Volkswagen New Beetle History — Volkswagen Beetle

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Volkswagen Beetle

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The Volkswagen was not Adolph Hitler’s idea. But he was

Even while Ferdinand was designing fantastic Mercedes cars and racers, long Hitler was elected to power in he was conjuring up schemes to mass-produce an car.

Born in 1875, was already acquiring legendary when he joined Jacob Co. in 1898 and was nearly a certifiable when he left that to go to work for Astro-Daimler (maker of in 1905. And it was his series of wildly racing cars and the astounding SSK road cars while at that brought him world When he left that to start his own design bureau in he was Germany’s best and best-known and maybe the world’s.

Daimler was enthusiastic about building a car and Porsche always had been. So, free, Porsche went out for a company who’d buy his idea for a small car. Motorcycle Zündapp approached him first and worked on a rear-engine car powered by a engine. But the radial engine’s problems were insurmountable and the was cancelled. So Porsche moved on to motorcycle manufacturer, NSU.

At Porsche developed the Type 32 a rear-mounted, air-cooled flat (similar to aircraft engines had designed at Daimler) and a steel that at least suggested the yet to be. But even though prototypes of the 32 were built during it turned out that NSU was barred producing cars because of an contract with Italy’s So the Type 32 was stillborn.

Hitler chancellor in 1933 and at 1934’s Motor Show made a promoting development of just the of car Porsche wanted to build, and arranged a meeting with From that meeting the general outline for the Beetle and a to build it. Prototypes quickly shape and in 1938 the cornerstone was for a new factory to build the car in the new town of (called Wolfsburg now).

called the new car the KdF-Wagen #151; the Through Joy Car #151; after the KdF (Kraft durch Freude) that was supposed to look the working people. Hitler’s for the car wouldn’t last and, at the of the most destructive war in history, would Hitler.

But Porsche’s the Beetle itself, would into the 21st century easily and by far, the longest run of any single car design ever. It evolve constantly, but always be the Though Beetle was never the official name.

The War Years

Ferdinand Porsche hated the KdF-Wagen (he naturally preferred the informal name under the car had been developed). But even only prototypes were about in 1938, the nickname was already being applied by the (the name appeared in a New Times article that Considering the car’s shape, how it be called anything else?

by Porsche as the Type 60, the very production-ready Beetle debuted at the Berlin Motor Show a few before German troops Poland. As every subsequent Beetle would be, the Type 60 on a chassis that was basically a steel pan with the 1.0-liter 985 cubic centimeters) overhead flat-four engine located in the making just 23.5 Paired with that was a four-speed manual, non-synchromesh that sent power to the wheels that hung at the end of rather treacherous swing The front end used a trailing arm and bar system that was rugged, if not supple, and the steering was by a worm The braking system consisted of dinky, mechanically operated

The scheme surrounding the car was that Germans could pay five a week for savings stamps could eventually be turned for a Beetle. But no Beetles were delivered to anyone with a book of stamps.

The German needed a light utility and that need would the Beetle during the war years. The 62 Kübelwagen was basically a lightly Beetle chassis fitted a new four-door convertible body and 18- instead of the Beetle’s 16-inch for better ground clearance. The distinctive shape would as identified with the Wehrmacht as the was with the American army.

Even though the factory’s would be dedicated primarily to 62 and Type 82 Kübelwagens, and the amphibious 128 and Type 166 Schwimmwagens during the there were still a few being turned out for use, exclusively, by Nazi party In fact, between July 11, (the date when officially began) and August 7, when production ceased pressure of Allied bombing, 630 sedans and 13 cabriolet convertibles built. During roughly same period, somewhere 50,000 Kübelwagens and 14,000 were built.

With the war in May of 1945, the Beetle could sunk into obscurity as an of the darkest chapter in German No one could have predicted it instead lead the industrial of a democratic West Germany.

Oh at this point, no one had yet formally the name Volkswagen.


Germany was in desperate shape the war and cleaved into four each administered by one of the victorious nations. While the American, and French sectors would be to form West Germany, the sector became the police of East Germany. Fortunately for posterity, the KdF-Wagen factory, was in relatively good shape for a that had been bombed, was in the sector.

