Volkswagen Beetle

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Volkswagen Type 1
A front-three quarters view of a pale-yellow Volkswagen Käfer. It features 165/80R15 tires, which shod 15x4. 5" silver, circular wheels. The Käfer features a beetle-like body, and its window is open. The picture is taken with much greenery in the background, and the photo was edited to give it a more warmer tone.1965–1966 Volkswagen Käfer
Also called
  • Volkswagen 1200/1300/1302/1303/1500/1600
  • Käfer, Carocha, Coccinelle, Fusca, Vocho, Buba
21,529,464 produced
DesignerFerdinand Porsche
Body and chassis
ClassSmall family car
Body style
LayoutRear-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Wheelbase2,400–2,420 mm (94.5–95.3 in)
Length4,079–4,140 mm (160.6–163.0 in)
Width1,539–1,585 mm (60.6–62.4 in)
Height1,500 mm (59.1 in)
Kerb weight730–930 kg (1,610–2,050 lb)

The Volkswagen Beetle, officially the Volkswagen Type 1, is a small car produced by the German company Volkswagen from 1938 to 2003. It is one of the most iconic cars in automotive history and is recognised for its distinctive shape. Its production period of 65 years is the longest of any single generation of automobile, and its total production of over 21.5 million is the most of any car of a single platform.

The Beetle was conceived in the early 1930s. The leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, decided there was a need for a people's car to serve Germany's new road network, the Reichsautobahn. The German engineer Ferdinand Porsche and his design team began developing and designing the car in the early 1930s. But the fundamental design concept can be attributed to Béla Barényi in 1925, predating Porsche's claims by over five years. The result was the Volkswagen Type 1 and the introduction of the Volkswagen brand. Volkswagen initially slated production for the late 1930s, but the outbreak of war in 1939 meant that production was delayed until the war had ended. The car was originally called the Volkswagen Type 1 and marketed simply as the Volkswagen, but it was not until 1968 that it was officially named the "Beetle".

Volkswagen implemented designations for the Beetle in the 1960s, including 1200, 1300, 1500, 1600, 1302 and 1303. Volkswagen introduced a series of large luxury models throughout the 1960 and 70s—comprising the Type 3, Type 4 and the K70—to supplement the Beetle, but none of these models achieved the level of success that it did. Rapidly changing consumer preferences toward front-wheel drive compact hatchbacks in Europe prompted Volkswagen's gradual shift away from rear-wheel drive, starting with the Golf in 1974. In the late 1970s and 80s, Japanese automakers began to dominate the market, which contributed to the Beetle's declining popularity.

Over its lifespan, the Beetle's design remained consistent, yet Volkswagen implemented over 78,000 incremental updates. These modifications were often subtle, involving minor alterations to its exterior, interior, colours, and lighting. Some more noteworthy changes included the introduction of new engines, models and systems, such as improved technology or comfort.



In May 1934, at a meeting at Berlin's Kaiserhof Hotel, Hitler insisted on a vehicle that could accommodate two adults and three children while not using more than seven litres of fuel per 100 km (32 mpg US/39 mpg UK). All components were designed for a quick and inexpensive part exchange. As Hitler explained, the reason for choosing an air-cooled engine was that many rural doctors did not have access to garages for maintaining coolant. On 22 June 1934, Ferdinand Porsche received a development contract from the Verband der Automobilindustrie (German Association of the Automotive Industry) for the prototype of an inexpensive and economical passenger car after the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, decided there was a need for a people's car—a car affordable and practical enough for lower-class people to own—to serve the country's new road network, the Reichsautobahn. Although the Volkswagen Beetle was primarily the conception of Porsche and Hitler, the idea of a "people's car" is much older than Nazism and has existed since the introduction of automotive mass-producing.

