1951 Dannenhauer & Stauss Cabrio - Coachbuilt Classic Volkswagen

Words by Warren Hails & Photos by Dan Pullen – Originally Published in Hayburner Issue 42

To begin, we need to go back to Hayburner issue 32 Winter 2019 where we did a comprehensive feature on Mark Reynolds Dannenhauer Und Stauss – Written by Ben Laughton with the sub heading ‘Hens Teeth’. He signed off the article saying “The Porsche gear will make the car safer and more able to keep up with modern traffic, particularly important for its journey to Hessisch Oldendorf 2021 where Mark plans to unveil the car with it’s new running gear.

This was after Mark had  found a “CTR” Beach Buggy on eBay that had been built using parts from a crashed ’55 356 and featured in “Cars & Car Conversions” magazine back in 1980. Unfortunately, Hessish Oldendorf 8th International Vintage Volkswagen Show was cancelled due to the pandemic and had been moved to this June. As well as an overhaul of the running gear, he also mentioned that when liaising with another D&S enthusiast in Australia he was able to find out more information on this car. This spurred him to find the correct Vogel gauges, Volkswagen switches, Porsche lights, and other correct parts that the car should have been sporting.

The vehicle was also booked in for body and paint with FH Ellis Coachworks, based next to JK, at the end of 2020. A full retrim, in the correct red with black hood, was also on the cards. Now as you’re about to find out from these photographs that the beautiful white car you may have seen or have read the article on, wasn’t quite what it seemed underneath it’s shiny coat of paint…

I feel we might be getting ahead of ourselves. I think the best place to start is to give you a brief recap regarding D&S history, this car and its owner. 

I don’t think I can say it any better than Ben did so this brief D&S history is in his words. Shortly after WW2, Gottfried Dannenhauer, along with his son-in-law Kurt Stauss, set up their car building firm, “Dannenhauer und Stauss”.  Dannenhauer had experience with the early Volkswagen VW38 prototypes before the War during his time working for Karosseriewerk Reutter and their vision for their new company was to build a VW based sports car. Employing Herren Wagner and Oswald, two former pupils of Stuttgart based aerodynamics professor Dr. Kamn, to design the streamlined car.

Dannenhauer and Stauss created what is arguably the most Porsche-like Beetle based sports car to have been produced in the 1950’s. Wagner and Oswald evidently took many styling cues from the early 356 cabrios and in fact had already created a forerunner to this car in the Volkswagen based Auto Technic, of which just one prototype was produced.

Between 1951 and 1957, as few as 80 of these hand crafted cars were built by D&S but estimates vary from 80 to 135 cars being built. Before then Volkswagen itself helped end the production life of the car with the introduction of the Karmann Ghia Coupe and of these cars only 19 are thought to survive today. Many changes were made through the production life with Volkswagen handles being replaced by Porsche items, the split windscreen being updated with a single screen item, the dash being changed, bumpers altered, semaphores being replaced and even the body itself being elongated to further enhance the streamlined style. Although, the VW beetle floor pan and running gear remained throughout. With so many changes and so few cars remaining, these D&S cars are hugely unique and largely unrivalled in rarity. To be able to feature one in the pages of this magazine is our absolute privilege.

Many of you will already know that Mark Reynolds, a serial Volkswagen owner, opened the doors of Just Kampers back in 1989. He and his wife Kerry have since turned this fledgling camper restoration business into a huge VW parts and accessories company, employing 44 people directly in the UK, and sourcing and selling items all over the globe.  You’ll have seen them working at shows across the UK and Europe, and will probably have noticed that as well as all the usual parts for sale, Mark has a propensity for searching out rare cars and parts from around the world.

A D&S was always on Mark’s dream car list and this particular car was offered to Mark in May 2019. With much consideration, it wasn’t until October that he did the deal after trading in a few cars including the sale of his well-known ‘59 postal bus and his ’65 912. Mark always planned to get the car to the best standard possible, in the last article he said “I’m currently carrying out lots of research to make sure I do it right, I’ve restored a lot of customers cars in the early days of JK, and maintain all my own cars now, but this car is in a different league; it’s got to be 100% correct” and this is just what he did. 

This car, estimated to be built late in 1951 (all files are lost and therefore production dates, along with production numbers, are actually educated guesses) is one of 5 surviving, early, split windscreen cars. Interestingly, the Volkswagen floorpan itself left the VW factory on 16th October 1950.

The floorpan pre-dating the body by so much is explained by the fact that D&S were unable to obtain a regular supply of rolling chassis direct from Volkswagen and so supposedly asked prospective customers to source and supply their own instead! Maybe the original car was in some kind of accident in the intervening 12 months leaving the pan and running gear to become the “customers base” for their order with D&S? Sadly, nothing is known about this car between 1951 and 1980 when it was found in a dilapidated state in Austria by a gentleman named Rudolf Ettel. Ruddy, a local classic car enthusiast who initially thought he’d discovered a Gmund Porsche undertook a restoration that was appropriate for the 1980’s in terms of quality and accuracy and that has lasted extremely well for the past 38 years whilst him and his family used the car for various local car shows, rallies in the alps, and of course the famous Hessisch Oldendorf and Bad Camberg VW gatherings.

This brings us to the restoration, This restoration really did go from a functional tidy up to a full on total body-off nut and bolt restoration. Well, we only have 172 pages in Hayburner magazine so I’m really going to have to let the photos explain just what it took to get this beautiful machine to to where it is now. 

D&S - 1951 Dannenhauer & Stauss