Military

Unearthed: 1943 Volkswagen Schwimmwagen Type 166

This World War II era VW-designed Schwimmwagen Type 166 underwent a complete restoration, but its battle scars are still visible today.

Yes, the Volkswagen Schwimmwagen was officially used as a Nazi military vehicle during World War II. But then again, its mechanical origins can be traced directly back to the original Volkswagen Beetle, that peoples' car eventually driven by millions across the globe. Those that know their history will recall Nazi Germany forced its then budding automotive industry into a military industry to support the country's war efforts during the 1930s.

Despite the countless horrors committed by Nazi Germany, the country had its fair share of talented engineers and designers. Too bad they had to use their skills for the wrong things. The VW Schwimmwagen Type 166 was a four-wheel-drive amphibious vehicle with a rear propeller. Built by VW and Porsche for the sole purpose of being able to cross various terrains with its high body, the Germans specifically needed something that could also cross streams, rivers and even lakes. Along with the country's arsenal of other advanced weapons and machines, it's no wonder it managed to successfully invade its neighbors and even northern Africa.

The Type 166, like its predecessors the Type 86 and 87, was powered by a 1.1-liter four-cylinder air-cooled boxer engine that produced just 25 horsepower and was mated to a four-speed manual transmission. Although this may not sound like much power today, this setup did the job. In fact, the Schwimmwagen was truly a technological marvel for its time. It had portal gear rear hubs that allowed for better ground clearance which certainly came in handy when crossing rugged terrain. Another interesting factoid is that the propeller could be lowered down from the rear when crossing a body of water.

The front wheels also acted as rudders, meaning steering was controlled by the steering wheel on both dry land and water. Size wise, the Type 166 wasn't an especially large military vehicle, with a wheelbase measuring about 6.6 feet. Undoubtedly a reliable vehicle for its day, yet less than 200 remain in existence, compared to the 15,584 units built between 1941 and 1944. This 1943 Schwimmwagen Type 166 was recently up for sale on eBay, but its reserve price wasn't met despite a top bid of $108,877. This particular example was imported to the US roughly 10 years ago where it underwent a full restoration to its original condition.

It has a total of 25,448 miles on the odometer, so it's quite intriguing as to where exactly this machine has been during its lifetime. The seller also points out the guns shown in the pictures are not included in the sale, nor are they for sale individually. This 1943 Volkswagen Schwimmwagen Type 166 will likely end up in a museum somewhere and that's exactly where it belongs. The seller also notes that if one looks closely, they'll see evidence of past battle use. It's truly a remarkable piece of history in terms of its mechanical and other technological advances, even if it was built during humanity's darkest days. Photos courtesy of user58.

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