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The Volkswagen Type 1 was an economy car produced by the Germanmarker auto maker Volkswagen (VW) from 1938 until 2003. It used an air cooled rear engined rear wheel drive (RR layout).

In the 1950s it was more comfortable and powerful than most European small cars, having been designed for sustained high speed on the Autobahn, and ultimately became the longest-running and most-produced automobile of a single design. It remained a top seller in the USmarker, even as rear-wheel drive conventional subcompacts were refined, and eventually replaced by front-wheel drive models. Its success owed much to its extremely high build quality, and innovative, eye catching advertising. The Beetle car was the benchmark for both generations of American compact cars such as the Chevrolet Corvair, and subcompact cars such as the Chevrolet Vega and Ford Pinto. It was the German equivalent and counterpart to the Morris Minor, Renault 4CV, Citroen 2CV, Fiat 600, Saab 92, and Volvo PV444 immediate post war European economy cars. The 1948 Citroen 2CV was the beginning of a switch to front wheel drive by European manufacturers in the 1960s and 1970s, Volkswagen were among the last to change with the Golf, after nearly going bankrupt. The Beetle was thirteen feet long and the Mini was only ten feet, but they had similar interior space.

The car was originally known as Käfer, the German word for "beetle", from which the popular English nickname originates. It was not until August 1967 that the Volkswagen corporation itself began using the name Beetle in marketing materials in the US. In Britain, VW never used the name Beetle officially. It had only been known as either the "Type I" or as the 1100, 1200, 1300, 1500, or 1600 which had been the names under which the vehicle was marketed in Europe; the numbers denoted the vehicle's approximate engine size in cubic centimetres. In 1998, many years after the original model had been dropped from the lineup in most of the world (production continued in Mexicomarker until discontinued, officially on 9 July 2003), VW introduced the "New Beetle" (built on a Volkswagen Golf Mk4 platform) which bore a cosmetic resemblance to the original.

In an international poll for the award of the world's most influential car of the twentieth century the Beetle came fourth after the Ford Model T, the Mini, and the Citroën DS.


"The People's Car"

Starting in 1931, Ferdinand Porsche and Zündapp developed the "Auto für Jedermann" (car for everybody). Porsche already preferred the flat-4 cylinder engine, but Zündapp used a water-cooled 5-cylinder radial engine. In 1932, three prototypes were running. All of those cars were lost during the war, the last in a bombing raid over Stuttgartmarker in 1945.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler gave the order to Ferdinand Porsche to develop a "Volks-Wagen" . The concept may have been influenced by an earlier design of the same name, created by Josef Ganz, a Jewish engineer who had designed a "Volks-Wagen" in the 1920s. The name means "people's car" in German, in which it is pronounced [ˈfolksvɑːgən]). Hitler required a basic vehicle capable of transporting two adults and three children at . The "People's Car" would be available to citizens of the Third Reich through a savings scheme at 990 Reichsmark, about the price of a small motorcycle (an average income being around 32RM a week).

Erwin Komenda, Porsche's chief designer, was responsible for the design and style of the car. But production only became worthwhile when finance was backed by the Third Reich. War started before large-scale production of the Volkswagen started, and manufacturing shifted to producing military vehicles. Production of civilian VW automobiles did not start until post-war occupation.

The military Beetle and production up to 1945

Initially called the Porsche 60 by Ferdinand Porsche, it was officially named the KdF-Wagen when the project was launched. The name refers to Kraft durch Freude ('Strength Through Joy'), the official leisure organization in the Third Reich. It was later known as the Type 1, but became more commonly known as the Beetle after World War II.

Prototypes appeared from 1931; the first were produced by Zündapp in Nürnbergmarker, the Porsche Type 12. The next prototype series (Porsche Type 32) were built in 1933 by NSU Motorenwerke AG (NSU), another motorcycle company. When Chrysler brought out its DeSoto Airflow coupe in 1934, final design for the car was decided.

In October 1935 the first Type 60 was ready. In 1935 testing of the "V3" started. The "VW30" prototypes had further testing in 1937. All cars already had the distinctive round shape and the air-cooled, rear-mounted engine, except for the Type 12, Zündapp preferred a 5-cylinder radial watercooled engine.

The factory had only produced a handful of cars by start of the war in 1939. Consequently, the first volume-produced versions of the car's chassis were military vehicles, the Kübelwagen Type 82 (approx. 52,000 built) and the amphibious Schwimmwagen Type 166 (approx. 14,000 built).

The car was designed to be as simple as possible mechanically, so that there was less to go wrong; the aircooled 985 cc motors proved especially effective in actions of the German Afrika Korps in Africa's desert heat. This was due to the built-in oil-cooler, and the superior performance of the flat-4 engine configuration. The innovative suspension design used compact torsion bars instead of coil or leaf springs. The Beetle is more or less airtight and will float on water, indeed it is hard to slam the door on one since the difference in air pressure pushes it back before it shuts.

The model village of Stadt des KdF-Wagensmarker was created in Lower Saxonymarker in 1938 for the benefit of the workers at the factory.

A handful of Beetles were produced specifically for civilians, primarily for the Nazi elite, in the years 1940–1945, but production figures were small. Because of gasoline shortages, a few wartime "Holzbrenner" Beetles were fueled by wood pyrolysis gas producers under the hood. In addition to the Kübelwagen, Schwimmwagen, and handful of others, the factory managed another wartime vehicle: the Kommandeurwagen; a Beetle body mounted on the Kübelwagen chassis.

669 Kommandeurwagens were produced up to 1945, when all production was halted because of heavy damage to the factory by Allied air raids. Much of the essential equipment had already been moved to underground bunkers for protection, which let production resume quickly after hostilities ended.

Conflict with Tatra

Much of the Beetle’s design was inspired by the advanced Czech Tatra cars, designed under chief engineer Hans Ledwinka. In particular, Tatra’s T97 and T77a models show striking similarities with the later Volkswagen from many angles.