After surveying the the British military government saw in the factory and the remaining stock of cars and sundry pieces. And the itself needed transportation. So in 1945, the British ordered up Beetles. Also around time, and since the KdF movement along with the Nazis, the of the town of KdF-Stadt was changed to the KdF-Wagen became, once (and for the first time the Volkswagen, and a new company, Volkswagen (managed in trust by the British 1949), was formed to build the

The very first post-war were essentially leftover chassis fitted with the sedan bodywork (Kübelwagen had been built in Berlin and tooling was destroyed during the Production started in December and by the end of the month 55 cars had been These first cars powered by a 1.1-liter (1131cc) of the flat four originally for the Schwimmwagen.

Despite intense shortages, production continued 1946 with few changes to the There’s a lot of variation in those Beetles, however, as the factory together things like and door panels from materials it could scrounge Despite the onerous conditions, the Beetle came off the line in of that year.

Export started in 1947 when 56 sedans were sent to the Bringing in critical foreign 4,464 Beetles found in some place other West Germany that Also that year the output leapt from 24 to a 25 hp. Hey, it was a start.

The big change at for 1948 wasn’t in the Beetle (though engine output to 30 hp), but in the management of the company as Nordhoff took over the plant. Transferring over Opel, Nordhoff was no fan of the early and was convinced that it needed to more refined if the company was to Nordhoff was the driving force the push for constant improvement abandoning the basic design would define Volkswagen in the mind.

While a few Beetles had over to America along returning servicemen as early as the first official exports to the started in 1949 as VW introduced a export model Beetle. The had such extravagant equipment as color choices, chrome headlight rings, door and hubcaps (initially the Standard was also sold in the U.S.).

The Beetle sedan featured a new panel with a single in front of the driver and, in a of faith, deleted the hole for a crank to get the engine going. But the change in the line was the introduction of a convertible #151; which last longer in the American than even the sedan.

the Beetle was getting a little bit every year.

Establishing the (1950-1959)

Heinrich Nordhoff’s was obvious in the 1950 Beetle’s of changes. Hydraulic brakes now on board, a cloth sunroof was a new there were two ashtrays in the (one in the dash, one in the right quarter) and the heater was modified for operation. Some time that year the 100,000th left the Wolfsburg plant and so did the Beetle-based Transporter microbus.

The famous Wolfsburg crest was to the Beetle’s hood just the trunk handle for 1951 and was some chrome trim around the windshield, but the most development was a set of kick panel added for better ventilation. vents proved too effective, (customers complained about air blasting on their legs), and only last this one year. Prices started at for the Standard sedan and peaked at for the Cabriolet. VW sold a total of 390 in the U.S. sales during

Opening front quarter windows were added to the Beetle and every forward except first now had synchromesh. The car adopted 15-by-5-inch tires in there was now a taillight for each fender and the turn signal moved from the dash to a on the steering column.

The most styling change came the 1953 Beetle as the two-piece window was replaced by a single one. The new rear window improved rearward visibility in the that some rearward was better than none. except for moving the brake behind the spare tire, the for ’53 were scant.

Motor Trend was impressed the ’53 Beetle. This is one for the the publication concluded. Do you want a car breaks sharply with and does so with undeniable If so, the Volkswagen deserves your Still, the magazine must in regret having entitled the of a seven-car test about the Hitler’s Happy Legacy.

The engine grew to a full 1.2 (1192cc) for 1954 . the compression increased from 5.8-to-1 to and valve sizes went up. shot output all the way to 36 hp! Gone was the button as it was now possible to start Beetle simply by twisting the key.

Fender-mounted turn arrived on the Deluxe model only version coming to the for 1955 . replacing the mechanical that had been used The gas tank was reshaped to increase space in the front trunk and door stays replaced ones. VW also added eyelids over the headlights were a hit for their good but aerodynamically disadvantageous. On a car with as power as the Beetle though, a disadvantage can be profound.

New bumpers and tail pipes were of the 1956 Beetle but the most change was the adoption of tubeless late in the model year. a decade’s worth of refinement into it, the Beetle was now earning a for being a high-quality small car but still not a quick one.

