Volkswagen Schwimmwagen

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Volkswagen Type 166 Schwimmwagen
VW Schwimmwagen 1.jpg
TypeAmphibious transport
Place of originGermany
Production history
No. built14,265 (1942–1944)
Mass910 kg (1,345 kg GVW)
Length3.825 m (12 ft 6.6 in)
Width1.48 m (4 ft 10 in)
Height1.615 m (5 ft 3.6 in)

Engine4-cyl. boxer, air cooled
1,131 cc
25 hp @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission4-speed manual
2-speed transfer case;
4WD only on 1st gear / reverse

The Volkswagen Schwimmwagen (literally "swimming car") was a four-wheel drive amphibious vehicle, used extensively by German ground forces during the Second World War. The Schwimmwagen is the most-produced amphibious car in history.[1]

Prototyped as the Type 128, it entered full-scale production as the Type 166 in 1941 for the Wehrmacht.


A Schwimmwagen demonstrated in 2004

Volkswagen Schwimmwagens used the engine and mechanicals of the VW Type 86 four-wheel drive prototype of the Kübelwagen and the Type 87 four-wheel drive 'Kübel/Beetle' Command Car, which in turn were based on the platform of the civilian Volkswagen Beetle. Erwin Komenda, Ferdinand Porsche's first car-body designer, was forced to develop an all-new unitized bodytub structure since the flat floorpan chassis of the existing VW vehicles was unsuited to smooth movement through water. Komenda patented his ideas for the swimming car at the German Patent office.

The earliest Type 128 prototype was based on the full-length Kübelwagen chassis with a 2.40 m (7 ft 10 in) wheelbase. Pre-production units of the 128, fitted with custom welded bodytubs, demonstrated that this construction was too weak for off-road use, had insufficient torsional rigidity, and easily suffered hull-ruptures at the front cross-member, as well as in the wheel-wells. This was unacceptable for an amphibious vehicle. The large-scale production models (Type 166) had a reduced wheelbase of 2.00 m (6 ft 7 in) which resolved these issues.

Schwimmwagens were produced by the Volkswagen factory at Fallersleben /Stadt des KdF-Wagens and Porsche's facilities in Stuttgart; with the bodies (or rather hulls) produced by Ambi Budd in Berlin. 15,584 Type 166 Schwimmwagen were produced from 1941 through 1944; 14,276 at Fallersleben and 1,308 by Porsche; the VW 166 is the most-produced amphibious car in history.[2] Only 189 are known by the Schwimmwagen Registry to remain today, and only 13 have survived without restoration work.[3]


Spartan interior of the Schwimmwagen

All Schwimmwagens were four-wheel drive in first gear (and reverse gears on some models) only and had ZF self-locking differentials on the front and rear axles. As with the Kübelwagen, the Schwimmwagen had rear portal axles, which provided increased ground clearance, while at the same time reducing drive-line torque stresses with their gear reduction at the wheels. The Schwimmwagen had a top speed of 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) on land.

When crossing a body of water a screw propeller could be lowered down from the rear deck/engine cover. When in place a simple coupling provided drive straight from an extension of the engine's crankshaft. This meant that screw propulsion always drove forward. The Schwimmwagen had a top speed of 10 km/h (6 mph) in the water. For reversing in the water there was the choice of using the standard equipment paddle or running the land drive in reverse, allowing the wheel-rotation to slowly take the vehicle back. The front wheels doubled up as rudders, so steering was done with the steering wheel both on land and on water. The Schwimmwagen could also be steered by the passengers using the aforementioned paddles.


See also[edit]



  1. ^ Baxter, Ian (2014). Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front 1941-1945: Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives. Pen and Sword. p. 99. ISBN 9781781591864.
  2. ^ "VW Schwimmwagen – The Most Mass-Produced Amphibious Car in History". Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  3. ^ Lemmens, Bart. "VW-Schwimmwagen type 166 - The VW-Schwimmwagen Registry". Archived from the original on 2009-05-15. Retrieved 2009-07-25.


  • René Pohl: Mit dem Auto baden gehen. HEEL Verlag, Gut-Pottscheidt Konigswinter 1998, ISBN 3-89365-702-9

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