Volkswagen Beetle 1938-2003
On January 17, 1934, Ferdinand Porsche wrote his „Exposé regarding the construction of a German People’s Car". In his opinion, a people’s car, or Volkswagen, should be a fully adequate and reliable automobile, although with a comparatively light construction style. It should offer room for four people, reach speeds of up to 100 km/h and be able to overcome gradients of 30 percent.
The first prototype of the sedan was completed on February 5, 1936. Its design was a novelty for automobile manufacturing that year:
· The chassis had independent wheel suspension with torsion bars and friction shock absorbers.
· Although there were no hydraulic brakes yet, the braking was boosted mechanically using a corresponding control lever in the cable brake system.
· The soft rubber mountings for the engine are a considerable step forward in automotive technology.
· The air-cooled engines, optionally exchangeable as two-stroke or four-stroke versions in the trial program, reached a power level of 22.5 hp.
The V 3, three copies of which were built, covered a distance of more than 50,000 kilometers (over 30,000 miles) in an endurance test conducted from October to December 1936. The knowledge gained here was pumped back into the following 30 trial specimens, which ran through a full-scale endurance test under the abbreviation VW 30.
To set up the factory and production systems, Ferdinand Porsche searched American automobile factories to recruit experienced émigré German engineers. Only then was the car given its final shape. It was perfected in a model wind tunnel and corrected in actual usage. Furthermore, it proved possible to develop a very simple suspension system.
The topic of discussion at this time was the engine selection, in particular. In the end,
a four-cylinder Boxer engine got the green light.
Volkswagen Beetle 1938-2003 : Success story without end
At the beginning of the tremendous Volkswagen development, there were energetic
people who, after years of deprivations and hopelessness in the war, of physical
stresses and intellectual suppression, began to build automobiles.
In August 1945, the British military authorities, which managed the factory in trust
from 1945 until 1949, commissioned the Volkswagen plant with the production of
In December 1945, mass production of theVolkswagen Beetle started with 55 assembled
vehicles.In a secluded location on the Mittelland Canal, the factory, with the rubble
from the war cleared out of the way, housed a community of people from a wide
variety of backgrounds. They built up their new homeland from the chaos.
The VW employees, plagued as they were by their struggle for survival, could not
foresee that it would become a success story. But in 1946, the first milestone was
already reached: the 10,000th Volkswagen was completed. The vehicle was inscribed
with the demand „Mehr schmackhaftes Essen, sonst können wir vieles nicht
vergessen" (More good food, or else there's much we won’t be able to forget").
In the next three years, restrictions and external events worked against the
establishment of the factory. Deliveries to private persons were not permitted. Coal
shortages in 1947 led to the VW plant being shut down temporarily. But the success
In 1948, the workforce already numbered 8,400 employees, who
built almost 20,000 vehicles. The average hourly wage was 1.11 DM.
Exports started in August 1947. The Pon brothers from the Netherlands were
employed as Volkswagen's general importers and received 56 Beetle sedans as the
first delivery. One year later, exports were expanded to Belgium, Denmark,
Luxembourg, Sweden and Switzerland. The first sought-after foreign currency flowed
in: 4,464 Beetles brought in a tidy 21 million DM.
In 1948, Heinrich Nordhoff took over the management of the Volkswagen plant and
had to address some fundamental problems: The Volkswagen Beetle," he says,has as many
faults as a dog has fleas."
But even if the weak buying power after the currency reform did not allow a booming
business, the certainty grew that this car really was the „people's car".
In times when
snow plows and winter tires were ideas still to come, the Volkswagen Beetle managed to climb on
icy roads: The rear engine provided adequate traction for the driving wheels.
Heinrich Nordhoff also kept summer in mind and, in 1948, had the Joseph Hebmüller
Company in Wülfrath build three prototypes of a convertible based on the
Volkswagen. As many original VW sedan parts were to be used for the manufacture
as possible; the car's exclusive interior was Hebmüller's own idea. The Volkswagen
plant ordered a series of 2,000 units. As a result of a large fire in the manufacturing
works, the Hebmüller Company was forced to close its gates four years later. By that
time, only 696 convertibles had made it to market.
On January 8, 1949, a Volkswagen Beetle left the Netherlands, heading across the ocean towards
the United States. It proved to be the ambassador of both Germany and the
Volkswagen plant and successfully gained a foothold in the New World.
People didn’t have to wait long for the „topless Beetle", the VW convertible. On
July 1, 1949, Karmann presented an open body model and the number of the body
builders grew, especially in the USA.
