|Volkswagen Type 1|
Early 1966 Volkswagen Beetle
|Also called||"Beetle", "Super Beetle", Käfer "Bug", "Superbug" |
|Production||1938–2003: 21,529,464 built (of which 15,444,858 in Germany, incl. 330,251 Cabriolets, and ≈ 3,350,000 in Brazil)|
|Assembly||Wolfsburg, Hanover, Emden, Ingolstadt, Osnabrück, Germany, Melbourne, Australia, Brussels, Belgium, São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, Jakarta, Indonesia, Dublin, Ireland, Puebla, Puebla, Mexico, Auckland, New Zealand, Lagos, Nigeria, Manila, Philippines, Uitenhage, South Africa, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, SFR Yugoslavia, Valencia, Venezuela|
|Body and chassis|
|Class||Subcompact, economy car|
|Body style||2-door saloon
|Engine||1.1 L H4; 1.2 L H4; 1.3 L H4; 1.5 L H4; 1.6 L H4|
|Transmission||4-speed manual transaxle, 4-spd semi-automatic, Saxomat (from 1961), 3-spd semi-automatic, Autostick (1967–76)|
Volkswagen New Beetle
The Volkswagen Beetle, officially the Volkswagen Type 1, or informally the Volkswagen Bug, is a two-door, four passenger, rear-engined 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 finalise the design. This is one of the first rear-engined cars. With over 21 million manufactured (21,529,464) in an air-cooled, rear-engined, 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". Later models were designated VW 1200, 1300, 1500, 1302 or 1303, the former three indicating engine displacement and the latter two being derived from the type number and not indicative of engine capacity. The model became widely known in its home country as the Käfer (German for "beetle") and was later marketed as such in Germany, and as the Volkswagen Beetle in other countries.
The Beetle was designed for sustained high speed on the autobahn. It ultimately gave rise to variants, including the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia and the Volkswagen Type 2 bus. The Beetle had marked a significant trend led by Volkswagen, Fiat, and Renault whereby the rear-engine, rear-wheel drive layout had increased from 2.6 percent of continental Western Europe's car production in 1946 to 26.6 percent in 1956. The 1948 Citroën 2CV and other European models marked a later trend to front-wheel drive in the European small car market, a trend that would come to dominate that market. In 1974, Volkswagen's own front-wheel drive Golf model succeeded the Beetle. In 1994, Volkswagen unveiled the Concept One, a "retro"-themed concept car with a resemblance to the original Beetle, and in 1998 introduced the "New Beetle", built on the Golf platform with styling recalling the original Type 1.
- 1 History
- 1.1 "The People's Car"
- 1.2 Development
- 1.3 The factory
- 1.4 Wartime production
- 1.5 Post-war production and boom
- 1.6 Diesel
- 1.7 Introduction to Ireland
- 1.8 Introduction to Japan
- 1.9 Introduction to the UK
- 1.10 1953–1957 models
- 1.11 1967 models
- 1.12 Super Beetle and final evolution
- 1.13 Beetle cabriolet
- 1.14 Decline
- 1.15 Worldwide end of production
- 2 Design
- 3 Influences
- 4 International production
- 5 Motorsport
- 6 In popular culture
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
"The People's Car"
In April 1934, Adolf Hitler gave the order to Ferdinand Porsche to develop a Volkswagen (literally, "people's car" in German, pronounced [ˈfɔlksvaːɡən]). The epithet Volks- literally, "people's-" had been previously applied to other Nazi sponsored consumer goods such as the Volksempfänger ("people's radio"). There followed, in May 1934, a meeting at Berlin’s Kaiserhof Hotel at which Chancellor Hitler provided Porsche with more details, insisting on a basic vehicle, capable of transporting two adults and three children at 100 km/h (62 mph) while not using more than 7 litres of fuel per 100 km (32 mpg US/39 mpg UK). The engine had to be powerful enough for rapid sustained cruising on Germany’s new Autobahnen. Everything had to be designed to ensure worn out parts could be quickly and inexpensively exchanged. The engine had to be air-cooled because, as Hitler explained, not every country doctor had his own garage. The "People's Car" would be available to citizens of the Third Reich through a savings scheme, or Sparkarte (savings booklet), at 990 Reichsmark, about the price of a small motorcycle. (The average weekly income was then around 32RM.)
