Story of 1952 Volkswagen 'Zwitter' Beetle
It goes without saying that whenever Vancouverite and lifelong Volkswagen enthusiast Brian Wawzonek used to take his pristine, factory-spec Pastel Green 1952 VW Beetle for a spin, heads would turn.
Did I mention that the Bug was part of the first shipment into Canada from Wolfsburg, Germany over 60 years ago? After taking ownership in 2009, Wawzonek has had a colourful history with the unicorn, culminating in getting it into show condition to take part in Volkswagen Canada’s 60th anniversary celebration back in 2012.
A little background on the former owner — the vehicle now belongs to OpenRoad Auto Group after Wawzonek parted ways with it last year to pursue other interests — he says his story with Volkswagens dates back to childhood, long before he first set eyes on this particular ’52.
“A Beetle was one of the first cars I was ever driven in,” says the father of three, who recalls memories of sharing a backseat with his sister as a youngster on cross-country road trips. “My parents were starting a family and they needed something economical, that was cheap on gas and a family car. So they decided to go with a Beetle. A brand new ’58.”
Since being bitten by the “bug” at an early age, Wawzonek has owned 30-odd different models at varying times, ranging from basically a bare shell picked up out of someone’s backyard for $50, to more complete examples needing a little TLC.
In 2008, he was itching to acquire one made between October 1952 and March 1953. Known as “Zwitters,” the German word for hybrid, they were presumably given the nickname because this was the only period where Beetles were offered with either a split rear window or an oval style eventually becoming the standard.
A split-window Beetle listed in California on an Internet forum caught his eye, specifically the VW emblem placed over the passenger side taillight characteristically added by Canadian dealers during the 50s and 60s. Unfortunately, the vehicle sold quickly.
As fate would have it, the exact same Zwitter came back up on the market a mere seven months later — following some back-and-forth with the new seller to verify its authenticity and secure the proper documentation, he finally took possession.
Wawzonek immediately went to work replacing a long list of parts, many of which were unique to the ’52 and thus difficult to source. The labour he couldn’t do, such as the installation of an original 25-horsepower motor, he outsourced to like-minded friends and local professionals. Everything was done in time for the big anniversary bash held in Quebec.
He says he misses the car, but is glad it’s in good hands. For the time being, Wawzonek is Bug-less, and is currently satisfying his Das Auto craving with a 2008 Golf and 1973 Westfalia Camper Van.