THE HEBMÜLLER STORY

Like most coachbuilders, the company Hebmüller And Sons in Wuppertal evolved from a horse-drawn carriage manufacturing company. It was founded by Joseph Hebmüller in 1889. After his death in 1919 his four sons started modifying car bodies. In May 1948 VW:s new leader Heinrich Nordhoff was planing a convertible version of the Beetle. The two coachbuilders chosen to produce the convertible were Karmann in Osnabrück, who was commissioned to build a fourseater, and Hebmüller a two-seater version.

the three first prototypes were built in 1948. Hebmüller used three very early saloons for the conversion. The windscreen was retained. The doors were modified and an aluminium outer frame was added. The engine covers (they are not modified front bonnets) where handcrafted. The rear number plate light and single brakelight were housed in the standard so called "Popes Nose" light unit. The first prototype was fitted with the 1946/47 style bumpers and the large VW-logo style hub caps. The second had the then new grooved bumpers and a set of very unusual hub caps (only ever seen again on a special made Beetle saloon for the emperor of Abyssinia at the 1951 Frankfurt Motor Show). The third prototype had regular hubcaps. The biggest problem found was that they flexed badly which resulted in poor door alignment. The windscreen often broke when fitting the hood in closed position. The problems was solved in the first pre-production car with a very much stronger windscreen frame, several metal plates welded inside the body and a very long and heavy strengthening

boxed rail on each side of the car. This car was produced in April 1949 and in 10000 km of severe testing it proved to function very well. This final design was met with full approval of VW and 2000 cars were ordered. Production began in the month of June 1949. Some changes were made to the production cars. One was a new engine cover that featured a long scoop which incorporated brake- and numberplate light. The air intake louvres were relocated to the body, just above the engine cover. The aluminium grooved body trims from the deluxe Beetle was also fitted. One of the appealing features of the car was the clean lines of the body. Some critics argued that you couldn't accurately tell whether it was coming or going. The spring assisted convertible hood could easily be folded down by one person, disappearing behind the rear jump seat. A tonneau cover could be neatly placed over the lowered frame. Another appealing touch was the two-tone paint work. Hebmüller experimented with several colour schemes. One colour: red, white or black. Two-tone: black & ivory, black & red, Black & yellow or red & ivory. If you wanted your own choice of colour that could be arranged at extra cost. The new twoseater started to sell well even at 7500 DEM.

Fire!
On Saturday 23rd July 1949 a massive fire started in the paint shop. Which was completely destroyed. Some of the production departments was also destroyed. Following the fire the factory looked repairable, but only just. After a tremendous effort the production was up and running after only four weeks.

The production rose slowly in the autumn of 1949, but by February 1950 it had declined and in April pf that year, only 17 was made. Then nothing. A few bodies were sent to The Karmann Factory and 15 cars where assembled between august 1951 an February 1953. It was apparent that Hebmüller had big financial problems. The problems got worse as the time went on, and the firm went bankrupt in 1952. Hebmüller had never really recovered from the fire. Later Ford purchased the works to manufacture steering knuckles and other parts.

How many?
Although VW:s official is 696, other figures suggests that approximately750 exists. There are today at least two surviving cars from 1950 that have a bodynumber greater than 700. Over 100 cars have survived and a Hebmüller 14 A is a very popular collectors car these days. One in good condition is far to expensive for most of us, but the dream of a Hebmüller is deep inside all lovers of vintage Volkswagens.

Original text by Bob Shaill, see him in his Hebmüller!
Slightly shortened by Jan-Anders Lindqvist.

Hebmüller also made this model

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