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Kübelwagen file photo [11929]


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ww2dbaseContributor: David Stubblebine

ww2dbaseResponding to instructions from Adolf Hitler himself, Ferdinand Porsche began developing the Volkswagen (people's car) in the early 1930's. In 1938, before the Volkswagen Type 1 could enter full production, wartime demands caused the design to shift to a military variant (production of the Type 1 did begin after the war in 1945 in what became known as the Beetle - among the most successful car designs in history).

ww2dbaseThe military variant used what was essentially the Type 1's suspension, drive train, and a reinforced chassis but had a body and interior more suitable for military use. The model became known as the Kübelwagen, short for Kübelsitzwagen or "bucket seat car." The prototype was called the Type 62 but the production models were known as the Type 82.

ww2dbaseFull scale production of the Type 82 Kübelwagen started in February 1940, as soon as the VW factories became operational. Except for a larger engine in 1943, no major changes took place until production ended in 1945. Only small modifications were implemented - mostly eliminating unnecessary parts and reinforcing some which had proved unequal to the task.

ww2dbaseSome early prototypes were assembled with four-wheel-drive (Type 86) and different engines, but none offered a significant increase in performance or capability over the existing Type 82 and the designs were only implemented in limited numbers.

ww2dbaseDespite lacking four wheel drive, which was a mainstay of the American Jeeps, the Type 82 proved very competent at maneuvering its way over rough terrain. When the German military took delivery of the first vehicles, they immediately tested them on- and off-road in snow and ice to test them against the European winters; using several four-wheel-drive vehicles as reference points. The two-wheel-drive Kübelwagen surprised even those who had been a part of its development, as it handily out-performed the other vehicles in nearly every test. Most notably - thanks to its smooth, flat underbody - the Type 82 would propel itself much like a motorized sled when its wheels were sinking into sand, snow or mud, allowing it to follow tracked vehicles with remarkable tenacity. The vehicle's light weight, gear-reduction wheel hubs, and self-locking differential more than compensated for the lack of 4X4 capabilities.

ww2dbaseUsed by both the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS, the Kübelwagen was for the Germans what the Jeep was for the Allies. The Kübelwagen was 3 cm longer than the Willys MB but the Jeep outweighed the VW by over 300 kg. Capable of 80 km/h (8 km/h faster than the Jeep), the air-cooled engine proved highly dependable in both very hot and very cold climates. It was also less vulnerable to bullets due to the absence of a radiator. As the body was not a load-bearing part of the vehicle's structure, it could easily be field-modified to special purposes. The Kübelwagen also had many factory variants. The Type 155 was a half-track variant that never went into production and the Type 166 was a 4-wheel drive amphibian known as the Schwimmwagen (Floating/Swimming car) that was widely produced with great success.

ww2dbaseIn March 1943, the Kübelwagen received the bigger 1,131 cc engine, originally developed for the Schwimmwagen, that produced more torque and power than the original 985 cc motor. When Volkswagen production ceased at the end of the war, 50,435 Type 82's had been produced and the vehicle had proven itself to be surprisingly useful, reliable, and durable.

Ray Mudway


ww2dbaseContributor: Alan Chanter

ww2dbaseThe amphibious Volkswagen Type 128 and 166 Schwimmwagen ("Swimming car") was introduced in 1942 to meet a need for a light reconnaissance vehicle capable of crossing the many streams and rivers that confronted the German troops in Russia. Although nominally a Kübelwagen car, there were a number of mechanical differences from the standard car. The body was constructed of metal pressing welded together to form a watertight hull, and the transmission was altered to give an auxiliary low gear which came into operation whenever four-wheel drive was selected. To propel the car in water there was a propeller unit which hinged up, over the rear of the car, when not in use. When lowered into operating position it was automatically engaged with an extension from the engine crankshaft and the drive went via a chain and sprocket gearing to the propeller. In the water, Schwimmwagen had a speed of 10 kilometers per hour.

ww2dbaseThe Schwimmagen (like the Kübelwagen was derived from the VW Beetle automobile) was a successful and popular vehicle, and a relatively common sight on the battlefield throughout the Second World War. But in 1944 when the tactical situation changed, there was less need for it and production was dropped. Some 15,584 Schwimmagen were built between 1942 and 1944.

Ian V. Hogg and John Weeks: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Military Vehicles (Hamlyn Publishing, 1980)
Simon Forty: German Infantrymn - The German Soldier 1939-45 (Haynes Publishing, 2018)

Last Major Revision: Jan 2011


Type 82 Kübelwagen
MachineryOne air-cooled flat-4 985cc or 1,131cc engine rated at 23hp or 25hp
SuspensionWheels, 2x4
Length3.74 m
Width1.60 m
Height1.65 m
Weight0.7 t
Speed80 km/h

Type 166 Schwimmwagen
MachineryOne Volkswagen air-cooled 1,130cc 4-cyl horizontally-opposed Boxer engine rated at 25hp
SuspensionTorsion Bar
Armament1x7.92mm MG34 machine gun
Length4.83 m
Width1.48 m
Height1.62 m
Weight0.9 t
Speed80 km/h
Range250 km


Kübelwagen loaded with troops showing its versatility on uneven terrain during testing, circa 1940Waffen-SS troops in Yugoslavia, 1941; note 5 cm PaK 38 gun, Kübelwagen vehicle, MG 34 machine gun
See all 32 photographs of Kübelwagen

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. DAVE STONE says:
12 Nov 2014 05:00:42 AM

great site
2. George says:
31 Mar 2018 05:00:16 AM

interested in a Kubelwagen body number 35821

Regards George
3. Mike says:
30 Sep 2018 08:05:39 PM

George, what do you mean you are interested in body number 35821? Do you have this body or are you looking for it?
4. RW says:
22 Jan 2019 04:59:47 PM

In a Smithsonian museum pamphlet, I once saw the Official Wehrmacht name was "Light unarmoured vehicle for carrying four armed troops". I have been unable to find that name again.
Can anyone help?
5. Joel says:
20 Oct 2021 06:33:55 PM

Where can you buy any parts today,Repo or OEM for a restoration

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Kübelwagen Photo Gallery
Kübelwagen loaded with troops showing its versatility on uneven terrain during testing, circa 1940Waffen-SS troops in Yugoslavia, 1941; note 5 cm PaK 38 gun, Kübelwagen vehicle, MG 34 machine gun
See all 32 photographs of Kübelwagen

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