Originally designated as the Type 60 by Porsche, the Beetle project involved a team of designers and engineers comprising Erwin Komenda, who specialised in the bodywork; Josef Kales, responsible for the engine design; Karl Rabe, serving as the chief engineer; and Josef Mickl and Franz Xaver Reimspiess, the latter credited for devising the iconic Volkswagen badge. The project saw significant milestones in October 1935 with the completion of the first two Type-60 prototypes, identified as cars V1 (sedan) and V2 (convertible), denoted with a "V" signifying its status as a test car. The testing of three additional V3 prototypes began on 11 July 1936, the first of which was driven to Obersalzberg and inspected by Hitler. Two V3s were delivered to Berlin in August for examination by other Nazi Party officials, who showed great interest in them. By June 1936, the V3s underwent over 50,000 km (31,000 mi) of testing across various terrains. A series of thirty W30 development models, commissioned by Porsche and manufactured by Daimler-Benz, underwent testing in early April 1937, covering a total distance of over 2,900,000 kilometres (1,800,000 mi). All vehicles featured the characteristic rounded design and included air-cooled, rear-mounted engines. A further batch of 44 VW38 pre-production cars produced in 1938 introduced split rear windows, and subsequently, Volkswagen introduced fifty VW39 cars, completed in July 1939.

Black and white image of two black small convertibles driving on the ReichsautobahnTwo KdF cars on the Reichsautobahn, c. 1943. Since the KdF was never delivered to the public, it is likely that this was an advertisement photo.

Kraft durch Freude was in charge of this project. Robert Ley, a Nazi official, announced in 1938 that every German would own a Volkswagen within ten years. However, there were challenges. Gasoline prices in Germany were high due to taxes, making it expensive for private car ownership. Gasoline was also primarily used for the military in the Nazi regime. Despite that, the Nazi leaders saw the mass-produced car as a way to promote their system. It symbolised a shift from cars being a privilege for the wealthy to a dream that lower-class Germans could now fulfil. Hitler was particularly enthusiastic about it because the car could easily be adapted for military use.

The KdF-Wagen was not series-produced before the Second World War because the Volkswagen plant near Fallersleben (now a district of Wolfsburg), founded in May 1938, was not yet finished. During the war, other German manufacturers were concurrently producing military vehicles and armaments, so the series production of the then-called Volkswagen car could not begin until the end of the war. By the close of 1945, 1,785 Volkswagens were built and delivered to the occupying powers and the Deutsche Post.


The Beetle featured a rear-located, air-cooled four-cylinder, boxer engine and rear-wheel drive in a two-door bodywork featuring a flat front windscreen, accommodating four passengers and providing luggage storage under the front bonnet and behind the rear seat, and it has a drag coefficient of 0.48. The bodywork attached with eighteen bolts to the Beetle's nearly flat platform chassis featured a central structural tunnel. The front and rear suspension incorporated torsion bars and a front stabiliser bar, providing independent suspension at all wheels, albeit the front axle was designed with double longitudinal trailing arms, whereas the rear axle was a swing axle. Light alloy forms the Beetle's engine, transmission, and cylinder heads.

Design controversies

German-Bohemian Ferdinand Porsche (1875–1951) and his team were generally known as the original designers of the Volkswagen. However, there has been debate over whether he was the original designer. Rumours circulated, suggesting that other designers, such as Béla Barényi, Paul Jaray, Josef Ganz and Hans Ledwinka, may have influenced its design.

Béla Barényi

In 1925, Austro-Hungarian automotive engineer Béla Barényi designed a car similarly shaped to the Beetle, more than five years before Porsche unveiled his initial "People's Car" design. Through a court ruling in 1953, Barényi successfully asserted his authorship and associated claims. He explained that he had previously elucidated the concept of the Beetle, which was already formulated in the 1920s, to Porsche in great detail. However, this concept was not protected sufficiently by patents. Key elements of this concept included the air-cooled four-cylinder boxer engine at the rear, the transmission positioned in front of the rear axle, and the distinctive roundish shape. Dieter Landenberger, the head of Porsche's historical archive, later affirmed that Barényi played a "decisive role in the authorship of the later VW Beetle". Since then, he has been known for conceiving the original car design.

Paul Jaray

Many assume that Paul Jaray shaped the car's body design through his aerodynamics calculations. According to a November 2021 update of research mentioned in the fifteenth report by the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Jaray's findings influenced the design of "Hitler's streamlined KdF car", later known as the 'beetle', which became the best-selling car globally post-war. Jaray's research results in fluid mechanics for ground-bound vehicles extended beyond the VW Beetle, impacting the Tatra 77 and other vehicles. His initial patents and publications date back to the early 1920s. The engineer Christian Binnebesel scientifically presented Jaray's significant contribution to streamline form in his 2008 dissertation.