Thirties Tatras used streamlined bodies with rear-mounted engines. The T97, which is widely held to be the closest Tatra model to Porsche’s Volkswagen, had a four-cylinder horizontally-opposed (‘flat four’) air-cooled engine. On a smaller scale, the company’s V570, a prototype for a smaller car, also shows quite a resemblance to the later German car.

But it wasn’t just Tatra’s aerodynamic styling that influenced Porsche. Tatra had pioneered the use of air-cooling in road vehicle engines with the original T77 in 1934. Air-cooling was demanding technologically, but desirable: there was no anti-freeze in the 1930s, so a vehicle could not be left parked for long in cold weather with its coolant in situ. Tatra’s wealthy customers could afford to pay for advanced technology, but Ferdinand Porsche was out on a limb in specifying air-cooling for his people’s car. In the end, it was subsidies from the Nazi government that paid for Porsche’s engineering good taste and brought the convenience of air-cooling to a mass audience — albeit only after the second world war.

According to the book Car Wars, Adolf Hitler called the Tatra 'the kind of car I want for my highways'. In the same book, it is said that Ferdinand Porsche admitted ‘to have looked over Ledwinka’s shoulder’ while designing the Volkswagen. Tatra launched a lawsuit, but this was stopped when Germanymarker invaded Czechoslovakiamarker. At the same time, Tatra was forced to stop producing the T97. The matter was re-opened after WW2 and in 1961 Volkswagen paid Tatra 3,000,000 Deutsche Marks in compensation. These damages meant that Volkswagen had little money for the development of new models and the Beetle's production life was necessarily extended. Tatra ceased producing passenger cars in 1950, then resumed again in 1954 as a manufacturer of large luxurious cars and limousines under various Communist governments in Czechoslovakiamarker. Even the company’s last limousines were rear-engined and air cooled.

Tatra is now a truck manufacturer. All its engines are still air-cooled, despite the demands of modern emissions regulations.

Post-war production and boom

In occupied Germany, the Allies followed the Morgenthau plan to remove all German war potential by complete or partial pastoralization. As part of this, in the Industrial plans for Germany, the rules for which industry Germany was to be allowed to retain were set out. German car production was set at a maximum of 10% of the 1936 car production numbers.

The Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburgmarker was handed over by the Americans to British control in 1945; it was to be dismantled and shipped to Britain. Thankfully for Volkswagen, no British car manufacturer was interested in the factory; "the vehicle does not meet the fundamental technical requirement of a motor-car ... it is quite unattractive to the average buyer ... To build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise." The factory survived by producing cars for the British Army instead. Allied dismantling policy changed in late 1946 to mid 1947, although heavy industry continued to be dismantled until 1951. In March 1947 Herbert Hoover helped change policy by stating
"There is the illusion that the New Germany left after the annexations can be reduced to a 'pastoral state'. It cannot be done unless we exterminate or move 25,000,000 people out of it."

The re-opening of the factory is largely accredited to Britishmarker Army officer Major Ivan Hirst (1916–2000). Hirst was ordered to take control of the heavily bombed factory, which the Americansmarker had captured. His first task was to remove an unexploded bomb which had fallen through the roof and lodged itself between some pieces of irreplaceable production equipment; if the bomb had exploded, the Beetle's fate would have been sealed. Hirst persuaded the British military to order 20,000 of the cars, and by 1946 the factory was producing 1,000 cars a month. During this period the car and its town changed their Nazi-era names to Volkswagen (people's car) and Wolfsburgmarker, respectively. The first 1,785 Beetles were made in a factory near Wolfsburg in 1945.

The jeweled one-millionth VW Beetle
Following the Army-led restart of production, former Opel manager (and formerly a detractor of the VW*) Heinz Nordhoff was appointed director of the Volkswagen factory, under whom production increased dramatically over the following decade, with the one-millionth car coming off the assembly line by 1955. During this post-war period, the Beetle had superior performance in its category with a top speed of 115 km/h (71 mph) and 0–100 km/h (0-60 mph) in 27.5 seconds on 36 mpg (15 km/l) for the standard 25 kW (33 hp) engine. This was far superior to the Citroën 2CV and Morris Minor, and even competitive with more modern small cars like the Mini of the 1960s and later.
  • According to the book Small Wonder by Walter Henry Nelson:

"The engine fires up immediately without a choke. It has tolerable road-handling and is economical to maintain. Although a small car, the engine has great elasticity and gave the feeling of better output than its small nominal size."

But opinion in the United States was not flattering, perhaps because of the characteristic differences between the American and European car markets. Henry Ford II once described the car as 'a little box.' The Ford company was offered the entire VW works after the war for free. Ford's right-hand man Ernest Breech was asked what he thought, and told Henry II, "What we're being offered here, Mr. Ford, isn't worth a damn!" With that, the Ford Motor Company lost out on the chance to build the world's most popular car since his grandfather's own Model-T.

During the 1950s, the car was modified progressively: the obvious visual changes mostly concerned the windows. In March 1953, the small oval two-piece rear window was replaced by a slightly larger single-piece window. More dramatically, in August 1957 a much larger full width rear window replaced the oval one. 1964 saw the introduction of a widened cover for the light over the rear licence plate. Towards the end of 1964, the height of the side windows and windscreen grew slightly, giving the cabin a less pinched look: this coincided with the introduction of a very slightly curved ("panoramic") windscreen, though the curve was barely noticeable. The same body appeared during 1966, with a 1300 cc engine in place of the 1200 cc engine: it was only in the 1973 model Super Beetle that the beetle acquired an obviously curved windscreen. The flat windscreen remained on the standard beetle.

There were also changes under the bonnet. In 1954, by adding 2mm to the bore, Volkswagen increased the engine capacity from 1,131 to 1,192. This coincided with upgrades to various key components including a redesign of the crankshaft. The result was a power uplift from 33 bhp to a claimed 40 bhp and an improvement in the engine's free revving abilities without compromising the torque characteristics at lower engine speeds. At the same time, compression ratios were progressively raised as, little by little, the octane ratings of available basic fuel was raised in major markets during the 1950s and 1960s.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, advertising campaigns and a reputation for reliability and sturdiness helped production figures to surpass the levels of the previous record holder, the Ford Model T. Beetle No. 15,007,034 broke the record on 17 February 1972. By 1973, total production was over 16 million, and by 23 June 1992, over 21 million had been produced.

