What is the Red Terror?

The Volkswagen Group is a German motor vehicle manufacturer based in Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony, Germany. The company was founded in 1937 and is known for its iconic Beetle. But do you know the story of the Red Terror?

In 1963, a Volkswagen Beetle became the first car to reach the Antarctic. It was called “Red Terror” by users because of its ability to endure temperatures as low as -50°C and gusts as high as 150 km/h.

How Did a Volkswagen Beetle Conquer Antarctica?

Under the support of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE), the humble Volkswagen Beetle became the first production car to explore the Antarctic in 1963.

The automobile, named Antarctica 1 and was painted ruby red to stand out in the snow, was donated free of charge by Volkswagen’s marketing division, which wanted to show off the vehicle’s capabilities in all weather situations. 

It then starred in a commercial campaign, complete with interested penguins, advertising its admittedly excellent weather resistance.

Antarctica 1 was transported by icebreaker to ANARE’s remote Mawson Station, where it competed with dog teams and heavier tracked vehicles like the Snowtrac for a year.

Subjected to smothering snows, bitter cold at -52°C, and knifing 200 km/h winds, it turned out to be excellent for running around the station and short traverses of the ice-bound country. Air-cooled, it never froze; tightly sealed, it was immune from drifting snow. The scientists called it their Red Terror.

Knowing Australian Volkswagens: The Definitive History of the Volkswagen in Australia. 

The car, outfitted with snow chains, could do everything from towing skiers at the Rumdoodle recreational facility to driving glaciologists three or four kilometers onto the sea ice to test its thickness. 

Winds of up to 100 mph were described as turning the doors inside out, overriding the door check-rods, and folding the doors against the front hub caps more than once. Easily lifted out of deep drifts, the Bug gave very good service with a minimum of worry to the mechanical section, who only had to service it and feed it petrol on a regular basis.

Antarctica 1 returned to Australia after a year of service and went on to win the 1964 BP Rally with only minor repairs. Meanwhile, ANARE replaced it with a similar 1964 Volkswagen called Antarctica 2. (Source: Petrolicious)

The Second Beetle Named Antarctica 2

In late 1963, the orange car would have been chosen and winterized, ready for shipment to Mawson in February. As a result, it was an Australian 1963 model, and it resembled the red  1962 car except for the color and the lack of a Wolfsburg crest on the front bonnet.

After less than a year of service, the car was compromised when blizzard-driven snowdrifts managed to enter the crankcase. The Volkswagen had been parked outside during a several-day storm. Attempts to restart the engine resulted in oil starvation and bearing damage, rendering it unusable.

The car had to be abandoned where it had come to a halt, and it spent the winter buried under snow. It wasn’t discovered and towed out until the spring, after which it was dragged back to the Mawson workshops. (Source: Petrolicious)

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