Josef Ganz

Josef Ganz's potential early contributions to the original Beetle's development remained controversial for years and lacked clear clarification. Research suggests that his idea and the concept of a compact car played a significant role in the VW Beetle's development and its prototypes. Ganz personally drove a Hanomag Kommissbrot and a swing-axle Tatra—both featuring elements such as a central tubular frame, independent wheel suspension, and a rear/mid-engine design. Ganz incorporated these technical features into his proposed vehicle designs. Hitler reportedly saw cars designed by Josef Ganz at the 1933 Berlin Auto Show. The Standard Superior, designed by Ganz for the Standard vehicle factory, featured an implied teardrop-shaped body on a central tubular frame with a rear swing axle, yet the engine was transversely installed in front of the axle, not longitudinally as a rear engine.

Hans Ledwinka

The Austrian automobile designer Hans Ledwinka, whom Porsche was a contemporary, worked at the Czechoslovakian company Tatra. In 1931, Tatra built the V570 prototype, which featured an air-cooled flat-twin engine mounted at the rear. Hitler and Porsche both were influenced by the Tatras. Hitler, an avid automotive enthusiast, rode in Tatras multiple times during political tours of Czechoslovakia and had frequent dinners with Ledwinka. Following one such tour, Hitler remarked to Porsche, "This is the car for my roads". From 1933 onwards, Ledwinka and Porsche met regularly to discuss their designs, and Porsche admitted, "Well, sometimes I looked over his shoulder, and sometimes he looked over mine" while designing the Volkswagen. The Tatra 97 of 1936 had a 1,749 cc, rear-located, rear-wheel drive, air-cooled four-cylinder boxer engine. It accommodated five passengers in its compact four-door body, which provided luggage storage under the front bonnet and behind the rear seats.

Just before the outbreak of World War II, Tatra filed numerous legal claims against VW for patent infringement. Tatra launched a lawsuit, halted only by Germany's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938, leading to the Nazi administration of the Tatra factory in October. Hitler instructed Tatra to focus exclusively on heavy trucks and diesel engines, discontinuing all car models except the V8-engined Tatra 87. The issue resurfaced post-World War II, and in 1965, Volkswagen paid Ringhoffer-Tatra 1,000,000 Deutsche Marks in an out-of-court settlement.


World War II and military production, 1938–1945

Sand-coloured Volkswagen indoors.Sand-coloured VW Type 82E with four-wheel drive–a Wehrmacht Beetle.

The name Volkswagen was officially substituted by the term KdF (Kraft durch Freude; German for 'Strength Through Joy') derived from the Nazi organisation once Hitler ceremoniously laid the foundation stone for the Volkswagen factory on 26 May 1938. As part of this organisation, Volkswagen urged workers to "save five marks a week and get your car". Before the completion of the KdF factory, many Germans had already signed up for a savings plan to buy a car. At that time, Germany had fewer cars than other European countries. In 1930, there were only about 500,000 registered cars in Germany, while France and Great Britain had over 1 million each, and the USA had more than 26 million. However, the onset of the Second World War hindered the distribution of the cars, and there was a lack of time for series production. With the Volkswagen facility dedicated solely to wartime requirements, the over 330,000 KdF savers could not acquire their vehicles. Following the war, numerous KdF savers pressed for the receipt of a Volkswagen. When their request was denied, the VW saver initiative ensued, spanning several years.

During the war, the factory predominantly built the Kübelwagen (Type 82), the Schwimmwagen (Type 166) and numerous other light utility vehicles. These vehicles were derived mechanically from the Type 1 and used by the Wehrmacht. These vehicles, including several hundred Kommandeurswagen (Type 87), featured a Type 1 Beetle body mounted on the robust chassis of the four-wheel-drive Type 86 Kübelwagen prototype. The Kommandeurswagen included a portal axle, a Schwimmwagen drivetrain, wider fenders, and oversized Kronprinz all-terrain tyres, reminiscent of the later Baja Bugs. The production of the Kommandeurswagen persisted until 1944 when the production at the plant halted due to the extensive damage inflicted by the Allied air raids. Due to gasoline shortages late in the war, a few "Holzbrenner" Beetles were built fueled with wood logs.

Blue sports racing car on the Nürburgring track in 1981.The Porsche 64 (pictured in 1981) was largely derived from the Beetle.

