Old Gem Car #1: The Eternal Volkswagen BeetleCar Listings
Every now and then, a company makes a car that develops a cult of personality; something about its engineering, value, and performance captures drivers and makes them want to keep it until after the point of pushing it down the street before it starts. When enough people share this opinion, that style car begins to clog roads from its accumulated driver reputation. The vehicle isn't always the most efficient, safest, or most reliable in its class, but it can often be the cheapest vehicle. Some vehicles receive this infatuation from the driving culture they were manufactured for, but a rare few cross international borders. The Volkswagen Beetle Type 1 is one vehicle that certainly has this kind of popularity.
The Volkswagen legend is one of the few positive legacies that megalomaniac Adolf Hitler can lay claim to. In order to increase his base of support from the German people, Hitler commissioned a cheap car that everyone could afford and a financing scheme to match it (hence the name Volkswagen or "people's car"). The car was produced in limited quantity before the start of World War II at its plant in Wolfsburg, then quickly converted to military-style vehicles in support of the war effort. Its name at this time was "KdF-Wagen" which in German is Kraft durch Freude and means "strength through joy."
Germany's defeat in the war meant that production halted, and the Volkswagen nearly died but for the efforts of a British Army major named Ivan Hurst. Hurst kept the factory running until 1948, when Heinrich Nordhoff was recruited from Opel in order to take over. Nordhoff would remain in this position until his death in 1968, but Hurst would leave the year after in 1949. The rest is history; the Volkswagen Beetle has been described as a symbol of West Germany's efforts to recover from the horrors of World War II and thrive in spite of the icy specter of the Cold War. Few believed that the Beetle would survive at all, including thriving manufacturers such as Ford. The Volkswagen has an extremely noisy air-cooled rear engine, a strange domed shape, and a rare front trunk compartment combined with a bumpy ride and cramped conditions. Despite its unconventional and arguably ugly appearance, the Volkswagen thrived against all odds. Volkswagen Beetles were assembled in dozens of countries including Germany, the United States, Thailand, Brazil, and finally Mexico, where the last Volkswagen (pictured above) was manufactured on July 21, 2003. Pictured below is Herbie. A similar version appeared in the 1968 film The Love Bug, but this one starred in the 2005 Lindsey Lohan flop Herbie Fully Loaded.
Variations and improvements upon the "Old Beetle" were implemented throughout its production history, but no model could achieve the popularity of the Type 1 including the "New Beetle" introduced in 1998. Today, the Volkswagen Beetle Type 1 currently sits at number 4 in all time world sales. The final model produced in Mexico in 2003 represented the 21,529,464th Beetle Type 1 produced, which made it the most produced automobile of a particular variant of all time. Millions of Beetles continue to drive around the world's roads, and are a testament to the power of one man's frightful vision of world supremacy, and on a lighter note, the prevalence of hippie subculture in the United States.