In 1963 a VW Beetle donated by the manufacturer became the first car in the Antarctic. It was so good for Antarctic use, being able to withstand temperatures below -50°C and winds above 150 km/h, that it was nicknamed “Red Terror” by the users.

Polar Bug: When the Volkswagen Beetle Conquered Antarctica

In 1963, the humble Volkswagen Beetle became the first production car to explore the Antarctic under the auspices of ANARE, the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions. Dubbed Antarctica 1 and painted ruby red so as to stand out in the snow, the car was provided free of charge by VW’s marketing division—which was keen to demonstrate the vehicle’s capabilities in all weather conditions. It later starred in an ad campaign touting its admittedly impressive imperviousness to the elements, complete with fascinated penguins.

Transported via icebreaker, Antarctica 1 spent a year at ANARE’s remote Mawson Station, competing with dog teams and larger tracked vehicles, such as the Snowtrac, according to the book Knowing Australian Volks… Continue Reading (2 minute read)

12 thoughts on “In 1963 a VW Beetle donated by the manufacturer became the first car in the Antarctic. It was so good for Antarctic use, being able to withstand temperatures below -50°C and winds above 150 km/h, that it was nicknamed “Red Terror” by the users.”

  1. I_Mix_Stuff

    Air cooling system must be a advantage under extreme cold.

  2. dankisdank

    While the VW Beetle may have been the first production car in Antarctica, if anyone’s interested, the first motor car in Antarctica was a [custom-built 1907 Arrol-Johnston](https://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/History/first-car-in-antarctica-shackleton.php).

    It didn’t work too well and sounds like it was more trouble than it was worth but it’s still pretty interesting to read about. It’s also amazing considering how less than 100 years later, that’s all changed. The U.S. program, for example, has a whole fleet of [Ford E-350s and F-350s for day-to-day stuff and some pretty interesting other vehicles like Ivan the Terra Bus, the Kress, and Deltas](https://www.polartrec.com/expeditions/antarctic-automatic-weather-stations-2018/journals/2018-12-01).

  3. jamkoch

    Had a local mechanic who was in the german army in WW II, upstate NY. Use to describe how they lit fires under tanks to get them started in the winter…..said you can do the same with a beetle. He always took a blow torch to winter calls.

  4. zrrgk

    However, the VW Beetle engine was not a good engine in hot climates, as overheating quickly becomes a problem.

    The military version of the VW Beetle, the ‘Kubelwagen’, was one of the few German military vehicles which was able to survive the Russian Winter in World War II.

  5. Thinkpad200

    Turn the heat on! It is on full blast, can’t you tell? (A VW Beetle in 45 degree F weather)

  6. affluenteffluent

    Actually, Shackleton took a car with him on the Nimrod expedition in 1907, to make it the first car.

    While it was modified to cope in the conditions its lack of traction in the snow and petrol engine were problematic.

    [https://nzaht.org/shackletons-car/](https://nzaht.org/shackletons-car/)

  7. OddBirds

    It makes sense that it would be a smaller car. How else could penguins see to drive?

  8. vshawk2

    I used to have a ’71 Super Beetle. That thing was so much damn fun in the snow.

  9. Gurgiwurgi

    but my ’63 wouldn’t start without me beating on the carb with a hammer.

  10. Dobermanpure

    I drove VW type 1 and 2 for years only to stop when we had kids. Put a set of chains on them and you can climb trees. Never once did I get stuck or even slid on ice or snow. 50/50 weight balance was perfect for all driving conditions.

  11. earthman34

    I bet the heater didn’t work that great, though.

  12. NWBoomer

    Perhaps because it didn’t need a water-cooled radiator.

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