Ferdinand Porsche had developed the Type 12, or "Auto für Jedermann" (car for everybody) for Zündapp in 1931. Porsche already preferred the flat-four engine, and selected a swing axle rear suspension (invented by Edmund Rumpler), while Zündapp insisted on a water-cooled five-cylinder radial engine. In 1932, three prototypes were running. All of those cars were lost during World War II, the last in a bombing raid in Stuttgart in 1945.
The Zündapp prototypes were followed by the Porsche Type 32, designed in 1933 for NSU Motorenwerke AG, another motorcycle company. The Type 32 was similar in design to the Type 12, but had a flat-four engine. NSU's exit from car manufacturing resulted in the Type 32 being abandoned at the prototype stage.
Initially designated Type 60 by Porsche, the design team included Erwin Komenda and Karl Rabe. In October 1935 the first two Type 60 prototypes, known as the V1 and V2 (V for Versuchswagen, or "test car"), were ready. In 1936, testing began of three further V3 prototypes, built in Porsche's Stuttgart shop. A batch of thirty W30 development models, produced for Porsche by Daimler-Benz, underwent 1,800,000 mi (2,900,000 km) of further testing in 1937. All cars already had the distinctive round shape and the air-cooled, rear-mounted engine. Included in this batch was a rollback soft top called the Cabrio Limousine. A further batch of 44 VW38 pre-production cars produced in 1938 introduced split rear windows; both the split window and the dash were retained on production Type 1s until 1953. The VW38 cars were followed by another batch of 50 VW39 cars, completed in July 1939.
The car was designed to be as simple as possible mechanically, so that there was less to go wrong; the air-cooled 25 hp (19 kW) 995 cc (60.7 cu in) 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-four engine configuration. The suspension design used compact torsion bars instead of coil or leaf springs. The Beetle is nearly airtight and will float for a few minutes on water.
On 26 May 1938, Hitler laid the cornerstone for the Volkswagen factory in Fallersleben. He gave a speech, in which he named the car Kraft durch Freude-Wagen ("Strength Through Joy Car", usually abbreviated to KdF-Wagen). The name refers to Kraft durch Freude ('Strength Through Joy'), the official leisure organization of the Third Reich. The model village of Stadt des KdF-Wagens was created near Fallersleben in Lower Saxony in 1938 for the benefit of the workers at the newly built factory.
The factory had only produced a handful of cars by the start of the war in 1939; the first volume-produced versions of the car's chassis were military vehicles, the Type 82 Kübelwagen (approximately 52,000 built) and the amphibious Type 166 Schwimmwagen (about 14,000 built).
The first Beetles were produced on a small scale in 1941.
A handful of Beetles were produced specifically for civilians, primarily for the Nazi elite, in the years 1941 to 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 a 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.
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.
Mass production of civilian VW cars did not start until post-war occupation. The Volkswagen factory 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; an official report included the phrases "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 British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst. Hirst was ordered to take control of the heavily bombed factory, which the Americans had captured. His first task was to remove an unexploded bomb that 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. Knowing Germany needed jobs and the British Army needed vehicles, Hirst persuaded the British military to order 20,000 cars, and by March 1946 the factory was producing 1,000 cars a month (in Army khaki, under the name Volkswagen Type 1), which Hirst said "was the limit set by the availability of materials". During this period, the car reverted to its original name of Volkswagen and the town was renamed Wolfsburg. The first 1,785 Type 1s were made in 1945.
After World War II, it was officially designated the Volkswagen Type 1, but was more commonly known as the Beetle.
