As has been mentioned elsewhere on this site, the idea for the Beetle came from Adolph Hitler. This "idea" of a "People's Car" came to Hitler while he was in prison in 1924, following the unsuccessful putsch on the Federal German capital.
The idea was to not only provide an affordable car for the masses, but to help solve Germany's unemployment problem. Under his leadership, Hitler's grand plan was to have the government build special roads (autobahns) for motor vehicles.
Nine years later (February 1933) the Nazi party swept to power, and at the very first cabinet meeting Hitler raised the issue of the special roads. Work began on these roads in September 1933.
The Design of Ferdinand Porsche
A Stuttgart based design company owned and run by Ferdinand Porsche was given the important task of designing this special car within 10 months during April 1934. Hitler specified certain criteria that the car had to meet, such as
The car must have a top speed of 62 mph
Be able to achieve 42 miles per gallon
Be able to transport 2 adults and 3 children
Sell for no more than the then equivelant of £86
It was for the latter reason that Ferdinand Porsche decided on a rear engine car, then known as the Type 60. He experimented with various engine designs; flat four, vertical four cylinder, even a two cylinder iteration, but none of them proved adequate.
In 1935 an Austrian engineer, who had been working for the company for less than a year, came up with a design for a flat four engine within two days of working on the project. After the accountants had checked it, it proved to be the most financially viable option.
The Flat 4 - Powering The Beetle For 40 Years
That very same engine design would go on to power the Beetle for the next 40 years. Ferdinand Porsche had been working on various other cars for other manufacturers before the Volkswagen, and incorporated some older designs within this new project.
Other vehicle designs were utilized for this project, the backbone chassis and the idea of independent front and rear suspension came from the torsion bar front suspension patented by Porsche back in 1931.
The body styling dated back to 1931, to a car called the "Wandere", which never reached production and the only prototype built was used by Ferdinand Porsche for his personal transport.
Hitler also had plans for the styling of the Volkswagen, he is reputed to have said "It should look like a Beetle, you have to look to nature to find out what streamlining is.". Hence the name Beetle.
Over the years larger engines were fitted to Beetles and minor interior and exterior changes were made, although none too dramatic.
It Never Changed For The Sake Of Change
The front headlights changed from sloping to upright, while the basic 1200 Beetle with minimum headlining and single bladed bumpers going through the front valance would morph into a European version, with the bumpers going through the wings. The 1300 had increased headlining and European bumpers, and best of all, the 1500 was fitted with front disc brakes.
Beetle manufacture ceased at Wolfsburg in July 1974 when production switched to the Golf. Beetle manufacture continued at Emden until noon on January 19th 1978. Karmann continued manufacturing the convertible until January 10th 1980 when German production of the world's most popular car finally ceased.
Try looking at a Volkswagen this way, it's the only small
car which leaves nothing exposed beneath it. And the
VW is built to take a little punishment - in fact it's
Now what other car gives you this
kind of quality, at this kind of price?