The history of the Schwimmwagen
The Schwimmwagen was developed for the German Army by
professor Ferdinand Porsche in 1940-1941. During the nazi era many
industries where working for the war effort, and Porsche was no
exception. He also helped design some tanks for the army.
vehicle, which was named type 128 during the developing phase, was
subsequently labeled type 166 as a finished product. It became better
know by its nickname
"Schwimmwagen", swimming car.
The development actually started on July 1st, 1940, when the
F. Porsche KG company was given an order to design an amphibious
vehicle. Less than a week later work on the model 128 was under way.
The first prototype was ready by September, and it had a design like a
slighty modified Kübelwagen. Early designs had a housing for the
propeller, which was later discarded, leaving it exposed at all times.
The early propeller was steerable, which was also later discarded. The
received their first three prototypes on November 1st 1940, and
undertook testing which lasted until December 6th. All possible
conditions were tested, including highway ("Autobahn"), country roads,
off road, mountain roads, swimming, exiting the water in various
terrain, etc. From May to June 1941 and then again until August 1941
further tests by other departments were conducted. All in all they were
positive. In February 1942 the Porsche company proposed to build 3
different cars: a long type 128, a long type 138 and a short type 166.
At the end of April 1942, after beeing selected as the only type to be
mass-produced, the specifications for the type 166 were determined. The
German Army ("Wehrmacht") approved this model at the end of May 1942
and by June 6th the first 100 cars were ready. The production in
Wolfsburg began and the delivery started even befor the end of the year
In the end, the amphibious car Type 166 was still based on
the design of the widely used type 82, the famous Kübelwagen, from
which it shares many components and a common heritage. In fact both
where developed from the KdF-Wagen (Kraft durch Freude), which later
became known as the VW Beatle. That car had also been developed by
Ferdinand Porsche, well before the war. After the type 128 prototypes,
personally involved in the production of the first VW166 pre-series
cars. They can be identified by the serial number 0166/001 to 0166/125,
where developed at Stuttgart.
The earlier version of the Schwimmwagen, the type 128, from
which very few are still in existence, was longer and wider than the
type 166. It had some other minor differences, mainly on the body, but
it had the same 25HP engine (see tech
specs page). The Schwimmwagen had 2 and 4-wheels drive, a reduction
drive and a 3-bladed propeller for navigation.
The approved version of the vehicle was mass-produced at the
Stadt des KdF-Wagens (now Wolfsburg), where the
Volkswagen factory was located (and still is today). More than 14'200
166 where built from 1942 to 1944. During the last months of the war,
production could not resume due to damages to the factory, which was
heavily bombarded. Also, the production of this car was fairly
complicated and needed much manpower and material, which at that time
of the war proved to be a big problem.
Apparently the life expectancy
of the vehicles was just 3 to 6 weeks! No wonder so few are in
existance after 60 years.
Schwimmwagen where initially painted panzergrau
(gray), later Einheitsfarbe (tan). Many where unarmed, although often
a machine gun (MG34 or MG42) mounted on the front right side. In fact,
seat has a fold-up position for the specific purpose of shooting with
it from a better viewpoint.