The Beetle is arguably the world's best-selling car design. More units of the Toyota Corolla brand have been sold, but there have been many total redesigns of the Corolla, each amounting to a new car design with the same name.


In 1951, Volkswagen prototyped a 1.3 litre diesel engine. Volkswagen made only 2 air-cooled boxer diesel engines that were not turbocharged, and installed one engine in a Type 1 and another in a Type 2. The diesel Beetle was time tested on the Nürburgringmarker and achieved 0–100 km/h (0-60 mph) in 60 seconds.

Image:Volkswagen Type 1 black 1938.jpg|The third "VW 38" pre-series model producedImage:1949 VW Beetle.jpg|Rear, restored 1949 VW BeetleImage:VW Standard,Bj1950 2005-09-17 .jpg|VW Standard of 1950Image:1961BeetleRear.jpg|Rear, restored 1961 VW Beetle with ragtopImage:DSCN076.JPG|Dashboard of a Mexican 1969 VW BeetleImage:1949 VW dash .jpg|Interior of a 1949 VW BeetleImage:2005-09-17 VW 1303 Cabriolet Karmann.jpg|VW 1303 CabrioletImage:InfraredBeetle.png|A VW 1303LS from Turkey (photo infrared)Image:CobaltBlueBeetle1968Auro.JPG| Beetle 1968 restored (USA)

Introduction to Ireland

Volkswagen began its involvement in Irelandmarker when in 1949, Motor Distributors Limited, founded by Stephen O'Flaherty secured the franchise for the country at that years Paris Motor Show. In 1950, Volkswagen Beetles started arriving into Dublinmarker packed in crates in what was termed 'completely knocked down' (CKD) form ready to be assembled. The vehicles were assembled in a former tram depot at 162 Shelbourne Road in Ballsbridgemarker. This is now the premises for Ballsbridge Motors who are still a Volkswagen dealer. The first Volkswagen ever assembled outside Germanymarker was built here. This vehicle is now on display at the Volkswagen Museum in Wolfsburgmarker.

Introduction to the UK

The first Volkswagen Beetle in the UK was sold in June 1953, in Sheffield, by Jack Gilder. He had been fascinated by both the design and engineering of the Beetle when he came across one in Belgium during the war. He applied for the franchise as soon as the opportunity presented itself and became Volkswagen’s representative in the North of England.

VW Beetle 1953-1957

During this period, the rear windscreen of the VW Beetle lost the "bar" in the center and as a result has been referred to as the "oval" beetle. Arguably, the oval beetle is perceived to represent the peak in quality of manufacture: for example, the grade and thickness of steel for the bodyshell was of the highest quality. Another example is the "Wolfsburg" crest on the front of the bonnet (or tailgate) was of the highest quality. In later years, as a sign of cost cutting, the crest was phased out.

VW Beetle 1967

The Volkswagen Beetle underwent significant changes for the 1967 model. While the car appeared similar to earlier models, much of the drivetrain was noticeably upgraded. Some of the changes to the Beetle included a bigger engine for the second year in a row. Horsepower had been increased to the previous year, and for 1967 it was increased even more, to .

On US models, the output of the electrical generator was increased from 180 to 360 watts, and upgraded from a 6-volt to a 12-volt system. The clutch disc also increased in size, and changes were made to the flywheel, braking system, and rear axle. New standard equipment included two-speed windscreen wipers, reversing lights, a driver's armrest on the door, locking buttons on the doors, and a passenger's side exterior mirror.

In February 1967, inventor Don P. Dixon of San Antonio, Texas filed and was ultimately granted a patent for the first air conditioning unit specifically designed for the Beetle, which were soon offered by US dealerships.

The 1967 model weighed , which was a typical weight for a European car at this time. Top speed was .

For 1968, in accord with the newly-enacted U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108, the clear glass headlamp covers were deleted; the headlamps were brought forward to the leading edge of the front fenders, and the sealed-beam units were exposed and surrounded by chrome bezels. At the same time, Beetles sold outside North America received the same more upright and forward headlamp placement, but with replaceable-bulb headlamps compliant with ECE regulations rather than the U.S. sealed beams.

The Super Beetle and final evolution

VW 1303 (1973)

In 1971, while production of the "standard" Beetle continued, a Type 1 variant called the Super Beetle, produced from model year 1971 to 1979 (1302s from 1971 to 1972, and 1303s from 1973 onwards), offered MacPherson strut front suspension, which required a significant redesign of the front end. This resulted not only in a better turning radius (despite having a 20 mm (3/4 in) longer wheelbase), but because of the replacement of the bulky dual parallel torsion bar beams which had intruded upward into a large area within the trunk, and the stretched "nose" of the vehicle which permitted the relocation of the spare tire from a near vertical to a low horizontal position, this opened up approximately double the usable luggage space in the front compartment. Air pressure was used from the spare tire to pressurize the windshield washer canister, as an electric pump was not used to deploy windshield washer fluid for windshield cleaning.

1972 Super Beetles had a slightly larger rear window, larger front brakes, and four rows of vents (versus two rows previously) on the engine deck lid. The tail lights now incorporated reversing lights. The "four spoke" steering wheel and steering column were re-engineered to the "energy absorbing" design for better crash safety. A socket for the VW Dealer Diagnosis was fitted inside the engine compartment.

In 1973, the introduction of a more aerodynamically curved windscreen pushed it forward and away from the passengers, purportedly due to US Department of Transportation safety requirements. This allowed for a redesigned, "padded" dashboard (all pre-73 Beetles had virtually no horizontal dash area). A 2-speed heater fan, higher rear mudguards, and larger tail lights (nicknamed 'elephant's feet') were added. The changes to the heater/windshield wiper housing and curved windshield resulted in slight redesign of the front hood, making the 1971 and 1972 Super Beetle hoods unique.