Following the British Army-led restart of production and Hirst's establishment of sales network and exports to Netherlands, former Opel manager (and formerly a detractor of the Volkswagen) Heinz Nordhoff was appointed director of the Volkswagen factory in 1949 Under Nordhoff, 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 (0–62 mph) in 27.5 seconds with fuel consumption of 6.7 l/100 km (36 mpg) for the standard 25 kW (34 hp) engine. This was far superior to the Citroën 2CV, which was aimed at a low speed/poor road rural peasant market, and Morris Minor, designed for a market with no motorways / freeways; it was even competitive with more advanced small city cars like the Austin Mini.
In Small Wonder, Walter Henry Nelson wrote:
- "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."
During the 1950s, the car was modified progressively: the obvious visual changes mostly concerned the rear 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 1,300 cc engine in place of the 1,200 cc: only in the 1973 model Super Beetle did the Type 1 acquire an obviously curved windscreen. The flat windscreen remained on the standard Beetle.[clarification needed]
There were also changes under the bonnet. In 1954, Volkswagen added 2 mm to the cylinder bore, increasing the displacement from 1,131 cc to 1,192 cc. This coincided with upgrades to various key components including a redesign of the crankshaft. This increased power from 33 bhp to a claimed 40 bhp and improved the engine's free revving abilities without compromising torque at lower engine speeds. At the same time, compression ratios were progressively raised as, little by little, the octane ratings of available fuel was raised in major markets during the 1950s and 1960s.
There were other, less-numerous models, as well. The Hebmüller cabriolet (officially Type 14A), a sporty two-seater, was built between 1949 and 1953; it numbered 696. The Type 18A, a fixed-top cabriolet, was produced by Austro-Tatra as a police and fire unit; 203 were assembled between January 1950 and March 1953.
On 17 February 1972, when Beetle No. 15,007,034 was produced, Beetle production surpassed that of the previous record holder, the Ford Model T. By 1973, total production was over 16 million, and by 23 June 1992, over 21 million had been produced.
In 1951, Volkswagen prototyped a 1.3 L diesel engine. Volkswagen made only two of these air-cooled boxer diesel engines (not turbocharged), and installed one engine in a Type 1 and another in a Type 2. The diesel Beetle was time tested on the Nürburgring and achieved 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) in 60 seconds.
Introduction to Ireland
Volkswagen began its involvement in Ireland when in 1949, Motor Distributors Limited, founded by Stephen O'Flaherty secured the franchise for the country at that year’s Paris Motor Show. In 1950, Volkswagen Beetles started arriving into Dublin 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 Ballsbridge. This is now the premises for Ballsbridge Motors who is still a Volkswagen dealer. The first Volkswagen ever assembled outside Germany was built here. This vehicle is now on display at the Volkswagen Museum in Wolfsburg.
Introduction to Japan
The Type 1 was introduced to Japan in 1953, and was imported by Yanase dealerships in Japan. Its exterior dimensions and engine displacement were in compliance with Japanese Government regulations, which helped sales. Several Japanese vehicles were introduced after the Beetle was sold in Japan, using an air-cooled engine and rear installation of the engine in the back, such as the Subaru 360, or an engine installed in the front, like the Honda N360, the Suzuki Fronte, and the Mitsubishi Minica.
Introduction to the UK
In 1952, John Colborne-Baber began to import small numbers of Beetle's largely to satisfy demand from US Air Force personnel stationed in Kent. Today, Colborne Garages still hold the Volkswagen franchises for Guildford and Walton-on-Thames. In 1953 J.Gilder & Co. Ltd. in Sheffield, began selling Beetles. Jack Gilder 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. In 2013 the Gilder Group was acquired by JCT600. R Fedden, most known for his extensive research on Sleeve-Valve engines (Single Sleeve, Burt-McCollum type), was granted in 1943 patent GB570814, for a Road Vehicle close in look to VW 'Beetle'.
