24 April 2014

Book Review: Volkswagen Military Vehicles of the Third Reich

What do Herbie the Love Bug, the Kubelwagon, and Hitler all have in common? Volkswagen.

Published on 26 OCT 2004 12:00am by Scott Parrino
  1. world war ii, business and industry, background / research material

Volkswagen: Military Vehicles of the Third Reich

I’ll admit one of the first bits of absolutely useless trivia about World War II that I ever learned had to do with knowing that Hitler was responsible for the Love Bug. That was hard to swallow as a youngster; surely Herbie could not be a member of the Master Race?

This fact actually gained me some pleasure from being a trivia-nerd, which I tried to play on my wife the other night. She informed me it was not uncommon knowledge, since as a teenager she accompanied her family to Wolfsburg to pick up their very own Audi automobile. So much for the domineering power of knowledge.

Cut to a few years ago, and Battlefield: 1942 hits the stores. I immediately loved the game (still play it to this day, in fact), and usually glommed on to one weapon only. One weapon was my favorite one out of all of them; no other could move as fast, be as maneuverable, or mow down more enemy scum with the flick of a mouse than any other:

The Kubelwagon.

My love of the Kubelwagon and various “dirty” and “underhanded” tactics of mowing down opponents like tenpins (dirty and underhanded to my online opponents, anyway) gained me a nasty reputation for using vehicles as my primary means of committing online multiplayer murder. Nothing, but nothing, beats that good “Car Wars” feeling.

Since I am passionate for the Kubelwagon, it was without hesitation that I volunteered (i.e., threatened, cajoled) to get a copy of Volkswagen Military Vehicles of the Third Reich. The book is large, hard-covered, and 172 of its 184 pages are packed with the history of Volkswagen, centered around the Nazis and the Third Reich. In addition, the book has plenty of photos – many of which have never been published before.

I’m not a gear head. In fact, I fall asleep when people start discussing torque ratios or “where the oil filter thing goes.” But even I read through the relatively small amount of technical data on some of the vehicles provided; Taylor even has some schematics reprinted in the book, which are fascinating. 

The author takes the history of Volkswagen and welds it with the Third Reich, showing how Ferdinand Porche and Ferry Porche (Ferdinand’s son) worked at designing Hitler’s dream, a car for the people. His KdF, or Kraft-durch-Freunde (Strength through Joy) car, was called the Volkswagen (or, “people’s car”) by the masses that adored it. Not everyone did, though; Time Magazine unflatteringly called what would eventually become the Beetle as “the baby Hitler.” 

The author also points out that interestingly, Hitler actually made a prediction that came true – that the Wolfsburg plant would become the largest in the world and production of Volkswagens would outpace all other car companies. He would be proved right eventually, but fortunately this took place long after his death. 

An example of concept art and a photo from the book.

Taylor goes into great detail about the Volkswagen car, but also devotes an entire chapter to the Kubelwagon and a separate chapter to the Schwimmwagen. For gearheads with an affinity towards (or perhaps, obsession with) Kubelwagons (or perhaps, obsessions), this is a terrific book to buy. As a resource on military vehicles, it provides some vivid, previously unpublished photos and concept art that may be useful to military modelers. Otherwise, it likely is not going to appeal to someone who has no interest in motor vehicles or light military vehicles.

But rest assured, this book will appease any thirst for Kubelwagon knowledge.

About the Author

Michael Eckenfels is the Director of Review and Preview Production at The Wargamer, a technical writer, and full-time gamer living in the urban mosquito sprawl known as Houston, Texas. Besides writing freelance for a number of software, board game, and gaming magazines, Michael works on playtesting new titles. Otherwise, a few moments of peace with his family is occasionally welcomed.