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In 1938, Hitler introduced the Dr. Porsche designed KdF Wagen at the Berlin Auto Show. This KdF Wagen as it was identified back then (KdF abbreviates "Kraft durch Freude" meaning Strength Through Joy) later became the Volkswagen Beetle as we know it today. Hitler wanted the German worker to own an affordable automobile and the KdF Wagen was to be the official automobile in Germany. The German worker could join and participate in a Savers program towards buying a KdF Wagen. This program required the worker to buy a special 5 Reich Mark stamp each week and this stamp was then pasted in their KdF Savers booklet. The price of the KdF Wagen was 990 Reichs Mark and required about 4 years to complete the Savers program. The KdF Wagen was available in three types. They were the sedan, sunroof and convertible and they all had the official and only color of a dark grey blue.

Since its introduction in 1938, the toy manufactures of that era jumped on the bandwagon and produced their version of the KdF Wagen in miniature form. These German toy companies were Marklin, Distler, JNF, Fischer and Gunttermann just to name a few. One German toy firm by the name of HUKI produced a KdF version and is utmost rare. The HUKI toy firm was located in the Nuremberg area of Germany. The name HUKI abbreviated the name of the firms' owner HUbert KIenberger. One common problem for collectors is identifying the manufacture of VW toys produced in the 1940's and 1950's. Manufactures had the tendency of not putting their names or an identifying insignia on the toys they produced.

HUKI was an exception in that their VW toy cars had the letters "HK" plus three or four numbers included in the license plate on the toy car.  The HUKI KdF version is easily identified with the license plate "HK 403." The color of the HUKI HK 403 tin car was also a dark grey blue to go along with the original theme of the KdF Wagen. There is a white line going across the roof just above the split window area. This was to simulate where the sunroof ended on the sun roof version of the KdF Wagen. This tin plate toy had a lithographed design and was stamped with the basic design of the VW silhouette. This lithographed designed featured a rear split window, front windshield with wiper blades and rear view mirror. Also, included in the design were engine compartment air louvers, head lights and tail lights. A nice touch was people’s faces in the windows of the lithograph design. The size of the HUKI tin KdF Wagen toy was about 1/50 scale (3 inches) or 80mm in length.

When the body was stamped out of the tin plate metal, impressions of the front hood, "bumble bee wing" rear deck lid and even two indentations for the split windows are easily visible. The body did not have wheel wells as such but sported full fender skirts instead. The body was mounted on a tin stamped chassis, which had a key wound clockwerk motor. Indestructible metal button wheels were used. Bending up the ends of the stamped tin chassis formed the bumpers. It is believed that HUKI produced this rare KdF tin toy in the early 1940's.

Many years ago, I bought a set of three of the HUKI VWs and was under the impression that these three represented the VW line produced by HUKI. Over the years, I have come across many variations and have decided to document and keep track of the variations. The little HUKI VWs are found with five different license plate markings in which I have made a main version type. License plate HK 403 & IK463 is V1, HK 391 is V2, HK 392 is V3, and HK 393 is V4. Within these four version types, there are many variations that are categorized by lithograph style, rear deck lid markings, with or without motor, key hole side of the car and motor brake lever. The listing I have enclosed on this site is not in a chronological order of manufacture but in an order as there are discovered with the newest having the highest letter in the version number.   

          During the post war period, HUKI continued producing the tin cars using the same metal dies but changed the lithograph design. I have come to the conclusion that these post war period HUKI production VWs had no “MADE IN” markings on the rear deck lid. Later came the “MADE IN US ZONE” series and the final production era was marked “MADE IN WESTERN GERMANY”.  The lithograph design represented the Volkswagen as the two-door sedan and also the four-door style, which is believed to be that of the custom made four door Romestch VW of the time. The post war series features a two-tone design and there are also a couple of different colors and/or color combinations the lithograph design as well. There is a flaw in the lithograph design of the two-door sedan as it has a rear hinged suicide door and semaphore turn signals in the front quarter panels. The four-door sedan (if a Romestch copy) should not have any door hinges in the center of the body and what about those strange louvers in the front quarter panels.

As a point of interest, at the end of the war, Germany was divided into four zones being the U.S., British, French and Russian. The major toy industry in Germany was located in the Nürnberg area and was geographically located in the U.S. Zone. Items that were produced in Germany during this post war period were labeled with the zone of manufacture. Toys produced between 1945 and 1950 in the Nürnberg area were labeled “MADE IN THE U.S. ZONE - GERMANY.“ Later in 1950, the U.S., British and French zones became Western Germany and the Russian zone became East Germany. That explains the different rear deck markings and production era of the HUKI VWs.

          Moving on with the variations, these HUKI VWs I guessed came in perhaps a deluxe and standard version, just like the big VWs.  The deluxe versions featured a key wound clockwerk motor. The keyhole in the body for the key is located in the door on either side of the car. Now some motors had a brake lever, protruding out the rear deck lid, to lock the motor while winding and some variations have no brake lever. Just lock the wheels with your hands while winding. Now to bypass all this nonsense, there is also found a friction motor version and the standard version with no motor at all.  Just the basic push and coast. All the HUKI VWs had a stamped metal chassis that secured to the body with four body tabs. The older HUKIs appear to have a dull metal chassis or black painted and later chassis’s are a shinny brass color. Also, it is noticed through the production series, metal wheels changed to plastic wheels.

These little HUKI tin lithograph VW toys have a special character and are in a class of their own. So far, there is a total of 25 different versions / variations that have been cataloged. I am sure there are more to be found and added to the listing.  Because they were only produced as a cheap toy destined for destruction by children having fun playing with them, they are now very scarce and hard to find especially those in mint original condition. They have become favorites and collector items amongst VW toy enthusiasts.

Additional Info

  • Manufacturer: HK HUKI
  • Scale: 1/50
  • Length: 80mm
  • Production Era: 1940-1950s
  • Country: Germany
  • Materials: Tin Lithograph
  • Color: Various
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