1951 Volkswagen Hebmuller

Bruce Braun's rare convertible has a special place in his heart

Bruce and Allyson Braun have compiled a history of their rare 1951 Volkswagen Hebmuller convertible so complete that a genealogist would be jealous. Car fanatics do that, especially when they have a vehicle as rare as this one.

 About 700 Hebmullers were built between 1948 and 1953, and about 100 still exist.

 In 1948, Heinz Nordhoff, VW’s leader, decided to produce a “personalized” Volks that was different from the standard car, according to an article in Volkswagen Greats.  Joseph Hebmuller and Sons Coachworks built a prototype of a two-seat cabriolet, and VW ordered 2,000 to be built starting in 1949. The Hebmuller had a 25-horsepower engine, mechanical brakes and a non-synchromesh transmission. In 1949 a fire damaged the Hebmuller factory and production was crippled.

 The first owner of Brauns’ cream and black beauty is unknown, but the second owner, Bill Carr, was a serviceman from Reno, Nev., and he brought the car to Nevada for his mother in 1957. She didn’t like the car because it had a manual transmission, and the serviceman’s father traded it for a 1951 International dump truck.

 The third owner, Ben Tye, and his second wife drove the car to Mount Hood on their honeymoon, and now that the Brauns have acquired the car they also have photos of that trip.

 The fourth owners, Art and Verna Tye, bought the car from Art’s brother Ben and brought it to their home in Trenton, Mo.  The Tyes brought the car to Vee Village in Kansas City for service, and Tim Perkins, shop owner, told Bruce Braun about the car. 

 In 1999, the Tyes decided to sell the car to someone who would care for it for the next 50 years. Braun bought it and began restoring it. He found a 1951 engine, a 1951 transmission and a 1951 floor pan. David Miller, a mechanic at Vee Village, assembled the pieces for Braun.

 Braun sought the help of Pete Klucas in Lincoln, Neb., for a partial restoration of the car. While Braun tracked down correct bumpers, a radio, muffler, air cleaner and turn signal arms from friends in Germany and England, Klucas installed correct fenders and a deck lid. Some body parts were repainted and then fatigued to match the rest of the vehicle. Braun found tires in India for $5 each, but he paid $40 to get them to Kansas City.

 Braun has bought and sold upward of 50 early Volkswagens, but the Hebmuller seems to have a special place in his heart.