The True Story Behind This Mysterious Mutant VW BeetleJason Torchinsky5/25/14 12:10pmFiled to: Mystery CarsVolkswagenSteyr4024EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalinkRaph showed me this picture the other day, and was clearly confused and disturbed. Ashen and shaking, he pulled the picture out of his worn leather valise. "H-H-How?" he stammered. "What is it? Can it harm us?" I chuckled warmly, and decanted the contents of my Thermos on his head. "Let's get to the bottom of this," I assured him.Let's look carefully at that picture. It appears to be a Beetle front end, but the body, while similarly scaled to a Beetle, is clearly not one. In fact, it appears to be a Steyr 50 (we now mostly know Steyr as the builders of the Mercedes-Benz' G-Wagen), a small front-engined Austrian car made in 1936, and actually predating the final Beetle design. It also seems to be more than a Steyr 50 with some VW body parts, as there's no air intake up front, suggesting a rear engine, like a Beetle. Other pictures of the same car, usually called a VW-Steyr, show ventilation intakes at the rear as well, supporting the rear-engine theory.Some research shows that this car is owned by Bob Shaill of the UK, and he says it's a one-off coach built VW. I think Shaill's particular variation with the stock VW hood and fenders may be unique, but the actual story behind this car and others like it — there were others — is far more interesting.I think what Shaill owns (and maintains very lovingly) is, in fact, a modified version of something usually called a Kohlruss VW. This is a car that only existed due to a very particular and peculiar set of circumstances immediately following WWII.AdvertisementAdvertisementKohlruss was an Austrian coachbuilding company, still in business after the misery of the war. Like much of the former Reich, after the war Austria was beaten, broken, and broke. Nobody was building new cars, but there was still a demand for cars as people began to put their lives back together.The most plentiful cars by far were army surplus Kubelwagens — the VW KdF -based wartime jeep-like vehicle. For non-Beetle geeks, "KdF" was the German acronym for "Strength-through-Joy," the ridiculous original name for the Beetle. These Kubelwagens were known for having good, rugged drivetrains and suspensions, and made good general-use cars, but nobody really wanted such a spartan and militaristic-looking body.Actual Beetle-style bodies were produced, but in very small numbers compared to the Kubels. So, Kohlruss had the great idea to start a business converting Steyr 50 and 55 bodies to fit on VW Kubel or KdF chassis. Those "baby" Steyrs were reasonably popular cars in their time, and were sort of an Austrian volkswagen. There were many of these sorts of small streamlined cars in that era, many influenced by visionaries like Josef Ganz.