Home » Just When I Thought VW Beetle Ambulances Couldn’t Get Any Weirder: Cold Start

Just When I Thought VW Beetle Ambulances Couldn’t Get Any Weirder: Cold Start

Cs Vwkranken1
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I’m not sure there’s ever been another ambulance used in earnest, life-saving business as small and improbable as the Volkswagen Beetle-based ambulances, or, as they like to say it in German, hilariously, krankenwagen. There have been other compact ambulances, like the Polaris-based ones used in New York City, but even those are purpose-built things with extra axles and really aren’t all that small. But using a Beetle as a basis for an ambulance is genuinely incredible. It’s not just relatively small, it’s rounded and only has two doors and no entry at all from the rear. Just figuring out how to adapt this little car to ambulance duty is a remarkable act of making do with what you have. And a number of companies did it!

These examples are from a company called Miesen, and I believe I’ve seen this same approach used on other Beetle-to-ambulance conversions, though it’s possible they all may have been Miesen originals. The methods used are very clever. First, and enclosed roof rack/storage box houses all the extra needed medical equipment, probably syringes of laudanum and glass eyes or whatever, and the inside has been adapted so the whole passenger side is taken up with the stretcher. Two medical personnel – one driver, one medic sitting behind – can ride along, too.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

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Getting the injured (or in the case of the photo above, napping) person into the ambulance is where this really gets clever: the passenger door has a special hinge setup to let it open almost 180°, and the stretcher is placed onto a swiveling turntable-like contraption that angles and guides the stretcher in the car, much like how you and a friend maneuver a long couch through a corner doorway:

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I’m sure it’s not as quick as just shoving a person in the back of a van, but it seems to have worked!

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This brochure is from 1949, which I suspect had to be about the last year these Beetle-based ambulances would have been made. They existed in various forms throughout the war years and a bit after, mostly because the Beetle was just what was available to use, at least cheaply and in any kind of quantity, but these would soon be supplanted by Volkswagen’s own much more rational ambulance offering:

Ambulance

Yes, after 1950, you could get all of the delicious VW air-cooled mechanicals in a much bigger box, one that was a lot easier to cram sick people into.

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Oh! But I gor so sidetracked I forgot to talk about what made me think about all of this at all! Look again at that photo from up top:

Cs Vwkranken1

What the hell is going on with those headlights? I’ve never seen that before. Based on the blackout light mounted on the top of the fender there, this must be a wartime variant. Based on that hood handle and some other details I’d guess like 1940 or so. But what was the point of replacing the integrated headlights with those strange, huge tacked-on ones? There weren’t headlight height requirements, like what caused the Fiat 500 to do that in America, right? Were these lights brighter? Were they all they had around – could they be Kübelwagen lights?

I’m really curious. Boy do they look nice and weird!

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Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago

Hey Autopians, the commenting system has issues. There’s a comment below attributed to me that I absolutely did not write.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
7 months ago

This must be addressed or it could lead to havoc in the forum.

Last edited 7 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Martin Ibert
Martin Ibert
7 months ago

I don’t really get why the word “Krankenwagen” is hilarious. It is a combination of the German words for “person who is ill” and “car”, and that I think makes sense: a car for people that are ill.
The word “ambulance” makes no sense whatsoever, as that comes from the Latin wird for “walk around”. That’s truly hilarious.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
7 months ago

The ambulance you need when your face looks like it’s fascia?

Motorcycle accident eh?

Climb aboard our creepy contraption…
We’ll wheel you to the morgue shortly.

After a few painful tests.

Last edited 7 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago

^^ I didn’t write that. The commenting system has bugs

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
7 months ago

?

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago

The comment above I replied to (yours) was attributed to my user, for a while. And in the notification about your reply, instead of Holly, I see Rootwyrm.

Last edited 7 months ago by Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
7 months ago

Just a dumb trick on my part.
Case in point…

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago

How many tail lights are there, Picard?

Last edited 7 months ago by Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
7 months ago

And that’s the story of how I got my new shell. It looks just like the one I threw out yesterday, and I found it in the same dumpster. But this one had a live raccoon in it.

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
7 months ago

Loading the patient into the car:
“He’s got a broken leg!”
Unloading the patient at the hospital:
“He’s got a broken leg, and a concussion!”

Martin Dollinger
Martin Dollinger
7 months ago

My best guess is that the strange headlights were due to extreme rationalization and standardization in German industrial production in the last years of WW2.
The lighting also doesn’t seem to be asymmetrical. There seems to be a third headlight in the middle, maybe some sort of „high beam“.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
7 months ago

I’m thinking it was cheaper to mass produce fenders without the internal headlight openings and stick a pair of stalks on the front instead. Also, I like the idea of configurable lights as mentioned earlier.

Sklooner
Sklooner
7 months ago

Still room left over for leeches

Data
Data
7 months ago

Stalk mounted lights are easier to replace when they get shot out.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
7 months ago

much like how you and a Friend maneuver a long couch through a corner doorway”

PIVOT!!

