VW Beetle, Type 1

VW Beetle, Type 1

This pin depicts the VW Beetle. I got it in Milenberg, Germany during a walking tour on May 21, 2014.

The Volkswagen Beetle, officially the Volkswagen Type 1, or informally the Volkswagen Bug, is an economy car manufactured and marketed by German automaker Volkswagen (VW) from 1938 until 2003.

The need for this kind of car, and its functional objectives, were formulated by Adolf Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany, wishing for a cheap, simple car to be mass-produced for the new road network of his country. He contracted Porsche in 1934 to design and build it to his exacting standards. Ferdinand Porsche and his team took until 1938 to finalize the design. This is one of the first rear-engineered cars. With over 21 million manufactured (21,529,464) in an air-cooled, rear-engine, rear-wheel drive configuration, the Beetle is the longest-running and most-manufactured car of a single design platform, worldwide.

Although designed in the 1930s, the Beetle was only produced in significant numbers from 1945 on (mass production had been put on hold during the Second World War) when the model was internally designated the Volkswagen Type 1, and marketed simply as the “Volkswagen”. The model became widely known in its Germany as the Käfer (German for “beetle”) and was later marketed as such in Germany, and as the Volkswagen Beetle in other countries.

Both Hitler and Porsche were influenced by the Tatras. Hitler was a keen automotive enthusiast, and had ridden in Tatras during political tours of Czechoslovakia. He had also dined numerous times with Ledwinka. After one of these dinners Hitler remarked to Porsche, “This is the car for my roads”. From 1933 onwards, Ledwinka and Porsche met regularly to discuss their designs, and Porsche admitted “Well, sometimes I looked over his shoulder and sometimes he looked over mine” while designing the Volkswagen. There is no doubt that the Beetle bore a striking resemblance to the Tatras.

In a 1999 international poll for the world’s most influential car of the 20th century, the Type 1 came fourth, after the Ford Model T, the Mini, and the Citroën DS.

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