During this period, the rear window of the VW Beetle evolved from a divided or "split" oval, to a singular oval. The change occurred between October 1952 and March 1953. Beetles built during this time were known as a "Zwitter", or "hybrid", as they used the split-window bodyshell with oval-model chrome trim, vent windows and dashboard. Steel used for the bodywork was at its best quality, and the Wolfsburg emblem at the tip of the front of the bonnet was a complex fabrication (subsequent models deleted the emblem). The rear 'W' decklid was hand-fabricated. The front wing had a particular 'flare out'.
|1967 Volkswagen Beetle|
|Body and chassis|
|Engine||1,493 cc OHV H4|
|Wheelbase||2,400 mm (94.5 in)|
|Length||4,079 mm (160.6 in)|
|Width||1,539 mm (60.6 in)|
|Curb weight||800–840 kg (1,760–1,850 lb)|
The Beetle changes for the 1967 model included a larger-displacement engine for the second year in a row. Horsepower had been increased to 37 kW (50 hp) the previous year, and for 1967 it was increased to 53 PS (39 kW) at 4,200 rpm. Torque is 10.8 kg·m (106 N·m; 78 lb·ft) at 2,000 rpm, bore 83 mm, stroke 69 mm, and it has a compression ratio of 7.5:1. The 1200 and 1300 engines continued to be available in the updated bodyshell, as many markets based their taxation on engine size.
On US, UK, and Ireland models, the generator output 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.
The 1967 model weighed 840 kg (1,850 lb) in federal trim, 800 kg (1,760 lb) in Europe.
That same year, in accord with the newly enacted US 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. For the 1968 model year, 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 US sealed beams.
Super Beetle and final evolution
In 1971, a new Beetle model featuring MacPherson strut front suspension and a redesigned front end was launched alongside the "standard" Beetle, which continued in production. Officially known (and marketed in Europe) as the VW 1302 from 1971 to 1972, and VW 1303 from 1973 onwards, but commonly called Super Beetle, the new stretched nose design replaced the dual parallel torsion bar beams which had compromised trunk space and relocated the spare tire from a near vertical to a low horizontal position. The redesign resulted in a tighter turning radius despite a 20 mm (0.79 in) longer wheelbase, and a doubling of the front compartment's cargo volume. As with previous models, air pressure from the spare tire pressurized the windshield washer canister, in lieu of an electric pump.
1972 Super Beetles had an 11 percent larger rear window (4 mm (0.16 in) taller), larger front brakes, four rows of vents (versus two rows previously) on the engine deck lid, tail lights incorporating reverse lights, a four-spoke energy-absorbing steering wheel and steering column, and an engine compartment socket for the proprietary VW Diagnosis system.
In 1973, the VW 1303 introduced a curved windscreen, pushed forward and away from the passengers, allowing a redesigned, padded dashboard to replace the pre-1973 vertical dash. A two-speed heater fan, higher rear mudguards, and larger tail lights 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. In late 1973, the well-equipped "1303/Big" special edition was introduced as customers were looking for less spartan cars. These have 15-inch wheels, metallic paintwork, a more luxurious interior, a heated rear windshield, and some other comforts.
For 1974, the previous flat steel bumper mounting brackets were replaced with tubular "self restoring energy absorbing" attachments, effectively shock absorbers for the bumpers, on North American market Beetles. These cars also got stronger "5 mph" bumpers that added an inch to the length of the car. The steering knuckle and consequently the lower attachment point of the strut was redesigned to improve handling and stability in the event of a tire blowout. This means struts from pre-1974 Super Beetles are not interchangeable with 1974–79s.
1975 models featured Air Flow Control (AFC) Fuel Injection on U.S., Canadian, and Japanese Beetles, a derivative of the more complex Bosch fuel injection system used in the Volkswagen Type III, and equivalent to Bosch L-Jetronic. 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, making fuel-injected models identifiable at a glance. Other changes were rack and pinion steering replacing the traditional worm and roller gearbox on Super Beetles, 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.
In 1976, the optional Autostick transmission and the Super Beetle sedan were discontinued, with VW continuing to market the standard sedan and VW 1303 convertible. 1976-on convertibles received 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. 1977 model sedans received front seats with separate head restraints.