In a test against the long-forgotten Renault 4-CV, Motor found the ’56 Beetle (the only model exported to the U.S.) to be the clearly vehicle. But it wasn’t without its Both have a tiny window and a big blind spot in rear quarter, the magazine The VW compounds this felony a thick, broad-at-the-top windshield that can be especially dangerous for drivers. The publication also it to be a remarkable cruiser. Since a opposed engine like the is inherently vibration-free, a lot of driving is than in the Renault which buzzes#133;. [The VW] is designed to at its top speed, at which point the are traveling no faster than a large American short-stroke V8.

is a combination of civilized U.S.-type and fun in the VW that the Renault doesn’t MT concluded. We’re even a embarrassed about it, because we that in many ways it our own cars to shame. On the debit are its homely looks, its tendency to away at the rear on curves, its of rear seat room for But in almost electric smoothness, in service, and above all in the feeling it that all is well in the engine and there is near-complete rapport it and the driver, we know of few cars to it.

But the ’56 Beetle sure was MT’s test had it accelerating zero to 30 mph in 7.5 seconds and completing the in 23.8 seconds at a mere mph. The top speed? Just 68 The then-new Beetle-based Karmann-Ghia was no quicker.

All the 1957 Beetles had tubeless and there were modifications to the in order to distribute air more through the cabin. However wouldn’t be remembered for any firsts in the genealogy. Instead it will be known as the last Beetle the small oval rear

The single greatest change in body design came the 1958 model that a new rectangular rear window nearly twice the surface of the oval window it replaced. The rear window also the air intakes and engine cover redesigned. The windshield was also taking some of the apparent out of the roof in the process. Beyond VW redesigned the dashboard, moved the turn signals to the top of the fenders, a new flat accelerator pedal and the radiator grille to face the VW was also getting very at making the Beetle in vast as a stunning 451,526 cars put on the world’s roads during

Chassis reinforcements, push-button handles, additional interior softer seats and some to the suspension (anti-sway bars added) carried the Beetle the 1959 model year. VW 575,407 of them that and 120,442 VWs of all types (Beetle, and the Karmann-Ghia) were sold in the

By the end of the 1950s, the Beetle was a long-term, success. But years after a car would have been the Beetle was just on the verge of its success.

The Icon (1960-1969)

A headliner, new dished steering better shaped front and a passenger footrest were of the 1960 Beetle. Otherwise, the car over pretty much from ’59.

For 1961 the engine’s compression ratio up to 7.0-to-1 and total output was now a 40 hp. Also, first gear got synchromesh of its own, the fuel was redesigned again to improve space, the passenger got a grab to hold and a sun visor to cut down the VW made a startling 796,825 of during ’61 and VW sold vehicles of all types in the United

A conventional fuel gauge of a lever to switch to a reserve and bigger taillights came the Beetle for 1962 . Other included spring loading of the hood, revised steering and covers for the heater vents.

change to the headliner came for as it was now made of leatherette. There was additional insulation on the floor, the guides were now made of nylon and the Wolfsburg crest from the hood for no good

A sliding steel sunroof was now in place of the previous fabric for 1964 . The leatherette upholstery was perforated for greater comfort and the wheel was modified with for the horn instead of a half-ring.

the windshield and the side windows on the 1965 Beetle, significantly the airiness of the cabin and giving the car a different appearance from Beetles. The rear engine now opened with the push of a instead of the twist of a T-handle, and the seats were thinner and in back to increase rear The larger windshield wipers got a more powerful motor and turned off rested to the left of the windshield instead of the right.

power came in 1966 as the grew to 1.3 liters (1285cc) and a new badge on the trunk lid announced fact. The flat four now out a full 50 hp. Remember the horn that replaced the half-ring in ’64? The half-ring had its vengeance in as it replaced the buttons. Go figure.

displacement bump came the 1967 Beetle with the (1493cc) engine now making 53 hp. The noticeable external difference was the headlights had moved out from their glass covers and the were slightly reshaped to that change. Backup were also added like the rest of the electrical they operated on a 12-volt system rather than the 6-volt one that had been of every previous Beetle.

Trend revisited the Beetle for and still found much to and more to criticize. VW’s strongest suit is its service and availability, which are on par with domestic makes, it wrote. combined with its workmanship and makes it the most practical to own and puts many of its shortcomings in the The magazine’s test had the Beetle going from zero to 30 in 5.9 and hitting 60 in a languorous 20.4 MT didn’t report a quarter-mile but that may just have a moot point #151; the was still slow.

One-piece bumpers, larger lamps and (finally) an external gas door distinguished the 1968 from its progenitors. The door now had a triggerlike release mechanism, and the were now high-backed units the U.S.-mandated head restraints.

the big innovation for ’68 was the new optional Stick Shift semiautomatic The Automatic Stick Shift was the top three gears of the regular with a power-operated clutch disengaged whenever pressure was to the shift lever. In other the driver still had to shift but have to press a clutch It didn’t set the world on fire.

