by Mr Dale Taylor Photos: Dale Taylor
Everything I know about my Schwimmer
My particular Schwimmwagen was produced in June 1944 a serial number 7-012344. Decoding the serial number shows that this Schwimmer was the 12,344th one built of the 14,276 produced. The prefix "7" indicates that it is a Type 166 (as a side note, Kübelwagens used a "2" prefix). The body number is 12454 which was sequentially assigned by Ambi-Budd. The semi-finished and painted body tub was shipped to the VW plant where it was mated with the engine, drive train and associated components and prepared for issue to the army.
The initial military unit assignment, combat history and geographic locations of my '44 Schwimmer from its production date in June up to December 1944 is not known. However, it is known that it ended its military service abandoned near Lutrebois, Belgium on December 28, 1944 as part of the failed counterattack to seal off the Bastogne corridor during the Battle of the Bulge. Although any tactical unit markings have long since been obliterated, extensive research shows that it was most likely a reconnaissance vehicle assigned to 1st Regiment, 1st SS Panzer Division who abandoned most of their vehicles around Lutrebois due to lack of fuel, spare parts and battle damage.
Immediately after the close of World War II, scrap yards and interested individuals collected the destroyed and abandoned vehicles from the European battlefields. A Belgian farmer from Arlon collected my Schwimmer and several other vehicles (including other Schwimmers) from Lutrebois and used them around the farm for several years. Since Schwimmwagens were classified as "naval vessels" by the armistice, they had to be demilitarized by cutting door openings on either side of the body tub so that it could no longer be used as a miniature Bismarck.
In the 1970s, our Belgian entrepreneur started the Victory Memorial Museum in Hondelange, Belgium where the door openings were welded closed and the Schwimmer was alternately kept on display and used as a shop vehicle. During its life at the museum, it was never restored, but underwent a multitude of amateur repair jobs by incompetent boobs with big hammers and little talent.
How I got it
Another military vehicle collector/broker from Chicago purchased the Schwimmer along with several other vehicles from the museum when it shut its doors in 1999. Through some of my Kübel contacts, he learned I was interested in possibly purchasing a Schwimmwagen as a future project. After I turned down another Schwimmer, which was then located in the Channel Isle of Guernsey (between France and England), we worked out a deal on one he already had stateside in Michigan. After settling on a price, I was once again the owner of another marriage-testing and financially ludicrous military VW project.
What's up with it now
The car is currently in Clio, Michigan (north of Flint) where the restoration began immediately after I purchased the car on June 6, 2000. The resident U.S. Kübel/ Schwimmer experts (Crompton & Sons) are performing the restoration. It is being stripped down to the last nut and bolt and meticulously reassembled exactly to factory specifications. The engine is currently at the rebuild shop for final assembly and is almost ready for installation. The body tub had so many previous repair panels it looked like a poorly made quilt. After over 265 man hours, it has finally been completed inside and out. An entire wiring harness was hand made and installed. Many of the other components (windshield frame, bumpers, lights, top bow, seats, etc.) have also been completed. Next is the front end and transaxle.
What's gonna happen?
The engine should be done any day. Once it's finished, it will be installed with the transaxle. The front end, brakes and wheels/tires will be installed. Everything will be functionally checked and the car test driven. Final accessory items will also be installed to finish it off and make it road and seaworthy (yes, it will be floated). This car changed hands a year ago. It's still located in the USA.
Update from one of our readers
'I often watch your website, there is a lot of factual and practical information. I also recently completed a renovation of my “schwimm”. I am sending a few photos of the current state. About three years ago I managed to get one more “vannen”, but it survived with no serial number, but some detail is the year of manufacture 44 and up. I wish all of yo health and well-being in the new year.
Story by the owner from England
"This picture is of the schwimmer with all the parts inside, this was the day I bought the sch'm, (great day)."
