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The employee magazine
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Employees

Jan the Beetle shines again

Employees at Volkswagen South Africa have used their free time to restore the country’s oldest Beetle. The vehicle, which was made in Wolfsburg in 1949, can now be admired in the museum at the Uitenhage plant.

Classic car saviors (from left): Vincent Mncora, Jaco Senekal, Willie Myburgh, Neville Oosthuizen, Andrew Pretorius, Thulani Zulu, Jan Schiedek-Jacht, and Tony Kilroe.

Jan the Beetle, as South Africa’s oldest Volkswagen Beetle is affectionately known, first saw the light of day in Wolfsburg on September 14, 1949. The vehicle only really became famous 22 years later, and around 10,000 kilometers further south. The year 1971 was when Volkswagen South Africa, which itself produced the Beetle from 1951 to 1979, joined forces with a magazine to search for the country’s oldest Beetle. Jan’s owner, David Rubin, was given a new 1300 Beetle in exchange for his treasure. Jan then embarked on a grand tour, gracing exhibition halls across country with his presence.

Yet his fame soon waned. Parked in the Uitenhage plant, Jan was left forgotten. His condition worsened, making him unsuitable as an exhibit. Until last year, when a group of vintage car fans from Product Development at the Volkswagen South Africa found out about this historic vehicle – and offered their help. Seven months of painstaking work was necessary to restore the Beetle. The team made every effort to retain as many of the original parts as possible. Jan also retained his original beige color. Only when there was no alternative were components ordered from dealerships in South Africa, Germany, and the United States.

» I’m impressed by the devotion, the passion, and the love for our automotive heritage. «

Thomas Schäfer, Chairman, VWSA

3 questions for Jan Schiedek-Jacht
A deceptive first impression

1 Mr. Schiedek-Jacht, what objective were you and your colleagues pursuing with this project?

The oldest Beetle in South Africa should resemble its original state as closely as possible following restoration, and be able to stand up to a critical gaze.

2 Were there any unwelcome surprises during the restoration?

The vehicle didn’t actually look too bad at first glance. But we then established that accident damage hadn’t been repaired well. Although we were able to restore most of the parts, we did have to order a number of them from dealerships all over the world. Returning the vehicle to its standard equipment level also meant liberating diverse components of their chrome plating and then painting them.

3 How much support did Volkswagen South Africa give you for this project?

We were in the fortunate position of being able to use the equipment we have in our plant. For example, a number of small parts were made using state-of-the-art 3-D printers. We cut the number dial on the overhauled tachometer using a laser, while the glove compartments were made using a vacuum process.