The Volkswagen Beetle

There is just only one car so unique in the world, that is the beautiful VW Beetle. The Volkswagen Beetle or Type I was originally known as Käfer, the German word for "Beetle", from which the popular English nickname originates. The car is produced by German auto manufacturer Volkswagen from 1938 until 2003. It was until August 1967 before the Volkswagen corporation itself began using the name Beetle in it's marketing materials in the US. However in Britain, Volkswagen never uses the name Beetle officially. In the UK it had only been known as either the "Type I" or as the 1100, 1200, 1300, 1500, or 1600 which had been the names under which the vehicle was marketed in Europe, the numbers denoted the vehicle's approximate engine size in cubic centimeters.

The Volkswagen Beetle

The Volkswagen Beetle

Its peculiar styling, underpowered motor, rough ride, and high noise levels compared to modern vehicles might have made it a marketing failure. Yet people fell in love with it and soon it took its place in history. Part of the car's attraction, in vintage form, is undoubtedly its apparent, almost human, personality, character and charm. In its day, it was more comfortable and powerful than most European small cars, and ultimately the longest-running and most-produced automobile of a single design. It remained a top seller in the US, even as rear-wheel drive conventional subcompacts were refined, and eventually replaced by front-wheel drive models. The Beetle received a major face lift in 1957. The most obvious was the introduction of a new rectangular rear screen and enlarged front screen. The new Beetle was lighter, airier and generally more pleasant inside and easier and safer to drive too. The interior was also redesigned and new, brighter colors introduced.

In Brazil the Beetle remained in production until the nineties, the production continued in Mexico until 2003. Beetles from these countries were then exported to Europe until 1985. With over 22 million cars built to date, it's the largest-production car of a single design; so one could argue that it's also the most significant motor vehicle ever produced. It has provided economical motoring to vast numbers of people. In 1998, many years after the original model had been dropped from the lineup in most of the world, VW introduced the "New Beetle" which bore a cosmetic resemblance to the original. The New Beetle was built on a Volkswagen Golf Mk4 platform. But will the New Beetle ever been so popular as the vintage Beetle?

Why was the original VW Beetle so popular?

VW Beetle so popular

VW Beetle so popular

The original VW Beetle was many things: cute, dependable, inexpensive, easy to work on and enduring. But it was not fast. One has to admire the original Volkswagen Beetle car. The car name was cute and the car was so counter culture, going against any other styling cues of other car manufacturers in the 1960s, that it was a hit for VW and the people. Yes the Volkswagon Beetle was so popular that Volkswagen reestablished production of the Beetle, and you can still buy a new Beetle today, albeit a modern version of the old classic.

Ferdinand Porsche

There are many Volkswagen vehicles out there, but few of them are so ingrained in popular culture like the vintage Beetle. The old VW Beetle is one of the most popular cars among VW collectors and small car enthusiasts. The classic Volkswagen Käfer is said to have grown from the prototype People's Car developed by Ferdinand Porsche, who later became famous for the amazing "Porsche" range of cars which are still produced today. Porsche designed a rear engined car with an air cooled flat four cylinder engine, according to some basic specifications from Hitler. Hitler expected the car to be inexpensive, so everyone could afford it, do at least 42 mpg and be able to carry 2 adults and 3 children.

Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg is a city in the German Land of Lower Saxony. The city lies in all the Mittellandkanal River, northeast of Braunschweig. The city has approximately 120,000 inhabitants. Wolfsburg, and is known as the headquarters of of the Volkswagen group.

Chimneys on the old VW factory

Chimneys on the old VW factory

The city of Wolfsburg is very young. It was founded by the Nazis in 1938. Adolf Hitler laid the foundation stone for the Volkswagen factory on Mai 26th 1938. With effect from Juli 1st 1938 the city was officially founded, by decree of the Oberpräsident of the province of Hannover. It was given the preliminary name 'Stadt des KdF-Wagens bei Fallersleben' ("City of the KdF Car"). It was located near the village of Hesslingen in the District of Gifhorn. In was build to provide homes to the workers of the Volkswagen factories. One of its main projects was the KdF-Wagen, which would later be known as the VW Beetle. The original urban design included a residence for Adolf Hitler and a wide boulevard where Hitler, after the victory of Germany at the rest of Europe, the victory parade would decrease.

By the outbreak of the Second World War, most plans were not achieved. The KDF-plant was used for the war industry. In place of KdF-Wagens for the German people, the factory produced Kübelwagens and Schwimmwagens. The huge complex also produced aircraft and other military equipment, mainly due to prisoner of war and forced laborers. During a bombing on April 11, 1945 three quarters of the complex was destroyed. In July 1945, two months after the initial occupation by American troops, British military authorities assumed responsibility for the factory in Wolfsburg. The city counsel meeting that was constituted by the British military government decided in their meeting on June 22nd 1945 to name the city Wolfsburg, after its 16th century renaissance castle. Sometime after 1945, the company named was also changed to Volkswagen by the British.

The manner in which occupation authorities implemented Allied dismantling policy in Wolfsburg differed from the approach they took with Krupp in Essen. In Wolfsburg, the policy was implemented in a constructive and pragmatic way: under the supervision of British control officers, especially Major Ivan Hirst, production of the VW Beetle started on a mass scale. At first, the cars were produced to meet Allied troops' need for vehicles, then they were produced to sell abroad to earn money to defray occupation costs. The VW factory was transferred to the government of the Federal Republic in October 1949. Shortly thereafter, the Beetle became an export sensation and a general symbol of the West German "economic miracle."

Volkswagen factory with its own power plant

Volkswagen factory with its own power plant

In 1951, Wolfsburg was separated from the District of Gifhorn, and became an urban district. In November 2003, Wolfsburg was renamed Golfsburg for one week to celebrate the 5th generation of the Volkswagen Golf. Wolfsburg has no historical buildings. The sights are Autostadt (a theme park on cars in 2000, founded by the Volkswagen group), a planetarium and a museum of art, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg (1994) and of course the Volkswagen factory.