"As for my schwimmwagen it is finished. I am still missing the hood but I have tracked one down for a fair price. I was missing the fuel tanks but I made two, there not orignal but they will do the job and the drive from the engine to the body for the propeller is missing but I managed to find one to copy so I'm making one assembly at the moment so it wont be long before its going into the water!!
When I say its finished, I still have some work to do but it drives, all the electrics work and it has just passed the British MOT, all I have to do now is register the schwimmer with the DVLA, (Give it a UK number plate) and I'm on the road!!"
"I have the certificate from wolfsburg and it was built on the 31/12/1943 and left the factory on 5/1/1944 and went to Erfurt.
The chassis number is 7008777, body number on the engine lid hinge is 8188.
One last thing, I took it to its first Volkswagen show called peppercorn on the 11/12 July this year and I won best of show ,so I was very happy!! Unfortunately I didn't take to many photo's when I was putting the schwimmer together, I put it together quite quickly! The Engine number is; 7-044 687 and its country of destination was; Heereszeugamt, Erfurt/Germany. One last thing,
This car was used on the Russian Front in the Summer of 1943 before being shipped to the USA. The VW166 has a 1953 75 hp super Porsche engine with 40mm Solex carbs. The steering wheel and dash are not original. Also it has a later dash configuration with 1953 Porsche tachometer and speedometer. Luckily the body was in rather good condition.
The current owner became the third owner in Poland , the first owner was a farmer who found it on the Stegna Beach which is 20km from Gdañsk. The germans left there a lot of material.
After that in 60's a man from Gdañsk bougth it from this farmer. As you can see the car was yellow and the interior was red.
National Museum of Militairy History -Diekirch- http://www.nat-military-museum.lu/ Text and pictures have been kindly provided by Mr Roland J. Gaul, the curator of the National Museum of Militairy History -Diekirch-, we thank him very much for his contribution.
"The National Museum of Military History is now enriched by an original 1944-built German VW-166 "Schwimmwagen" (amphibious staff car), as the worldwide database on remaining VW “Schwimmwagens” on www.vw166.com is enlarged by one unit.
It was two years after the official initial opening of the museum in 1986 that a heavily-wrecked (but still recognizable) VW-166 was found in a barn in the Luxembourg Ardennes, long-forgotten for many years. The vehicle had been scrapped, painted red with many graffiti and had apparently served as a funny point of attraction in a 1948-held Carnival parade. Further research revealed that the actual vehicle was abandoned most likely for mechanical breakdown at the outskirts of Diekirch in late January 1945 by the retreating German troops, where a farmer had “salvaged” the vehicle and later on sold it to an individual.
Decades later, the museum volunteers acquired the remains of the VW-166 and stored it pending proper restoration and procurement of rarer spare parts. It was thanks to the kind assistance of the German military attaché’s office of the German Embassy in Luxembourg that contact was established by the former SIZ 860 (mechanical repair shop) of the German army in St. Wendel, Germany.
This large maintenance unit – now a civilian institution – has an apprentice school for future mechanics and car repair specialists. The management SIZ 860 agreed to put the old warrior up to snuff again and accepted the wrecked vehicle with a batch of newly-made spare parts. Under the expert guidance and supervision of masters Mr. Bommer, Mr. Mosmann, and Mr. Schneider, some 50 young German trainees worked countless hours during a 3-year period to fix the “Schwimmwagen”. The “wreck” was completely taken apart, sandblasted, primed, and step-by-step reassembled with numerous larger missing parts being made at SIZ 860. The result was amazing: the phoenix re-emerged from the ashes, as a fully functional cross-country staff car. "
" On July 13, 2006 during a small ceremony, the vehicle was officially turned over to the museum in presence of the German military attaché, Lt. Col. Metz, the mayor of Diekirch, the museum volunteers and of course, the masters and some 40 apprentices of SIZ 860. The vehicle was jointly unveiled by a group of trainees and volunteers of the museum and an outdoor barbecue in honor of SIZ-860 was offered to all attendees."