The Beetle Cabriolet began production in 1949 by Karmann in Osnabrück. It was in 1948 that Wilhelm Karmann first bought a VW Beetle sedan 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 so that 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 falling 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, entering its seventh generation in 2012, with only a few components carried over between generations, while the Beetle had 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 Brazil and Mexico: markets where low operating cost was important. The Beetle Cabriolet was produced for the North American and European markets in Germany until 10 January 1980. The last Beetle was produced in Puebla, 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 US until August 1977 (the Beetle convertible/Cabriolet was sold until January 1980) and in Europe until 1985, with private companies continuing to import cars produced in Mexico after 1985.
The Beetle outlasted most other cars which had copied the rear air-cooled engine layout such as those by Subaru, Fiat, and General Motors. Porsche's 356 series which originally used some Volkswagen sourced parts, continued to use the classic rear engine layout (which later became water-cooled) in the Porsche 911 996 series, which remains competitive in the second decade of the 21st century.
Worldwide end of production
By 2002, over 21 million Type 1s had been produced, but by 2003, annual production had dropped to 30,000 from a peak of 1.3 million in 1971. VW announced the end of production in June 2003, citing decreasing demand, and the final original Type 1 VW Beetle (No. 21,529,464) rolled off the production line at Puebla, Mexico, on 30 July 2003, 65 years after its original launch. This last Beetle, nicknamed El Rey (Spanish for "The King" after a legendary Mexican song by José Alfredo Jiménez) was delivered to the company's museum in Wolfsburg, Germany.
To celebrate the occasion, Volkswagen marketed a final special series of 3,000 Beetles marketed as "Última Edición" (Final Edition) in light blue (Aquarius Blue) or beige (Harvest Moon Beige). Each car included the 1.6 engine, whitewall tires, a CD player with four speakers, chrome bumpers, trim, hub caps and exterior mirrors, a Wolfsburg emblem above the front trunk's handle, chrome glove box badge, body coloured wheels, tinted glass, a rear parcel shelf, and VW Ultima Edicion plaque.
A mariachi band serenaded production of the last car. In Mexico, there was an advertising campaign as a goodbye for the Beetle. In one of the ads was a very small parking space on the street, and many big cars tried to use 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 (the year Volkswagen was established in Mexico) in the left side of the ad, reading "Erase 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) four-cylinder horizontally opposed, 1,584 cc, 50 hp (37 kW), 98.1 N·m (72.4 lb·ft) @ 2,200 rpm, three-way catalytic converter
- Rated fuel mileage: 32.5 mpg-US (7.2 L/100 km; 39.0 mpg-imp)
- Max cruising speed: 130 km/h (81 mph)
- Brakes: front disc, rear drum
- Passengers: Five
- Tank: 40 L (11 US gal; 9 imp gal)
- Colours: Aquarius blue, Harvest Moon beige.
The Beetle featured a rear-located, rear-wheel drive, air-cooled four-cylinder, boxer engine in a two-door bodywork featuring a flat front windscreen, accommodating four passengers and providing luggage storage under the front bonnet and behind the rear seat – and offering a coefficient of drag of 0.41; to this relatively good CD, the also streamlined rear of car was of help. The bodywork attached with eighteen bolts to its nearly flat chassis which featured a central structural tunnel. Front and rear suspension featured torsion bars along with front stabilizer bar – providing independent suspension at all wheels. Certain initial features were subsequently revised, including mechanical drum brakes, split-window rear windows, mechanical direction-indicators and the non-synchronized gearbox. Other features, including its distinctive overall shape, endured.
Its engine, transmission, and cylinder heads were constructed of light alloy. An engine oil cooler (located in the engine fan's shroud) ensured optimal engine operating temperature and long engine life, optimized by a thermostat that bypassed the oil cooler when the engine was cold. Later models of the carburetor featured an automatic choke. Engine intake air passed through a metallic filter, while heavier particles were captured by an oil bath. After 1960, steering featured a hydraulic damper that absorbed steering irregularities.
