In the beginning…

The History of the Volkswagen Beetle Type 1

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The history of Volkswagen goes back to 1934, when Adolf Hitler asked Ferdinand Porsche to produce a “peoples car”. This car was intended to be affordable to the ordinary man in the street. it was meant to carry 2 adults and 3 adults at a speed of 60mph. After experimenting with various prototypes, the Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony in Germany came into being on the 28th May 1937, just slightly more than two years before Germany invaded Poland.

The Car was to be priced at 990 Reichsmark through a savings scheme. The average wage at the time was 32RM per week, so even given thefact that the car was being subsidized by the German Government, that was a lot of money for the average German family to try and save.

The War years

Once war broke out, the Volkswagen factory started to produce military type vehicles such as the Kubelwagen and the Schwimmwagen. A third vehicle, the Kommandeurwagen, a Beetle body on a Kubelwagen chassis was manufactured. Towards the end of the war, production had to halted because of the Allied Air raids and the machinery was dismantled and stored in the air raid bunkers.

You are in the Army now.

Volkswagen owes its survival to a British  Army officer, Major Ivan Hirst, who was appointed to take charge of the factory. The factory was damaged by the bombing, the labor force was comprised of slave and prisoners as well as German Citizens. The slave and the prisoners were set free and sent home. He then persuaded the British Army to take 20,00o Beetles to use as for transportation by the occupying army. Volkswagen was meant as war spoils for Britain, however no British motor wanted it, describing it as a joke, so Volkswagen remained in Germany.

To this day, Volkswagen remembers Ivan Hirst as the Man who saved them

The Fifties

In 1949, the first Beetles were imported into the USA. They did not get a warm reception Even though by 1950, 100,000 Beetle sedans and a 1000 Beetle convertibles had been produced, they did not prove to be very popular in the US. sales were very erratic until 1953. In 1954 there were only 6,000 VW’s in America, by 1958 it had increased to 104,000 by 1958, and 150,000 by 1959.

The car itself help, it had better fuel consumption than the locally made cars, the tires lasted as much as 40,000 mile. It was an ideal starter car for someone with out a lot of money.

Flower Power, Hitler would not approve

The sixties were a time of rebellion, rebellion against authority and parents, against the draft and the Vietnam war. The economy was booming and the new generation did not have to face the same problems that their parents had in the post World War two years. The Hippies preached free love and peace. The like the the quirky on conformist little car, the Beetle. But is was the Volkswagen Type 2, the Kombi that got the attention. The mini bus was the perfect home on wheels that gave the the mobility their nomad lifestyle demanded.

The End of an Era

Even though the Beetle continued to be produced in Brazil and Mexico until 2003, production in Germany end of January 1978. Competition from more modern cars such as Volkswagen’s own Golf started to intensify. In Brazil the Beetle ended it’s production in 1986 and was started again in 1993 and stopped again in 1996. Mexico continued producing the Beetle until 2003.

Beetles were plentiful and cheap, today you will still see them on the road in their original form. More often that not they have been modified into something else. Take the Baja Bug for instance, developed in Southern California in the late sixties, it proved ideal for off road use.It has been immortalized in Film as “Herbie.” A remake of the film was made made in 2005 and titled: “Herbie: Fully Loaded”

Production may have finished and not everyone remembers the Beetle, but the “Bug” lives on