Thursday, 21 April 2011

Book presentation

The German translation of my book about Josef Ganz, entitled 'Die wahre Geschichte des VW Käfers - Wie die Nazis Josef Ganz die VW-Patente stahlen', will be officially presented on Saturday the 14th of May 2011 during the VW Treffen at the beautiful transport museum Verkehrshaus der Schweiz in Luzern, Switzerland.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Did any cars by Josef Ganz survive?

As an independent and consultant engineer Josef Ganz has designed and influenced a number of important cars and prototypes. A few of these still exist today. This list contains all known cars that he has designed with information on known surviving models:

Ardie-Ganz (Germany, 1930):
- designed and built by Josef Ganz at motorcycle company Ardie;
- 1 prototype chassis was built including two different bodies and tested in 1930: fate of prototype is unknown (presumed lost);

Adler Maikäfer (Germany, 1931):
- designed and built by Josef Ganz at car manufacturer Adler;
- 1 prototype built and tested in 1931:

  • the original prototype was discovered in Switzerland and has been restored by a German collector in the 1990s, recently sold to another collector in Germany (private ownership).

Mercedes-Benz 170 (Germany, 1931-1936):
- initiated by and designed under consultancy of Josef Ganz at Daimler-Benz;
- 2 prototypes built and tested in the Swiss Alps in 1931: fate of both prototypes is unknown;
- the Mercedes-Benz 170 was produced from 1931 to 1936, 13,775 cars produced: multiple cars presumed to exist:

Mercedes-Benz 120H (Germany, 1931-1932):
- initiated by and designed under consultancy of Josef Ganz at Daimler-Benz;
- several prototypes built and tested in 1931-1932: fate of all prototypes is unknown (presumed lost).

BMW AM1 (Germany, 1932):
- designed under consultancy of Josef Ganz at BMW;
- at least 1 prototype built and tested in 1932: fate unknown;
- the BMW AM1 was produced from 1932 to: multiple cars are believed to still exist:

Standard Superior (Germany, 1932-1935):
- designed and built by the Standard Fahrzeugfabrik according to the patents of Josef Ganz and partly based on the design of the Adler Maikäfer;
- 1 prototype built and tested in 1932: fate unknown (presumed lost);
- first production model of the Standard Superior was introduced in 1933, a few dozen cars were produced: only one almost complete chassis and a number of parts are known to exist (private ownership);
- second production model of the Standard Superior 'Deutschen Volkswagen' was introduced in 1933 and built from 1933 to 1935, a few hundred cars produced:

  • one fully restored car known to exist in Germany (private ownership).

Mercedes-Benz 130H (Germany, 1933-1936):
- initiated by and designed under consultancy of Josef Ganz at Daimler-Benz;
- the Mercedes-Benz 130H was produced from 1933 to 1936, 4,298 cars produced: multiple cars known to exist:

Bungartz Butz (Germany, 1934):
- designed and built by Bungartz & Co according to the patents of Josef Ganz;
- at least 3 cars known to have been built in 1934: fate of all cars unknown (presumed lost);
- unclear whether the Bungartz Butz was ever serially produced.

Rapid Schweizer Volkswagen (Switzerland, 1937-1947):
- designed by Josef Ganz;
- 3 or 4 prototypes built including one aluminium-bodied car dubbed Silberfisch in 1937: fate of all prototypes unknown (presumed lost);
- the Rapid was produced from 1946 to 1947, approximately 46 cars produced: 2 cars are known to exist:

  • one restored car is on display at the (Verkehrshaus) in Luzern, Switzerland ;
  • one car is currently being restored in the Netherlands (private ownership).

Julien M.M.5 and M.M.7 (France, 1947-1950?):
- based on the patents of and co-designed by Josef Ganz;
- unknown how many cars were produced: fate of all cars is unknown (possibly some models still exist in France?).

If you have any additional information regarding these or other cars designed by Josef Ganz, please drop me a line at Josef Ganz Archives. Thank you!

Who was Josef Ganz and why is he important?

Dipl.-Ing. Josef Ganz (1898 - 1967) was the engineering father of the Volkswagen Beetle - the most famous car ever built - and laid the foundations for lightweight modern motorcars. He coined the design, the name Volkswagen, the nickname Beetle, built the first prototypes, and heavily propagandized the entire concept.

Josef Ganz made his first Volkswagen design sketches in 1923, designing an innovative small lightweight car with a mid-mounted engine, independent wheel suspension and an aerodynamic body, but at first lacked the money to build a prototype.

As editor-in-chief of Motor-Kritik from 1928 onwards Josef Ganz used this magazine as a platform to criticize heavy, unsafe and old-fashioned cars and promote innovative design and his concept for a Deutschen Volkswagen ('German Volkswagen'). He attacked the old and well-established auto companies with biting irony. These companies fought against Josef Ganz and his Motor-Kritik with law-suits, slander campaigns and an advertising boycott. However, every new attempt for destruction only increased the publicity for the magazine and Josef Ganz firmly established himself as the leading independent automotive innovator in Germany.

Josef Ganz built his first Volkswagen prototype at Ardie in 1930 and completed a second one at Adler in 1931, which was nicknamed the Maikäfer ('May-Beetle'). Both these cars featured a lightweight design incorporating a tubular central backbone chassis, independent wheel suspension with swinging rear half-axles, and a rear-mounted engine. Along similar lines the production model Standard Superior – advertised as ‘the fastest and cheapest German Volkswagen’ – was introduced at the Berlin motor show in February 1933 where it was seen by Adolf Hitler and sparked the later KdF/Volkswagen project.

Furthermore, as a consultant engineer at Daimler-Benz Josef Ganz initiated and helped to construct the Mercedes-Benz 170 (1931) – the company’s first lightweight model with independent wheel suspension –, the Mercedes-Benz 120H prototype (1931) – a predecessor of the VW Beetle – and the resulting production model Mercedes-Benz 130H (1933). In a similar position at BMW Josef Ganz helped develop the BMW AM1 – likewise BMW’s first model with independent wheel suspension.

His brilliant engineering work and critical journalistic writings jump-started a revolution in the automotive industry to build more affordable, lightweight, comfortable, safe and efficient cars. Ironically, while German car manufacturers one by one took over the progressive ideas that had been published in Motor-Kritik since the 1920s, Josef Ganz was arrested by the Gestapo in 1933 on falsified charges of blackmailing the automotive industry, his career was destroyed, and his life became endangered. This lead to his escape from Germany in June 1934 - the very month Hitler assigned Ferdinand Porsche to realize the prophecy of Josef Ganz: designing a mass-producible Volkswagen for a consumer price of 1,000 Reichsmark.

Josef Ganz later settled in Switzerland where with government support he started a Swiss Volkswagen project in the mid to late 1930s. After the second world war and numb from five years of highly complex court battles Josef Ganz left Switzerland for France in 1949 and eventually settled in Australia in 1951. Despite some attempts to restore his name in the 1960s, it was too little too late. Josef Ganz died in obscurity in Australia in 1967 – his legacy the VW Beetle known and admired by all but his name forgotten.

For more information on Josef Ganz: