VW Type III: Story of Chassis Number 54

Theo Thepin has been kind enough to translate this story from German. It orginally apeared in the newsletter of Typ 3 Liebhaber IG, the German Type III club.

Hi everybody,

Here's the English translation of the article about the earliest type 3 found as yet that Aaron typed in. I have to say I was impressed that someone that doesn't speak German can type in a German text with so few typo's. I couldn't do the same thing in eg. Polish!! I did my best to stay as close to the original text as possible. However, some things are difficult, if not impossible to translate, so I had to make some free interpretations. The original text is not very well written and especially the part about the different versions of the pockets in the doors and the moldings on the doors, I found somewhat confusing. Maybe the pictures can clarify things. If needed I'll correct some things later.

My apologies for any typo's and maybe 'funny' sentences. It's not so easy to translate something from German into English as I always have to go through a 'Dutch phase' first. If anything is not clear let me know, I may be able to improve things once I know what you guys don't understand.


Number 54 is alive !

Especially the type 3's of the first model year are rare and interesting. Somehow one gets the feeling that VW used the first Beetles as test models, as in the first model year, the changes have been numerous. But even before regular production started, Volkswagenwerk built themselves a pre production series for testing and PR purposes. One of these cars (or rather its remains) turned up recently. It has chassis number 0000054.

With this pre production series one couldn't really speak of an assembly line production. Apparently, in the first couple of months the VW workers built and rebuilt everything they laid their hands on. That's why the type 3's that were photographed for the first catalogues differ in some details between the different versions. Many of them even had white steering wheels and steering columns. Some had 4 levers for the fresh air vents, whereas others had 3 like in the production models. Some had door panels with pockets, others were pictured with a flap. On some of the pictures the glovebox can be locked. Apparently this part was designed for the planned convertible, which was only built in small numbers as a prototype. The parts manual doesn't show this glovebox lock.

Cleverly touched up pictures, or were these real? Number 54 can at least answer some of these questions, although new ones arise and much is left uncertain. Not much is left from the once 'golfblau' sedan. The remaining part of the left rocker panel hangs from the wiring loom, and the pan has for the most part rusted away. The engine is missing. That's a great pity, as especially in the first models, VW changed many things as at first the 'flatfour' wouldn't run in the larger brother of the small beetle. The carburettors and ignition were optimised over and over again. The seats of number 54 were changed for later models from a 1500S. Fortunately the door panels remained in place. And they are unusual enough. The door pockets are indeed designed as flaps with elastic band. On both sides they are very dirty and moulded, but in place. Also at the closing side, at the top of the doors, there's something peculiar: chrome moldings. the production version of this sedan didn't please the owner with these additional decorations. The question regarding the white steering wheel remains unanswered: number 54 has a black one. When looking through the relevant publications from 1961, one also only sees black steering wheels. Only in some catalogues the steering wheel is white. The fresh air regulators come as three levers in this car, like in the production models. Nevertheless there must have been cars with four, as in the 'Hobby edition' of July 1961 they are clearly recognisable. Behind the foot panel underneath the backseat, there are two supports (girders) made out of thin plates. They were once attached to the rocker panels. In the production cars VW omitted these senseless, as in being too weak, details. Another characteristic for the early models, albeit not specific for the pre production series, are the rear popout windows. When opened, the frame is connected to the window, whereas the seal is attached to the body. From chassis number 0015000 (I 'll have to look up the exact number) the seal is attached to the window and frame. As is correct for a pre 63 type 3, the car has instruments with red needles. The fully chromed glovebox lock can be locked. Did they really have these in the pre production cars only? At least three others are around as new parts. Who else has any of these in his type 3?? In the front luggage compartment there are some surprises. The fuel tank is grey and not black and the fuel sender unit was, according to the mark, produced in February 1961, although the first parts catalogue from VW dates the start of parts production on April 1961. The paperboard upholstery is grey and smooth, not with the impressed chequered pattern of later models. It gets even more interesting in the rear luggage compartment. The famous 'torque support' (that's what VW called the rear engine mount in the swing axle cars, underneath the engine lid) has a completely different shape compared to the later cars. Not much more can be said about this as half of the left rear body and left rear wing have been replaced after collision damage. In the front luggage compartment there was one of the original rear reflector housing. It's blue and has no draining hole at the bottom, that's why these things rusted through so quickly. Only later VW made a draining hole so the steel wouldn't rust anymore. On number 54 however the housing is made of cast aluminium. Also the tail light lenses are different. As you all know, the flat lenses come in two sizes. They differ about 3mm in height and fit all units of the shortnose {there is no real English equivalent to a 'kurzschnauzer' , it signifies the old type 3 as opposed to the late types with longer nose, Theo}. On this early type three there is even one lens left, however without any indication of the size. The other one was probably destroyed in the crash.

For sure there must be many differences between this car and the production series that one overlooks in the short time of a photo shoot. The changes are noticed by those in the know anyway. Yet, Jonas Uhland from Finland spotted the interesting details of this car. How this blue car ended up in Finland is virtually impossible to track back. From Paul 'the Puppy' Medhurst of type 3 detectives in Great Britain, club member Patrik Dickman from the USA heard about this car, bought it unseen and had it transported to Germany. At the moment the ruins of the car has an uncertain future as the owner can't ship the car to the USA for personal reasons.

It is going to be very difficult to get this type 3 back in it's original state. The one year only bumpers are not to be found for love or money. A second 62 car as parts car is necessary as the original body is beyond repair. Everything, from the engine to the floormats (which are missing by the way) and the original seatcovers, is different and hard to get. That's why this number 54 is a case for the real freaks. Who dares ? Seriously interested people can turn to Patrik or the editors of 'Der Grosse Volkswagen'. The fun won't definitely be cheap!

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