Geschichte VW Käfer_KDF Wagen_Kraft durch Freude

The “Original Beetle” at fahr(T)raum Mattsee – a KdF car from the year 1942

Ferdinand Porsche laid the cornerstone for the success story of a car that has been known throughout the world for more than half a century. On behalf of RDA (Reichsverband der Automobilindustrie [imperial association of the automotive industry]), he developed the first, long anticipated car for the people of Germany, the Volkswagen. Back then still called KdF (Kraft durch Freude [strength through joy]) car, this compact car was the prequel to the subsequent VW Beetle type VW1.

On the 22nd of June 1934, the Porsche construction office signed the contract with RDA regarding the construction of a Volkswagen prototype. Following a series of prototypes known as VW 38, the KdF car received its ultimate shape in 1938. It was considered a masterpiece in terms of mileage, endurance and price. It became the most successful compact car of an entire era.

Geschichte VW Käfer_KDF Wagen_Kraft durch Freude_2

Air-cooled 4-cylinder boxer engine in the KDF car, 1942.

Its construction with independent suspension with torsion bar suspension and hydraulic shock absorber was unique at a time dominated by primitive driving machines and three-wheel-vehicles. Porsche employee Erwin Komenda developed the special aerodynamic with the rounded chassis surfaces, which allowed the vehicle to achieve a maximum speed of 100 km/h despite the limited motor output of 24 hp. The large 4-cylinder boxer motor by Engineer Reimspiess was air-cooled, which contributed to easy maintenance.

Due to the participation of the Deutsche Arbeits-Front [German Work Front] as the quasi state-controlled organisation, in the KdF project and the resulting tax savings, the car (limousine model) could be sold at the economical price of 990 Reichsmark. The serial production of 10,000 cars within 3 months was scheduled for August 1939…
However, these plans were thwarted by the start of WWII. Still, a total of 41 cars were produced in 1941 and sold for 8000 Reichsmark each.

How did the story of the Volkswagen continue? Find out at the Ferdinand Porsche Erlebniswelten fahr(T)raum Mattsee/Salzburg. View a 1942 KdF car live at the Vintage Car Exhibition!

Ludvigsen, Karl (2008): Professor Ferdinand Porsche – Erhabene Werke, S. 150-162.

Bilder, © fahr(T)raum


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