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Homepage. This page: Unusual sales brochure for Germany's People's Car.

Pre-war KDF-Wagen literature

KDF-Wagen / VW Beetle
Firstly thanks to Richard, who sent in this superb scan showing the cover of a KDF-Wagen sales brochure, from 1938. His father, and a friend, were amongst the first people to own the new Volkswagen car after WW2. There's was a 1946 example of what went on to be known as the VW Beetle, but then was known as the KDF-Wagen, standard saloon. Their car was built by the British Army, who went in to resurrect production once the war was over, and first owned by a Major who brought the German car over to England in 1950 (this at a time when feelings regarding Germany and German products in the UK were tense to say the least).

While using the VW in the late 1940s, Richard's family were at the receiving end of some very forthright views on their choice of a German-sourced motorcar, and would sometimes be rounded upon by groups of locals.

The Beetle, or KDF-Wagen as it was initially known, can trace its ancestry prior to WW2, when this catalogue was printed. The idea was to offer the German populace a chance to own their own set of wheels, via a stamps saving scheme. A huge factory was built at what would become the town of Wolfsburg, and production commenced of the new "Volkswagens" (literally translated as "people's-cars"). The war interrupted civilian production somewhat, but resumed afterwards thanks to the efforts of the British Army to get production back on track. During the war, militarised versions, the Kübelwagen and the Schwimmwagen, were produced for the German military.

Richard continues about the family Volkswagen:

"... my Dad kept all records of expenditure etc and these went to the new owner but sadly he never cared for the car and it was in a bad way when last seen around 1966/7. What I do have are records of the journeys we did it when going on holiday. I made up a record book to note time, total mileage, miles covered so far on the journey, petrol bought and cost, oil used if any, the weather and any interesting cars (and buses...yes I was a "spotter" at the time!) seen. Deep in a collection of slides is a picture taken in early 1962 when we celebrated 100,000 kilometres in the VW driving out one evening to take the picture in a field entrance ... it was dark so the simple flash unit and Ilford camera struggled to take a picture of the dash, but it worked!"

Update

Richard contacted me again, with the poignant story of how this brochure survived at all:

"Thank you so much for your message and for using the information to write that excellent item about our car and also about brochure etc.

The image looks really good doesn't it! It is a very interesting item and totally complete with it's customer order form and a lot of Official SS swastika stamps. It was obtained by a young German man who dreamt that maybe one day he could actually get a new kdF but never got as far as completing the application form. When the situation in Germany became increasingly uncomfortable, as I believe he was of Jewish origin, he decided to escape and being a car enthusiast even then, he made his way across Europe taking his brochures with him. He then managed to get a boat across to America and lived there for the rest of his life. I understand that he settled in New York State and when he died about 5/6 years ago, he left a massive collection of car brochures behind which were auctioned and some found their way to the UK. I bought it in 2003 from a UK dealer and it truly is a genuine original. There are reproductions around though, but as they were done in the USA, they lack the swastika images which is understandable of course!

There is much to natter about as always and I could ramble on about how we had a new VW Microbus in 1955 which at the time always drew a crowd of people whenever we stopped, all puzzled at what it was often called a "space ship"! In a world now flooded in People Carriers and in comparison to a Morris Minor or maybe even the nobel Ford 8, it probably seemed like one back then!"

Thanks for the background info Richard, very interesting!

Enthusiasts for classic VWs can also download a free screensaver on this page.

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