The Schwimmwagen is a vehicle that was developed by the popular German vehicle company VW or Volkswagen; the name of the company can literally be translated to mean “People Car” as the word VOLKS means PEOPLE and WAGEN means CAR. The Schwimmwagen could easily be translated to what it sounds like – a swimming wagon – or a swimming car which is exactly what the name means; the Schwimmwagen is an amphibious vehicle that was designed and created in Germany during the World War II period.
The Schwimmwagen was designed as an amphibious vehicle which meant that it could be used both on land and in water; the design made it possible to drive directly from land and into water then back again without having to make any preparations. The body of the Schwimmwagen was designed as a hull with the ability to float and the wheels were large with very large tracks in the wheels similar to a tractor, to allow the wheels to be used for propulsion as well. The Schwimmwagen weighed 910 kg, had a four-speed gearbox, could carry a two-man crew, and traveled at 80 km/h.
The engine was made to be completely airtight and had fail-safes in place to ensure that water would not enter the engine through the exhaust; a propeller was also optionally available for use and could be lowered from the rear of the vehicle into the water using a screw mechanism. Once lowered and locked into place the propeller was coupled directly to the engine’s crankshaft and as a result could only push the vehicle forward; for reverse one would have to either rely on using the wheels for slow rear propulsion or use the provided paddles which were standard equipment in all Schwimmwagens. The Schwimmwagen was a four speed manual transmission vehicle and also a four wheel drive vehicle but it was designed to only utilize the four wheel drive feature in first gear and in reverse.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
One disadvantage of the Schwimmwagen is that the rudder had to be manually lowered into the water, meaning that either the driver would have to step away from the wheel to lower the propeller or a passenger would have to perform the task; probably the major disadvantage of the Schwimmwagen stemmed from the fact that it was amphibious, thus the body was lightweight and not hardened like other armored vehicles making it more susceptible to damage. More of an inconvenience than a disadvantage the Schwimmwagen had no doors and had to be climbed into like a boat; though it may seem that there are more disadvantages than advantages to the Schwimmwagen it should be noted that the VW166 version of the Schwimmwagen is probably the most mass-produced amphibious car in history.
After the war the Schwimmwagen was used mostly by police and fire departments but mostly by farmers and in today’s world there are about 160 Schwimmwagens still in existence of the approximated 15,000 that were created, with about 13 surviving with no restoration work done and others customized with doors installed for easier entry and having restoration work done.