The flood of improvements continued in this year, as well. For the most part,
however, they were felt more than they seen. The undemanding Boxer goes down in
history as the engine behind Germany’s economic miracle. But the development of
the VW bus was striking. It could be built on to the universal Beetle chassis and
ushered in a new era in trade and business for commercial vehicles.
The VW bus made a name for itself.
Another cause for celebration: The 50,000th VW Beetle rolled off the line. Such
sensational production numbers were attributed to Volkswagen General Director
Heinrich Nordhoff, who maintained extremely close and warm relations with the
workforce. His farsighted business policies, especially his contribution towards an
efficient sales and customer service organization, lay the foundation for Volkswagen's
rise to the largest automobile manufacturer in Europe.
Nordhoff's demands for exemplary customer service made in the 1950's still apply
today. He gave customer service top priority. As the sales figures rapidly increased,
the number of Volkswagen-licensed repair shops also grew, and many of them
developed into major operations
. Volkswagen made the effort to ensure the supply of
replacement parts around the world.
Meanwhile, the people in Wolfsburg quickly got used to large numbers: in 1950 the
100,000th VW Beetle rolled off the line; one year later, VW had already reached a
quarter million - even though material shortages led to a temporary production
shutdown and reduced working hours. In 1952, annual production exceeded 100,000
units for the first time. The 500,000th VW Beetle was produced in 1953. The VW
share of car production in the Federal Republic of Germany was 42.5 percent.
In 1955, it finally happened: the 1,000,000th VW Beetle rolled off the line. In an
extremely successful business year, production increased to 280,000 vehicles. In the
annual average, daily production exceeded 1000 vehicles for the first time.
Annual production had now reached a scale of more than 700,000 VW Beetles, and
continued to grow until the „sound barrier" of one million vehicles built was broken in
1965. The 10,000,000th Volkswagen Beetle was produced in 1967.
Meanwhile, there were
already five plants in Germany - Hanover, Kassel, Braunschweig (Brunswick) and
Emden in addition to Wolfsburg.
The year 1972 brought a very special event: On February 17, the 15,007,034th Beetle
rolled off the line. This broke the previous production record, held by the Model T
Ford, and the Beetle became the new „world champion". But the writing was already
on the wall for the end of the Beetle monoculture, which had determined the
company's model program until now.
After almost 30 years of production history, 1974 saw the end of an era in Wolfsburg,
in which – like never before in the history of the automobile – a product was identified
with a plant and manufacturing location: Wolfsburg was „Beetle City." The last Beetle
produced in the original plant – the 11,916,519th – rolled off the line. The Beetle was
by now being manufactured in Emden, Brussels and overseas. Globally, around
3,300 vehicles were produced each day.
Mastering the problems of the times was the challenge that had to lead to a
fundamental transformation of VW technology.
The VW Golf, the radical break from the Beetle, was offered to the Volkswagen public
as the third model of the new era, after the VW Passat and Scirocco, and was again
a car like no other. With its new technical concept, it was a success right from the
start, and became the front runner in the registration figures in German automobile
Beetle manufacture ended in the Wolfsburg plant in 1974 and in Emden in 1978.
last car was produced in Emden on January 19 and brought to the automobile
museum in Wolfsburg. The demand in Europe, as large as ever, was initially covered
by production in Belgium and later in Mexico. One year later, on January 10 1979,
the last Beetle convertible – it is the 330,281st – rolled off the Karmann line in
In 1981, a further important milestone in the history of the company was reached in
Mexico: on May 15, the 20 millionth Beetle rolled off the line in Puebla.
In 1984, the 100,000th export Beetle left Mexico for Europe. Deliveries were
suspended one year later.
By this time, more than 900,000 Beetles had been
produced in Mexico.
Towards the end of the 1980's, theVolkswagen Beetle experienced a true renaissance in Mexico.
Around 33,000 models were sold in 1989; three years later, this number had almost
tripled. The increase could essentially be attributed to a new government automobile
decree regarding the „classic Beetle". It called for a 20 percent price reduction, which
made the „Sedán Clásico" – as it is called in Mexico – the most economical vehicle
on the Mexican market.
Because of the great demand, third shift production of the Beetle was added in 1990.
In the same year, the millionth Beetle was produced at VW de México.
In June 1992, the VW Beetle celebrated a unique production record. The 21 millionth
rolled off the line. The Mexican VW subsidiary kept the Beetle up to the level of the
times technically and in terms of appearance, and made possible its journey into the
21st century. In the year 2000 alone, 41,620 models left the factory, where 170
vehicles were built each day in two shifts. In 2003, production is drawing to a close.