Indicative of the car's utilitarian design, the interior featured painted metal surfaces, a metal dash consolidating instruments in a single, circular binnacle, adjustable front seats, a fold-down rear seat, optional swing-out rear windows, front windows with pivoting vent windows, heating via air-to-air exchange manifolds operating off the engine's heat, and a windshield washer system that eschewed the complexity and cost of an additional electric pump and instead received its pressurization from the car's spare tire (located in the front luggage compartment) which was accordingly overinflated to accommodate the washer function.
Throughout its production, VW marketed the Beetle with a four-speed, manual transmission. From 1961 (and almost exclusively in Europe), VW offered an optional version of the Saxomat semi-automatic transmission: a regular 4-speed manual transaxle coupled to an electromagnetic clutch with a centrifugal clutch used for idle. Subsequently (beginning in 1967 in Europe and 1968 in the United States), VW offered an optional semi-automatic transmission (marketed as Automatic Stick Shift and also called AutoStick), which was a 3-speed manual coupled to an electro-pneumatic clutch and torque converter.
While the overall appearance of the Beetle changed little over its life span, it received over 78,000 incremental changes during its production.
- Standard Superior
Josef Ganz designed a car, the "May Bug", that is very similar to the Volkswagen Beetle. Hitler saw the car in 1933 at an auto show. There is a strong resemblance to the Standard Superior, an automobile produced from 1933–1935 by Standard Fahrzeugfabrik of Ludwigsburg, Germany, founded by motorcycle maker Wilhelm Gutbrod and unrelated to the Standard Motor Company of England. These small cars were designed according to the patents by Josef Ganz and featured transverse, two-stroke, two-cylinder engines mounted in front of the rear axle. Porsche, two years prior to the Standard Superior's introduction, had developed the Type 12 for Zündapp, featuring many design similarities with the Volkswagen Beetle.
The Austrian car designer Hans Ledwinka was a contemporary of Porsche working at the Czechoslovakian company Tatra. In 1931, Tatra built the V570 prototype, which had an air-cooled flat-twin engine mounted at the rear. This was followed in 1933 by a second V570 prototype with a streamlined body similar to that of the Porsche Type 32. The rear-engine, rear-wheel drive layout was a challenge for effective air cooling, and during development of the much larger V8 engined Tatra T77 in 1933 Tatra registered numerous patents related to air flow into the rear engine compartment. The use of Tatra's patented air cooling designs later became one of ten issues for which Tatra filed suit against VW.
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. The Tatra T97 of 1936 had a 1,749 cc, rear-located, rear-wheel drive, air-cooled four-cylinder boxer engine. It cost 5,600 RM and accommodated five passengers in its extensively streamlined four-door body, which provided luggage storage under the front bonnet and behind the rear seats. It also featured a similar central structural tunnel found in the Beetle.
Just before the start of the Second World War, Tatra had ten legal claims filed against VW for infringement of patents. Although Ferdinand Porsche was about to pay a settlement to Tatra, he was stopped by Hitler who said he would "solve his problem". Tatra launched a lawsuit, but this was stopped when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938, resulting in the Tatra factory coming under Nazi administration in October 1938. The T97, along with the T57, were ordered by Hitler to be removed from the Tatra display at the 1939 Berlin Autosalon and Tatra was later directed to concentrate on heavy trucks and diesel engines, with all car models, except for the V8-engined Tatra T87, being discontinued. The matter was re-opened after World War II and in 1965 Volkswagen paid Ringhoffer-Tatra 1,000,000 Deutsche Marks in an out of court settlement.