For 1974 the previous flat steel bumper mounting brackets were replaced with tubular "self restoring energy absorbing" attachments, effectively shock absorbers for the bumpers. The steering knuckle and consequently the lower attach point of the strut was redesigned to improve handling and stability in the event of a tire blowout. This makes the struts from pre-74 Supers not interchangeable with 1974-79 makes.

1975 brought the replacement of carburetors with Air Flow Control (AFC) Fuel Injection on U. S. and Canadian Beetles, a derivative of the more complex Bosch fuel injection system used in the Volkswagen Type III. The fuel injected engine also received a new muffler and the option of an upstream catalytic converter required on some models (e.g. California), necessitating a bulge in the rear apron sheet metal directly under the rear bumper, and replacing the distinctive dual "pea shooter" pipes with a single offset tailpipe, all of which make the fuel injected models easy to identify at a glance. Other changes were rack and pinion steering vs. the traditional worm and roller gearbox, and a larger license plate lamp housing below the engine lid. The front turn indicators were moved from the top of the fenders into the bumper bars on European models, a portend of the "Euro look" style years later by Beetle restorers.

In 1976, the hard top Super Beetle and 1300 were discontinued (though convertibles remained Super Beetles through 1979) and replaced with an 'improved' standard Beetle with 1600 cc engine, independent rear suspension, front disc brakes, blinkers in the front bumpers, elephant's foot tail lights and rubber inserts in the bumper bars. The "Auto-stick" transmission was dropped. 1976-on Super Beetles saw no significant engineering changes, only a few cosmetic touches and new paint options, including the "Champagne Edition" models (white on white was one example) to the final 1979 "Epilogue Edition" black on black, in salute to the first Beetles produced in the 1930s.

The Beetle Cabriolet

The Beetle Cabriolet began production in 1949 by Karmannmarker in Osnabrückmarker.It was in 1948 when Wilhelm Karmann bought a VW Beetle limousine and converted it into a four-seated convertible. After successfully presenting it at VW in Wolfsburg, production started in 1949. After a number of stylistic and technical alterations made to the Karmann Cabriolet (corresponding to the many changes VW made to the Beetle throughout its history), the last of 331,847 cabriolets came off the conveyor belt on 10 January 1980.


Though extremely successful in the 1960s, the Beetle was faced with stiff competition from more modern designs. The Japanese had refined rear-wheel-drive, water-cooled, front-engine small cars to where they sold well in the North American market, and Americans introduced their own similarly sized rear-wheel-drive Chevrolet Vega, Ford Pinto and AMC Gremlin in the 1970s. The superminis in Europe adopted even more efficient transverse-engine front-wheel-drive layouts, and sales began dropping off in the mid 1970s. There had been several unsuccessful attempts to replace or supplement the Beetle in the VW product line throughout the 1960s; the Type 3, Type 4, and the NSU-based K70 were all less successful than the Beetle, though aimed at more upscale markets for which VW lacked credibility. The over-reliance on the Beetle meant that Volkswagen was in financial crisis by 1974. It needed German government funding to produce the Beetle's replacement. Only when production lines at Wolfsburg switched to the new watercooled, front-engined, front-wheel drive Golf designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro in 1974, (sold in North America as the "Rabbit") did Volkswagen produce a car as successful as the Beetle. The Golf would be periodically redesigned over its lifetime with only a few components carried over between models, while the Beetle used only minor refinements of its original design.

The Golf did not kill Beetle production, which continued in smaller numbers at other German factories until 19 January 1978, when mainstream production shifted to Brazilmarker and Mexicomarker, markets where low operating cost was more important. It is important to note that the Beetle Cabriolet was still produced for the North American market in Germany until 10 January 1980. The last Beetle was produced in Pueblamarker, Mexico, in July 2003. The final batch of 3,000 Beetles were sold as 2004 models and badged as the Última Edición, with whitewall tires, a host of previously-discontinued chrome trim, and the choice of two special paint colors taken from the New Beetle. Production in Brazil ended in 1986, then started again in 1993 and continued until 1996. Volkswagen sold Beetle sedans in the United Statesmarker until August 1977 (the Beetle convertible a.k.a. Cabriolet was sold until January 1980) and in Europe until 1985, with private companies continuing to import cars produced in Mexico even after production of the Beetle had ended.

The Beetle outlasted most other automobiles which had copied the rear air-cooled engine layout such as those by Subaru, Fiatmarker, Renault and General Motors. Porsche's sport coupes which were originally based on Volkswagen parts and platforms continue to use the classic rear engine layout (but water-cooled and moved forwards) in the Porsche 911 series, which remains competitive in the 2000s.

The Beetle in other countries

Other countries produced Beetles from CKD (complete knockdown kits): Ireland, Thailand, Indonesia, South Africa, Australia, and Nigeria have assembled Beetles under license from VW.

Beetles produced in Mexicomarker and Brazilmarker had several differences:
  • Brazilian production started in 1950, with parts imported from Germany. In 1959 the cars were 100% made in Brazil. The car was made until 1986. In 1993 production started again but only continued till 1996. The Brazilian version retained the 1958-1964 body style (Europe and U.S. version) with the thick door pillars and small quarter glass; this body style was also produced in Mexico until 1971. Around 1973, Brazilian Beetles were updated with the 1968+ sheetmetal, bumpers, and 4-lug rims; although the 5-stud rims and "bugeye" headlights were produced as late as 1972 (the base VW 1200 was similar to the 1964 European/U.S. 1200). Brazilian CKD kits (complete knock down) were shipped to Nigeriamarker between 1975-1987 where Beetles were locally produced. The Brazilian-produced versions have been sold in neighboring South American nations bordering Brazil, including Argentina and Peru.

  • In Brazil, the beetle is called "Fusca".

  • The Brazilian VW Bug have four different sized engines: 1200 cc, 1300 cc, 1500 cc, and, finally, 1600 cc. In the 1970s, Volkswagen made the SP-2 (derived from the VW Beetle chassis and powertrain) that used an air-cooled 1700 cc VW engine that was a regular 1600 cc engine with its engine displacement increased by the usage of large diameter cylinders. In Brazil the VW Bug never received electronic fuel injection (the air-cooled flat four engine from the Beetle received this, but to equip solely the VW Kombi later models), but, instead, retained single or double-single carburetion throughout its entire life, although the carburetion specs differs from engines of different years and specs.

