Meet the Freaks

1954

VOLKSWAGEN type 2 kombi mk1

You know you’re a freak when…you were originally a hunting vehicle for VWSA’s first Chairman!

In August 1947, Dutch Volkswagen importer Ben Pon sketched an idea for a commercial vehicle adaptation of the popular Beetle, during a visit to the Volkswagen factory. His concept was shown to the head of Volkswagenwerk, who commissioned a prototype to be built two years later.
The prototype was built on a modified Beetle chassis, which revealed its limitations when tested. It was quickly reassembled, using a box section chassis with a Beetle wheelbase and the body welded to it. This would be the first Volkswagen to feature unitary construction.

The Transporter was unveiled to the public on 12 November 1949 and production started in March 1950. Five years later, it arrived in South Africa and became a bestseller. Among its many variants were the Kombi, People Transporter, panel van, pickup, camper, ambulance and fire engine bus.

This particular vehicle, which was imported and fitted out as a hunting vehicle, belonged to Baron Klaus von Oertzen. The Baron was Volkswagen’s representative in South Africa in the 1950s, becoming the first chairman of SAMAD (later VWSA) in 1956.

1963

trabant 601

You know you’re a freak when…you’re a vehicle that needed special permission to enter West Germany!

The Trabant 601, also fondly referred to as the “Trabbi”, was built in a factory in Zwickau (the same factory which later became a Volkswagen engine plant!). It is the best known Trabant model and was a very common sight in the former East Germany; in fact, it was considered East Germany’s equivalent of the Volkswagen Beetle. Unfortunately, the lack of development funds in East Germany meant the 601 had to be built with a two-stroke engine when the Beetle and similar vehicles in other countries were using four-stroke engines; this ultimately cost the Trabant its popularity. Its design remained essentially unchanged from its introduction in the late 1950s, and the last model was introduced in 1990.

In mid-1989, thousands of East Germans began loading their Trabants with as much as they could carry and drove to Hungary or Czechoslovakia en route to West Germany–the so-called “Trabbi Trail”. Many had to get special permission to drive their Trabants into West Germany, as the cars did not meet West German emissions standards.

1972

volvo 144 s b20

You know you’re a freak when…you’re a Volvo built by Volkswagen in a time it was also building tractors and lawnmowers!

In its earlier years, Volkswagen of SA built a number of cars on contract for other manufacturers whenever there was spare capacity in the plant here in Kariega (then Uitenhage). This included Studebakers and Austins, right in the beginning when the factory still belonged to SAMAD. But even in later years, when the name had already changed from SAMAD to VWSA, the factory built Volvo, Jeep and even tractors, scooters and lawnmowers.

Between January 1972, when the Lawsons Motor Group of Johannesburg (then the franchise holders for Volvo in South Africa) approached VWSA to assemble Volvos, until the end of that contract in 1975, over 7 000 Volvos were built here – including this particularly well-preserved, single-owner vehicle.

1973

audi 100 s

You know you’re a freak when…you’re just this beautiful (and only the second kind of Audi built in South Africa)!

The very first Audi to be built on South African shores was the Super 90, which was released for sale in early 1968. Two years later, the larger Audi 100 LS followed as a special import, which left motorists clamouring for more. In 1972, Volkswagen South Africa put the Audi 100 into local production, with three variations – the 100 S, LS and LS automatic.

The Audi 100’s magnificent looks, practical features and high standard of equipment and finishes soon gained it a following. Its wide engine range enabled strong performance, while delivering outstanding fuel economy. Later, the GL and luxurious GLS versions – both featuring more powerful engines – were introduced, entrenching the Audi brand in South Africa.

1976

volkswagen project 1021

You know you’re a freak when…you’re a prototype and precursor to the modern compact SUV!

Codenamed Project 1021, the brief was for a station wagon and a bakkie-type vehicle. It was designed by Peter Stevens and engineered and developed by a company called SmallFry, named after its founders Anthony Smallhorn and Tim Fry.

With its Beetle-sourced upright twin-port 44kW 1 600cc engine situated over the rear axle, the packaging of Project 1021 is as fascinating as it is strange. Indeed, with a fuel tank position up front below a relatively shallow front storage area and a rear engine bay. The square-shaped wagon only has three doors.

Curiously, there is no tailgate access to the packing space available above the engine bay. Presumably, owners would reach over the backrest to retrieve their (surely well-warmed up) parcels. This arrangement is somewhat impractical, but its design cues leave no doubt that this vehicle is an interesting precursor to the modern compact SUV (back when the term was not even coined yet).