On this day in 1972, the 15,007,034th Volkswagen Beetle comes off the assembly line, breaking a world car production record held for more than four decades by the Ford Motor Company’s iconic Model T, which was in production from 1908 and 1927.
The history of the VW Beetle dates back to 1930s Germany. In 1933, Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany and announced he wanted to build new roads and affordable cars for the German people. At that time, Austrian-born engineer Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1951) was already working on creating a small car for the masses. Hitler and Porsche later met and the engineer was charged with designing the inexpensive, mass-produced Volkswagen, or “people’s car.” Hitler’s plan was that people could buy the cars by making regular payments into a savings stamp program. In 1938, work began on the Volkswagen factory, located in present-day Wolfsburg, Germany; however, full-scale vehicle production didn’t begin until after World War II.
In the 1950s, the Volkswagen arrived in the U.S., where the initial reception was tepid, due in part to the car’s historic Nazi connection as well as its small size and unusual rounded shape (which later led to it being dubbed the “Beetle”). In 1959, the advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach launched a groundbreaking campaign that promoted the car’s diminutive size as a distinct advantage to consumers, and over the next several years, VW became the top-selling auto import in the U.S. In 1998, Volkswagen began selling the highly touted “New Beetle” while still continuing production of its predecessor. After more than 60 years and over 21 million vehicles produced, the last original Beetle rolled off the line in Puebla, Mexico, on July 30, 2003.
The world’s original best-selling car, Henry Ford’s Model T, first went into production at a Detroit, Michigan, plant in 1908. Referred to as the car that “put the world on wheels,” the Model T revolutionized the automotive industry–and American society in general–by providing affordable, reliable transportation for the average person. In 1913, Ford Motor Company began employing the moving assembly line at its plant in Highland Park, Michigan, which reduced the assembly speed of a chassis from 12 hours and eight minutes to one hour and 33 minutes. The following year, Ford produced 308,162 vehicles, more than the output of all other carmakers combined. By 1924, the 10 millionth Model T came off the assembly line. When production finally ended, after 19 years, in May 1927, over 15 million Model Ts had been built.
Beetle Fun Facts
One of the fun things about the Volkswagen Beetle is the fact that it has taken on so many different lives! For years, it evolved into a car that was a statement on the driver’s nonconformity and individuality, while supplying millions of people with a fun-to-drive, dependable, economical set of wheels. Here are some Volkswagen fun facts for you:
Did you know that the old Volkswagen four-cylinder has been used to drive everything from motorcycles to light planes to firefighting pumps to Zamboni ice resurfacers?
Did you know that the old Beetle could float? With its sealed floor pans and body, the Beetle could indeed stay afloat for several minutes, as was advertised in the Sixties.
Think back to when you were a kid. Remember the old “slug bug” game, also known as “punch buggy?” That was where you’d spot a Beetle and punch your sibling on the arm. From one vacationing family to the next, the game would take on new rules (such as calling out the color of the car), or declaring that black or “old school” VW’s were worth two punches. Slug Mini or Slug Geo just isn’t the same, is it?
Also…remember Herbie the Love Bug? Ol’ #53 (a ’63 fabric-roofed Beetle) got into many escapades over the years, winning races, heading off diamond thieves, stopping con artists and starring opposite Don Knotts, Harvey Korman, Julie Sommars and even Bruce Campbell. Once Herbie the Beetle took to the silver screen via Disney Studios, there were a total of six Herbie movies…not to mention a TV Series in 1982, not bad for an unassuming little car!
The “bolt-on” design of the old VW flat-four engine has meant that hot rodders have found it very easy to modify Beetles for performance. That’s meant larger pistons, hotter camshafts, bigger valves, dual carburetors, free-flowing exhaust and even superchargers, with Beetles becoming commonplace at the dragstrip. The frame and drivetrain have proved themselves adaptable for off-road use with the familiar “Baja Bug” and dune buggy modifications. The rounded body, on the other hand, is a natural with art-car aficionados, having been turned into a New Orleans Saints football helmet and a cowboy hat…not to mention the Rolls Royce and ’40 Ford front-end kits that used to be commonplace for Beetles!
So will the New VW Beetle wind up with as many lives and as much personality as the Old Beetle did? Well, time will tell. Hope you enjoyed a bit of history and fun facts on the VW Beetle that we dug out of the archives today!
To see the brand new 2012 VW Beetle come down to VW Southtowne and let our experienced Sales Staff take you for a ride . You will be pleasantly suprised with the improvements that have been made. To see what we have in stock, click any of the links below.
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