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"German Light Amphibious Car" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   An article on the German Schwimmwagen from the December 1944 issue of the Intelligence Bulletin.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy equipment published for Allied soldiers. More accurate data on German weapons and equipment is available in postwar publications.]


[German Light Amphibious Car, Schwimmwagen]

The German light amphibious car, which resembles a small civilian sports car and has a boat-shaped open body, is highly maneuverable. The Germans call this vehicle a Schwimmwagen, literally enough, while on the Allied side it sometimes is spoken of as an amphibious Volkswagen. The light amphibious car represents a development of the original Volkswagen ("Peoples Car"), a light civilian vehicle that Hitler once promised to manufacture in huge quantities and bragged about as one of the future blessings of German National Socialism.

The light amphibious car has the following dimensions:

Over-all length (with propulsion unit in
land-travel position)
      11 ft. 8 in.
Over-all width 4 ft. 10 in.
Over-all height (with top up) 5 ft. 2 in.
Tread width, center line to center line 4 ft. 
Wheel base 78 in.
Ground clearance (unloaded) 11.5 in.
Approx. depth of immersion when floating 2 ft. 6 in.
Freeboard (loaded) 13 in.
The following details have obtained from a manufacturers plate in the engine compartment of a car which was examined recently:
Type       166 
Payload 958 lb.
Weight empty 2,002 lb.
Permissible axle load (front) 1,190 lb.
Permissible axle load (rear) 1,775 lb.
Permissible total weight 2,965 lb.
Engine capacity 1,131 cc.
This specimen was fitted with "run-flat" tires, size 7.85 by 16.

[The German Light Amphibious Car, Schwimmwagen]

[The German Light Amphibious Car, Schwimmwagen]
The German Light Amphibious Car

The engine is of the 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, horizontally-opposed, air-cooled type, similar to that of the ordinary Volkswagen, Model 82, and has a capacity of 1,131 cc. When the car is afloat, the crankshaft leading through the back of the vehicle effects the propulsion. The crankshaft ends in teeth which form a dog-clutch, which engages either with the propeller drive, when the latter is in position, or with the starter handle.

There are four forward gears, and one reverse, and also an auxiliary lever for a low gear for cross-country driving and for engaging or disengaging the 4-wheel drive. When the auxiliary lever is in the forward (cross-country) position, gear must not be changed, according to a warning notice on the instrument panel.

For starting under winter conditions, a specially volatile starting fuel is used. This is contained in a small auxiliary fuel tank with a capacity of about 1 liter, connected by a synthetic rubber tube to the fuel pump. This auxiliary tank is situated in the engine compartment, which is in the rear of the vehicle.

The cooling-fan intake is between the two rear seats. A transverse exhaust silencer is mounted over the engine compartment, and discharges on both sides. The body is of pressed steel with welded seams. The shaft entrances are made watertight by corrugated rubber tubing. An independent torsion-bar suspension is employed on each of the front wheels.

When the three-blade propeller unit is not in use, it folds over the back of the vehicle. This unit is provided with a chain drive to a sprocket, the shaft of which is provided with teeth which engage with those on the crankshaft end. In water, as on land, steering is effected by the conventional steering wheel, which governs the front wheels of the vehicle. When the car is traveling through water, the transmission is neutral, and the accelerator regulates the speed.

The instrument panel is fitted with a switch for speedometer lighting, a charging indicator (red), an oil indicator lamp (green), a plug for the inspection lamp, a speedometer, and a combined lamp-and-ignition switch. Beneath the instrument panel are a gasoline filter, the auxiliary fuel pump, and a lever for operating the pump for one-shot lubrication.

The foot controls comprise (from left to right) a dimmer switch, clutch, foot brake, and accelerator.

The hand controls are the gear lever, a lever for putting the 4-wheel drive and the cross-country gear — or both — into operation, a small lever for operating the choke, and the hand-brake.

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