A Time to Say ‘Thank you’ - an Enduring Farewell Gift by Bill Rauskolb.

Gradually during the first week of June 1945, British forces took over Military Government responsibilities in what had only a short time before become Wolfsburg. For better or worse, administrative responsibility for what was left of Volkswagenwerk GmbH came with the territory. Major lvan Hirst arrived in Wolfsburg towards the end of August and wasted no time doing what had to be done to shift vehicle production from the wartime Kubelwagen to the Type 51 (Beetle body on the Kubelwagen chassis) and ultimately, in December, to the Type 11. The rest, as they say, is history.

As his job at Volkswagen came to an end, German management wanted to express its appreciation to Major Hirst with the gift of a Beetle, but he declined and suggested a small model of the Beetle instead - thinking of something from the company’s apprentice workshop. When he subsequently learned that the factory had commissioned a hand-built model for him from a firm that specialized in custom built ship models, he asked whether anyone had thought of Colonel Charles Radclyffe, Chairman of the Board of Control of the Volkswagenwerk organization and Hirst's nominal superior in the administration of Volkswagenwerk. The oversight was quickly remedied, a second model was commissioned for Colonel Radclyffe, and then Heinz Nordhoff added a third model, like the Hirst model painted in the VW factory color of L11 pastel green, to the order for himself. A 4th model has surfaced recently. This last model is a mystery as it was formerly unknown. It is in the possession of a German family already since the early fifties.

The firm of Peter Koch Modellwerk G.m.b.H., based in Köln-Nippes, Germany, was commissioned to produce the models as they also had made the pre-war KdF presentation models. The firm of Peter Koch was a very established and famous model making firm for shipping models, educational purposes and for the car industry. In the early war years, approximately 40-50 prisoners of war were kept at their premises who were forced to work for them.

By letter dated November 3, 1949 - less than a month after Radclyffe turned custodianship of Volkswagenwerk over to the fledgling government of the Federal Republic - Nordhoff presented the model to Colonel Radclyffe as a visible expression of the connection between you and this factory.” Nordhoff continued, “During the last three years you have spent most of your time in sharing our problems and difficulties' expressing his hope that the model would give Radclyffe “a feeling of happiness and pride for having laid down the basis for a now powerful and happy organization." Nordhoff closed the letter with a thought with respect to the British that lives in Wolfsburg to this day; “We certainly will never forget what you did for this factory and for the recreation of hope and confidence for 1000 men.” Colonel Radclyffe responded by letter dated November 12, thanking Nordhoff for the “delightful little model" and stating “l shall keep it as a visible expression of my connection with your factory. l feel that our association has been a very happy one and I have no qualms about the future under your guidance.”

The very detailed 1:10 scale KOCH VW model which was presented to Colonel Radclyffe and painted in the VW factory color of L70 medium brown, has weathered the 65 years since its presentation. Except for color, the model is essentially identical to that presented to Major Hirst that has been depicted in several books that have appeared over the years. Missing from the Radclyffe model are the exhaust pipe, the spare wheel and tire as well as the rubber gaskets surrounding the various windows. For the photo session, the model was removed from the massive wooden base that, like the one accompanying the Hirst model, did not originally have an enclosure of any kind to protect the model.

The KOCH master model makers faithfully replicated many of the vehicle's features and details. These really only become apparent when the body is taken off the chassis - a simple task accomplished by removing wire clips from 4 drilled studs attached to the body that pass through corresponding holes in the chassis. The substantial effort is apparent that went into the stamping, casting and machining of the individual parts.

All mentioned models have also survived the ravages of time. During the last years of his life, lvan Hirst was required by his insurance company to keep his model in a bank vault. He willed his model to the REME Museum where is it is on display today. What may have been the Nordhoff model or even a fourth model in the series is at Porsche AG in Zuffenhausen, Germany. lt appears very similar to the L11 pastel green color of the Hirst model, but has a license plate with V over W and the year 1939. The characteristics of the model are identical to the Radclyffe and Hirst Beetles and thus are those of a 1949. The 1939 dated license plate may have been added at the time the model was restored after reportedly being damaged, by a tourist, when on display and when it fell from a presentation table, during a photo session.

In the interim, an additional fourth model from the series, now incomplete and a little the worse for wear has surfaced. Little is known about the history of this fourth model and it is reportedly owned by a German family that is not involved in the “Volkswagen scene.”

These models represent an important and formative period in Volkswagen history that might have been different had it not been for the vision, efforts and personal dedication of Major Ivan Hirst, Colonel Charles Radclyffe and Professor Heinz Nordhoff during those crucial post-war years.

Enclosed is also a picture of a tag the firm of KOCH used to attach to their ship models.

  • Manufacturer: KOCH
  • Scale: 1/10
  • Length: 405mm
  • Production Era: 1949
  • Country: Germany
  • Materials: Copper Plate
  • Color: Pastel Green

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