1938 Volkswagen Typ 38/06 Schuco - 45 088 9000 (resin)
The history behind the Käfer (“Beetle”, in German), starts even before Volkswagen the brand existed. In fact, Volkswagen only exists because of the Beetle. Adolf Hitler, in the early 30s, wanted a “people’s car” (“Volkswagen”, in German). He wanted something cheap, reliable, economical and capable of 100 km/h on the Autobahnen. Therefore, he commissioned Ferdinand Porsche to design him a car with those traits. Well, Porsche’s design was heavily based on Hungarian Béla Barényi’s original design from 1925…🤔 For Porsche, the most difficult part to engineer was the engine, which had to be fuel efficient and robust. Hitler also demanded that it should be air-cooled, so that there were no issues with the radiator freezing during the winter. Using the Typ 64 engine as the basis, Porsche came up with an air-cooled 995 cm³ flat-4 that produced 25 hp.
The first two Typ 60 prototypes were ready in October 1935. One was a sedan (Typ 60 V1) and the other a cabriolet (Typ 60 V2). Porsche built three more Typ 60 in 1936 for testing, in his Stuttgart shop. Additionally, Porsche asked Daimler-Benz to build 30 development models, called the W30. During 1937, the W30 cars went through 2,900,000 km of testing. With testing done, the car was ready for production, and in 1938 Porsche built 44 pre-production units. Differing from the W30, these cars had split rear windows. Called Typ 38, these cars were not for the public. Instead, Nazi officials used and paraded them around the country to promote the “people’s car” to the public. On May 26, 1938, Hitler laid the cornerstone for the Volkswagen factory in Fallersleben. The following year, the factory produced another 50 pre-production units, called the Typ 39.
During his speech, he named the car Kraft-durch-Freude-Wagen (“Strength Through Joy Car”). With that, the first production units at the VW factory (1940 onward) were called KdF-Wagen. From this point the car is actually a “VW Beetle”; before that all Käfer were either prototypes or pre-production units. Porsche, Zündapp and Mercedes built these. This Typ 38 here is one of those, a pre-production unit built by Porsche at Stuttgart. More specifically, this is Typ 38/06 (chassis #3806), given to Robert Ley, the head of the DAF (German Labor Front). Around May, 1939, somebody (Ley?) took the car to the DAF office in East Prussia, close to the Lithuanian border. And there it stayed. Eventually, at the end of the war, the USSR annexed Lithuania. After that, nobody knows what happened to the car, until 2003, when the Lithuanian VW Club found it.
Decades later, in early 2009 the Grundmann family bought it and took it back to Germany. Typ 38/06 was then fully restored, and today it is only one of three Typ 38 in existence. Yet, of the three, Typ 38/06 is the one in best shape in terms of original parts. The car is running and in pristine shape, just like when new in 1938. The restoration process was thoroughly documented, and a lot of photos and articles can easily be found on the web. Heck, there’s even a hardcover book about the car and the whole restoration process!
Being honest, what hooked me on this model was the history of the real car. After all, to me a model is only as interesting as the history behind the real deal. And this one has history in spades. In fact, I usually have a MUCH harder time doing research on a car, yet for the Typ 38 it was a breeze. That being so, here it is. And in 1:43rd it’s a gem – a limited edition by Schuco (one of 1500) and in resin. It is from their Masterpiece Edition series, and comes in a special box. Honestly, one of my best models, so all in all, fantastic for a Käfer in scale!
And one last comment. As I stated above, the Typ 38/06 is not a Volkswagen per se. Being strict, I think you could even call it a Porsche. However, Volkswagen the brand came from the Typ 38 and other pre-production cars and prototypes. With all that, I will list it as a Volkswagen car. Moreover, as I explained with my Käfer 1100, this also is not a Käfer. The nickname (and posteriorly, name) only appeared decades later, in the 60s.