  • The production of the air-cooled engine finally ended in 2006, after more than 60 years. It was last used in the Brazilian version of the VW Bus, called the "Kombi", and was replaced by a 1.4-liter water-cooled engine with a front-mounted cooling system.

1996 Mexican Volkswagen Beetle.
The last one with chrome moldings.

2003 Mexican Volkswagen Beetle.

The Volkswagen Type 1 chassis was used as the basis for an anti-mine APC called the Leopard security vehicle, which was fielded by Rhodesia during the Rhodesian Bush War.

Beetles in Mexico

Mexican production began in 1955 due to agreements with companies such as Chrysler in Mexico and Studebaker-Packard Company which assembled cars imported in CKD form. From since 1964 they are locally produced. They have the larger windshield, rear window, door and quarter glass between from 1971; and the rear window from the 1965-71 German built models was used on the Mexican models from 1972 to 1985, when it was replaced with the larger rear window used on 1972 and later German built Beetles. This version, after the mid-1970s, saw little change with the incorporation of electronic ignition in 1988, an anti-theft alarm system in 1990, a catalytic converter in 1991 (by law requirement), as well as electronic fuel injection, hydraulic valve lifters, and a spin-on oil filter in 1993. The front turn signals were located in the bumper instead of the Beetle's traditional placement on top of the front fenders from the 1977 model year on, as they had been on German Beetles sold in Europe of the same time period. From the 1995, the Mexican Beetle includes front disc brakes and front automatic seat belts, and from the 1996 model, the chrome moldings disappear leaving body colored bumpers and black moldings instead. In mid 1996, front drum brakes and fixed front seat belts are re-launched in a new budget version called the "Volkswagen Sedán City", which is sold alongside with the upscale version "Volkswagen Sedán Clásico" which features front disc brakes, automatic seat belts, right side mirror, velour upholstery, optional metallic colors and wheel covers in matte finish, which can be also found in some 1980's Beetles and Buses. These two versions were sold until 1999. From late 1999 to 2003, The Sedán Clásico was discontinued and the Sedán City loses its prefix and becomes the disc brakes, automatic seat belts and optional metallic colors. This last version is named the "Volkswagen Sedán Unificado" or simply the "Volkswagen Sedán".

Independent importers continued to supply several major countries, including Germanymarker, Francemarker, and the UKmarker until the end of production in 2003. Devoted fans of the car even discovered a way to circumvent United Statesmarker safety regulations by placing more recently manufactured Mexican Beetles on the floorpans of earlier, US-registered cars. The Mexican Beetle (along with its Brazilian counterpart) was on the US DOT's (Department of Transportation) hot list of gray market imports after 1978 as the vehicle did not meet safety regulations.

In the Southwest United Statesmarker (Arizonamarker, Californiamarker, New Mexicomarker, Texasmarker), Mexican Beetles (and some Brazilian T2c Transporters) are a fairly common sight since Mexican nationals can legally operate the vehicle in the United States, provided the cars remain registered in Mexico.

The end of production in Mexico can be attributed primarily to Mexican political measures: the Beetles no longer met emissions standards for Mexico Citymarker, in which the ubiquitous Beetles were used as taxicabs; and the government outlawed their use as taxicabs because of rising crime rates, requiring only four-door vehicles be used. In addition, Volkswagen (now Germany's largest automaker) has been attempting to cultivate a more upscale, premium brand image, and the humble Beetle, with its US$7000 base price, clashed with this identity, as seen in the Touareg and Passat luxury vehicles.In the late 1990s consumers strongly preferred more modern cars such as the Mexican Chevy, the Nissan Tsuru, and the Volkswagen Pointer and Lupo.

Beetles in Australia

Official importation of the Volkswagen Beetle into Australia began in 1953 with local assembly operations commencing the following year. Volkswagen Australia was formed in 1957 and by 1960 locally produced panels were being used for the first time. Australian content had reached almost 95% by 1967 however declining sales saw the company revert to using imported components the following year. In 1976 Volkswagen ceased Australian assembly operations, their factory in Clayton, Victoria was sold to Nissan Australia and all Volkswagens were once again fully imported.

Many Australian or "Australasian" Beetles had accessories or modifications made for the Australian road .

There was also an Australian-built vehicle based on the Type 1 known as the Volkswagen Country Buggy as well as a coupe similar to the Karmann Ghia based on the Beetle called the Ascort.

Beetle customization

The Beetle is popular with customizers throughout the world, not only because it is cheap and easy to work on, but because its iconic looks can be personalised and the flat four motor is so tunable. Its very ubiquity makes even subtle changes noticeable.


There are many popular Beetle styles, from a 'Cal Looker' to a Rat rod. They vary between themselves, but are very similar in many ways. Also, the California Look has changed during the 30+ years of its lifespan. The most typical way to customise the exterior is to change the wheels and lower the suspension of the car. The favorite wheels are period-style EMPI 5- or 8-spokes, Speedwell BRMs, or Porsche factory rims like Fuchs from the classic 911. One of the original California Look modifications is to replace or remove the bumpers and trim, either to give a cleaner look or to reduce the curb weight; if bumpers are removed, pushbars are common. The stock bumpers are usually chromed or polished, sometimes painted or powder coated. There are many clubs dedicated to 'Cal Look', including the DKP ('Der Kleiner Panzers', or in English, 'The little Tanks') in the USA, which was one of the first clubs dedicated to true 'Cal Look' cars. There are also currently many big 'Cal Look' VW clubs based in Europe, including the DAS (Das Autobahn Scrapers) in Belgium, the DFL (Der Fieser Luftkühlers) in Germany and the JG54 Grünherz (Greenhearts) in the UK.

