VW Beetle

VW Beetle 1950s German classic car

21,000,000 VW Beetles were built. That makes it the most popular car ever to turn a wheel! To this day, the 'V-Dub' commands cult status. Providing plenty of scope for engine-tweaking and customisation, the Beetle is a treasure-trove of creative possibilities. But if all you required from a car was reliability, the Beetle was still the car for you. The designer of this paragon of automotive virtue was Dr Ferdinand Porsche. It was born out of Hitler's call for a motor-car for the masses. Not many Beetles were built before the war ... but after it, the floodgates opened. To begin with, things Beetle were pretty basic. It came with a non-synchromesh gearbox, cable brakes - and little by way of ornamentation. But with hostilities over, the US started to catch the V-Dub bug. It made the perfect second car - dependable, practical and economical. In short order, thoughts were turning to its 'development' opportunities. Heck, the Beetle's formidable traction even made it a great beach buggy!

But not even its most ardent fan would claim the Beetle as a performance car. With capacity peaking at 1,584cc - and power at 50bhp - the Beetle was never going to break land speed records! It maxed out at 84mph. The air-cooled motor, though, kept a rock-steady beat. And while no oil painting, the Beetle was not without visual allure. Indeed, the Kharmann Ghia version was actually quite pretty. And the split-rear-screen model, of the early '50s, was positively voguish.

Come the Sixties, however, and buyers began demanding a more modern driving experience. VW responded with 1,300- and 1,500cc units - replacing the time-served 1,100. Beetles were now fitted with an all-synchromesh 'box, disc brakes, and semi-automatic transmission. Production was based at the Wolfsburg factory - in Lower Saxony. Not even in his wildest dreams could the Führer have forecast the heights to which his utilitarian little automobile would soar. The second most popular car of all time is Henry Ford's 'Model T'. It clocked up 15,000,000 sales. It was in the early '70s that the VW Beetle outstripped the Ford Model T's tally. Probably because it came in colours other than black!

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