Planned for September 1939, Kraft durch Freude arranged an event to showcase Germany's Autobahn highway system and to promote the purported beginning of the production of the KdF-Wagen, involving a 1,500-kilometre (930 mi) journey from Berlin to Rome. Erwin Komenda supervised the development process, while Karl Froelich was responsible for creating official plans that they subsequently used to form a wooden scale model. The model was wind tunnel tested at Stuttgart University by Josef Mickl. Dubbed the "Berlin-Rome car", Porsche AG's engineers designed the Type 60 K 10, officially known as the Porsche 64. Although the engineers produced three vehicles, they never made it to the race due to the outbreak of war before the scheduled date; two of them got lost during the conflict. Austrian Otto Mathé acquired the third Berlin-Rome car and raced it throughout the 1950s, becoming the fastest in its class during the 1950 Alpine Cup. He continued to use it until his death in 1995.

Post-war production and success, 1945–1970

Black and white front view photo of a black car.The early post-war export model at the 1948 Amsterdam AutoRAI Autoshow.

Following the war, the Beetle experienced a significant growth in success. On 11 April 1945, Fallersleben, where 17,000 people lived, was officially designated "Wolfsburg". Official series manufacture of the saloon began on 27 December 1945; Volkswagen made fifty-five vehicles by the end of the year. The Volkswagen facility, initially slated for dismantling and transportation to Britain under American control in 1945, faced a lack of interest from British car manufacturers; an official report included the phrase, "The vehicle does not meet the fundamental technical requirement of a motor-car it is quite unattractive to the average buyer To build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise." Instead, the factory remained operational by producing cars for the British Army. Allied dismantling policy changed from late 1946 to mid-1947. During this period, heavy industry in Germany continued until 1951. In March 1947, Herbert Hoover helped change policy by stating:

There is the illusion that the New Germany left after the annexations can be reduced to a "pastoral state". It cannot be done unless we exterminate or move 25,000,000 people out of it.

Major Ivan Hirst (1916–2000), a British Army officer, has been widely acknowledged for the reopening of the factory. Hirst was ordered to take control of the heavily bombed factory, which the Americans had captured. Recognising the scarcity of occupations in Germany and the shortage of vehicles in the British Army, Hirst persuaded the British military to order 20,000 cars, stating that it "was the limit set by the availability of materials". By March 1946, production capacity was rated at approximately 1,000 units per month. Based on an eight-hour shift in mid-1946, production was around 2,500 per month. At the time, about 1,800 machine tools were in operation, of which 200 were used exclusively for the key components.

Once Heinrich Nordhoff assumed management at Volkswagenwerk, manufacturing capacity increased significantly. Production in 1946 and 1947 was rated at 9,878 and 8,973 examples, respectively, but in Nordhoff's first year, 1948, manufacture doubled to approximately 19,244 units. On 6 August 1955, the millionth example was assembled and by 1959, production capacity was rated at 700,000 units per year. By mid-1948, the Forces of Occupation received 20,991 cars, leaving less than 10,000 for export or domestic consumption. The number of employees increased from 6,033 by the end of 1945 to almost 57,000 in 1957. After the war, over 10,000 apartments were built to house the workers in Wolfsburg, which then had a population of nearly 60,000. In 1959, Volkswagen invested more than DM500 million to increase daily production by 1,000, reaching a final target of 3,000 per day. During 1960, the company occasionally increased production by around 100; by the end of 1960, Volkswagen planned to produce 4,000 examples daily. Nordhoff stated, "Then we believe we shall have reached a balance between supply and demand so that we can finally deliver Volkswagens to customers without a waiting period".

By the early 1960s, the Wolfsburg facility was massive. It accommodated about 10,000 production machines and covered 10.8 million square feet in roofed area, more than the combined residential area in Wolfsburg. Daily production increased to approximately 5,091, and the plant employed over 43,500 workers. By 1962, Nordhoff had spent over DM675 million in expanding the factory. At that time, Volkswagen sales constituted 34.5 per cent of the total West German automotive market and 42.3 per cent of sub-2,750 lb (1,250 kg) commercial vehicle market there. Nordhoff's recurring encouragement proved to be highly effective. He consistently urged the team to work harder, reduce expenses and avoid complacency and corporate inefficiencies. In January 1960, Nordhoff quoted:

We shall some day speak of the Golden Fifties. We are now moving away from them and we must recognise that fact and use the time given us. The wheel of history never turns back! Whatever opportunities you miss today will never return! The new year will have 366 days this time; every day, we will cross one off—and soon there will be only four left. No power of heaven or earth will bring those days back. Let us use this time, as long as we are free to do so, as we are now, and as we shall still be for a few years.

