One of the limitations of the Beetle was that, in standard form, it was only available with two doors. However, that didn’t stop aftermarket specialists from coming up with conversions that made the Type 1 a little more practical. Hebmüller was more famous for its short-lived roadsters, but in 1947, it also came up with a four-door convertible, primarily intended for police use. Actually, four-door is being slightly over-generous, as the ‘door’ apertures were usually just covered with sheets of canvas and straps, to stop passengers falling out. That made these Type 18As, with their heavily-strengthened chassis, easy enough to get in and out of, but not great at keeping their occupants dry in anything beyond a light shower. Some were made with conventional steel doors, but they were in the minority.
The Hebmüller was joined by the Papler, which was a rather more refined four-door variant, despite not having the official support of Volkswagen, as Hebmuller did. Its 1950-on conversions had better hoods and came with metal doors as standard. Beyond their usual police application, a few also ended up with fire brigades. Austro-Tatra, in Austria, also did four-door conversions, with most of the 203 examples reputedly built ending up with police in Vienna.
Arguably the most finely-executed of the four-door jobs was by Rometsch which, alongside its stylish roadsters, also did a more utilitarian taxi. Rather a lot of work went into it. The chassis was also lengthened by 8.6in to provide more legroom, meaning a cut-and-shut job incorporating a new roof panel, small rear side windows, shortened front doors and, of course, bespoke back doors, which were rear-hinged to make it easier for passengers to get in and out. By all accounts, the Rometsch taxis proved very successful and resilient. Yours for 2000 Deutsche Marks then, rather more expensive now if you can find one!
Words: Richard Gunn