History

Looking to speed down the Autobahn? Well that’s what this classic Volkswagen was designed for!
The VW Beetle was first introduced to Germany in 1938 as an economy car that would put the cars of the day to shame for comfort and power. The Beetle is the longest-running and most-produced vehicle of a single design ever built; it used an air cooled rear engine and utilized rear wheel drive.

Originally called ‘Käfer’ which is the German translation of ‘Beetle’ but the car was simply billed as a Volkswagen Type 1 until August 1967 when Volkswagen themselves began marketing the car as The Beetle throughout the US. It seems strange but within the UK it had only been known as either the ‘Type 1’ or as the 1100, 1200, 1300, 1500, or 1600 which had been the names under which the vehicle was marketed in Europe. The numbers were meant to indicate the engine size in cubic centimeters.

Believe it or not the Beetle started out life as the ‘People’s Car’ commissioned for citizens of the Third Reich by Adolf Hitler himself with the original idea of providing a vehicle that could house 2 adults and 3 children with an average speed of 62mph. Erwin Komenda, Porsche’s chief designer, was responsible for the design and style of the car. The production of a non-military VW didn’t start until after the end of World War Two.

The fate of the Beetle was nearly doomed by an unexploded bomb that crashed through the roof of the VW factory during bombings of Germany. The bomb was lodged inside some irreplaceable equipment and if detonated the Beetle might never have been made again. Its savior came in the form of British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst who was in charge of reopening the factory post-war, he persuaded the British military to order 20,000 beetles and by 1946 they were producing 1000 a month.

The 1950’s brought the redesign of the car with visual changes being made. It was progressively modified and In March 1953, the small oval two-piece rear window was replaced by a slightly larger single-piece window. More dramatically, in August 1957 a much larger full width rear window replaced the oval one. 1964 saw the introduction of a widened cover for the light over the rear license plate. Towards the end of 1964, the height of the side windows and windscreen grew slightly, giving the cabin a less pinched look: this coincided with the introduction of a very slightly curved (“panoramic”) windscreen, though the curve was barely noticeable.

It’s also worth mentioning that in 1951 a diesel prototype of a 1.3 litre engine. Volkswagen made only 2 air-cooled boxer diesel engines that were not turbocharged, and installed one engine in a Type 1 and another in a Type 2. Just for fun, the diesel Beetle was time tested on the Nürburgring and achieved 0-100 km/h (0-60 mph) in one minute.

Rising popularity –

The Beetle saw great success during the 60’s and along with its design offspring the VW Campervan it became part of popular culture as a style icon. The car went from the streets of the world onto the big screen when Disney produced the 1969 film ‘The Love Bug’ in which an anthropomorphic VW Beetle has a mind of its own with the ability to drive itself. The film and its sequels saw the Beetle reach new cult status and boosted sales all around the world.

The Beetle is one of those rare vehicles being kept alive by people who admire it and consider it an important part of automotive history regardless of country origins and it’s seemingly dark past. It continues to be loved and even reintroduced with models being redesigned in the late 90’s, which spurred a resurgence of interest in the long-running brand. The VW Beetle continues to be a popular vehicle especially for young people, and as fuel prices continue going up and the economy slows down, we are sure to see a new interest in our beloved Beetle.

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