Vintage Review: Tom McCahill Drives the 1953 Volkswagen – Through Deep Snow

A while back, we posted Tom McCahill’s review of the 1956 Volkswagen. By then, his love for it was already in full bloom. But that started earlier, with this review of a ’53, in the depths of a New England snow storm, and then an ice storm. He did things with it that reminded me way too much of myself, like a midnight drive up a steep rugged mountain road with seven inches of fresh snow. He was sure it wouldn’t make it…


But he did make it, using the same technique I did with my Corvair and two Beetles; just letting them slowly churn their way through, with just enough throttle to keep the wheels spinning, but not too wildly.

This ’53 still had the 1100 cc engine, rated at 24-25 net (DIN) hp, which was rated at 30 hp gross SAE in the US. Performance? A mere 7.9 seconds to…30 mph.  0-60 took 42.1 seconds, and top speed was 66 mph. Sounds bad, but it was quite adequate for the times. The important thing was that it got you there, no matter how brutal the weather, or how short your gas budget was (in my case). His claim of 50 mpg is suspect; 35-37 mpg would be more realistic.

It was reviews like this that set up VW for its meteoric rise in the US; sales exploded in 1955. The rest is history.