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A Brief History of the Volkswagen

The idea for the Beetle came from Adolph Hitler, who while in prison in 1924 following the unsuccessful putsch on the Federal German capital. Hitler conceived of an idea to solve Germany's unemployment problem, the Government would build special roads (autobahns) for motor vehicles. He would also mass-produce a car (the peoples car, the Volkswagen) which the average man in the street would be able buy. 9 Years later (February 1933) the Nazi party swept to power, and at the very first cabinet meeting Hitler raised the issue of the special roads. Work began on these roads in September 1933. The design's for the Volkswagen were not finalized until 1938 and the Volkswagen finally saw the light of day in 1939, unfortunately the Second World War ceased production of the Volkswagen.

A Stuttgart based design company, owned and run by Ferdinand Porsche, in April 1934 was given the important task of designing this special car within 10 months. Hitler specified certain criteria the car must meet. The car must have a top speed of 62 mph, achieve 42 miles per gallon, must have an air-cooled engine (?) and be able to transport 2 adults and 3 children. And most importantly it should market at no more than 86. It was for the latter reason that Ferdinand Porsche decided on a rear engine car, the car was then known as the Type 60. He experimented with various engine designs; flat four, vertical four cylinder, two cylinder but none of them proved adequate. In 1935 an Austrian engineer, who had been working for the company for less than a year, came up with a design for a flat four engine within two days of working on the project. After the accountants had checked it it proved to be the most financially viable option. The same engine design has driven the Volkswagen Beetle for the last 60 years. Ferdinand Porsche had been working on various other cars for other manufacturers before the Volkswagen and incorporated some older designs within this new project. Other vehicle designs were utilized for this project, the backbone chassis and the idea of independent front and rear suspension came from one and the torsion bar front suspension patented by Porsche back in 1931. The body styling dates back to 1931, to a car called the Wanderer which never reached production and the only prototype built was used by Ferdinand Porsche for his personal transport. Hitler also had plans for the styling of the Volkswagen, he is reputed to have said "It should look like a Beetle, you have to look to nature to find out what streamlining is.". Hence the name Beetle.

Over the years larger engines were fitted to Beetles and slightly interior and exterior specifications were available. Front headlights changed from sloping to upright.  The basic 1200 Beetle with minimum headlining and single bladed bumpers going through the front valance which later changed to European bumpers going through the wings. The 1300 with increased headlining and European bumpers. The 1500 with front disc brakes.

Beetle manufacture ceased at Wolfsburg in July 1974 and the Golf commenced.
Beetle manufacture continued at Emden until noon on the 19th January 1978.
Karmann continued manufacturing the convertible until the 10th January 1980 when German production of the world's most popular car ceased.


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