Volkswagen Beetle 1945 -

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Volkswagen Beetle 1945

Automobiles from 1940 > Extra about cars in 1940
Volkswagen Beetle

Surely the most extraordinary success story in the history of the automobile, the Beetle began life as a pet project of Adolf Hitler, who commissioned engineer Ferdinand Porsche to design a low-cost vehicle for the German people. Production eventually began post–World War II, under the British army then occupying much of Germany. Its manufacture lasted in Germany until 1978-or 1980 for the cabriolet-but continued in Latin America, latterly in Mexico, until 2003. In all, over 21 million Beetles were made, an all-time record for a single model. THE BEETLE was designed to be cheap to build, and suitable for road conditions in late 1930s Germany, even in the hands of inexperienced motorists. An air-cooled engine was mechanically simple, and meant the car could not boil over; a low power output assured reliability. Positioning the engine at the back saved weight by eliminating the heavy axle and propshaft of a conventional rear-wheel-drive car, while the alloy engine kept weight down. Good aerodynamics meant easy cruising on Hitler’s new autobahns, despite the engine’s small size. Supple torsion-bar suspension and big wheels helped the Beetle cope with Germany’s rough rural roads and cobbled town streets. Costs were kept down by using an unsychronized gearbox and cable brakes, features that continued on the rarely ordered base model until the early 1960s.

Volkswagen Beetle, 1945–2003

Model  Volkswagen Beetle, 1945–2003
Assembly  Mainly Wolfsburg, Germany
Production  21,529,464
Construction  Platform chassis, steel body
Engine  1,131 cc, air-cooled flat-four
Power   24 bhp at 3,300 rpm
Transmission  Four-speed manual
Suspension   All-independent by torsion bars
Brakes  Drum
Maximum speed  70 mph (113 km/h)

Volkswagen Beetle front view
Volkswagen Beetle rear view

Evolution not revolution

This 1948 Beetle is a stripped-bare standard model, rather than the better-presented and much more common export model available from 1949. The basic Beetle style lasted to the end of production, with the laid-back headlamps only being replaced by more upright units in the facelift for 1968.

Volkswagen Beetle specification
Logo Volkswagen

The name that survived Hitler

The Volkswagen, or “People’s Car,” was re-baptised the K
DF Wagen, or “Strength-through-Joy Car,” in 1938, in reference to the leisure division of the Nazi trade-union movement. When production began, the car went back to its original name.
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