Volkswagen Beetle

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Volkswagen Beetle

1945 - 1977
Flat 4.
1131-1584 cc
25-50 bhp
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
80-135 km/h
Number Built:
3 star
The car that needs little introduction, Adolf Hitler's dream of building a low-cost car for the masses has proved to be a huge hit for decades and boasts over 21 million sales.

Sitting at a restaurant table in Munich in the summer of 1932, Hitler designed the prototype for what would become the immensely successful Beetle design for Volkswagen (literally, the "car of the people").

In an era where only the most economic elite possessed cars, Hitler believed that all people should be able to own a car and additionally thought that a smart design could allow for reliability, enjoyment, and vacation travel.

The name given to the car in 1938 was Kraft durch Freude (KdF-Wagen, literally "strength through joy car"). Hitler gave his design to the head of Daimler-Benz, Jakob Werlin, and stressed its importance. "Take it with you and speak with people who understand more about it than I do. But don't forget it. I want to hear from you soon, about the technical details."

The job of designing "the peoples car" went to Ferdinand Porsche - who came up with a rear-engined, air-cooled design. Because of the war very few Volkswagens were actually produced prior to 1939, and production did not continue until 1945, then as a 1100cc model with non-syncro gearbox, cable brakes and very little chrome.

[It is interesting to note, however, that Adolf Hitler himself owned a Volkswagen that he kept at the Berghof, using it to travel to the "tea house" during inclement weather.]

Growing in size from 1131cc to 1200cc through the 50's, the range expanded with the attractive Karmann Ghia sports models and a cabriolet with a pram-like hood. As other vehicles became faster and more powerful, the beetle too had larger engines installed (1300 and 1500 models) throughout the 60's.

Buyers did however start to tire of the Beetles noisy and slow characteristics, and German made beetles began to decline after VW introduced the front-engined Golf in 1974. While European production finally ceased in 1977, the humble Beatle is today somewhat of a 'cult' car, and "split-window" models from the early 50's, as well as Karmann Ghia and Cabriolet models can command high prices.

But it was to be a full 70 years after Adolf Hitler's government introduced Germans to a two-door passenger car that production was finally to come to a halt. Competition from newer compacts and a Mexican government decision to phase out two-door taxis led Volkswagen to shut down its only remaining "bug" production line at its plant in Puebla, 65 miles southeast of Mexico City in July 2003.

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Also see:

Volkswagen 1500 Beetle Technical Specifications
Volkswagen Beetle Production Numbers
Volkswagen Heritage
Volkswagen Car Commercials
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