altitude of 915 m, making them difficult to shoot down.
By autumn 1943, Speer, who was involuntarily put in charge of the military industry, already knew the Drittes Reich was starting to lose the war. He issued orders to evacuate important firms. To save lives, not the industry, of course. In winter, Porsche was evacuated to an old sawmill in Malta Valley in Gmünd, Bezirk Spittal an der Drau, Carinthia, Ostmark, the following winter. The sawmill housed many of Porsche’s current prototypes, machines and makeshift workshops. The Porsche family moved into their vacationing villa near Lake Zell in Zell am See, Bezirk Zell am See, Salzburg, 140 km (90 mi) northwest of Porsche’s sawmill “headquarters”.
Everyone at Porsche was safely evacuated just weeks before the Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen facility, as well as many other buildings, was bombed during a series of USAF (United States Air Force, American air force) air raids. Many old prototypes, including Typ 12, Typ 32 and those from the early stages of the Volkswagen development, archives, scale models and bare running chassis were destroyed. Porsche, now safe in Gmünd, continued developing military equipment and vehicles, including an enormous super heavy tank that could fire nuclear bombs, until the end of war.
There wasn’t a happy ending for the lucky owners of production KdF-Wagens. In August 1944, due to scarcity of raw materials, the KdF-Wagen production was brought to a halt after only 630 60K7-bodied cars were produced. The production machineries were stored away, and the Volkswagen plant went into full blown wartime production. Existing production lines used the materials for the KdF-Wagen to produce military equipment and vehicles. The owners were ordered to hand over their cars for “safekeeping”. They were in Hitler’s inner circle, so they didn’t want to face the consequences if they refused. Every one of their KdF-Wagens was either converted into military vehicles, dismantled and stored away or used by top ranking military officials. What was left of them were scrapped for materials during the war.
The V-1 attacks on Allied front inevitably made the Volkswagen plant a primary target for Allied air raids. Shortly after the KdF-Wagen production ended, RAF (Royal Air Force, British air force) discovered V-1’s origin. The Allies quickly carried out a series of night air raids on the plant. The newly established Volkswagenwerk GmbH collapsed in ruins, claiming the lives of at least 900 innocent concentration camp inmates, including children.
What was left of KdF-Stadt fell under the control of the British Army a year later. In Mai 1945, just days after the war officially ended, the city was renamed Wolfsburg after the castle nearby. The British Army found intact documents, steel stamping press machines and a small streamlined economy car stored away in basements and workshops.
Corps of Royal Electric and Mechanical Engineers, REME for short, a British Army division that maintained and repaired military equipment and vehicles, sent its senior officer, Major Ivan Hirst, to the ruins to investigate. With the help of liberated German-speaking concentration camp inmates, who survived the air rads and could speak English, Hirst learnt that these documents and machines were for the production of Deutschland’s national car, the KdF-Wagen, the very car they found in the ruins.
On 30 April 1945, Adolf Hitler, a man who changed the world in many ways, died for his country. Dr. Goebbels, who replaced Hitler as chancellor of Deutschland, died on the following day. Deutschland was left with no leader. Despite this, the war above the Führerbunkers (Leader Bunkers), a secret, heavily guarded bunkers under the Reichskanzlei, raged on. Due to Deutschland’s superiority, the country fought on all fronts of the Second World War until 2 Mai 1945. With much difficulty, the Red Army surrounded Berlin-Mitte and forced the NSDAP to surrender. As the result, the Drittes Reich collapsed, bringing an end to the war.
When an endless stream of orders for military equipment and vehicles abruptly ended by Mai, Porsche finally got its much needed vacation. The vacation didn’t last long, unfortunately.
The British Army and the United States Army combed through recently liberated Austria in search of remaining threats. Upon arriving in Gmünd on 5 Mai, a British Army unit was alerted by residents about suspicious activity at the sawmill. There the British Army unit found Porsche red-handed with a large assortment of military equipment and vehicles and prototypes, designs, documents, machines, workshops, everything. Every one of the employees were detained. The United States Army, which was combing through Salzburg at the time, was alerted about Porsche. A United States Army unit was issued with arrest warrant for Dr. Porsche. Dr. Porsche was placed under arrest at the Porsche family villa in Zell am See. Dr. Porsche, along with his employees, was taken to American-occupied Frankfurt am Main for interrogation. They were found not guilty of war crimes and freed. Although Dr. Porsche was banned from returning to Deutschland and producing military equipment and vehicles, Porsche was allowed to restart its development of agricultural equipment and vehicles.
Hirst’s unit put the steel stamping press machines together and produced a small batch of stripped-down KdF-Wagens for testing. Much to the surprise of the British engineers, the cars performed well for dirt cheap economy cars. It was decided to produce more cars to mobilise military and government officials.
In the following September, to rebuild Deutschland, the Allies agreed to create local jobs by rebuilding the Volkswagen plant and putting the car into production for high-ranking officials. The KdF-Wagen was renamed Volkswagen Typ 1, more commonly known as the Käfer (Beetle), as part of denazification (removal of NSDAP ideology). The Typ 1 remained largely unchanged from the KdF-Wagen. The production was slow due to scarcity of raw materials and reconstruction of the plant. The production pace began picking up over time.
In November, the French government invited Dr. Porsche and Ferry to develop French version of the People’s Car. After inspecting and testing a Renault 4CV prototype, the Porsches gave the engineers some suggestions. It was decided that Porsche should be contracted to help put the car into production. The Porsches, along with Dr. Piëch, returned to Renault headquarters in Billancourt, Somme, Picardie, France, in the following month. It turned out to be a trap. Before a contract could be signed, they were suddenly arrested and jailed in Dijon, Côte-d’Or, Bourgogne, France, by the French Secret Service for nonexistent war crimes.