For a 'Resto Cal' look, a roof rack and similar accessories can be added. There are many other aftermarket parts that can be added to the Beetle, including wing mirrors, chrome wipers, stone guards, mud flaps, and badges. Rear light and front indicator lenses can also be changed.
VW Beetle modified in 70s California Look style

For a more custom look, smoothing and shaving the body (removing trim and other parts) is done, including door handles, badges and driprails, and replacing taillights and front indicators with smaller, simpler units. Frenching (tunnelling) headlights, frequent in non-VW customs and rods, is not common, but dramatic lowering is, and unusual hood and trunk hinging are commonplace. Another exterior modification that is seen occasionally is for the roof to be chopped and lowered just like other non beetle hot rods and customs, giving a meaner, lower and sleeker appearance.
violet 1966 beetle


Many Beetle owners try to keep their Beetle interior stock.Others will fit a sound system, which usually consists of a head unit and possibly some speakers and a subwoofer (usually mounted in the front of the car). Aftermarket steering wheels can be added along with auxiliary gauges. For a true race look, the interior can be stripped and a full roll cage installed, along with bucket seats and race harnesses although bucket seating is already the default seating for a Beetle.

The VW Type 1 chassis, being easily separated from its original body without removal of engine, transmission, or suspension, has provided the basis for countless custom re-bodyings, usually of fiberglass and usually replicating other, less humble vehicles. Mercedes, MG and Porsche replicas are among the popular choices. The more successful being the Sterling sports car in the 70's Fiberglass body kits with its all original body styling. These "kit cars", although derided by many for their lack of authenticity, provide to their owners a much cheaper, often more-reliable means of enjoying a dream vehicle.


Because most parts of the flat-4 engine other than the crankcase are bolted on, they are easily exchanged with larger or more high-performance items. The standard VW engine has been modified from 1600 cc (the largest factory-produced Type 1 engine) to configurations well over 2400 cc using larger piston/cylinder kits, turbochargers, and other performance-enhancing parts. A variety of other powerplants, including the VW Type 4 (also used in the 914) 2-liter flat four, Chevy Corvair and Porsche 911 flat sixes have been used. Even the turbocharged flat 4s from Subaru or Alfa Romeo have been used as well. Kits for installing Rover V8 engines have also been available. These variants tend to be mated to the stronger Type 2 (Bus, Combi) transmission. Dual carb setups are very common on Beetles (especially the 1600 cc dual port engine) as well as EFI. Also a wide range of exhaust systems are available. 4-into-1 headers are very popular, and are often used with a stinger, glasspack, or more modern "quiet pack" mufflers. The world record for fastest and quickest four cylinder 1/4 mile drag vehicle is held by a type 1 based engine built and maintained by vwparadise of San Marcos California. Its official run is 6.60 @ 203.94 mph quarter-mile although unofficially the quickest & fastest has been a 6.53 at 209.98 mph.

Beetles in motorsport

Drag racing

The Beetle is widely used in drag racing; its rearward (RR layout) weight distribution keeps the weight over the rear wheels, maximizing grip off the starting line. The car's weight is reduced for a full competition drag beetle, further improving the grip and also the power to weight ratio. Combined with the beetle's RR layout, wheelies can be achieved easily, but time "in the air" worsens 1/4 mile time. To prevent this, "wheelie bars" are added.

Formula Vee

The Beetle is also used as the basis for the Formula Vee open-wheel racing category—specifically, the front suspension crossmember assembly (the shock absorber mounts are sometimes removed, depending on regulations in the class), and the engine and transaxle assembly (usually the earlier swing-axle type, not the later double-jointed axle).

The beetle components are used because of their availability, low cost and durability. The front suspension geometry and rear suspension geometry (almost always used with a z-bar on the rear) lend the cars a benign handling character, ideal for beginners.

Uniroyal Fun Cup

Volkswagen Beetle-style bodies are fitted to space frame racing chassis, and are used in the Uniroyal Fun Cup, which includes the longest continuous motor-race in the world, the 25 Hours of Spa. It is an affordable entry-level series that gentleman drivers race.

Rally and Rallycross

Especially the Austrian sole distributor Porsche Salzburg (now Porsche Austria) seriously entered the Volkswagen in local and European contests in the 1960s and early 1970s. Starting with the VW 1500, in the mid 60's the peak of their racing performance was achieved with the VW 1302S and VW 1303S (known as the Salzburg Rally Beetle) from 1971 to 1973. The vehicles were entered in such famous races as TAP (Portugal), Austrian Alpine, Elba, Acropolis etc. Drivers were top performers such as Tony Fall (GB), Guenter Janger (AUT), Harry Källström (S), Achim Warmbold (D), Franz Wurz (A), etc. The engines were maxed out 1600's delivering , later on mated to a Porsche 914 five-speed manual gearbox. Victories were achieved in 1973 on Elba for overall and class, Acropolis for class (5th overall), Austrian championship 1972, 1973 January Rallye for overall and class. Rally of 1000 minutes for overall 2nd (1st in class).

The fuel crisis, along with the arrival of the Volkswagen Golf (Rabbit), put an end to the unofficially by Volkswagen supported rally days in 1974. All vehicles either used for training or actual racing were sold off to privateers, and keep racing with noticeable results until the early 1980s.

Trans Am

Beetles were used in Trans-Am in the two liter class from 1966-67 and again in 1972.

New Beetle

2000 VW New Beetle
At the 1994 North American International Auto Show, Volkswagen unveiled the J Mays-penned "Concept 1", a concept car with futuristic styling deliberately reminiscent of the original Beetle's rounded shape. Strong public reaction convinced the company to move the car into production, and in 1998, close to 20 years after the last original Beetle was sold in the United Statesmarker, Volkswagen Passenger Cars launched the New Beetle, designed by Mays and Freeman Thomas at the company's Californiamarker design studio.

New Beetles are manufactured at Volkswagen Group's Puebla, Mexico assembly plant where the last line of factory-built air-cooled Beetles were removed from production.

The New Beetle, with its (water-cooled) engine at the front of the car driving the front wheels, is related to the original only in name, general shape and some styling cues.

