Is any WW2 German collection complete without a Kubelwagen? Probably not, but that’s a problem I’ve now fixed by printing myself these two little beauties:

Buy one for yourself:

I’m now selling these kubelwagens here:

The Volkswagen Bucketcar

Originally called the “kubelsitzwagen” (bucket seat car) due to the bucket seats in the early doorless prototypes, the production version added doors and normal seats, but by then the name “bucket car” had stuck.

The kubelwagen has a reputation for being the “German jeep”, and while they certainly had the same role mechanically they were very different beasts. Perhaps the most surprising difference for a vehicle intended for off-road use is that most Kubelwagens were not 4WD. The designers had a brief to produce something as light as possible, the idea being that if you keep the weight down you’ll have enough power to get traction.

The vehicle was also based on a simple rigid rectangular chassis which had a fairly flat smooth underside. When off-road this allowed the vehicle to slide on mud, undergrowth, etc and allowed it to get the maximum effort out of those back wheels. Most of the weight of the vehicle was centred over the two tractive wheels and being very lightweight (Kubelwagen: 700kg, Willys Jeep: 1100kg) it was also easy to get unstuck which as anybody who’s done any time offroad knows is a very user-friendly feature. The old trick of grabbing it by the bumpers and bouncing it was all it took to get moving sometimes. It  also had portal hubs giving it decent ground clearance and gearing down to give additional torque, and it had limited slip diffs to help out in snow and mud.

The drive train was based on the successful VW Beetle and its air-cooled engine (985 or 1131cc). While these may have only poked out a fairly anaemic 20ish horsepower and like all Beetles they sounded like a lawnmower they had the considerable advantage of being incredibly simple and reliable. It required no radiator and therefore had no coolant to freeze or boil, a bonus in the North African desert or the snows of the Eastern Front, Italy and the Ardennes. It could also start in very cold weather by using an auxiliary tank with a special starter fluid. The end result was a reliable little runabout with surprisingly good off-road performance even in the standard 2WD version. The fact that it was used throughout the war and over 50,000 of all types produced shows what a strong design it was. It had a fairly decent lifespan for decades after the war too, in fact.

Used right through the war the design was constantly tinkered with, but never radically changed. Notable variants included the “Type 82E” which fitted a standard Beetle body to the Kubelwagen chassis (which must have been appreciated in bad weather) and the 4WD versions. Several hundred land-based 4WD Kubelwagens were made and the chassis was used as the basis of the famous Type 166 “Schwimmwagen” which had an impressive production run of over 15,000. Amphibious cars are often complex beasts, but the Schwimmwagen was really quite simple. Being rear-engined it simply had a power takeoff on the rear, into which the propeller engaged when it was swung down from the stowed position.  Steering was done by the front wheels. Helpfully, a paddle was also provided in case things went completely wrong.

Printing the Kubelwagens

The model I was working from consists of quite a few small parts. I suspect this is intended to help out people with FDM printers which aren’t good at printing whole vehicles in one piece. However, even on a resin printer it does have one advantage: the hull can be printed from relatively cheap standard resin while the more delicate parts can be printed in tough resin to make them a bit more durable. It would be fairly easy to combine all the parts into one model but printing the whole thing in tough resin would cost more, and printing it all in standard might make some of the small parts too brittle.

The only part that I found needs  a little encouragement to fit were the wheels, but a quick blat with a needle file in the slot under the hull solves that.

The lack of a driver figure is a major problem, but luckily my bits box came to the rescue and I was able to cobble together enough bits and pieces to make two drivers. With the addition of a few bits of stowage all was ready. I sprayed them both with grey primer and for the early war model I actually used that as the basecoat too, with the other getting some Army Painter Desert Yellow, which I find close enough to the German army dark yellow. Purists may disagree.

Looking at pictures online most kubelwagens seem to have been pretty light on markings so I added number plates and a unit badge on one of them and left them at that. A bit of weathering, etc and that was it. They’ll make good little pieces of scenery or something for the partisans to shoot up in a convoy scenario.