The thousandth Volkswagen Typ 1 rolled off the assembly line in März 1946. The production of civilian Typ 1’s started later that year. After nearly two years of failed attempts to find an automaker or a government to buy VWW. The Allied Control Council of Deutschland decided in autumn 1947 to make it an independent automaker. Heinrich Nordhoff, a former Opel production manager, was put in charge of VWW in Januar 1948. The fate of VWW was entirely up to him. Nordhoff eventually returned the ownership to the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Deutschland, successor to the Drittes Reich).
The Typ 1 remained in production until 2003 (57 years). At over 21,000,000 Typ 1’s worldwide, it easily outlived and outsold the Ford Model T and the Citroën 2CV. Automakers have yet to outlive or outsell the Typ 1. Besides the poor safety and outdated technology, the Typ 1 remains the cheapest and most reliable economy car today.
The Porsche family, whose bank accounts were frozen pending investigation, could only afford to bail one person from jail. Dr. Porsche, aged and sick, sacrificed himself to save Porsche in order to feed his family. He asked Ferry to take over Porsche. Ferry was bailed out by his sister, Louise, in März 1946. Dr. Porsche and Dr. Piëch were forced to work for Renault from their jail cells.
Porsche, now under the supervision of Ferry, continued the development of agricultural equipment and vehicles. The firm also began making connections to get the funds to post Dr. Porsche and Dr. Piëch’s bail. With the help of Nuvolari and a school friend of Ferry’s, Rudolf Hruska, Ferry teamed up with Karl Abarth and Piero Dusio. They formed a small Italian firm, Compagnia Industriale Sportiva Italia (Italian Sports Industrial Company), Cisitalia for short, in Dezember. On 7 Februar 1947, Porsche landed a contract with Cisitalia to develop a GP race car and a road-going homologated version of the race car. By the year’s end, a four-wheel drive, rear mid-mounted 1,5 L V12 engine-powered GP race car, Porsche Typ 360, was completed. It remained in development until Dusio eventually ran out of funds. The development of the homologated race car was cancelled due to the same reason.
In August 1947, the Porsche family received enough funds from the contract with Cisitalia to secure Dr. Porsche and Dr. Piëch’s release from jail. Ferry sent Louise back to France to bail them out and bring them home. After learning about Dr. Porsche’s return, the new German government lifted the ban and invited him to return to Deutschland for a visit. Besides the Porsche family villa in Stuttgart-Feuerbach, the first place the Porsches visited was their Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen facility. They were disgusted to find dirty, smelly American soldiers squatting the place. The Americans refused to leave the facility, which was being used to repair military equipment and vehicles. They later visited the Volkswagen plant, and Dr. Porsche was delighted to see hundreds of Typ 1’s, in various colours, cruising the streets of Wolfsburg.
In 1941, due to the war and a series of disagreements with Erfiag, Ganz went into exile. In 1946, the small car market in newly liberated Europe looked promising again. Ganz landed a contract with Rapid Motormäher AG, Rapid for short, a Swiss lawn mower manufacturer in Killwangen, Baden, Aargau, Switzerland, to produce a small batch of prototypes based on the ERFIAG. In 1948, thirty-six Rapid-Ganz prototypes were produced, but they didn’t sell well. Unfortunately for Ganz, he found himself in a lengthy legal battle with the Swiss government over similar claims that got him arrested by the Gestapo in 1934. The legal battle finally ended in 1951. A stubborn Ganz finally made the right choice by abandoning his now irrelevant dream of putting his Volkswagen cyclecar into production. He sold his cars, including the Maikäfer, and left for a new job at General Motors-Holden’s Ltd, an Australian automaker in Port Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia. He died in obscurity on 26 Juli 1967.
With Dr. Porsche’s approval, Porsche began the preparations to go into the manufacturing business. Porsche developed an aluminium-bodied roadster prototype according to Komenda’s designs. The small open-top sports car prototype, Porsche Typ 356, backed out the garage at Porsche’s sawmill “headquarters” on 3 Juni 1948. It was based on the Typ 64, using a different body and many spare parts from a Typ 60 VW38 and VW39. The air-cooled 25 kW 1,13 L flat four engine was mounted on a backbone chassis in front of the rear swing axles. It was the first car to bear the family name.
Porsche landed a contract with Rupprecht von Senger, a wealthy Swiss investor. In exchange for funds to put the Typ 356 into production, Senger became Porsche’s first automotive importer in Switzerland. In the following September, Ferry met with Nordhoff to establish a licensing agreement. Porsche was allowed to get parts through VWW for the Typ 356 production. VWW paid Porsche a 5 DM royalty fee for every Typ 1 sold. The Typ 356 roadster went into limited production soon afterwards. It was joined by a coupé version by 1949. The engine was later moved behind the rear swing axles for a luggage compartment behind the seats. Only fifty-two examples of the “Gmünd 356” were produced. Porsche returned to Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen and rented a space in Reutter’s factory to continue the production in 1949. Reutter, however, had no technology or experience with welding elemental aluminium. Porsche was forced to switch to steel for the body. In März 1950, the first German-produced Typ 356 rolled off the assembly line.
Proud of his son’s success with the family business, Dr. Porsche, a brave, respected engineering genius who put his life in danger to change the world, passed away on 30 Januar 1951.
These people were responsible for the Volkswagen development.