Stop anyone on the street and ask them their opinion of the most iconic cars and it’s a good bet that the VW Beetle will be on a fair share of them. Rarely has a car seized the global imagination in the same way the Beetle has consistently has managed to do through its different incarnations, stretching all the way back to 1929.
Here are a few facts about our favourite little German car:
- The basic VW Beetle originated back to a chassis design submitted by 18 year old Hungarian student Bela Barenyi in 1925.
- Ferdinand Porsche, an Austrian automotive engineer, created the Volkswagen Beetle after receiving a contract from Hitler in 1934 for prototypes.
- The Beetle’s air-cooled flat 4 engine was designed by Franz Reimspeiss, not Ferdinand Porsche. Even with 20+ million being built to date, he had less than twenty dollars for his work.
- In 1938 production of Hitler’s “KdF-Wagen” (“Kraft durch Freude” or “Strength through Joy”) started. The public hated the name and called it “Volkswagen” or people’s car. In this year, The New York Times first called it the “Beetle”.
- In 1949, the Beetle Convertible went into production and, in 1950 the Beetle became the best-selling car of the decade with a share of around 40% of the market.
- On 17th February 1972, with vehicles produced at 15,007,034, the Beetle broke “Tin Lizzy” from Ford Motor Company’s record, to become the new world champion.
- The Beetle was the first car ever to sell over 20 million units and remained the most built Volkswagen ever until 2002 when the VW Golf stole the title.
- The first UK Beetle landed in 1952, imported by British servicemen stationed in Germany. In 1964, the 100,000th Beetle arrived in the UK and in 1971 the 14 millionth followed.
- The original Beetle was built for 65 years, from 1938 to 2003, and is the longest produced vehicle in history.
- Shells of the last two Beetles made in Germany are preserved in wax at Volkswagens Milton Keynes parts store. The last Wolfsburg-built Beetle was in July 1974.
- One of the most famous Beetles is the race car from the Herbie film series. The white #53 is still one of the most popular paint jobs for the car.
- The millionth Beetle, built in 1955, is on show at the Wolfsburg Autostadt Museum. It’s completely gold with diamante encrusted bumpers and trim with a plush pink interior.
- During Fight Club rehearsals, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton found they hated the new Beetle and in one scene where they had to hit cars with baseball bats, both insisted one had to be a Beetle.
- The VW beetle has featured in many films from The Shining to James Bond’s Quantum of Solace, even having its own film series briefly mentioned earlier; Herbie.
- The Beetle with its bolt-on parts and simple engine make this car one of the easiest and most common cars to be modified. Being converted into everything from a rolling turtle to a 1930’s hot rod.
- The Beetle in 2014 had an enormous aftermarket upgrade in power when a British engineer strapped a 1500hp jet engine on to it, theoretically being able to reach 140mph.
- Co-founder of Domino’s pizza Jim Monaghan sold his 50% share of the company for a 1959 VW Beetle, the business is now a worldwide success.
- In Stephen King’s novel The Shining, the main character has a red VW Beetle, King drove a red Beetle whilst writing it to get himself in the mind-set but in the film adaptation a yellow one is used.
- The blue whale’s heart is the size of a VW Beetle and weighs up to 1000lbs (453 kg).
- Jose Mujica, a former Uruguayan president dubbed ‘the world’s poorest president’ drove a 1987 VW Beetle, it made up his entire expenses for that year.
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