1941 Beetle: Number 20 out of 21 million

Filed under: Classic News |
1941 VW BeetleNumber 20… Let that just sink in a little and we can explain exactly what it means. If you know a bit about wartime and pre-war ‘Beetles’ then you may have seen older examples. Before this and 19 others, there were only ever prototypes, pre-prototypes and staff vehicles. This car rolled off an actual production line and as a result received the chassis number 20.

The car pictured here is in fact a KdF-Wagen, rather than a VW. The Volkswagen name didn’t come about until 1945 and was a result of the British takeover of the factory, post-war. The cars model designation is Typ60L, which hints at how many attempts they made before they started mass-manufacture!

Produced on 2nd November 1941, this example was first owned by the famous Berlin composer Paul Lincke and was a gift from those up high in the Nazi Party for his 75th birthday.

Lincke lived in Berlin up until 1943 when he moved to Marianské Lázně in the Czech Republic. After the war he returned to Germany, but ownership of the car was taken over by the state health official Zdeněk Krásný. Documentation shows a family by the name of Tesař later owning the vehicle until 1958 and then it all becomes a bit of a mystery before current custodian and hero of our story Ondřej Brom first discovered it.

Brom first lay eyes on the car in 1988, in a back yard belonging to one of his brother’s friends. He’d kept an ear out for news of the vehicle over the years, but it wasn’t until 1997 that he learnt it had come up for sale. Ondřej rushed to secure the purchase, only to find he was somewhat short of cash in his pocket. The previous owner gave him the chance to get to the bank though and he ended up buying the car for the equivalent of £2000 today.

He had a hunch this was an early car all along, but it was some 14 years later that he discovered exactly how special a vehicle this was. After many failed attempts to find any form of ID plate a friend of his from the local Police forensic team used a concoction of chemicals to carefully remove layers of old paint, finally revealing the number 20.

With knowledge of the cars provenance, the restoration moved up a gear when Ondřej Brom met Jacek Krajewski, a Polish vehicle restorer who specializes in WW2 Volkswagen vehicles. He took the project on and has finished it to perfection, even though many parts have had to be fabricated from scratch, in order to keep the car true to the original design.

Alongside the flawless reconstruction work, Brom has dedicated his spare time to researching the history of the vehicle and documenting it in a rather beautiful book. This was a project of passion that spiraled out of control and ended up on Kickstarter to successfully gain funding, and allow it to go to print. You can find it here at www.kdf41.com

The vehicle has only been used and displayed locally since its completion, but it is hoped to be exhibited in the UK in 2019 to allow for a wider VW loving fan base to see it in the flesh.

Andy Gregory / www.heritagepartscentre.com