As long as there have been Volkswagens, somebody has been sticking a gun on them, and saying they are suitable for combat. True the lack of a radiator does make it more resilient against bullet hits than its water cooled brethren. But a Beetle engine is hardly the most powerful thing. A lot of the time it struggles to push just the Beetle. Imagine strapping a couple of tonnes of armour plating to it and seeing how it does. So here are some of the ideas that never really caught on due to one reason or another;
Schwimmwagen Mit 20mm Flakvierling
That’s a Schwimmwagen with a great stinking 20mm anti-aircraft gun bolted to the back. It didn’t see much use due to the weight rendering the Schwimmwagens amphibious ability useless and it having problems sinking into the mud due to the narrow tires. Other problems included frequent overheating of the engine (a common problem with most of the vehicles in this post) and having to be followed by a second support vehicle in order to supply the ammunition.
Royal Marines Snow Trac with L6 WOMBAT Recoilless Rifle
Once The Royal Marines cottoned on to this front engine tracked vehicle abilities, they cut off the roof and strapped another stinking massive gun on it. It was also known as the Sand Cat due to its deployment in some of the hotter regions of the world. Some more conventional versions (still lacking a roof though) were used to patrol the border between Norway and the USSR during The Cold War. The military units differed from their civilian counterparts by a 24V electrical system and the fuel tank being moved outside the passenger compartment. They also had special mounting points attached so they could be quickly carried into battle under helicopters. There aren’t many survivors today as most were sunk on an Atlantic convoy heading to the Falkland’s. Although four did make it and served admirably.
Bet you didn’t know these Land Rover killers were powered by the humble LT Diesel engine? In an interesting deal, VW promised to supply Steyr-Puch with the engines and in return Steyr would build and fit the syncro systems to the Type 25’s at their factory in Austria, which contributed to the high price of the syncro when new due to the transport costs between factories. The fact the Pinzgauer is still in use today shows it is one of the few success stories.
VW Illtis (Polecat)
Finally an offering from Volkswagen themselves. In a rather cunning ploy, Volkswagen betted that the Joint European venture called the Europa jeep, would flop so in secret they developed the Illtis. And sure enough, they were right and they only other company able to field a prototype as quickly as Volkswagen was Mercedes with their G wagen. During test the VW and Mercedes were comparable however the Volkswagen won out due to it being cheaper than the G wagen. Some also made their way to Canada and Belgium.
Leopard Security Vehicle
The Leopard mine proof vehicle was a novel design and one of the pioneers of vehicle survivability in the event of a mine strike or roll over. It featured a V shaped hull to deflect explosions away from the occupants, a circular roll cage to protect them if the vehicle was to roll over and an open roof to dissipate the shockwave of the blast. The running gear you may have noticed is stretched out on two limbs either end of the vehicle. The 1600cc Type 2 engine being housed in an unarmoured compartment in the rear. This was to stop the blast being directly under the vehicle if it rolled over a mine. Although it was adopted by the Rhodesian Army, The vehicle did not find favour with them. Instead having a bigger appeal to the civillian market. The Leopard suffered from a number of practical problems, which included overheating of the air-cooled engine; a lack of power to traverse difficult terrain and escape ambush situations; and the unintended parting of the front or rear sub-assemblies from the hull while traversing difficult terrain.
COBRA Light Strike Vehicle
In 1993, Wessex produced the “COBRA” light strike vehicle. This vehicle used a mixture of VW components including the Syncro drivetrain. Rear suspension though was old style trailing arms. It was powered by a 1.9 Turbo diesel from the slightly less exciting polo. It had no protection or armour for the occupants. It was used extensively by the SAS during The Second Gulf War. It was mounted with a .50 cal machine gun or a MILAN Anti-tank missile launcher. Useful for getting that last space at your local Tesco.
Now on to VW’s latest offering to the German Budeswehr
Didn’t think you’d see VW’s luxury SUV here did you? Turns out painting it green and sticking a gun on the roof (again) was Volkswagens answer to replacing the aging G wagens but it never made it past the prototype stage. However the Military police arm of the Budeswehr did adopt the standard Touareg for patrols.
Basically it is a commercial off-the-shelf VW Amarok pickup truck, modified by Rheinmetall to suit military needs. This vehicle was developed as a private venture and was first revealed in 2012 and proved to be a much more successful development than the Touareg. The Amarok was aimed to meet a possible requirement of the German Army and is also being proposed for export customers. A total of 1 667 vehicles will be delivered to the Royal Dutch Army. These will replace the older Land Rover and G-Wagen military vehicles.
Ground clearance of the Amarok was increased. Rheinmetall also reinforced vehicle’s suspension. It is also fitted with larger heavy-duty tyres. Interior was also modified. Rifle racks, storage bins and radio system were added. It can be fitted with a variety of roof mounted machine guns or grenade launchers which are operated from the pickup bed.
The Constellation is a civilian truck gone rogue, when VW of Brazil wanted a truck to appeal to the military’s of south America they took their base spec truck of the production line, connected the other 4 wheels to the drivetrain and painted it green. It seems to have worked. The Brazilians have ordered nearly a thousand of them. I think it looks like the perfect thing for your commute. Traffic? Simply roll over anybody who dares stand before you.