This car is the oldest known Beetle in the United States and the 5th-oldest known Beetle in existence. All 600 Beetles made during the war were delivered to high-ranking military and party officers. This car was delivered to Kanzlei des Fuhrers (Hitler's personal chancellery) in Berlin. The 'KdF' in KdF-Wagen stands for Kraft durch Freude - 'strength through joy.' The town where the Beetle factory was built was named KdF-Stadt, now known as Wolfsburg and remains the home of Volkswagen today. This black over salt-and-pepper car was restored in 1999.
The VW Beetle was designed in 1937 by Erwin Komenda under Professor Ferdinand Porsche on the instructions of Adolf Hitler to produce a 'peoples' car'. It was given aerodynamic styling and a split rear windows because curved glass was inordinately expensive. Stuttgart-based coachbuilder Reutter created the buck for the classic Beetle shape that would remain virtually unchanged until 1967.
On May 26th of 1938, Hitler laid the cornerstone of a new factory near Fallersleben, Lower Saxony. It was meant to produce the 'KdF-Wagen' and the adjoining new town would be known as 'KdF-Stadt'. After the war, it was renamed Wolfsburg.
The KdF-Wagen, the first example of the Volkswagen Beetle, were built in small quantities between 1937 and 1944. As many as 840 KdF Volkswagens may have been produced during that time. Most were supplied to minor officials in The National Socialist German Workers' Party. This particular example is a Type 60 that was originally delivered to the German Red Cross at Potzdam Babelsberg in Berlin on June 1st of 1943. In 2000, it was advertised for sale in a Polish provincial newspaper where it was purchased by its current owner. It was then sent to Germany, where it was delivered to Peter Schmalbach in Frankfurt-am-Mein for restoration. After Mr. Schmalbach died, the car was sent to Christian Grundmann in Hessisch Oldendorf for further restoration work, using original KDF parts as appropriate, before dispatch to Hermann Schimkat for final inspection. The completed car was delivered to its owner in Belgium, who promptly drove it 400km to a major Volkswagen show for its debut. It was then shipped to the owner's Tennessee residence in December of 2013. By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2016
The Beetle is perhaps the best-selling car of all-time. Truly, a recognizable shape that has stood the test of time. The vehicle is still being produced in Mexico, continuing the long-time running record.
Adolf Hitler was searching for a people's car that was capable of transporting three children and two adults at speeds of sixty miles-per-hour. The car was to be inexpensive, costing the same as a motorcycle. Ferdinand Porsche was commissioned to produce such a vehicle.
There are many theories as to where the designs originated from. Some believe Hitler designed the vehicle. Some theorize that it was Joseph Ganz's 1920 design that was the true inspiration for the Beetle design. Porsche had created designs for the Mercedes-Benz 170H, which played into the design of the Beetle.
Inspiration for the Beetle had been drawn from the Tatra vehicles, mainly the T97, that had been designed by Hans Ledwinka. Due to the similarities, Tatra launched a lawsuit which never really materialized due to Germany invading Czechoslovakia. The lawsuit was later re-opened after World War II and Volkswagen was forced to pay Tatra 3,000,000 Deutsche Marks. This left Volkswagen with little money for development of new Beetle models.
The Volkswagen Beetle first came on the scene in 1947, but they were known by a different name. KdF, short for Kraft durch Freude meaning 'power by joy', was designated to these small, gas-friendly vehicles. In English, the name Beetle was used. In German, they were known as Kafer, and in French they were called Coccinelle.
These little bundles of joy featured mechanical drum brakes and a gearbox void of synchromesh.
In 1949 the Volkswagen logo was placed on the rims. The engine was expanded to 1131 cc and was capable of producing 25 horsepower. The models that were produced after October of 1949 could be started without a 'starting crank'.
Two convertible options were offered by Volkswagen in 1949. The two-seater design, designated 14A, was penned by Josef Hebmuller. The four-seater Type 15 version was designed and produced by Karmann of Osnabruck. The four-seater was vastly more popular and stayed in production for 30 years.
The 14A was stylish and attractive, with the major shortcoming being a fire that destroyed the factory where they were being produced. The two-seaters featured a rear deck nearly identical to the front hood. The strength of the car, lost by removing the roof, was amplified by a stronger windshield frame and dual Z-section girders located under the floor. In 1953, the last of the Hebmuller rolled off the assembly line, after only 696 examples were produced.
In a time when practicality ruled over style, the four-seater cabriolet was king. The Karmann company had a long history of designing and building cars. In business since 1901, was familiar with assembly line production, benefits and features of different types of metals, and the styles of multiple markets.
The mechanical, cable-driven brakes were replaced with hydraulic brakes in 1950.
During the 1950's the Beetle saw exterior and interior improvements. 1951 saw the addition of arm-rests which were discontinued just a few months later. In 1952, 2nd-4th gears became synchronized. The dashboard was redesigned with a glove compartment. The rear of the Beetle was updated in 1953, receiving a new single oval pane window in place of its original split rear window design. In 1955, the bumper was improved and electrical direction-indicators were installed. A second tail-pipe was added. The front seats became wider and could be moved to three different seat-back adjustable positions.
In 1956, the tires became tubeless. Near the end of '56, side view mirrors became standard on all Beetle models.
In 1957 the front window was increased by 17 percent while the rear window received a 95 percent increase. A new dashboard, rear view mirror, radio, and a speaker appeared. The turn signals would now turn-off automatically.
Up to this point, a roller pedal had been used to initiate acceleration. This was the year that the gas pedal replaced the roller pedal.
In 1958, ivory disc wheels were offered.
In 1960, an engine capable of producing 34 horsepower was offered. The speedometer was increased from 74 mph to 87 mph. A windshield-wiper washer system became available. The front directional light was changed from white to amber.
A gas gauge was added in July of 1961.
In 1963, the seats were changed from wool upholstery to synthetic. The VW emblem located on the hubcap was no longer painted. The safety of the vehicle was once-again enhanced with the enlargement directional lights.
There were minor changes in 1964. The windows did, however, become larger.
In 1965, the front axle was improved. The ongoing saga of incremental improvements received another chapter - A defroster vent was added to the center of the dashboard.
The Beetle continued to be sold in the United States until 1978 with the convertible version was sold until early 1980. Sales continued in Europe until 1985. Developing countries, such as Mexico, have been developing the Beetle since 1964 and the vehicles have remained in production since that time. By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2013
The 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans would end up being the darkest day in all of motorsport when Pierre Levegh launched off the back of Lance Macklins Austin-Healey and crashed into a barrier sending large...