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						Intermeccanica Kubelwagen Reproduction 2

Intermeccanica’s Kubelwagen Reproduction

As Told by Henry Reisner

Photos and Intro by Steve Temple

While 356 Speedsters continue to have an enduring appeal, with Intermeccanica producing several premium-quality repros, there’s a lesser-known model designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche that’s available in replica form as well. Called the Kubelwagen (literally “bucket car” for its namesake seats), it initially served as the German rough equivalent of the Allies’ WWII-era Jeep. While much lighter in construction, and largely based on the VW Beetle, the Type 82 proved to be an enduring design as well.

hen compared with 4WD vehicles of the same era, the Kubelwagen’s the 2WD setup handily out-performed them in nearly every test. Most notably, thanks to its smooth, flat underbody, the Kubel would handle like a motorized sled, when its wheels were sinking into sand, snow, or mud.

The U.S. military, after conducting its own tests on several Type 82s captured in North Africa, acknowledged its speed, simplicity, comfort, ease of manufacture and maintenance. (Even so, a later military manual noted that U.S. Jeep was still a superior design.)

Given the virtues of its design, the Kubel was re-introduced in 1969 for use by the German Federal Armed Forces, and in similar civilian dress as the VW Thing in the U.S., the Trekker in the U.K., and the Safari in Mexico (though no parts were interchangeable between these modern designs and the original configuration). 

How did Intermeccanica bring back the Kubel in its lineup of Porsche replicas as well? That’s an interesting, multi-national story in itself. We’ll let Intermeccanica’s Henry Reisner relate his side of the story at this juncture:

      As for how the Intermeccanica Kubel came to be, this was a project and idea brought to us by our Japanese importer Masaki Horii in the mid 1990s. My father, after having tossed this idea aside for a couple of years, was able to secure a financial commitment from the Importer for partial finding of the tooling.  Once this aspect was discussed, we took a trip to Seattle to meet the owner of an original restored Kubel. This visit was pivotal as it was immediately obvious what a cool vehicle the Kubel is.    

My father’s memories of the Kubel from his childhood were more attached to the political and military aspect, so very negative, but the vehicle itself won him over. Following this experience we found the premier Kubelwagen restorer in Michigan, Dave Crompton.

After some discussions with him with respect to the possibility of locating an original to copy, it was determined that a restored Kubel was not the same thing as a restored 356. It became clear that the lumps and bumps were part of the restoration charm, but not something we wanted in our reproduction. 

We then located original blueprints for the Kubel, as well as many original detail parts and a significant collection of photo images, and started in the fabrication of first a chassis prototype. It was based on the same design parameters as our 356 reproduction chassis, but designed to fit the Kubel size and shape. 

Once the prototype chassis was completed a master (plug) for the body was built on top of the chassis. From here solutions were developed for doors to allow for the use of DOT legal locks. Trim items like the windshield frame, top frame, side curtains we developed and tooled. 

The challenge with the Kubel at the time was that, unlike the 356s, there was no restoration supply industry to turn to, for purchasing components. Each trim part had to be found from sources or made from scratch. The development process took over a year, one of the best years ever working with my father! 

(On a personal note, I was basically born in this business, started working part-time with my father at age of 12. I started full-time the summer I turned 16, and took seven years to finish my BA in Political Science from University of BC while working at Intermeccanica. I took over as owner and president of Intermeccanica in 2001 when my father passed away. My mother Paula Reisner is my business partner to this day.)

Getting back to the Kubel project, once it was completed and the first few started to be delivered in Japan, our importer found great success with the press there. For a couple of years every Monday morning when we arrived at the shop there would be new orders waiting on our fax machine. The downturn in the Japanese economy unfortunately affected the sales of this as well as other Intermeccanica products in Japan, and the untimely death of our importer also had and continues to have a profound effect on the sales of Intermeccanica products in that market.

Even so, to date about 60 Intermeccanica TYP-82 Kubels have been built, and you will find them in all corners of the globe from Mexico to Hawaii to Spain and France, with one in process now for a customer in the UAE. The magic of the Kubel starts with the amazing Dr. Porsche’s original design and is enhanced by the bridge-like chassis and improved suspension, brakes and power of the more modern VW air-cooled mechanicals. —contributed by Henry Reisner

Speaking of the mechanicals, Intermeccanica’s version of the Kubel uses a fiberglass body mounted on a tubular-steel perimeter frame. Drivetrain and suspension components are from ’66-72 VW T-1 (micro bus).

We took a brief spin in the rig, fittingly near the U.S. War College in Carlisle, PA, with a de-commissioned Howitzer aimed our way. As noted in the initial testing of captured Type 82, the ride and seating of this replica version is indeed comfortable, although more so, thanks to Intermeccanica’s modernization of the design. While the acceleration is moderate at best, the handling is smooth and predictable, and right in keeping with all-terrain intentions of the original design.

The owner of this particular car is a second-time Intermeccanica customer who has a summer home on an island in Puget Sound, Washington. The Kubel is ideal for this rural setting with lots of non-paved parts of the island for touring and exploring. While Porschephiles like him will no doubt continue to put the 356 Speedster at the top of their “bucket list” of preferred cars to enjoy, it’s clear that this well-engineered Kubel replica belongs there as well.

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