1945 Volkswagen Beetle

Adolf Hitler's Wagen fur das Volk seemed stillborn as war-shattered Germany began to rebuild. But thanks to an enthusiastic cadre of British troops led by army officer Major Ivan Hirst (1916-2000). After the war, Hirst was ordered to take control of the heavily bombed factory, which the Americans had captured. The 1945 Volkswagen Beetle rose from the ashes of World War II, and it quickly improved to become become the most popular car in the world.

1945 Volkswagen Beetle

1945 Volkswagen Beetle

As it happened, a surprising amount of tooling and parts had survived Allied bombs, and they were dusted off to build a few more Kubels and even some Volkswagen Beetle sedans for British and French forces in need of light transport. Soon, Hirst had military orders for no fewer than 10,000 vehicles, and his workforce quickly grew from just 450 (versus some 16,000 in wartime) to over 6,000.

Mass production of the Beetle began in December 1945. And by the end of 1945 they had built either 1,785 or 2,490 vehicles (records vary). In the process, it spurred an economic miracle for Germany, made Volkswagen a household name, and set new standards for customer satisfaction. In America, the Beetle gained acceptance because it was remarkably well built for its low price, it was reliable and fuel-efficient.