A 1949 VW Beetle known as Jan, is the oldest Volkswagen Beetle in South Africa and is on display at the recently upgraded Volkswagen automotive museum, AutoPavilion, in Uitenhage.
Jan was built on Wednesday, 14 September 1949 in the original Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg. In 1971 Volkswagen South Africa and Wheels magazine held a competition to find the oldest Beetle in South Africa. The winner was David Rubin of Middelburg, who received a brand-new 1300 Beetle in exchange for Jan the Beetle.
After discovery in 1971, Jan went on display around South Africa before coming back home to rest at the Volkswagen factory in Uitenhage. However after being left in storage for a number of years Jan’s condition deteriorated and the Beetle could no longer be displayed. That changed when Jan the Beetle was brought to the attention of another Jan at Volkswagen, namely Jan Schiedek-Jacht, the Head of Product Engineering at VWSA.
Schiedek-Jacht, who is a classic car enthusiast and expert offered to give Jan a new lease on life. Soon, highly qualified engineers from Product Engineering at VWSA heard about Jan and offered to help.
Jan was restored to his original condition and colour, using as many original components as possible, and only where required were new components sourced from special dealers in South Africa, Germany and the US.
“The team under the leadership of Jan Schiedek-Jacht donated their spare time to fully restoring Jan and seven months later when a pristine looking car. ,” said Thomas Schaefer, Chairman and Managing Director of VWSA.
Jan is a highly desired Beetle by collectors and enthusiasts alike, thanks to his split rear windshield and is now the jewel of the AutoPavilion vehicle collection.
On the subject of old Beetles, here is a story about how Sy Simmonds drove a VW Beetle over the twin-spoor Sani Pass was accessible only by donkey, Land Rover or Willys Jeep, in 1956.
It was such an inspiring story that we 60 years later we decided to follow in his tracks and drive the new two-wheel drive Beetle Dune over the same Pass.