The „Última Edición", presented in Puebla in July, represents the end of a complete
development cycle, and simultaneously, an automotive century. As a true world
citizen, the Beetle was not only sold in every imaginable country, it was also
produced in a total of 20 countries.
Two factors in particular were responsible for bringing about the upswing at Volkswagen and for establishing its success: one must be the people, with their
energy, industriousness and wealth of ideas, who went all out for the company and
its products. Heinrich Nordhoff epitomized the style of the social partnership: „The
only value that a company has are the people who work for it and the spirit in which
they do it." And the other must be the products themselves, which found satisfied
buyers all over the world for almost six decades.
The VW Beetle certainly played a major role here. Until the 1970's, it dominated the
image of the Volkswagen Company, and helped to influence the streets everywhere
around the world.
The requirements and progress of today's world have overtaken the Beetle. Millions
of people got to know their first car with the Wolfsburg emblem on the steering wheel
while still in driving school. Millions naturally purchased the Beetle as their first car,
new or used. It is still a trusted friend to today's driving generation, while they enjoy
the progress of the new era.
Volkswagen Beetle 1938-2003 : VW Beetle ...and runs and swims and flies
When motor sports got going again around 1950, after strenuous efforts in the years
after the war, some Beetle fans were enthusiastic participants in rallies and races.
The large wheels, tight wheelbase, high ground clearance and stable body made the
Beetle thoroughly suitable for open terrain.
While there aren't any success statistics for rally Beetles, the many victories in
Germany and other countries speak for themselves. Thus, four 1302 S and 1303 S
type Beetles made names for themselves. They were driven by experienced
Volkswagen drivers. In international rallies throughout Europe, they rapidly made it
clear that they were serious competition for the previous favorites.
This was also true
at the 6th International Rally Elba, which covered more than 1,500 kilometers (almost
1000 miles) of gravel tracks and sprint trials in rugged terrain. The team of Achim
Warmbold, Germany, and Gunnar Haggbom, Sweden, took the final victory. Of 90
starters, 68 dropped out.
The winning car had reinforced shock absorbers; engine and transmission were
covered as protection against flying stones and the power of the 1.6-liter engine was
boosted from the standard 50 hp to 126 hp by the tuners at Volkswagen-Porsche.
Another example for successful rally cars in the Beetle series was the New Caledonia
Safari Rally of 1974. The 4,000 kilometer (almost 2500 miles) long stretch led
through very difficult terrain. This cross-country event was won by an unmodified 54-
hp engine; only the bottom of the car had been reinforced with aluminum trussing to
protect against bouncing gravel when crossing rivers.
In 1962, when the American VW dealer Hubert Brundage came up with the idea to fit
his own small racecar with a Beetle engine, Volkswagen supported this questionable
enterprise. Another American, Air Force Colonel Smith, took up the idea and had
Nardi in Italy build him his own monoposto out of original VW parts.
In 1963, the new type of race car based on the Beetle was approved by the sport
authorities. As a result, Ferry Porsche, son and successor of Ferdinand Porsche, the
father of the Volkswagen, introduced the new sport vehicle in Europe with a great
deal of enthusiasm. Formula V – for Volkswagen – set out to conquer, and allowed
up and coming racecar drivers an economical entry into motor sport.
Until now, 8,000 monoposti have been built according to the V brand formula. This is
an unofficial individual record, with the highest circulation of formula cars that has
ever been reached in the world.
The sporty Beetle fans didn't only want to tackle such strict regulations as those of
formula V, however. Driven by the urge for freedom, the descendents of the Wild
West pioneers searched for rough tracks away from the main roads. The result -
dune buggies and similar open-air automobiles. No desert, no beach and no dunes in
the expanses of Nevada, Arizona and California are safe from them any longer.
In 1967, the Baja 1,000", proclaimed the hardest competition of this type, was held for the first time on the Mexican Baja California peninsula, through a region in which it
is more likely that rattlesnakes rather than foxes will wish you good night." 80
percent of all competing cars participated with VW parts. Two of the nine starter
classes were reserved exclusively for VW modifications. As the supplier of sturdy and
economical parts, the Beetles played an important role here – both for the front axle
and the rear axle, usually with oversized tires, and for the engine. It was all held
together by a tubular space frame of the most head-strong and robust construction,
without regard for its own weight. It held the „sand bug” together, even after a hard
landing following a jump through the terrain.
