The Volkswagen Beetle and its many iterations have been a popular choice of car for people all over the world since their inception… although there is a debate over who exactly created it and when!
It’s one of the most instantly recognisable cars on the market; whether you spot a vintage model or a brand new version, everyone knows what a Beetle looks like.
We’re sure that everyone has their own reasons for loving this car – maybe its looks, or performance, or retro factor? Who’s to say for sure? But take a journey with us as we have a look at the evolution of the Volkswagen Beetle and tell us which has been your favourite version of this iconic model.
In the beginning, there was… someone
As we said, there’s a bit of back and forth over who came up with the idea of the VW Beetle first, as an engineer named Joseph Ganz believed he came up with the original plans for the model. However, he also claimed that his idea was stolen by Adolf Hitler, after he saw the Beetle at a car show in 1933.
The most widely believed story is that in 1934 it was in fact Hitler who gave the order to Ferdinand Porsche to develop a “people’s car”, which translated into German as Volkswagen.
From here, the plan was to build a car capable of transporting an old-fashioned family of five that was both efficient and powerful enough to travel down Germany’s Autobahnen.
The first bug
In 1932, the first three Beetle prototypes were scuttling around Germany, but sadly all of them were lost during WWII.
It wasn’t until 1934 that further versions were tested and it took from then until 1938 for a decent number of models (around 30) to be produced for use by the German army. Various iterations of the Beetle were produced during the war from 1941 to 1945 but sadly production was halted, as the factory was bombed to near destruction.
After the war
British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst is the man who is largely credited with the reopening of the Volkswagen factory, and it was with his help that the factory was supplying 1,000 cars a month to the British Army by March 1946.
This models was known as the Volkswagen Type 1, but it was given the nickname the Beetle, which caught on quickly.
Between 1948 and 1955 the Beetle was known for superior performance in its particular category, with a top speed of 71 mph (this was the 50s, remember?) and a fuel consumption of 36 mpg.
At the time, it was blowing competitors like the Citroen 2CV and the Morris Minor right out of the water.
Things grew steadily for the little Beetle. By 1973 total production was over 16 million models and the company had broken the record previously set by the Ford Model T.
Of course, the 60s seem like something of a heyday for the Beetle, with the pastel colours and flowers on the bonnet. But although the model was particularly successful during this time, it was facing ever-stronger competition from designs that were more modern.
By the end of the 1960s, VW was finding it difficult to fend off competition from cars like the Fiat 127, Ford Escort and the Opel Kadett. This saw the Beetle’s sales plummet across the world in the 70s, despite introducing the Type 3, Type 4 and larger K70 versions.
The last original Type 1 VW Beetle rolled off the production line in Mexico in 2003, after having sold over 21 million units in the 65 years since its launch.
Redesigning a classic
1998 was the year in which everything changed for VW’s Beetle, as although the basic ‘bug’ shape was the same the model’s edges were smoothed, it was modernised and the interior cabin was much more spacious.
The Beetle was back and it hit the market running, offering a classic that was more powerful and more efficient to run than the vintage Type 1 models.
In terms of the most recent offering, we turn our attention to the gold-painted Beetle Dune, which made its debut in 2014 and was made for fun on any terrain.
Now the VW Beetle isn’t just a little runaround, thanks to its rear-mounted rack for holding skis or sandboards and a 207 bhp petrol engine with a six-speed DSG gearbox.
We’re looking forward to seeing what Volkswagen decides to do next with its car for the people.
There has been a convertible version with a denim soft-top spotted out and anout and although we’re not sure how we feel about it, there’s just something about this little number that makes it impossible not to love it.
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