Friday, October 10, 2008

Classic Euro Economy Cars: VW Beetle

The Volkswagen Beetle,officially known as the type 1, is an economy car produced by the German auto maker Volkswagen (VW) from 1938 until 2003. Although the names "Beetle" and "Bug" were quickly adopted by the public, it was not until August 1967 that VW itself began using the name Beetle in marketing materials in the US.

In Britain, VW never used the name Beetle officially. It had only been known only as either the "Type I" or as the 1100, 1200, 1300 or 1500, which had been the names under which the vehicle was marketed in Europe; the numbers denoted the vehicle's engine size in cubic centimeters. In 1998, many years after the original model had been dropped from the lineup in most of the world (production continued in Mexico until 2003), VW introduced the "New Beetle” (built on a Volkswagen Golf Mk4 platform) which bore a cosmetic resemblance to the original.

Its peculiar styling, underpowered motor, rough ride, and high noise levels compared to modern vehicles might have made it a market failure. In its day, though, it was more comfortable and powerful than most European small cars, and ultimately the longest-running and most-produced automobile of a single design (a record that will not take long to be beaten by its younger "cousin" the Type-2 Bus or Kombi, which is still in production in Brazil, with the same basic characteristics of the first series).

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 car was the benchmark for both generations of American compact cars such as the Chevrolet Corvair, and subcompact cars such as the Ford pinto and Chevrolet Vega. In the international poll for the award of the world's most influential car of the twentieth century the Beetle came fourth after the Ford Model T, the Mini, and the Citroen DS.

Starting in 1931, Ferdinand Porsche and Zundapp developed the "Auto für Jedermann" (car for the everyman). This was the first time the name "Volkswagen” was used. Porsche already preferred the flat-4 cylinder engine, but Zündapp used a watercooled 5-cylinder radial engine. In 1932, three prototypes were running. All of those cars were lost during the war, the last in a bombing raid over Stuttgart in 1945. Much of the Beetle's design was inspired by the advanced Tatra cars of Hans Ledwinka, particularly the T97, which also had a streamlined body and a rear-mounted 4 cylinder horizontally-opposed air-cooled engine.

In occupied Germany, the Allies followed the Morgenthau plan and the industries Germany was to be allowed to retain were set up. German car production was set at a maximum of 10% of the 1936 car production numbers. The Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg was handed over by the Americans to British control in 1945; it was to be dismantled and shipped to Britain. Thankfully for Volkswagen, no British car manufacturer was interested in the factory.

The factory's re-opening was largely accredited to British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst (1916–2000). The first 1,785 Beetles were made in a factory near Wolfsburg in 1945. By 1973, total production was over 16 million, and by 1992, there had been over 21 million produced. By 2003 Beetle annual production had fallen to 30,000 from a peak of 1.3 million in 1971. On July 30, 2003, the final original VW Beetle (No. 21,529,464) was produced at Puebla, Mexico, some 65 years after its original launch, and an unprecedented 58-year production run since 1945, the year VW recognizes as the first year of non-Nazi funded production. Find out more at:

Research info gathered at:

Now, here’s one of my poems that speaks German:

A Bobby Pin & An Electric Socket

Sometimes pleasure rises up like a brand-new sun. But more often,
things pan out in the abridged version. The search-boat never
comes close to spotting the pearl necklace. The stitches
that hold together our lives unravel due to shoddy
workmanship. Whatever was once in the kitty
has now been doled-out to an over-paid
maid who only dusts the mantle
every second Friday. The
peace plan is crumpled
beyond any reasonable
recognition. The absurd
attaches itself in the air
like Spanish moss while
the marks a prisoner makes
counts the days. Or, a storm rocks
the ship out of the beam of the lighthouse.
Most only listen to music that can move. And
while all this is happening, Dracula's two pointed
teeth write sentimental inscriptions on some sleeping neck.


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