In Wolfsburg, the city of the Volkswagen”, the Beetle was given a very special honor. Since 1958, a VW train had driven though the city, without tracks, much to the
pleasure of the children and grownups. It chauffeured up to 45 people through the
city, past the City Hall and to the Wolfsburg Castle. A spirited act of strength,
because around six tons have to be kept moving by 34 hp of Beetle power. In 1975, a
Golf traction engine took over from the Beetle locomotive.
Beetles were also harnessed for the hard work of making a living. Bill Peters, a
farmer from California, converted his VW into a very useful potato Beetle. He
attached farm equipment, including the plow, to the back to till his fields. With great
success - his farm's fuel consumption fell considerably.
Even that telephone booth game so popular with young people, namely seeing how
many people can be squeezed into a glass box, was transferred to the Beetle all
around the world. 35 students from La Crosse State College in Wisconsin squeezed
themselves into and onto the Beetle, and then covered a distance of five meters.
the glory was not theirs for long. Students in Dublin increased the number of
passengers to 36 and still covered the prescribed distance. A little later, 57 mountain
climbers actually climbed into and onto their record Beetle. This represented a load of
approximately three tons.
Finally, there is still the story of the VW Beetle who became an international star –
Herbie. In the American film „Love Bug", which ran under the title „Ein toller Beetle" in
theaters in Germany, Herbie is the star. And a Volkswagen. One that can do it all: he
races, acts as matchmaker, can be understanding and furious – in short, he is a very
The film's success was also unusual. In the first eight months it was shown in
Germany, it drew five million viewers. It received the „Goldene Leinwand" (Golden
Screen) award from the Association for German Cinema. The film music received a
„Goldene Schallplatte" (Gold Disk) award. It was the same all over the world. People
poured into the movie theaters to see Herbie.
A true water Beetle fever raged in 1973, after the Beetle body proved to be
seaworthy during several involuntary swimming attempts that ended happily. In Italy,
a man mastered the Straits of Messina between Calabria and Sicily with his VW
1200, which he had carefully sealed and fitted with a propeller, in only 38 minutes, or
two minutes faster than the regularly scheduled ferry.
Afterwards, the Viking Malc Buchanan set off in the very rough waters of the Irish
Sea. Starting from the Isle of Man, he reached the county of Cumbria in England after seven and a half hours afloat. That set a new „Water Beetle Record" in the category
„standard car over 59 kilometers”.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen Beetle swimming had become a popular hobby in the USA.
Outboard motors were naturally frowned on. The amphibian had to be driven using
the original VW engine and a propeller that had been added on. At least this is what
the statutes of WARA, the „Waterbugs of America Racing Association" called for.
But Beetle technology was the talk of more than just the land and water. The sturdy
VW engine was even put to use in the air. An inventive engineer equipped a
Turbulent model machine with a VW engine at the Royal Air Force's Withe Waltham
airfield. Prince Philip had an officer explain the operation to him, and took off into the
air. The flight lasted 35 minutes. The Prince returned to earth safe and sound - quite
taken," as he subsequently declared.
But even flyers without any titles were at least as venturesome. And, above all, more
The record of them all must be held by Mira Slowak, a Czech-American
jet pilot. He built a mini airplane – made of standard parts from a VW 1200 engine –
called „The Spirit of Santa Paula" and flew out of New York with it, headed for
London. After more than 175 hours, with a total of nine stopovers, he finally arrived at
his destination, making him the winner in his class.
Mira Slowak's comment after the long journey by air: „I believe that with its 35
horsepower, the Spirit is the smallest airplane ever to fly across the Atlantic. The VW
engine was fantastic; it purred like a kitten and didn't cause any problems the whole
Volkswagen Beetle 1938-2003 : Volkswagen – an international partner
The Volkswagen Group, with its involvements around the world, has already been a
global player for many decades. The company owes its climb from practically nothing
into this position to the early decision of farsighted men, to send out feelers
throughout the world from a decidedly homey location, to find chances in other
countries - and to use them. This couldn't be a matter of short-term success, but
instead had to involve long-term partnerships that served the cooperation and trust in
benefits of all those involved.
Until the 1970's, the VW Beetle stood at the center of these internationally oriented
activities. A mass-produced automobile whose concept, technology, quality,
economic efficiency and reliability were intended like no other’s to take over the work
of an automotive and industrial development aid worker.
