The car […] proves that under certain conditions it’s possible to make an extremely light vehicle with good road holding and suspension, something that until now has been regarded by practically all as utopian.

Josef Ganz in Motor-Kritik (November 1931)


In December 1930, Josef Ganz was offered the position of technical consultant at the Adler car factory in Frankfurt a.M. One of his main projects for the New Year, was the construction of a new Volkswagen prototype. As with the earlier Ardie-Ganz prototype, he used a straight steel tube as the basic construction element of the backbone chassis, to which the front and rear fully independent suspension was mounted. A mid-mounted, two-stroke 200 cc single-cylinder motorcycle engine drove the swinging rear half-axles via chain-drive.

The new prototype was finished in May 1931 and lovingly nicknamed Maikäfer (May Bug) by Josef Ganz. The revolutionary chassis design was fitted with a low-slug, but conventional looking open-topped two-seater steel body, even including a fake radiator. Ganz was convinced that the new Volkswagen should initially be put on the market with “open bodywork, little different from the norm and satisfyingly tasteful”. In one or two years time, once the first model was “established and popular”, a closed version with “ideal streamlining” could be introduced.

Josef Ganz behind the wheel of the Maikäfer together with streamlining pioneer Paul Jaray, 1931

Josef Ganz behind the wheel of the Maikäfer together with streamlining pioneer Paul Jaray, 1931

Amazingly, the original Maikäfer prototype still exists. It has been restored in the 1990s by Maybach-collector Graff Michael Wolff Metternich, and is now owned by the Central Garage Automuseum in Bad Homburg, Germany.

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