VW abandoned the Beetle’s swingarm suspension in 1969 with the of a new semi-trailing arm system that was far compliant and forgiving (at least ’68 Beetles with the Stick Shift are rumored to been blessed with new suspension). A rear window was now on board and so was an inside fuel door release.

By 1969 from high-quality small like the Toyota Corolla and 510 was moving in on the Beetle’s traditional territory. And on the horizon were like emissions and safety that were going to be to meet with a design dated back to the 1930s. It was the Beetle’s days were Or was it?

Volkswagen Beetle

The Fade Away (1970-1979)

The grew again for 1970 1.6 liters (1585cc) and 57 hp. To go with the displacement there were new holes in the engine cover. The of the head restraints shrunk for visibility while the front signals were made so they could also side marker lights.

Car and tested a ’70 Beetle with the Automatic Stick and wasn’t overly impressed. The tests were disappointing, it in that we couldn’t feel the of the additional 4 hp and 3.6 pound-feet of torque. entirely possible you won’t be to feel it either, but can read it on the page. For reasons best and perhaps only known, to the test car was slightly slower an identically equipped 1968 previously tested #151; seconds at 61.5 mph in the quarter for the new compared to 21.0 seconds at mph for the old one. Both cars equipped with the A.S.S. internationally recognized abbreviation for Stick Shift).

As to the chassis, Car and reported, Where old Beetles to tuck a wheel under and go up in the ditch, the new ones slew corners in an almost predictable We pronounce the suspension an unqualified

In conclusion, the magazine wrote, The popularity isn’t what it to be. Volkswagen is still the largest import by a four-to-one margin its closest competitor, Toyota, but its of the business has dropped considerably. In VW enjoyed 67 percent of the import but last year it dropped 50 percent. We wouldn’t want to be of crying wolf or anything that, but if this continues, about 1987 (dune pioneer) Bruce Meyers and following in his footsteps will to start looking somewhere for parts.

For 1971 the Beetle got yet radical suspension change the adoption of MacPherson strut suspension to create the Super model, replacing the archaic bar front suspension that had used (and was still on the regular Beetle #151; name was now, at least officially, Beetle) since the doubled the luggage space. The Beetle’s wheelbase was also and output from the 1.6-liter was now a full 60 hp.

About the only for the 1972 model year the addition of an energy-absorbing steering and a slightly larger rear The plant in New Zealand that the Beetle ceased production this model year the start of a trend.

A curved windshield, flow-through and a new padded and more modern were all part of the 1973 Beetle. But otherwise, changes minimal as VW’s engineering were directed to other, more vital and water-cooled,

In 1974 . the Wolfsburg plant, was being retooled to produce the Beetle replacement called the (initially sold as the Rabbit in the stopped producing Beetles. And the water-cooled Passat (Dasher in the was now being sold alongside the at VW dealers. If anyone doubted the days were numbered, weren’t paying attention.

fuel injection was added to the for 1975 . but horsepower dropped to 48 as regulations had their effect. for the U.S. was now coming from VW in Emden and Belgium with plants around the world churning Beetles out for local

Carrying over virtually through 1976 . the last Beetle sedans were here during 1977 . the Super Beetle convertible as an icon of sorority girl through 1979 . The final convertible, the 330,281st, came off Osnabrück line on January 1979. That was that for the in the United States.

But it wasn’t the end of the

The Forgotten Years (1980-2003)

of the Beetle continued for Europe and the of the world at a plant in Puebla, In 1981 the 20 millionth Beetle off the Puebla line and headed into a museum.

Other assembling the Beetle around the for their own markets ceased in dominolike succession. Australia, and Yugoslavia had all stopped by 1976. Africa closed its line in Venezuela followed suit in the Philippines and Uruguay in 1982 and in 1987. In Brazil, where the had been assembled as the Fusca 1953, production ceased in then was started again in and finally ended in 1996.