Thus, Volkswagen assumed the important function of partner in the realization of
economic and social progress in many countries over the past decades.
company almost always followed the strategy of building up a separate production
base by starting with purely export activities and working together with a local
Logically, the international orientation began in 1947 with the first vehicle exports;
country of destination: the Netherlands. Receivers of 56 Beetle models were the Pon
brothers in Amersfort, named as VW general importers. In that year, 9,000 vehicles
were built in Wolfsburg, with 1656 – or 18 percent – of these going for export.
Only one year later, 23 percent of the production was already for export. A milestone
of a special kind was reached for Volkswagen exports in 1949. The first vehicles
were shipped to the United States and exhibited at the German Industrial Show in
New York. Now there were already seven countries on the export list. Only two years
later, the number was already 29, an indication of the tumultuous export development
during this time.
In 1952, the importer Pon picked up the 10,000th Volkswagen for the Netherlands in
Wolfsburg. In the same year, a VW marketing company was founded in Canada. In
the following year, there were already Volkswagen customers in 83 of the world's
countries. Almost 70,000 exported vehicles brought in more than 250 million DM in
A further export milestone was reached in 1953, when Volkswagen do Brasil was
founded in Sao Paulo on March 23; it soon developed into one of the company's
most important subsidiaries. The final assembly of the „completely knocked down"
(CKD) Beetle, introduced in 1951, passed over from the Brazilian company
Brasmotor to the new VW subsidiary. Then things started to get going. In 1954, the
first Beetles rolled off the lines in Australia, Belgium and New Zealand and in 1955,
Volkswagen of America was founded as the sales company for the American market.
Exports in this year rose to almost 180,000 vehicles. The foreign currency proceeds
this year totaled 600 million DM, and there were already 2,500 dealers in other
countries selling and servicing Volkswagens
Volkswagen took the next step towards an international character in South Africa.
Here the company acquired the interests of the South African importer in 1956 and
founded a subsidiary as an assembly operation. In the same year, the foundations for
the largest car factory on the South American continent were laid in Sao Bernardo do
Campo, near Sao Paulo, with the goal of producing as many parts as possible within
In 1959, the new Volkswagen do Brasil plant was put into operation in Sao Paulo,
and by January, the first series Beetle had already rolled off the line. VW France was
established in 1960 and the 500,000th vehicle was shipped to the USA. In 1962, the
1,000,000th Volkswagen reached the United States. The development of the Asian-Pacific area therefore took place over general
importers, who put together the Beetles in the assembly plants. Beetle assembly
started on the Philippines in 1959. Malaysia and Singapore followed in 1968, with
Indonesia and Thailand four years later.
Encouraged by the success in other countries, the people from Wolfsburg risked the
next step, too, to Mexico. Volkswagen de México received the order to build
Volkswagens with as many parts as possible from local production.
Only three years
after the company was founded, the new plant in Puebla opened, and thereafter built
the Mexican Sedán.
In 1966, one hundred percent ownership of the South African subsidiary founded in
1956 passed over to the parent company; its new name, effective immediately, was
Volkswagen of South Africa.
The Beetle's American success continued without pause. In 1971, a transport ship
brought the 5,000,000th Volkswagen to the United States.
In the same year, Volkswagen took over VW Bruxelles and thereby created its own
leg to stand on in Beetle production. With the joint venture „Tvornica Automogila
Sarajevo" (TAS) founded on June 14, 1972, a second European production site came
into being, where Beetle production started on November 10, 1973 with a daily output
of 20 cars. 1973 also saw the signing of the contract for the foundation of
Volkswagen of Nigeria, and the start of construction of a branch plant near Lagos.
Production of the Fusca, as the Beetle is called in Brazil, temporarily ended in Brazil
in 1986, after 30 years. A total of over 3,300,000 vehicles were built. The Fusca enjoyed a comeback in 1993 when production started up again. It proved
its quality once again, until its final farewell in 1996.
In July 2003, the definitively last Volkswagen Beetle rolled off the assembly line in Puebla at
Volkswagen de México.
Volkswagen Beetle 1938-2003 : Engine technology
At the beginning, Ferdinand Porsche considered his two-stroke engine to be the most
economically feasible solution for a small and reasonably priced automobile. After
numerous attempts and tests, a four-cylinder Boxer engine with air cooling was used,
which has, in principle, remained the same until today.
The first Volkswagen engine
intended for series production, with basic dimensions of 70 x 64 millimeters for bore
and stroke, still had a working volume of 985 cubic centimeters. With a compression
ratio of 5.6 : 1 and a rated speed of 3000 rpm, this engine reached 22.5 hp.