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
7 months ago
Reply to  Balloondoggle

“Shut up, shut up, shut up!”

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
7 months ago

So this was the Krank durch Freude version of the KdF-Wagen? I mean even if you’re sick or injured, how can you not have a smile of joy on your face when you’re loaded into a tiny Beetle-ambulance!

Also, those headlights look oddly pop-eyed, kinda like your little robot buddy, Jason! The driver side light looks noticeably larger than the other one. I do agree they were probably aimable spotlights.

Last edited 7 months ago by Dar Khorse
Chris D
Chris D
7 months ago
Reply to  Dar Khorse

The efficiency of the adaptation aside, in the event of a true medical emergency, the patient would likely die while waiting for the world’s slowest ambulance to eventually arrive at the hospital. The Kombi version, while roomier, would have the same mortality rate as the Beetle.

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris D

Well, it was (a bit) faster than walking. But yeah hopefully the Beetle-lance was only used to transport cases of severe sinus infection or gout, etc.

Citrus
Citrus
7 months ago

“Krankenwagen” sounds a bit like what happens when you can’t get anyone to join you in your wizard van.

Kevin B
Kevin B
7 months ago
Reply to  Citrus

Germans are very simplistic when new words are invented.
“Krankenwagen” = “Sick Car” = Ambulance.
“Krankenhaus” = “Sick House” = Hospital.
“Krankenschwester” = “Sick Sister” = Nurse.

The rest of the German language is very similar.

Chris D
Chris D
7 months ago
Reply to  Kevin B

Krankenschuter = serious meth addict? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Dogapult
Dogapult
7 months ago

By the weird shape, are those rear fenders reused for the front? Or is the shape screwing with me because of the regular headlights being deleted?

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago

“I’m not sure there’s ever been another ambulance used in earnest, life-saving business as small and improbable as the Volkswagen Beetle-based ambulances
….
There have been other compact ambulances, like the Polaris-based ones used in New York City, but even those are purpose-built things with extra axles and really aren’t all that small.”

Ahem:

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/17/80/b0/1780b0cb259ccbe4d8ff4b88c432266b.png

10001010
10001010
7 months ago

With those eyestalks and roof box it reminds me of Spongebob’s pet Gary.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
7 months ago

This reminds me, oddly, of when my grandmother passed away at home. When the mortuary attendants tried to take her out, they couldn’t make the turn from her room into the narrow hallway. The gurney didn’t bend in the middle, because why would it? What to do? She went out strapped in tight and standing up, while my parents and my sister tried not to burst into inappropriate laughter. Although Grandma would have been laughing with them.

A. Barth
A. Barth
7 months ago

What the hell is going on with those headlights?

I’m wondering if they are repositionable spotlights. If the AmBeetlance pulled up to the scene of an accident, getting the traditional fixed headlights to illuminate what needs to be illuminated could be difficult.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
7 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

That was my first thought; it looks like they’re on some kind of articulated stalk. Just remember to point them straight again before driving away.

Black Peter
Black Peter
7 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

I had the same thought. They looks like they are different sizes too..
Could they be articulated from inside?

A. Barth
A. Barth
7 months ago
Reply to  Black Peter

I think what we’re seeing is a smaller light on the passenger (patient) side fender and a larger spotlight in the middle; it appears to be mounted to the frunk lid. We can’t see the fender-mounted light on the driver’s side because it is obscured by the spotlight. I think the other higher-mounted light on the driver’s side would be something to identify this as an emergency vehicle.

I don’t think the lights could be articulated from inside. There isn’t a good way to get to either fender, and if it had a rod (e.g. from the dash to the center spotlight) it would run through the cargo area and limit its capacity.

Black Peter
Black Peter
7 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Ahhh good eye

Tbird
Tbird
7 months ago

In the second photo, it looks like the front fender is dented to allow for the full door swing!

Chronometric
Chronometric
7 months ago

Beetles are nature’s way to dispose of bodies.

Goof
Goof
7 months ago

The Germans, always overcomplicating things.

Couldn’t you instead stuff the person into an oversized clown cannon, and then fire them in the general direction of the medical facility?

Paul B
Paul B
7 months ago
Reply to  Goof

That was just a cover story for the super gun program during the war.

Last edited 7 months ago by Paul B
MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
7 months ago

How are you going to do CPR in that!?! My current ambulance rides on a Kenworth chassis. Having space to work is a luxury.

All that being said, I’d absolutely run calls in this beetle!

Ian McClure
Ian McClure
7 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

CPR wasn’t invented until 1960. In these presumably you just injected them with amphetamines and yelled in their ear.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
7 months ago
Reply to  Ian McClure

“Can you hear me now?”

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
7 months ago

I was wondering how they got people in and out of it. Better than the “YEET!” scenarios I came up with, just not as humorous.

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