Beetles produced in Mexico and Brazil had several differences:
Brazilian assembly of the Beetle, where it is called "Fusca", started in 1953, with parts imported from Germany. By January 1959 the cars were built in the new São Bernardo do Campo plant, although they originally had 60% German parts content. By the mid-sixties, the cars had 99.93% Brazilian parts content, with four German parts of a combined value of about one US dollar still being imported. Production continued until 1986. In 1993 production resumed and continued to 1996. The Brazilian version retained the 1958–64 body style (Europe and U.S. version) with the thick door pillars and smaller side windows. This body style was also produced in Mexico until 1971. Around 1973, all Brazilian Beetles (1300 and 1500 series) were updated with the 1968-up sheet metal, bumpers, and four-lug rims; although the five-stud rims and "bugeye" headlights were produced as late as 1972 (the base VW 1200 and 1300 manufactured in Brazil was similar to the 1964 European/U.S. 1200 until the 1970 model year but came with vented wheels since the mid-1960s). The 1971 and 1972 1300s had the 1964-era taillights and headlights, fuel tank, but fitted with the 1968-up raised bumpers. Brazilian CKD kits were shipped to Nigeria between 1975 and 1987 where Beetles were locally assembled. The Brazilian-produced versions have been sold in neighboring South American nations bordering Brazil, including Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru.
The Brazilian Type 1s have four different engines: 1,200 cc, 1,300 cc, 1,500 cc, and 1,600 cc. In the 1970s, Volkswagen made the SP-2 (derived from the Type 1 pan and the Type 3 powertrain) with a 1,700 cc engine (a bored-out 1,600 cc). In Brazil, the Type 1 never received electronic fuel injection, instead retaining carburetors (one or two one-barrels) throughout its entire life, although the carburetion differs from engines of different years and specification.
The production of the air-cooled engine finally ended in 1996, 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 L water-cooled engine with a front-mounted cooling system. The "Fusca" nickname is of unknown origins; presumably it is a shortening of the Brazilian-Portuguese pronunciation of Volkswagen ("Folquisvaguem"). Volkswagen do Brasil engaged in some string pulling in the early sixties when a law requiring taxis to have four doors and five seats was being considered. After proving that the average taxi fare only carried 1.8 passengers and an overall saving of twenty percent for a smaller two-door car, the Brazilian government relented and the law never entered the books. The Fusca proceeded to have a long career as a taxi in urban Brazil.
The Volkswagen Type 1 chassis was used as the basis for a mine-protected APC called the Leopard security vehicle and the Pookie demining vehicle, fielded by the Republic of Rhodesia during the Rhodesian Bush War.
Mexican production began in 1955 because of agreements with companies such as Chrysler in Mexico and the Studebaker-Packard Corporation which assembled cars imported in CKD form. In 1964, they began to be locally produced. These models have the larger windshield, rear window, door and quarter glass starting in 1971; and the rear window from 1965 to 1971 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 (as required by law), as well as electronic Digifant 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. Starting in 1995, the Mexican Beetle included front disc brakes, an alternator instead of a generator, and front automatic seat belts. Starting with the 1996 model, the chrome moldings disappeared leaving body colored bumpers and black moldings instead. By the end of the 1996 model year, exterior chrome or matt moldings were dropped altogether and for model year 1997 Volkswagen de Mexico (VWdM) dropped the Sedan's flow-through ventilation system with all its fittings, notably the exterior crescent-shaped vents behind the rear side windows.
In mid-1996, front drum brakes and fixed front seat belts were re-launched in a new budget version called the "Volkswagen Sedán City", which was sold alongside the upscale version "Volkswagen Sedán Clásico" which had front disc brakes, automatic seat belts, right side mirror, velour upholstery, optional metallic colors and wheel covers in matte finish (also found on some 1980s Beetles and Buses). These two versions were sold until 1999. From late 1999–2003, The Sedán Clásico was discontinued and the Sedán City lost its prefix and gained disc brakes, automatic seat belts and optional metallic colors. This last version was named the "Volkswagen Sedán Unificado" or simply the "Volkswagen Sedán".
Independent importers continued to supply several major countries, including Germany, France, and the UK until the end of production in 2003. Devoted fans of the car even discovered a way to circumvent US 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 grey market imports after 1978 as the vehicle did not meet safety regulations.
In the Southwest US (Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas), 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. Some of the Mexican Beetles have been registered in the United States since the 1998 NHTSA amendment granting the 25 year cutoff where it (and its Brazilian counterpart including the T2C) can be legally registered in any of the 50 states (this means a 1990 Mexican Beetle as of 2015 can be registered under the current NHTSA 25 year cutoff exemption).