Particularly conspicuous is the design of the housing for the engine and transmission,
in light alloy pressure die-casting.
In the military version of the Kübelwagen, which
got its name from the bucket seats, and the Schwimmwagen, or amphibian car, the
engine capacity was increased to 1131 cubic centimeters, which raised the power to
After 1945, the development of the engine was characterized by the transition to
super-light Elektron – around 90 percent magnesium alloy – for the engine and
transmission housing. Furthermore, enlarging the engine capacity to 1192 cubic
centimeters and reworking the cylinder heads later resulted in a power increase to
34 hp. The acceleration time from 0 – 100 km/h was an impressive 35 seconds for
the Beetle 1200.
The population's increasing prosperity and higher demands resulted in the
development of more powerful engines. Volkswagen therefore designed a 1.5-l Boxer
engine early on. This closely resembled the already established 1.2-l engine, but had
a cooling blower with rear exit outlets to the crankshaft instead of out the top. This
made the entire engine flatter and allowed the new model to integrate a flat, deep
cargo area over the low-slung power plant. An engine capacity of 1493 cubic
centimeters resulted from the basic measurements of 86 x 69 mm. With a
compression ratio of 7.2 : 1 and 3,800 rpm, the Beetle reached 45 hp
The next step towards more power output was made with the 1.5-litre boxer engine. It
developed 44 hp at 4,000 rpm. The 30 PICT Solex down-draught carburettor was
fitted with an automatic choke to replace the manual choke.
This 1500 Beetle from
1965 had a top speed of 125 km/h. Five years later, the 1.6-litre boxer engine with a power output of 50 hp at 4,000 rpm
was launched. This engine was constantly modernised. For example, in Mexico its
carburettor was fitted with an altitude sensor that ensured that, despite Mexico’s
mountainous terrain, the engine always had the optimum air-fuel mixture and
adhered to the emission standards.
In 1988 the 1.6-l engine was converted from contact-controlled to electronic ignition.
A clear improvement in the emission levels was achieved with the introduction of the
catalytic converter without Lambda probe in the fall of 1990.
In 1993, the sedan 1600 received its last technical improvements. The engine was
given a fuel injection system and the cylinder head was given hydraulic valve lifters.
At the same time, the catalytic converter without Lambda probe was replaced by one
with a Lambda probe. After this technical rework, the Mexican Beetle complied with
the relevant environmental standards, namely Euro-3 Exhaust Emission Standard
and US norm Tier1, which applies in Mexico.
The most important visible modifications to the VW Beetle from 1945 until
- 1945 to 1948 Sedan
1949 Export model, high gloss paint, chrome ornamental strips,
front trunk lock opens from inside
1950 No-draft ventilation (recess in the side windows),
production start of the sunroof
- 1951 Ventilation flaps on the sides
- 1952 Tires 5.60 – 15, vent windows, modified bumpers
and horns, two brake lights combined with tail light und
reflectors, hinged swivel windows in doors on export
- 1953 „Pretzel window” replaced with larger oval window, center
- 1955 Dual exhaust, PVC sunroof, new brake, tail and reflector
lights on rear fender, lights positioned higher
- 1957 Larger rear window and windshield, new
shape of rear hood, license plate light with bathtub-shaped
diffusion lens, redesigned instrument panel
- 1958 Larger side mirror
- 1959 Fixed door handles and pushbuttons, 65 percent
1960 Windshield washer, asymmetric low beams,
1961 Two-chamber tail light
1963 Steel sliding sunroof, wide housing for the
license plate light. Modified shape of the front turn
- 1964 Enlarged window areas, windshield wipers in rest position
left, engine hood with push button closing
- 1965 Standard model 1200 A receives 34 hp engine, VW 1300,
perforated disc wheels, flat wheel caps
- 1966 Standard model 1300 A replaces 1200 A, VW 1500, wider
rear track, modified rear hood, modified license plate light,
narrower ornamental strips, new door locks
- 1967 „Economy Beetle" VW 1200 with 34 hp engine, fresh air
ventilation, three-point attachment for seat belt on all
seats, plastic operating buttons, reinforced bumpers,
external fuel filler neck on the right side
- 1968 Modified fuel filler neck cover
- 1969 Modified rims
- 1970 Introduction of models 1302 and 1302 S, 1302 also as
convertible, in addition, 1302 sedan with larger trunk and
modified front, engine power 50 hp, front suspension struts
- 1971 Improved ventilation, additional air slots in engine hood,
larger rear window
- 1972 Panorama Beetle" VW 1303: panorama window, larger
