Adolf Hitler had grand plans for Germany and one among many was a car like Model T that every German could own and drive on the newly constructed Autobahns. He gave a brief to develop a people car that would be available in 1000 reichsmarks. The people car was then developed by the illustrious German engineering known by Ferdinand Porsche. The peoples car was initially name KDF wagen , that in English would translate to ‘Strength Through Joy’ wagon. With the onset on WW2 it production never took off.
During the WW2 the VW factory was taken over by the German Army. The production of the people car unceremoniously was stopped. The Beetle platform was used to develop vehicle for military use. The first was the Kubelwagen which was an all terrain vehicle built for the military from 1937 to 1945. It was extensively used by the army in the WW2 for it go anywhere capabilities. The second derivative from the Beetle was the Schwimmwagen which was an amphibious vehicle having capabilities of crossing lakes and rivers. It was built from 1940 to 1944 and is closely resembled the Kubelwagen but had a propeller at its rear end. The production of these were beetle derivative was immediately abundant after the war got over and were never made again for use of general public.
At the end of war the VW factory came under the British Army. Major Ivan Hirst was the first to recognize that potential of the people car and rallied for starting of production of in the outdated plant. In 1945 a small batch of 55 beetles was produced. There were major initial constrain of machinery and the car itself was a little outdated to modern standards. Ex-Opel employed named Heinz Nordhoff was hired to oversea operation at the Volkswagen Plant. In 1949 the British government handed back the operation to Federal German Government. Soon after in the 50’s the iconic rise of beetle started. In want to acquire advance machinery from America, beetles very exported there. As in the other market beetle become a rage with buyers looking for cheap alternative to huge automobile sold in those days. VW kept constantly improving the existing design rather than introduce a new model every year. VW with its quirky looks started to become a statement in itself. The 1st million production was achieved in 1955. It further went on to become the highest selling single model with sales in access of 22 million when in 2006 VW closed production.
Reborn 5th January 1998
Desperate for attention of North American car buyer after years of declining sales. The company wanted to remind car buyers about it glory days and what better way to do then to revive its own legend. A concept was displayed at the 1994 Detroit auto show and the production model was launched in 1998. The New Beetle as it would come to be known was primarily for the North American car market but VW seeing positive review they introduce in all markets they were present in. It was based on the existing Golf platform. The New Beetle was initially offer in a 2.0L engine producing 115 bhp it was a front engine front wheel drive car unlike the original Beetle. It was significantly larger than the original beetle. The looks were the only thing common between the two beetle everything else that created the original enigma was update to modern requirements. The launch did rekindle excitement among the customer and a lot a customer brought into the retro modern vehicle. The new beetle started the retrofurtuist moment which saw modern incarnation of successful models of the by gone era into modern avatars. Cars like the Fiat 500, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Challenger were re introduced on the line of the New Beetle. The new beetle was designed by the VW California Studio and was manufactured at its Mexico plant. New Beetle was replaced with a new contemporary model in 2012.
Books McCutcheon I () The New Beetle.
Barber C. Birth of the Beetle.
Engines of Change by Paul Ingrassia