1979 Volkswagen Beetle Karmann Cabriolet


In the early 1930s cars were a luxury. Most Germans could afford nothing more elaborate than a motorcycle. Only one German out of 50 owned a car. Seeking a potential new market, some car makers began independent “people’s car” projects, such as the Mercedes 170H, Adler Autobahn, Steyr 55, and Hanomag 1.3L.

The trend was not new.  Béla Barényi, an Austro-Hungarian engineer is credited with having conceived the first basic design in the mid-1920s. In Germany, Hanomag produced the 2/10PS “Kommisbrot” a small, cheap, rear-engined car from 1925 – 1928 and Czechoslovakia produced the popular Tatra 7. Ferdinand Porsche had been trying for years to get a manufacturer interested in a small car suitable for a family. He built a car named the “Volksauto” from the ground up in 1933, using many popular ideas and several of his own. Key features of the car were an air-cooled rear engine, torsion bar suspension, and a “beetle” shape with the front hood rounded for better aerodynamics (necessary as it had a small engine).

In 1934 Adolf Hitler became involved. He ordered the production of a basic vehicle which needed to be able to transport 2 adults and 3 children at 100km/h. He wanted all Germans to have access to a car. The “people’s car” would be available at 990 Reichsmark. A special savings plan was introduced. A person could save 5 Reichsmark a week to realise their dream of owning their own car. Over 300,000 people participated in this savings plan, however, the whole project was financially unsound. No private industry was able to meet the requirements and produce a car which could be sold for 990 Reichsmark.

On the 28th May 1937  the “Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens GmbH“ (Company for the Preparation of the German Volkswagen Ltd) was formally established by the German Labour Front and in 1938 the first prototypes of the “KdF-Wagen” (Kraft durch Freude) started to appear. On 16th September 1938 the company was renamed to Volkswagenwerk GmbH and the company built its main plant in KdF-Stadt which later became Wolfsburg.

The outbreak of the Second World War and integration into the arms industry prevented mass production of the Volkswagen “people’s car”. Instead, military vehicles and other armaments were produced using forced labour.

In April 1945, KdF-Stadt and its heavily bombed factory were captured by the Americans, and subsequently handed over to the British, within whose occupation zone the town and factory fell. The factories were placed under the control of Saddleworth born British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst, by then a civilian Military Governor with the occupying forces.

One of the factory’s wartime “KdF-Wagen” cars had been taken to the factory for repairs and abandoned there. Hirst had it repainted green and demonstrated it to British Army headquarters. Short of light transport, in September 1945, the British Army was persuaded to place a vital order for 20,000 cars. The rest as they say is history. The Volkswagen or VW Beetle was born.

Around 1948 Volkswagen was looking at extending their model range. They asked coachbuilder Karmann to build a 4 seat convertible and another coachbuilder, Hebmüller, to build a 2 seat convertible. Both had to be based on the current Beetle and use as many Volkswagen parts as possible. This wasn’t a simple task because removing the roof caused severe chassis flexing. As a result the body and chassis had to be strengthened. Production of the convertibles started in 1949. The Hebmüller Cabriolet was only in production from 1949 through to 1953 and only 696 were built including the 3 prototypes and one pre-production model. The Karmann Cabriolet was built from 1949 through to 1980. During that period 328,697 were built.

Oldtimer Australia is delighted to confirm the sale of this incredibly original 1979 Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet by Karmann.


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  • Volkswagen Beetle Karmann Cabriolet
  • 1979
  • Cabrio
  • Manual
  • 26,388 miles
  • 1,585cc


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