- 1973 The convertible 1303 is presented
- 1974 Turn indicators integrated into front bumper
- 1975 VW 1200, bumpers painted black, black
fender weather strip
VW 1200 L, chrome-plated bumpers with rubber strips,
chrome-plated hubcaps, back-up lights, forced air
- 1976 VW 1200 L from Mexico: chrome-plated bumpers und
hubcaps, reversing lights, forced air ventilation,
upgraded equipment with padded control panel and
adjustable headrests on the front seats, three-point
automatic front seat belts, static lap belts in the rear,
heated rear window and belted tires
- 1979 Replacement of ornamental hubcap with dust cap
- 1980 Introduction of the 2-spoke steering wheel, integrated
headrests for front seats
- 1982 Return to ornamental hubcaps, adjustable headrests
- 1984 Removal of ventilation slits in the front hood and
control knobs on the control panel
- 1985 Introduction of anti-theft security measures
- 1986 Re-introduction of the dust caps with
wheel nut covering
- 1988 Inclusion of the Golf steering wheel; engine compartment
lighting, electronic ignition
- 1989 Rear-view mirror attached to windshield,
movable sun visor on passenger side
- 1990 Control panel change, removal of one exhaust pipe with
closing panel modification, dual circuit brake system
- 1991 Automatic seat belts and lap belts in rear, warning lights
for dual circuit brake system
- 1992 Black side mirrors, bumpers in car color, special models,
for example, Beetle Summer (green and blue paint), one exhaust pipe
- 2003 „Última Edición"
On June 22, the „Reichsverband der Deutschen Automobilindustrie" (RDA) (National
Association the German Automobile Industry) commissions Ferdinand Porsche with
the design of a „people's car" or „Volkswagen".
The first prototype, with air-cooled boxer engine, 22.5 hp and 700 cc is developed.
Two additional vehicles are built.
The prototype, with three copies built, is designated the V 3. On February 24, RDA
members are presented with one sedan and one convertible version in Berlin. From
October 22 until December 22, each vehicle covers around 50,000 kilometers (over
For continuous load tests, the RDA has 30 vehicles built, which cover a total of 2.4
million test kilometers (almost 1.5 million miles).
After further reworking, the series model 38 emerges, the first to have the
characteristic „pretzel" window, running boards and bumpers. The car with the aircooled,
four-cylinder Boxer engine, with an engine capacity of 986 cc and 24 hp,
weighs 750 kilograms (over 1600 lbs). With a sedan, convertible and sedan with cloth
sunroof, three model variations were presented.
In August, the British military authority commissions the existing Volkswagen factory,
managed by the British Major Ivan Hirst, with the delivery of 20,000 sedans. In
December 1945, VW Beetle series production begins; 55 vehicles are assembled.
The 10,000th Volkswagen is produced on 14 October.
Of the 8,987 sedans manufactured in this year, the first vehicles are exported to the
The 25,000th Volkswagen leaves the line in May. Monthly vehicle production climbs
from 1,185 cars in May to 2,306 in December.
On January 8, the first two sedans are shipped from the Netherlands to the USA. On
May 13, the 50,000th Volkswagen since the end of the war is produced. On June 1,
the „Export Model" is presented, which differs from the standard model with its
comfortable interior and extra chrome plating. The four-seater convertible Type 15, with body from the Karmann Company and based on the Volkswagen export model,
also premiers this day.
Starting in April, the Volkswagen is also available with a folding top at an extra
charge. The hydraulic foot brake is introduced.
The Volkswagen is already being exported to 29 countries. In October, the production
mark of 250,000 is exceeded. The basic model is given side ventilation flaps at the
front of the car. The export model now displays the Wolfsburg coat of arms on the
front trunk, telescopic shock absorbers replace the lever shock absorbers.
Starting in October, the most important innovations on the export model are the
hinged swivel windows in the doors, a synchronized transmission and 15-inch rims.
The „pretzel" windows are replaced with larger oval ones on March 10. The 500,000th
Volkswagen rolls off the line on July 3. Exports are now sent to 86 countries.
In January, the 30 hp engine is demonstrated; it allows a top speed of 110 km/h.
One million Volkswagens have been finished as of August 8. The Volkswagen
receives a few new additions: PVC sunroof, dual exhaust, new rear lights.
In addition to tubeless tires, the vehicle receives reinforced engine compartment
insulation, a more powerful windshield wiper motor and a stronger starter.
