Find of the Day: 1949 Hebmuller Type 14A Cabriolet

I think I’m right in saying that there are more Volkswagen Beetles in the world than there are actual beetles (don’t look that up, just trust me). For a while there, you couldn’t take two steps without tripping over a Beetle, but there are still, and always have been, some really rare versions of the bug, like this Type 14A.

The Hebmüller Type 14A was an early attempt at turning the Beetle into a sports car. Volkswagen asked coachbuilder Karmann to build a four-seat convertible and tasked Hebmüller, another coachbuilder, with building a 2+2 convertible.

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Hebmüller probably took its inspiration from an earlier concept, the Radclyffe Cabriolet that was built at Major Ivan Hirst’s request. The result was an elongated tail to give a more sporting look and the removal of the back seats (replacing them with folding seats).

Hebmüller’s car pleased Volkswagen, and the company ordered 2,000 of them in 1949. Sadly, shortly after production began, a fire broke out in Hebmüller’s paint department. The fire was put out and production resumed shortly thereafter, but the cost of rebuilding was too much for the uninsured coachbuilder and production ceased in 1952 after only 682 had been built.

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There were still 14 left in parts, so Karmann completed them in 1953, (who, by the way, showed Volkswagen the Karmann Ghia that same year) and thus ended the Hebmüller. Now, it’s estimated that only about 100 are left.

The rarity is part of what make the Hebmüller so interesting, but it’s also the fact that this was the premium people’s car. As such, a high degree of customization was offered, and any number of color combinations and a selection of extras could be chosen. It even came with a flower vase (just like the New Beetle!)

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Post-war German ideas of luxury were still kind of laughable, though. My favorite line from the ad is: “Luxuriously fitted with roof insulation.” Well, la-dee-da.

This particular model is, unfortunately, not original. It has an uprated 50hp Okrasa engine, disc brakes, and… questionable ostrich upholstery. Fortunately, the original engine and brakes come with the car, and the restoration/modifications were done by Bata Mataja, who’s a well regarded builder.

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Regardless, this Hebmüller looks good, has been redone well, is really rare, and has provenance coming out the ying yang. Unfortunately, that means that only humans with provenance similarly exiting the ying yang will likely be able to afford it. It’s expected to sell at Mecum’s Monterey Auction for between $300,000 and $350,000.

Check it out here, at mecum.com.