The Turning of the Worm

29 July 2022

In the early 1950s, the German military requested motor manufacturers to tender for an off-road vehicle to compete with the British Land Rover and the American Jeep.

In response to the tender request, only three manufacturers produced prototypes, Porsche, Auto Union (DKW) and a Borgward subsidiary, Goliath. Interestingly, Volkswagen was invited to tender but declined as they struggled to meet the ‘Beetle’ demand.

Porsche produced the Jagdwagen or Type 597, an amphibious, 4×4 vehicle fitted with a modified Porsche 356 engine. The four-wheel drive was selectable and built on a sealed monocoque ‘hull’ and, therefore, could be utilised for amphibious deployment.

Porsche was able to design this unique vehicle knowledgeably due to their previous experience with sports car engines and tractors. Also, Ferdinand Porsche had expertise in designing military off-road vehicles during WWII.

Eventually the Auto Union DKW Munga was selected because it could be built in the numbers required, and equally importantly, it was relatively inexpensive.

When it was clear that Porsche, despite being considered the premier vehicle, had not won the tender, they decided to try and market the Jagdwagen, translated means Hunting Car, to the non-military market. Unfortunately, it was not received well by Joe Public, meaning only 71 were built, of which 22 were prototypes.

The Jagdwagen was the first 4×4 produced by Porsche, and it was somewhat of a failure. Move forward 50 years, and Porsche ventured into the 4×4 world for a second time with the Cayenne and later the Macan.

As we now know, these two SUVs would become the marque’s best-selling vehicles, helping to ensure the company’s survival in the future.

How the worm turns.