The end of production in Mexico can be attributed primarily to Mexican political measures: the Beetles no longer met emission standards for Mexico City, 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. The last Vocho taxis in Mexico City were retired at the end of 2012. In addition, Volkswagen (now Germany's largest automaker) has been attempting to cultivate a more upscale, premium brand image, and the humble Beetle 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.
However, demand for the Beetle was relatively high, especially in the 1990s, with the workforce increasing at the start of the decade. The price of the single basic model (without even a radio) was pegged with the official minimum wage, by an agreement between the company and the government. In 1990 it cost $5,300.
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 (which is now occupied by Holden Special Vehicles), and all Volkswagens were once again fully imported.
The Beetle was also produced in South Africa at the Uitenhage plant from 31 August 1951 to 1979.
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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.
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). In original 1,200 cc Formula Vee spec, upgrades to the cars would only be allowed sparsely, so that the wheels, tires and engines didn't differ very much from the original Beetle. At the end of the 1960s, Vee Beetle engine output on a single carburetor would reach up to 70 BHP; top speeds would gradually rise to nearly 200 km/h (124 mph). In this configuration, FV would become one of the most popular entry-level motorsports classes of its time.
Later on, double carbs and more extensive modification would be allowed, leading to the more powerful Super Vee class featuring wings for downforce and 123 bhp (92 kW; 125 PS) engines, which in the end had fairly little in common with the original VW Beetle. Around 2000, worldwide Vee racing had re-established itself as a 1,200/1,300 cc beginner class with wingless cars and VW engines outputting about 60 bhp (45 kW; 61 PS), but incorporating more modern chassis and tyres.
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-1960s 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 highly modified 1600's delivering 125 hp (93 kW), 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 days of unofficially supported rallying in 1974. All vehicles either used for training or actual racing were sold off to privateers, many kept racing with noticeable results until the early 1980s.
Trans Am Series
Beetles were used in The Trans-Am Series for the two-litre class from 1966 to 1967 and again in 1972.
The Baja 1000 off-road race in the Baja California Peninsula, Mexico includes specific vehicle classes for both standard Beetles and Baja Bugs. These can be seen in the documentary movie Dust to Glory.
The classes are as follows :
- Class 5: Unlimited Baja Bugs
- Class 5-1600: 1,600 cc Baja Bugs
- Class 11: Stock VW Sedans
The Beetle Challenge is a UK-based circuit racing championship for classic aircooled Volkswagen Beetles. The general concept is to take any Beetle, of any age or model from the 40s through to 1303s, and with minimal restrictions, allowing parts from various years to be interchanged, and of course the cars being prepared to the MSA safety requirements (cage, restraints, fire system etc.) Essentially the cars must be aircooled Beetles (any age and parts can be swapped between years and models), with a 15-inch x 6-inch max wheel size with a control tyre. Engines must be based on a Type 1 engine case, with no electronic fuel injection or ignition and no forced induction, with an unlimited capacity. Other regulations apply.
In popular culture
Like its contemporaries, the Mini, the Citroën 2CV, the Renault 4, and the Fiat 500, the Type 1 has long outlasted predictions of its lifespan. It 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 along with its low price. (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.
In the United States, Volkswagen enthusiasts frequent large Volkswagen-themed car shows.
Much like their Type 2 counterparts, Beetles were psychedelically painted and considered an ancestor of art cars. Currently, there are a wide array of clubs that are concerned with the Beetle. The fans are quite diverse. Looks include the resto-look, Cal Look, German-look, resto-Cal Look, buggies, Baja Bugs, old school, Disney's Herbie the Love Bug replicas, ratlook, etc. Part of their cult status is attributed to being one of a few cars with an air-cooled, horizontally opposed engine design, and the consequent ease of repair and modification, as opposed to the more complex watercooled engine design. The original flat four had fewer than 200 moving parts.
- Black Current
- Cal looker
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- Meyers Manx
- Punch buggy
- Steyr 50
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