1951 Volkswagen Sedan 1100 “Export” Schuco - 45 038 9000 (diecast)
The Beetle (Käfer, in German) began its history in pre-WWII Germany. Adolf Hitler wanted a car for the masses, to be used in Germany’s Autobahnen (highways). However, der Führer had some very specific demands. The car should accommodate a family of five, have a cruise speed of 100 km/h, economical (7 liters/100 km), air-cooled and mechanically simple. And cheap, of course. With those guidelines, in June 1934 Hitler commissioned Ferdinand Porsche to create his Volkswagen (“people’s car”). The first prototypes were ready in 1935, and in 1940 production began in the Volkswagen factory at Fallersleben, in Wolfsburg. However, with the war, only a few civilian vehicles came out of the factory. With the end of the war and Allied occupation, production restarted in 1945. These cars, called Volkswagen Type 1, were all issued to the British Army.
With things slowly getting back in order in Germany, in 1947 production shifted to civilian vehicles. At the time, Volkswagen’s only model was officially named the Volkswagen Sedan. Now with a more commercial appeal, the Käfer received chrome bumpers, hubcaps and body and running board trim. This particular car is an “Export Sedan” version. For export, Volkswagen produced a more sophisticated Käfer 1100. Therefore, it has chrome bumpers, bright hubcaps, chrome headlight rims and shiny door handles. It also has a Wolfsburg crest on the front hood and a vent flap on the front quarter panel. Interior appointments were also of a better quality. Nonetheless, it still had the split rear window (Volkswagen only changed that from 1952 onward).
In terms of power plant, the Käfer 1100 still used the original 1131 cm³ flat-4. It was fed through a Solex carburetor, and counted on 8 valves and SOHC. Through a 4-speed manual gearbox, it delivered 24,5 hp and 69 N⋅m of torque at 2000 rpm. Not exactly earth-shattering, however with a curb weight of 730 kg, the Käfer 1100 could reach 100 km/h. Definitively not a rocket ship, yet competitive for the times. For instance, it was faster and more economical than the Citroën 2CV. In terms of sales, the Beetle did well. In 1950, Volkswagen produced the 100.000th car. Five years later, the 1,000,000th Käfer rolled off the assembly line. Not bad for a brand that 10 years prior nobody wanted because it was a “bad investment”.
Oh, just one last commentary about nomenclature. Everybody (and his cousin) knows this car, and the name varies regionally. In Germany it’s Käfer, Fusca in Brazil, Beetle/Bug in the US, Maggiolino in Italy, Vocho in Mexico, Peta in Bolivia and Kodok in Indonesia. And that’s just to cite a few. This started out as a nickname and years later in some markets Volkswagen officially adopted the regional name for the model. That being so, this model here is officially a Volkswagen Sedan or Limousine in German – internally, Volkswagen called it Typ 1. And not a Käfer or Beetle. The nickname Beetle only appeared in the 60s, and not even from Germany. Eventually the nickname caught on and the Germans started calling their Volkswagen Sedan the Käfer. However, in the 50s, Germans called it simply “the Volkswagen”, and not Käfer yet.
On February 17, 1972, the 15,007,034th Beetle rolled off the assembly line. That day the Beetle surpassed Ford’s Model T, until then the record holder. All in all, from 1938 to 2003 Volkswagen produced over 21.5 million Beetles worldwide. Being the most produced automobile of all times, it has legions of fans. Some even say that the Käfer is more than a car, almost a cultural phenomenon. In fact, I don’t think I ever met a person who doesn’t know what a VW Beetle is.
However, being honest, I’m not a big fan of the Beetle. Even though I do have personal history with the car – my mom had one when I was a kid. In fact, I learned to start a car with that Beetle (to warm up the engine in the cold mornings). Despite my lack of enthusiasm, I was of the mind that the W-143 Garage should have a Käfer. After all, it is a universal car, known on every corner of the world. So when I saw this Käfer 1100 on sale for a good price, the beautiful two-tone paint job was the deciding factor. The model is a limited edition of 1000 units from Schuco, and just as nice as my Audi TT and Porsche 911S. Schuco offers the Käfer 1100 in other colors (solid and two-tone), however this one is the most charming. So, universal and cute 😊.