In Puebla stopped exporting to Europe, but the car was still popular in particularly as a taxicab. Cab operators in City would remove the side front seat and would sit in the back. For cab operators, the (the Beetle’s local had the advantages of extreme reliability, a supply of parts and, to a government decree dropping the 20 percent, the affordability of the cheapest new car in all of Demand was so great for the old Beetle a third shift was added to the plant in 1990 to produce the Clásico. And in 1990, the millionth produced in Mexico was built. In the plant turned out the 21 millionth

The death knell for the Beetle came when Mexico enacted a law making it mandatory all taxicabs in the future had to have doors #151; even the green and white Beetle had become a symbol of the city. dropped precipitously as new, more modern models Nissan and others encroached on the ultracheap turf.

The very air-cooled, rear-engine Beetle, an Edición and the 21,529,464th one ever was completed on July 30th, at Puebla and was immediately shipped to Wolfsburg to sit in VW’s museum so many of its ancestors.

The New Beetle

The Beetle was long gone most automotive markets by the but the worldwide reservoir of goodwill the car had hardly diminished. Around at VW’s design studio in Valley, Calif. the studio’s J Mays, and designer Freeman began conjuring up a car that recall the Beetle, but with a edge. The resulting design, the 1, was displayed to huge and unprecedented at the 1994 Detroit Auto So Volkswagen decided to turn it a production vehicle.

The New Beetle, exclusively at VW’s Puebla, plant, appeared in mid- more as a stylish variation on the Golf than as a lineal of the original Beetle. In fact, the evocative skin, all the mechanical were lifted directly the Golf, including the transverse-mounted, 115-hp, 2.0-liter, SOHC, inline four in the nose; the manual or four-speed automatic and the all-independent suspension. And shortly the gasoline-fueled version was announced, the was also made available VW’s excellent 90-hp, turbodiesel four. Trim included base GL, midlevel GLS and GLX.

There is so much to say about the we wrote upon our first with the New Beetle, but the bottom is that it makes everybody it’s a fun, refreshing car drips personality, right to the smile on its hood. It also in an array of sunny, cheerful including red, yellow, and black in non-metallic finish, and bright blue, (lime) and dark blue metallic

ABS brakes were added to the New list of standard equipment for . At the midyear mark, the Beetle was offered with VW’s turbocharged, 1.8-liter four in the model. Besides the blown plant, the 1.8T also a small spoiler that automatically emerge from the top of the window as the car built speed.

Few came to the New Beetle 2000 . An anti-theft system was now standard and the acquired traction control.

discharge headlights were to the 2001 New Beetle options the standard equipment list for the GLX and the sideview mirrors grew in but otherwise it was a carryover year.

The big for 2002 was the addition of the sportiest New yet, the Turbo S. For power, fired-up Bug sports VW’s 1.8T turbocharged engine, we in a three-car comparison test Ford’s SVT Focus and Honda’s Si. It’s a 20-valve DOHC design, with an iron and aluminum cylinder head. to upgrades and optimization of the air intake, timing and fuel mixture, with a less-restrictive exhaust the engine makes 180 hp at 5,500 rpm and 173 of torque from 1,950 rpm to rpm. These numbers are more than the 150 hp and 162 lb-ft of provided by the 1.8T in the GLX. To get the S’ power to the front VW has installed an exclusive six-speed transmission.

This powertrain the turbos an advantage over the Si and SVT Focus. Not only does it more horsepower, but considerably torque, too. During testing, however, the Turbo S did to back up its specs. Zero to 60 mph 8.0 seconds, just a smidge than the Civic and slower we expected. Its fastest quarter-mile was 16.1 seconds at 87.5 While these are certainly numbers, one usually doesn’t ‘respectable’ when spending than $20,000. However, we say it’s possible that our car was under-producing: The Jetta GLS 1.8T the Econosport Comparison test was and Volkswagen’s conservative in-house number for the Turbo S is 7.4 seconds.

One of the cars had to finish third in test #151; and that car was the New Turbo S.

Casting the New Beetle as a car was always kind of a stretch, But slicing off the roof and turning the car a convertible seemed to be perfectly in with the car. So it was gratifying the New Beetle Cabriolet appeared for . Available initially only the 2.0-liter SOHC four, the immediately became an icon sorority girls the world Later in the year, the Cabriolet an even better car when the version was offered. Except for new and new color combinations, the New Beetle and began the 2004 model almost indistinguishable from the models.

Of course, New Beetle have cooled since the that occurred when the car went on sale, but the car has undeniably a hit for VW. Will it be as big a hit as the original Beetle Check back with site in the year 2063 to out if the new Beetle is still in production place with more 21 million of them having produced.

Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle

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