The Volkswagen Kübelwagen (short for Kübelsitzwagen, meaning "bucket seat car") was a military vehicle designed by Ferdinand Porsche and built by Volkswagen during World War II for use by the German military (both Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS). Based heavily on the Volkswagen Beetle, it was prototyped as the Type 62, but eventually became known internally as the Type 82.
With its rolling chassis and mechanics built at Stadt des KdF-Wagens and its body built by US-owned firm Ambi Budd in Berlin , the Kübelwagen was for the Germans what the jeep was for the Allies.
Although Adolf Hitler discussed with Ferdinand Porsche the possibility of military application of the Volkswagen as early as April 1934, it wasn't until January 1938, that high-ranking Third Reich army officials formally approached Porsche about designing an inexpensive, light-weight military transport vehicle that could be operated reliably both on- and off-road in even the most extreme conditions, suggesting that the Beetle could provide the basis for such a vehicle.
Porsche began work on the project immediately, having a prototype of the vehicle ready within the month, but realized during development that it wouldn't be enough to reinforce the Beetle's chassis to handle the stresses that military use would put on it. In order to guarantee adequate off-road performance of a two-wheel-drive vehicle with a 1,000 cc FMCV 1 engine, it would have to be lightweight. In fact, the army had stipulated a laden weight of 950 kg (2,100 lb) including four battle-dressed troops, which meant that the vehicle itself should not weigh more than 550 kg (1,200 lb). Porsche therefore sub-contracted Trutz, an experienced military coachbuilder to help out with the body design.
Developmental testing by the military began after a presentation of the prototypes designated as Type 62 in November 1938. Despite lacking four wheel drive, a mainstay of the American military Jeeps, the vehicle proved very competent at maneuvering its way over rough terrain, even in a direct comparison with a contemporary standard German army 4x4, and the project was given the green light for further development. The vehicle's light weight and ZF self-locking differential compensated for the lack of 4X4 capabilities.
Further development of the Type 62 took place during 1939, including a more angular body design; and pre-production models were field-tested in the invasion of Poland that started in September that year. Despite their overall satisfaction with the vehicle's performance, military commanders demanded that a few important changes be made: the lowest speed of the vehicle had to be reduced from 8 km/h (5.0 mph) to 4 km/h (2.5 mph) as an adjustment to the pace of marching soldiers. Secondly it needed some improvement of its off road ability. Porsche responded to both requests by mounting new axles with gear-reduction hubs, providing the car with more torque and more ground-clearance all at once. Revised dampers, 41 cm (16 in) wheels and a limited slip differential, as well as countless small modifications completed the specification. In order to reflect the changes, the vehicle was re-named Type 82.
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