The Volkswagen receives a larger rear window and a newly designed instrument
The driver's side is given a large side mirror.
The doors are given fixed handles with integrated pushbuttons. In August, the new
export model is introduced - the VW 1200 with 34 hp engine and fully synchronized
four-speed transmission. In addition, the standard and export models receive: turn
signals instead of turn indicators, a trunk that is 65 percent larger, a windshield
washer and asymmetric headlights.
The export model is equipped with pneumatic windshield wipers. The standard model
receives a hydraulic foot brake.
The 5,000,000th VW Beetle rolls off the assembly line. The cloth sunroof is replaced
by a steel sliding roof.
With the formation of „Volkswagen de México, S.A. de C.V." in Mexico City,
Volkswagen makes the transition from vehicle assembly to production. In November,
the standard model receives a fully synchronized transmission and the new
designation, VW 1200 A. On December 1, mass production begins in the Emden
The standard model 1200 A receives a 34 hp engine. The new export model, VW
1300, with 40 hp engine, comes on the market.
The standard model VW 1300 A replaces the 1200 A. It is available with 34 and
40 hp engines. Door and ignition locks can be operated with the same key. In July,
production of the VW 1200 A is suspended. In August, the VW 1500 has 44 hp and
front disk brakes.
The 10,000,000th Beetle is produced. The „Economy Beetle” VW 1200 with 34 hp
engine is available starting in January. Vehicle safety is improved by the introduction
of the safety steering column and three-point seat belts. Model VW 1500 is offered
with automatic transmission and semi-trailing arm rear axle.
The Volkswagen officially becomes a Beetle in its advertising.
Introduction of the VW 1300 L with custom features.
Introduction of models 1302 (34 and 40 hp) and 1302 S (50 hp) with front spring
struts and double-jointed rear axle. The Volkswagen 1302 is also built as a
convertible version. VW 1500 production ends in July.
The rear window is enlarged again.
On February 17, the former production record held by the Model T Ford is broken
with the 15,007,034th Beetle produced. In August, production begins on the
„Panorama Beetle" VW 1303 with 44 and 50 hp engines, which replaces the VW
1302. The VW 1300 S with 1.6-liter engine is introduced.
Volkswagen releases more special models: Jeans Beetle, Big Beetle „yellow-black
racer", City Beetle. VW 1300 production ends in July. The model VW 1303 A is
introduced in August. The 1303 convertible is presented.
At 11:19 a.m. on July 1, the last Beetle rolls off the line at the original Wolfsburg
plant. In August, production of the VW 1303 A is suspended.
The last VW 1303 is produced in July.
The last Beetle built in Germany rolls off the line in the Emden plant on January 19.
All told, 16,255,500 Beetles were built in Germany. Overseas, more than 1,000
Beetles are produced each day. The Mexico Beetle is a VW 1200 L with 34 hp
On January 10, the last Beetle convertible rolls off the line at Karmann in Osnabrück.
A total of 330,281 convertibles were produced.
On May 15, the 20,000,000th Beetle is produced at „Volkswagen de México" in
Puebla. The „Silver Bug" anniversary model is offered.
The 100,000th export Beetle is produced in Mexico.
On August 12, the last ship with a load of Beetles arrives in Emden.
The Mexico Beetle is equipped with a catalytic converter and Lambda probe. The
21,000,000th Beetle is produced in Mexico on May 23.
On June 25, Golf production figures pass the Beetle, with 21,517,415 units. The Golf
takes over the title of most-built Volkswagen model from the Beetle.
The last Beetle manufactured by Volkswagen rolls off the line at „Volkswagen de
México" in Puebla/Mexico in July.
Production locations :
- Germany 1945 – 1978
- Ireland 1951 – 1977
- South Africa 1951 – 1979
- New Zealand 1954 – 1972
- Belgium 1954 – 1975
- Australia 1954 – 1976
- Mexico 1954 – 2003
- Brazil 1956 – 1986
1993 – 1996
- Philippines 1959 – 1982
- Uruguay 1961 – 1987
- Venezuela 1963 – 1981
- Portugal 1964 – 1981
- Costa Rica 1966 – 1975
- Peru 1966 – 1987
- Singapore 1968 – 1974
- Malaysia 1968 – 1977
- Thailand 1972 – 1974
- Indonesia 1972 – 1976
- Yugoslavia 1973 – 1976
- Nigeria 1975 – 1987
Wallpapers of the Volkswagen Beetle 1938-2003 (click on image to enlarge)