23 September 2022
Duncan Evans takes a look at the lightweight German military utility vehicle that was designed to be driven in all conditions.
An all terrain, personal transport, designed for military use was discussed by Hitler with Ferdinand Porsche as early as 1934, the year after the NSDAP came to power, but it wasn’t until 1938 that Porsche was formally approached to design one for the Third Reich. Although initial designs were based on the VW Beetle, it was soon recognised that for a two-wheel drive vehicle to stand up to off road conditions and military use, it needed to be both sturdy and lightweight. The first prototypes were designated as Type 62 and were ready to demonstrate by November 1938. The lightweight and ZF self-locking differential made up for the lack of four wheel drive with the vehicle performing well on uneven terrain. War was coming so design work proceeded at pace, with a more angular body being introduced as the pre-production models were then put to the test during the invasion of Poland.
Left: A Type 82 model
The feedback from the campaign led to the Type 62’s slowest speed, without stalling, being reduced to 2.5mph so it matched the speed of marching soldiers. Other changes included larger wheels, revised dampers, new axles, creating more ground clearance and more torque, all for better performance off road. This created the Type 82. Intriguingly, there was also an actual four wheel drive version called the Type 86, but because it didn’t perform significantly better and, as it would have been more expensive and harder to maintain, the design wasn’t taken any further.
Originally called the Kübelsitzwagen, the name was shortened to Kübelwagen as the Type 82 went into full production at VW factories in February 1940, with only modest modifications being made throughout the war until Germany was defeated in 1945. The biggest change came in 1943 when a new dashboard was introduced and the engine was upgraded from 985cc to 1,131cc by fitting one designed for the Shwimmwagen.
Right: Looking very like the VW Beetle, it's the Type 82/E version
A number of different variants were either drawn up as prototypes, that never made it into production, or did actually get to see service. These ones included: Type 82/1, a three seater radio car; Type 82/2, a siren car with a Siemen’s motor-drive siren on the passenger side instead of the rear seat; Type 82/5, a Kübelwagen chassis with the Type 60 LO Lieferwagen body (open pickup truck); Type 82/6, a tropical sedan body box van; Type 82/7, a three seater Command car; Type 82/E, some 688 of these were manufactured with a Beetle body over a Kübelwagen chassis; Type 87, 667 Kommandeurwagens produced, which had a Type 86 four wheel drive chassis with a Beetle command car body, running boards, off-road tyres, provided to officers; Type 107, fitted with a turbocharger; Type 177, with five speed gear box; Type 179, with a fuel-injected VW engine and the Type 179-F, which could cross water and was subsequently turned into the Schwimmwagen. There were also experiments with different power sources, such as the Type 235, driven by an electric motor; the bizarre Type 239, powered by a wood/gas generator mounted on the front; Type 240 that ran on bottled gas; Type 309, which ran on diesel and strangest of all, Type 332, which was supposed to be powered by coal!
Left: Type 87 VW Kübelwagen
In the end, the Kübelwagen proved itself reliable in the deserts of North Africa and the cold of the Eastern Front, where a volatile starting fuel was used. The smooth underbody made it capable in muddy terrain and the independent suspension on all four wheels made it more stable off road. The equivalent of the American Jeep, it ended the war as Germany’s most mass-produced light military vehicle.
TYPE 82 VW KÜBELWAGEN
- Seats: 4
- Top speed: 50mph
- Engine: Air-cooled flat-4 985cc/1,131cc (23.5bhp/25bhp)
- Transmission: Four speed manual, self-locking differential
- Dimensions: 3.74m long, 1.6m wide, 1.65m high
- Number built: 50,435
- Entered service: 1940
- Designer: Ferdinand Porsche
Left: The familiar Type 82 (1943) used in North Afrika
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