In an attempt to stem a trade in grey market imports into the UK, in 1998 VW made available a limited number of New Beetles to those who had signed up to a web campaign a few years earlier. These, officially the first New Beetles in the UK, were available in full UK spec (albeit only in left-hand drive), and started to arrive in the UK in April 1999. Right-hand drive versions arrived at the beginning of 2000, and have sold fairly well.

Phase-out of the original Beetle

The final original beetle (No.
21,529,464, VIN 3VWS1A1B54M905162)
By 2003 Beetle annual production had fallen to 30,000 from a peak of 1.3 million in 1971. On 30 July 2003, the final original VW Beetle (No. 21,529,464) was produced at Pueblamarker, Mexicomarker, some 65 years after its original launch, and an unprecedented 65-year production run since 1938, the year VW recognizes as the first year of non-Nazi funded production. VW announced this step in June, citing decreasing demand. The last car was immediately shipped off to the company's museum in Wolfsburg, Germanymarker. In true Mexican fashion, a mariachi band serenaded the last car. In Mexico, there was also an advertising campaign as a goodbye for the Beetle. For example, in one of the ads was a very small parking space on the street, and many big cars tried to park in it, but could not. After a while, a sign appears in that parking space saying: "Es increíble que un auto tan pequeño deje un vacío tan grande" (It is incredible that a car so small can leave such a large void). Another depicted the rear end of a 1954 Beetle (year in which Volkswagen first established in Mexico) in the left side of the ad, reading "Había una vez..." (Once upon a time...) and the last 2003 Beetle in the right side, reading "Fin" (The end). There were other ads with the same nostalgic tone.

  • Engine: Fuel injected (Bosch Digifant) 4 Cyl horizontally opposed,1584 cc, , @2200 rpm, 3-way catalytic converter
  • Rated fuel milage:
  • Max cruising speed:
  • Brakes: front disc, rear drum
  • Passengers: Five
  • Tank:
  • Colors: Aquarius blue, Harvestmoon beige.

Alternative uses for VW Beetle engines

251 px
The air-cooled 4-cylinder horizontally opposed cylinder (a flat four) has been used for many other purposes.

  • From the 1960s it has been used as an experimental aircraft engine. Companies still produce aero engines derived from the Beetle engine: Limbach, Hapi, Revmasterl and others.
  • Owner-built Kitplanes, notably the Volksplane, are specifically designed to use these engines.
  • Until 2001, Beetle engines were also used to run several of the ski lifts at the Thredbomarker resort in New South Walesmarker.
  • In remote Australian opal mining communities, VW motors are used as air compressors for air-powered equipment. Two cylinders are used as a motor while the others are modified to produce a flow of compressed air. Dunn-Right, Incorporated of Anderson, South Carolinamarker offers a similar conversion kit.
  • Volkswagen engines have also been use in Australia for fire fighting. Country Fire Authority have often used the engines to drive water pumps, colloquially known as 'Godiva pumps' after the pump the engine drives.
  • In Europe, Beetle engines were used to power mobile water-pumps used by the fire brigade. These pumps have been used from the 1950s till the present day.
  • A Beetle engine drives the rotating Mercedes-Benz emblem on the top of the Europa-Centermarker in Berlinmarker .
  • The Zamboni HD ice resurfacer is powered by an LPG-powered Beetle engine.
  • In 1967-68, the portable sawmill maker Mighty Mite of Portland, Oregonmarker used VW engines to power the circular saw blades of light sawmills. Later, as the US market for VW Beetles declined, the sawmill was modified for other power.
  • The Amazonas, a Brazilianmarker-built motorcycle manufactured from 1978 to 1990, uses a modified Beetle engine and gearbox. With a dry weight that could top , the Amazonas was billed as the world's heaviest production motorcycle. The VW transmission's reverse gear, rare in a two-wheeled vehicle, was a useful feature in such a heavy motorcycle. There was later the Kahena with similar construction.
  • Many "trike" have been built with Beetle engines.
  • Dune buggies and sandrails are commonly constructed with Beetle engines and other Beetle components.
  • In the United States, many farmers still use the AGCO Corporation "SPRA-COUPE" for fertilizer and pesticide spraying, which were manufactured from the 1960s until the mid 1990s, and due to the good availability of parts are still supported.

In popular culture

Like its contemporaries, the Mini and the Citroën 2CV, the Beetle has been regarded as something of a "cult" car since its 1960s association with the hippie movement and surf culture; and the obvious attributes of its unique and quirky design. (For example, the Beetle could float on water thanks to its sealed floor pans and overall tight construction, as shown in the 1972 Volkswagen commercial ) Much like their Type 2 counterparts, Beetles were psychedelically painted and considered an ancestor of art cars. One of the logos used by the Houston Art Car Klub incorporated a Beetle with a cowboy hat. Texas artist Bob "Daddy-O" Wade transformed a Beetle into a New Orleans Saints helmet.

The Beetle has made numerous appearances in Hollywood films, most notably The Love Bug comedy series (Disney) from 1968 to 2005, starring as "Herbie", a pearl-white, fabric-sunroofed 1963 Beetle—racing number 53. In the 1984 series The Transformers, key Autobot character Bumblebee transformed into a Beetle, as well fellow Autobot Glyph and the Decepticon Bugbite. In Cars , every bug or insect is represented by a VW Beetle. In the Nickelodeon TV Series As Told by Ginger, the title character's mother drives a blue Volkswagen Beetle.
In Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), Ginny Field (Amy Steel) drives a red Beetle Cabrio from circa 1971. In Friday the 13th Part III (1982), Rick (Paul Kratka) drives a beige Beetle from circa 1966. In Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986), Lizbeth (Nancy McLoughlin) drives a white Beetle Cabrio. In Dazed and Confused (1993), a white 1303 appears outside the high school, later one of the students drives a white Beetle Cabrio, and there is another green 1303 standing in the street.

