The History of the VW Beetle & The Rare “Zwitter”


History of the VW Beetle

Designed by Porsche under the direction of Adolf Hitler, the Volkswagen Beetle was intended to provide cheap transport for the working class masses of Germany. Though originally designed in the 1930s, introduction of mass production was impacted by World War II, meaning that the bulk of the initial production runs went to high ranking Nazi officials. The Beetle wasn’t produced in large volume until the conclusion of the War in 1945.

With its small size and rear engine, the VW Beetle was designed for economical travel of the Autobahn. As it eventually gained popularity in the United States, it was seen by many as a compact, great gas mileage alternative to the flashy, large sedans that were popular in Mid-Century America.


 What is one of the Most Rare Volkswagen Beetles & What Makes it Rare?

The Volkswagen Beetle that has come to be known as the Zwitter was only produced from October 1952 through March 1953. It’s short production run makes it particularly rare. You can tell you are looking at a Zwitter if it has the split rear window of the early models, but has the redesigned dashboard more commonly seen in the oval rear window version of the Beetle, as opposed the dual glove compartments of the regular split window models.

1953 Zwitter Photo by Willem Aart Van Dorpen
Photo Copyright – Willem-Aart van Dorpen – Bé’s 1953 Zwitter. This amazing car was featured in the January 2011 issue of Ultra VW magazine.

What happened to the VW Zwitter?

The Zwitter ceased to be when Volkswagen did away the split rear window in the Beetle. The manufacturer replaced the split window of past Beetles with the singular oval window in 1953 to improve rear view visibility.

Has Anyone Seen THIS Zwitter?mike wolfe american pickers 1953 VW Zwitter

Back in 2011, you may have seen this one on Mike Wolfe’s Facebook page. He was the proud owner of this unrestored 1953 beauty for a brief period of time between buying it and sending it on its way to a new owner. In case you’re wondering, yes, he still misses her!

Read more about the history of Volkswagen, from Hitler to 1967, here at





10 thoughts on “Volkswagen’s Rare Bug”

  1. Rob Laffoon

    Omaha vw show june 20th in omaha. Been into busses for 20 years and vws since 75 when graduated high school. Have a 61 23 window, 61 so 23 westfalia, 1966 single cab that was the model for johnny lightning single cab toys, 66 bug and a 82 diesel rabbit pickup. I used to write the old bus review for NEATO. Hope to meat some day (june 20th?)

  2. Sean

    Hi Mike –
    I have a 1966 Beetle for sale – California car with receipts from new up til 2002. Survivor that was repainted along time ago, so it should be redone. All orig with EMPI bumper overrides. Great starting point for a spectacular restoration. Let me know if you’d be interested.

  3. Rick Marshall

    Hi Mike. I love the VWs too. We have owned several. I am always on the look for good, untestored ones. They cant be beat.

    We have recently left cable TV becsuse of the high price and unreliable providers in the St Louis area. We love your show, but Hulu and Netflix only have a few episodes. Is there any way to watch current episodes outside of cable? This is the worst part about leaving cable, we had to leave behind the great shows we are addicted to.

    Take care and God bless you.

    Rick Marshall

  4. Brian Quarles

    We love V.W. Bugs as much as your shows and that is saying something We have had two a 65 and a 67 with 12 volts and more power. We hate the expensive Charter ( Spectrum Cable ) $180.00 a month Brian

  5. art garcia

    I live in cali but in southern cali. I saw in one of your episode’s called the empire picks back. They stopped a vw grave yard to most, but to me was parts that I need. I want to restore a vw thing… but I can’t find the place and wondered If I could get a number or address. I would like to get in touch with that great guy, so I can buy parts from him!! Thank you very much!!

  6. ronnie wilson

    …….hi guys ……..ronnie here in sunny australia…… have had lots of vw split window busses ….and slammed single cabs ….we shipped in …from…. the US ….also quite a few ragtop beetles…… this last one …. shipped in 2 years ago …and almost on the road here downunder….. an early 55 ..original…. 3 fold ragtop …. euro beetle …was found stored in a storage shed norcal…. for 30 years ….. original iceland green …semaphores……… was painted black 30 years ago ….we rubbed through the black and bought out the iceland green underneath….for a rat look ….has 5” narrowed old speed beam ….rancho pro street trans …..2332 engine ..orig nos wide 5 centerlines ….fitted 4 bomber aircraft seats ….and orig bomber seat belts………..hand made the……. opening .. rear oval safari window. ……….thanks ronnie …..

  7. Mark Pfutzenreuter

    I have 1974 sun bug 1 owner 32635 original miles rough floor boards all original got lots of pics anyone interested

  8. Gary J Noble

    Hey Mike I really enjoy your show. Also how much you like Volkswagen Buses. I have a 1973 and a 1979 Gold Wing put together into a trike. And I have a Insurance Man that said he grew up with you Grant Hoyt. Anyways just wanted to say that American Pickers is a awesome show.

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