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Rapid Swiss Volkswagen

This charming two-seater with its single-cylinder engine is a Swiss people’s car.

The story of its designer however, is more interesting than that of the car itself. German engineer Josef Ganz had advocated ideas about a car for the people since the 1920s. When working for Adler, he presented a prototype, nicknamed the Maikäfer (May beetle), a vehicle with a backbone chassis and swing arm suspension.

Shortly after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Ganz, who was of Jewish descent, was banned from working. When Hitler ordered Ferdinand Porsche to design a people’s car (‘Volkswagen’ in German), he was in fact using Ganz’s ideas; backbone chassis and swing arm suspension would later feature on the Volkswagen Beetle.

Josef Ganz escaped the Nazi regime in 1934 and settled in Switzerland. At the end of the 1930s he built prototypes of a Swiss people’s car in which he incorporated many of his own, patented, technical designs. Pro-German, corrupt officials stole the project and continued the work under the name of Rapid AG. Ganz conducted lengthy court cases but to no avail. He died in Australia in 1967, practically forgotten. This unrestored car is number 11 out of about 35 cars manufactured.

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