Rear view of an air cooled VW engine.
Internal combustion motors are truly an amazing piece of machinery. The ingenuity that went into creating gas powered engines is impressive. However, one of the side effects of a running engine is HEAT. In order for the engine to keep running, you must find a way to displace the heat. In most modern day vehicles, this heat displacement is done with water. Appropriately, this type of engine is a water-cooled engine. Engines in today’s generation of VW’s are water-cooled. However, water was not always the coolant of choice for VW’s
When the first VW prototype came out in 1938, it featured an air-cooled engine. This basic air cooled engine remained mainly unchanged throughout the production run of the original Beetle, Bus, Karmann Ghia and Type III / IV.
One of the benefits of the air cooled engine, and the reason that it was chosen, is that unlike a water cooled engine, there is no threat of the coolant freezing in extremely cold weather. On the other hand, air is not nearly as efficient at displacing heat as water is. To illustrate this, if you had a hot pan fresh from off of the stove, which would cool the pan faster, putting it in front of a fan to cool it down, or dunking it in a sink of water?
However, in spite of this inefficiency, the air cooled engine was and is still to this day, a marvelous piece of engineering and an extremely simple engine to work on.
Top view of an air cooled VW engine.