Story of 1952 Volkswagen 'Zwitter' Beetle

1952 Volkswagen Beetle front angle
This pristine 1952 Volkswagen “Zwitter” Beetle was one of the first of its kind to be imported into Canada. Photos by Benjamin Yong.

It goes without saying that whenever Vancouverite and lifelong Volkswagen enthusiast Brian Wawzonek used to take his pristine, factory-spec Pastel Green 1952 VW Beetle for a spin, heads would turn.

Did I mention that the Bug was part of the first shipment into Canada from Wolfsburg, Germany over 60 years ago? After taking ownership in 2009, Wawzonek has had a colourful history with the unicorn, culminating in getting it into show condition to take part in Volkswagen Canada’s 60th anniversary celebration back in 2012.

1952 Volkswagen Beetle back seat

Fond memories

A little background on the former owner — the vehicle now belongs to OpenRoad Auto Group after Wawzonek parted ways with it last year to pursue other interests — he says his story with Volkswagens dates back to childhood, long before he first set eyes on this particular ’52.

“A Beetle was one of the first cars I was ever driven in,” says the father of three, who recalls memories of sharing a backseat with his sister as a youngster on cross-country road trips. “My parents were starting a family and they needed something economical, that was cheap on gas and a family car. So they decided to go with a Beetle. A brand new ’58.”

Since being bitten by the “bug” at an early age, Wawzonek has owned 30-odd different models at varying times, ranging from basically a bare shell picked up out of someone’s backyard for $50, to more complete examples needing a little TLC.

1952 Volkswagen Beetle split rear window

The search

In 2008, he was itching to acquire one made between October 1952 and March 1953. Known as “Zwitters,” the German word for hybrid, they were presumably given the nickname because this was the only period where Beetles were offered with either a split rear window or an oval style eventually becoming the standard.

1952 Volkswagen Beetle taillight

A split-window Beetle listed in California on an Internet forum caught his eye, specifically the VW emblem placed over the passenger side taillight characteristically added by Canadian dealers during the 50s and 60s. Unfortunately, the vehicle sold quickly.

As fate would have it, the exact same Zwitter came back up on the market a mere seven months later — following some back-and-forth with the new seller to verify its authenticity and secure the proper documentation, he finally took possession.

1952 Volkswagen Beetle dash


Wawzonek immediately went to work replacing a long list of parts, many of which were unique to the ’52 and thus difficult to source. The labour he couldn’t do, such as the installation of an original 25-horsepower motor, he outsourced to like-minded friends and local professionals. Everything was done in time for the big anniversary bash held in Quebec.

He says he misses the car, but is glad it’s in good hands. For the time being, Wawzonek is Bug-less, and is currently satisfying his Das Auto craving with a 2008 Golf and 1973 Westfalia Camper Van.

1952 Volkswagen Beetle keys

Interested in classic VWs? Check out OpenRoad VW – they host an annual get together of classic VWs!

Posted by Benjamin Yong

Benjamin Yong is a freelance journalist and communications professional living in Richmond, B.C. He is often found writing about cars and the auto industry, amongst other things, or driving around in his work-in-progress 1990 Mazda MX-5. Twitter: @b_yong Instagram: @popuplights