Discover the different VW Beetle models throughout the years. The magnificent VW Beetle Split Window, the gorgeous VW Beetle Oval Window and the VW Beetle Sedan. Beetle Community covers the range from the 1946 Beetle till the 1974 Beetle. Discover the main changes from over the years and the most common specifications.
The rich Volkswagen history began in 1930 with the formation of a new company: Dr.-Ing. h.c. Ferdinand Porsche GmbH. As early as 1927, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche had the idea of building a German "People's car". Porsche's start-up staff included body designer Erwin Komenda and air-cooled expert Joseph Kales, as well as his son Ferry. Porsche saw the creation of small cars as a challenge. Over the prior decade, he'd worked on such early attempts as the Sascha.
Early in the new engineering firm's history came Project 12, which evolved into the VW Beetle. Most of the car's basic elements were selected early. Designers chose a rear-mounted engine, partly because it eliminated the need for a long driveshaft. To go the rear-engine route without impairing safe weight distribution, however, such an engine would have to be light in weight. Thus, aluminum and magnesium castings found their way into the concept. Air cooling meant no radiator would be needed, and owners would not have to worry about coolant freeze-ups. Finally, the horizontally-opposed cylinder configuration allowed a short crankshaft and would mate neatly with the proposed rear transaxle. Instead of a separate body and frame, the Beetle would have a platform-type chassis with a central backbone and integral floor pan. Torsion bars were the choice for a front suspension, and swing axles for the rear.
Rather than pursuing this small-car project further at the time, Porsche took on other work for such companies as Wanderer and Zundapp, including development of prototypes for a Zundapp Volksauto powered by a five-cylinder radial engine. After Zundapp mixed that project in 1932, Porsch established a connection with NSU to develop yet another set of prototypes, which evolved from the Project 12 design with a flat-four engine.
By 1933, Adolf Hitler had risen to power and made the first announcement of his desire to create not only the Autobahnen, but also a "people's car" for the ordinary workingman's family. As outlined by automotive historian Dan R. Post, Hitler wanted a car that could travel at 100-kph (62-mph) speeds, deliver fuel mileage of 33 mpg, demand minimal repair and maintenance, contain space for four or five occupants and have an air-cooled engine. Hitler publicly endorsed Porsche's idea at the 1934 Berlin Auto Show. Porsche continued work on the Zudapp concept, to create what would be called the "Volkswagen Series 3." Late in 1936, the final prototypes were ready with a body design generally credited to Erwin Komenda. The German automaker's association undertook extensive testing of the car. By 1937, it was determined that a separate government company would be needed to complete development of the car and bring it to production. Later that year, 30 prototypes were prepared with the assistance of Daimler-Benz. This version was known as the Series 30 and was road tested by Nazi storm troopers. Dr. Porsche twice visited the US and met with auto-industry leaders, including Henry Ford. He also sought engineers of German ancestry to come back and help set up the factory. Work began on the plant at Wolfsburg, then called KDF-Stadt, in mid 1938. The first cars scheduled to emerged late the following year.
Meanwhile, Porsch people kept refining the car's design until it finally emerged as the ready-for-production Series 38. This same basic car was destined to become an automotive icon. It was initially sold as the KdF-Wagen. "Kraft durch Freude" means "Strength through Joy" in German. That was the slogan of the Nazy ministry in charge of workers, the German Labour front. The car quickly adopted the Volkswagen nickname that had been hung on it for several years. The factory called the Volkswagenwerk consistently. The letters "VW" were used in the wheel covers and in logos inside the VW Beetle. The earliest KDF-Wagens were to be sold by a stamp-purchase plan. When workers filled five red or blue books of stamps, each worth about $240, they could take delivery of the car. World War II intervened with that notion, as civilian production was hampered. Diligent workers continued to save for the cars. Years later, quite a few Germans presented their collections of saved-up KdF-Wagen-Sparkarte stamp books and in 1961, Volkswagen allowed those people a 600 Deutsch marks credit toward a new car or 100 marks in cash.