1951 Volkswagen Beetle 1100 Cabriolet Karmann

The Volkswagen Beetle 1100 Cabriolet Karmann

The history of the Volkswagen brand began with the 'Käfer' (German word for Beetle). Development work on this Nazi prestige project started in 1934. On May 28, 1937, the “Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH“ (Company for the Preparation of the German Volkswagen Ltd.) was formally established. The name was changed to 'Volkswagenwerk GmbH' in 1938, and the company built its main plant in what has become Wolfsburg. However, the outbreak of war and integration in the arms industry prevented mass production of the Volkswagen ('people’s car') – instead, military vehicles and other armaments were produced using forced labor.

On 27th December 1945 production of the Type 1 commences. Volkswagen starts assembly of 55 cars until the end of the year with 6.000 employees. The Volkswagen Type 1 is initially only available for authorities and the British militray. Private byuers will only be able to get their hands on new cars in any significant numbers after the curency reform of June 1948.

However, already in 1947 the decision is made to export the Beetle. This leads to a split of production into 'Standard' and 'Export' models, that would last for three decades. The 'Export' models (Type 11A) could be recognised by additional chrome parts (for instance bumpers and wheel adornments) and a more comprehensive standard equipment, including adjustable seats. Since it was deemed too expensive to develop and produce a curved rear window, the engineers decided to use a split window. This will later make these early cars known as 'Brezel-Käfer' (Pretzel Beetle in German). Characteristic of the early years is the matte paint. The paint quality did not allow for a gloss finish. The Beetle is powered by a 25 hp 1131 cm³ air-cooled 4-cylinder boxer engine and is rear-wheel drive, which gives the car excellent traction.

From 1949, open-top versions of the Beetle are being produced to offer buyers a flair of luxury in the austere post-war years. A company called 'Hebmüller' develops an elegant 2+2 seater cabriolet based on the Beetle and receives a production order from Volkswagen. 696 cars are built, and are sold by official Volkswagen dealers. Sadly, a devastating fire destroys the complete Hebmüller plant and the company is forced into receivership. Some of the remaining cars are completed by Karmann in Osnabrück, another coachbuilder with a long tradition.

Karmann had also developed a Beetle cabriolet based on the 'Export' model. As opposed to the Hebmüller version, Karmann  proudly markets its car as a four-window model with usable rear seat. The opened soft-top rests at the rear of the body, to provide sufficient rear legroom and luggage space. Volkswagen gives the car its official blessing and delivers chassis to the plant in Osnabrück. 1949 Wolfsburg orders a pre-production of 25 vehicles. After the Karmann prototypes successfully complete the comprehensive testing by Volkswagen, Wolfsburg orders 1.000 customer cars. A huge number for a small coachbuilder. Production is increased to 10.000 vehicles by the end of 1952.

This Volkswagen Beetle 1100 Cabriolet Karmann

Our stunning car is of the extremely rare first series Type 15 A (1949-1952) and was built on 17th July, 1951 in Osnabrück. It was dispatched to California on 26th July, 1951 and spent most of its life there before returning to Europe nine years ago. The worldwide 'Karmann' registry currently knows of only 165 Type 15 cabriolets, which makes them a rare sight anywhere in the world and the most sought after model for any collector of early Volkswagen vehicles.

Upon arrival in Europe, the car's new owner embarked on a full frame-off restoration of the car, including bodywork, mechanics, electrics and interior. In pursuit of originality, all parts were either reclaimed or replaced with other original or new-old stock Volkswagen parts. The bodywork is finished in striking and VW-correct red over black with black soft top and beige leatherette interior. The latter features some lovely original extras, such as radio and a mechanical Kienzle clock on the left side of the dash. Carpets are of the 'haargarn-bouqle' type typical of German post-war cars.

The car is immaculate in every respect and we know from our own experience of restoring classic Mercedes how much time, effort and craftsmanship go into a full rebuild like this. The result is nothing short of stunning and the car is truly amazing and ready to be loved and enjoyed by a serious Volkswagen enthusiast, looking for the very best car available. Please contact us for more details.

  • Extremely rare first series (1949-1952) 1100 Beetle Cabriolet Karmann
  • Frame-off restoration to the highest standard with focus on originality
  • VW-correct red over black with beige interior and in immaculate condition

Price on application