VW-Vincent, 1999, ARTwork by Heikenwaelder Hugo

Names for the Type 1

The VW Beetle is known under many names in many countries, usually local renderings of the word "beetle". Among these are:
  • Käfer in Germanymarker, Austriamarker and Switzerlandmarker
  • Жук (Zhuk) (Bug) also in Russiamarker (Former Soviet Unionmarker)
  • Volkswagen Sedan
  • Volkswagen Bug
  • Pichirilo in Ecuadormarker
  • Pulga ("Flea") in Colombiamarker
  • Coccinelle (ladybug) or Kever in Belgiummarker
  • Vocho or Vochito in Costa Ricamarker, Mexicomarker and Colombiamarker (mostly a shortening of "Volkswagen"; Vochito is affective diminutive)
  • Fusca in Brazilmarker and Paraguaymarker
  • Escarabajo (meaning "Beetle") in Argentinamarker, Chilemarker, Colombiamarker, Paraguaymarker, Perumarker, Spainmarker, Uruguaymarker, El Salvadormarker and Venezuelamarker
  • Peta ("turtle") in Boliviamarker
  • Folcika in Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker
  • Sedan, then Fusca (popularly, Fusquinha that means Little Fusca) in Brazilmarker
  • Косτенурка (Kostenurka) (meaning turtle) or Бръмбар (Brambar) (meaning bug) in Bulgariamarker
  • Bug, Beetle, Choupette (Herbie's name in the French version of the movies) or Coccinelle (ladybug) in Canadamarker
  • Escarabat (means "beetle") in Catalan
  • Poncho in Chilemarker
  • Jiǎ Ké Chóng (甲壳虫) (means "beetle") in Chinamarker
  • Buba in Croatiamarker
  • Brouk in Czech Republicmarker
  • Chrobák in Slovak Republicmarker
  • Boblen (the bubble), Bobbelfolkevogn (a distortion of 'the bubble' and a translation of 'Volkswagen', the people's car), gravid rulleskøjte (pregnant rollerskate) or Hitlerslæden (The Hitler-sled) in Denmarkmarker
  • Cepillo ("Brush") in Dominican Republicmarker
  • خنفسة - Pronounced khon-fesa (Beetle in Arabic) in Egyptmarker
  • Põrnikas (means "beetle") in Estoniamarker
  • Kuplavolkkari (kupla meaning bubble) in Finlandmarker
  • Coccinelle (ladybug) in Francemarker, Quebecmarker and Haitimarker
  • Буба in the Republic of Macedoniamarker
  • Jin-guei che (金龜車) in Taiwanmarker
  • Σκαθάρι (Scathari meaning beetle), Σκαραβαίος (Scaraveos meaning Scarab), or Χελώνα (Chelona meaning Turtle) in Greecemarker
  • Cucaracha or Cucarachita (Cockroach or little cockroach) in Guatemalamarker and El Salvadormarker.
  • Bogár in Hungarymarker.
  • Cucarachita (little cockroach) in Hondurasmarker.
  • Bjalla in Icelandmarker
  • Beetle in Indiamarker
  • Kodok (frog) in Indonesiamarker
  • Folex(قورباغه ای) meaning frog in Iranmarker
  • Agroga عكروكة (froggy)or Rag-gah ركـّة (small turtle)in Iraqmarker
  • חיפושית ("Hipushit," beetle) or Bimba in Israelmarker
  • Maggiolino (may bug, cockhafer) or the unofficial name of Maggiolone (can indicate Super Beetle) in Italymarker
  • Kabuto-mushi (カブトムシ) (means "drone beetle") in Japanmarker
  • Kifuu in Kenyamarker
  • Vabole in Latviamarker
  • Vabalas in Lithuaniamarker
  • Kura (turtle) or Kodok (frog) in Malaysiamarker
  • Sedán, Pulguita (little flea), Vocho or Vochito (sometimes spelled "bocho/bochito") in Mexicomarker
  • Scoro-Scoro in Namibiamarker
  • Bhyagute Car in Nepalmarker literally: "Frog Car".
  • Kever in the Netherlandsmarker
  • Boble (bubble) in Norwaymarker
  • Foxi or Foxy in Pakistanmarker
  • "Pendong", kotseng kuba (literally, 'hunchback car') /"pagong" (turtle),"Ba-o", turtle in Cebuano dialect "Boks" in the Philippinesmarker
  • Garbus (literally, 'Hunchback') in Polandmarker
  • Carocha in Portugalmarker
  • Volky in Puerto Rico
  • Broasca / Broscuţă (little frog/froggy) or Buburuza (ladybird) in Romaniamarker
  • Фольксваген-жук(Folksvagen-Zhuk) in Russiamarker
  • Буба or Buba in Serbiamarker
  • Volla, Kewer - Pronounced Folla in South Africa
  • Chrobák in Slovakiamarker
  • Hrošč in Sloveniamarker
  • Volks / Beetle/ ibba (turtule) in Sri Lankamarker
  • Mgongo wa Chura” (Frog Back) or Mwendo wa Kobe” (Tortoise Speed) in Swahili
  • Bagge (short for skalbagge, beetle), bubbla (bubble) or folka in Swedenmarker and Finlandmarker
  • Kobe in Tanzania
  • รถเต่า - Pronounced Rod Tao (turtle car) / โฟล์คเต่า (Volk Tao) in Thai
  • Kaplumbağa or tosbağa (meaning turtle) or "vosvos" in Turkeymarker.
  • con bo in Vietnammarker
  • Bhamba datya in Shona - Datya is frog in the vernacular from Zimbabwemarker
  • Poncho
  • Popoy
  • Pulga
  • Punchbug
  • Tortuga in Panamamarker
  • Escarabajo, Bocho o Rana in Perúmarker
  • Foxi in Pakistanmarker
  • Kupla in Finlandmarker
  • Цох in Mongoliamarker
  • Escarabajo o Cucaracha in Colombiamarker
  • Escarabajo (Bettle) and popularly Fusca or Fusquita in Uruguaymarker
  • ´´Pichirilo in (Colombia)
  • Vosvos, Tospağa (turtle), Böcük (bug) in Turkeymarker
  • Bao(turtle),Cebuano Philippinesmarker
  • Volgswagen (pronounced: Folghswaghen) in South African

See also



External links

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