The Volkswagen Beetle left behind a legacy that few models can rival. It is one of the best selling cars in history. As early as 1955, the millionth Beetle rolled off the production line. The iconic model reached several landmarks early during its era. Mass production of the VW extended well beyond 8 decades, an unparalleled feat in automotive history.
Car enthusiasts may be surprised to learn that the Beetle was more popular in the US than it was in Germany. Long before the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla took over the streets in America, the VW Beetle was the first mass imported car to the US. The Beatles mileage was a huge factor in its skyrocketing sales since at the time the US market had cars with very low fuel efficiency.
The car was designed by Ferdinand Porsche at the orders of Adolf Hitler. The vehicle was first designed for civilian use and then remodeled for military use. After the war ended, it became a powerful symbol of the rising middle class.
The first prototypes were launched in October 1936 and tested extensively. Ferdinand Porsche tried out several designs before settling for the 4-stroke, 4-cylinder ‘boxer’ design. This concept proved to be a phenomenal success.
The engine was air-cooled with fan assistance. This immediately provided several advantages over liquid engines. There was no need to add coolant or antifreeze. The engine was virtually immune to both freezing and overheating. Moreover, the car and especially the engine required minimal maintenance. This engine design proved to be so efficient that the engine was mass produced for the next 58 years. Even today it is hard to imagine that the car didn’t need a radiator.
The Volkswagen Beetle also won the highly coveted “European Car of the Year” award several times.
Even with new Beetle models, Volkswagen inspired a number of automotive revolutions. After the ‘New Beetle’ was launched in 1998, it quickly became popular because of its retro design. There was renewed interest and resurgence in classic-themed cars as a result.
Even today Volkswagen Beetles are a favorite with car collectors and their value is increasing. Sadly, this iconic masterpiece of automotive ingenuity will see its final days on the production lines in 2019.