1975 Volkswagen 1600 S “Super Bug” Schuco - 45 090 3900 (resin)
By 1950, Volkswagen was firmly established in Germany, already with an eye on foreign markets. And one such market was South Africa. Consequently, in 1951 VW established a franchise agreement with South African Motor Assemblers and Distributors (SAMAD). SAMAD had a factory on the outskirts of Uitenhage already producing models from Austin and Studebaker. By the agreement, VW would export CKD (“Completely Knocked Down”) kits with all the loose parts necessary to assemble a Beetle. SAMAD would put them together and sell them through their dealership. The first model rolled off the assembly line on August 31, 1951, and was a commercial success. The following year VW took a controlling interest in SAMAD, with a big investment in the Uitenhage plant. In 1955 the contract with Austin ended and they also started producing the VW Transporter range.
Like everywhere else where VW manufactured their Sedan, in South Africa the car also earned a nickname. Down there, it was called the “Kewer”, while the Transporter was the “Molo Fish”. In November of 1963, the 100,000th VW rolled off the factory, and in 1966 SAMAD changed its name to Volkswagen of South Africa Limited. The Kewer followed the German Käfer, with minimal upgrades occurring piecemeal. However, like in other markets, by the 70s the Kewer had stiff competition from other manufacturers. With that, VW reacted by introducing the 1302 and 1300 models in 1971. Moreover, Wolfsburg was also favorable of local manufacturers making discreet changes to the Beetle. And that is how the 1600 S came to be. It was an exclusive South-African variation of the Beetle, only produced in Uitenhage. Produced from 1975 to 1979, a total of 5043 left the factory.
The project for a new Kewer began in 1973, since VW South Africa was worried about diminishing sales. The idea was to modernize the Beetle, with minimal investment nonetheless. Consequently, VW South Africa built prototypes, tested and produced a cost study on new tooling. With the approval of Volkswagenwerk engineers in Wolfsburg, production began in May 1975. Interestingly, the 1600 S was a hybrid between the local 1600 L (1302) and Europe’s 1303. It had a curved windshield adapted to the regular 1600 L body with pre-1303 front and rear wings. However, it had a torsion beam suspension up front and front turn signals migrated to the bumper. Another distinctive trait was the taillights. In “elephant foot” style, they needed a colored spacer to fit on the pre-1303 wings. The engine, however, was the regular 1584 cm³ of the 1302. A true factory Franken-Beetle, the 1600 S was unique.
To promote sales, VW South Africa called the 1600 S the “Super Bug”. Probably emulating North America’s Super Beetle (1302 and 1303). Despite the 1600 S selling well, VW South Africa terminated the Kewer production line in January 1979. Currently the Super Bug is a sought-after model by South African VW enthusiasts.
In scale, the 1600S is a peach, from Schuco’s PRO.R 43 line – therefore in resin. Since I’m in a frank Beetle phase 🙄, such an unique model caught my eye. And model in hand, it looks totally awesome. Besides, and just as cool, it is my first car from Mzansi. Derived from the word Mzantsi, which means “south” in Xhosa, Mzansi is the hip way to call South Africa nowadays. And I’m very hip – I collect toy cars 🤣.