The Emden facility represented an expenditure exceeding DM154.4 million, with Beetle operations beginning there on 1 December 1964. By late 1965, Volkswagen's annual production exceeded 1,600,000 units, averaging 6,800 units per day. Volkswagen's share of all cars produced in West Germany reached 48.6 per cent, representing a 3.3% increase from the previous year. When including Audis produced at Ingolstadt, the combined output from Volkswagen and its Auto-Union company constituted 50.4% of all West German cars produced that year. In 1968, the Type 1 was officially given the name "Beetle" (from "der Käfer", German for beetle).

Decline and end of German production, 1970–1990

White hatchback car with quad headlights.The first-generation Golf served as the Beetle's replacement once Wolfsburg production ended.

While it was largely successful in the 1960s, recording its highest sales growth in North America from 1960 to 1965, the Beetle started facing competition from more contemporary designs worldwide in the 1970s. The decade started out well for Volkswagen, who sold 569,000 Beetles in 1970. In 1970, fifteen Volkswagen dealerships in Washington convened to implement the Volkswagen American Dealers Association, which was made to preserve a free market of imported international automobiles through political pressure and lobbying. On 17 February 1972, the world car production record was broken by the Beetle, with a total of 15,007,034 units produced worldwide, thereby surpassing the production figure that had been held by the American Ford Model T for nearly fifty years. Volkswagen donated the car to the Smithsonian Institution for permanent exhibition in its industrial history section. By 1973, over 16 million Beetles had been manufactured. On 1 July 1974, the final Beetle was produced at the Wolfsburg plant after 11,916,519 examples were made there. Following its discontinuation, Volkswagen ceased the ongoing development of the Beetle in Germany. On 19 January 1978, the last Beetle sedan manufactured in Europe rolled off the production line at the Emden plant with the chassis number 1182034030. After its discontinuation in Germany, production of the Volkswagen Beetle continued in Australia, Mexico and Nigeria.

In the 1960s and 70s, Volkswagen augmented its product portfolio with several models to supplement the Type 1—the Type 3, the Type 4 and the NSU-based K70 sedan. None of these models achieved the level of success of the Beetle. The overdependence on a singular model, which was experiencing a decline in popularity, meant that Volkswagen was in a financial crisis and needed German government funding to produce the Beetle's replacement. Consequently, the company introduced a new generation of water-cooled, front-engined, front-wheel-drive models, including the Golf, the Passat, the Polo and the Scirocco, all of which were styled by the Italian automotive designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. By 1979, the Golf constituted over 50 per cent of Volkswagen sales, and it eventually became Volkswagen's most successful model since the Beetle. As opposed to the Beetle, the Golf was substantially redesigned over its lifetime, with only a few components carried over between generations. On 10 January 1980, the final Beetle convertible of 330,281 rolled off the production line at the Karmann facility in Osnabrück. It was the most successful convertible for a long time and was replaced by the first Golf cabriolet in 1979.

The number of Beetle units sold by Volkswagen was at its lowest in the 1980s. The Beetle faced competition from Japanese automakers such as Toyota and Honda, whose cars were uprated in reliability and performance. The closure of Volkswagen's Pennsylvania factory was due to high costs, subpar quality, and poor sales. In the United States, Volkswagen introduced the Rabbit and Corrado, both of which had little success. The overall sales suffered a significant downturn, leading to the loss of many dealerships for the company.

New Beetle and end of production, 1990–2003

In 1991, the planning of a new car began once J Mays and Freeman Thomas returned to California to open Volkswagen's Design Centre at Simi Valley. Recognising that Japanese manufacturers dominated the market in the 1970s and 80s, Volkswagen needed to introduce a vehicle to regain popularity. Before this, the company began the development of a city car, codenamed "Chico", in which they invested millions of Deutsche Marks. In 1993, the brand stated that the Chico was intended to begin production in 1995. However, this plan was abandoned once Volkswagen realised that the project was commercially infeasible. Mays and Thomas recognised the difficulties faced by the brand and suggested the need for a vehicle that included the recognisable design of the Beetle as a potential solution to improve customer appeal. During development, this car was known as the "Concept One" project. The prototype version of the project was revealed at the 1994 Detroit Motor Show, and a red convertible variant of the model was showcased at the 1995 Geneva Motor Show.

It took a year for Volkswagen to officially confirm the production of the concept in its final form, which was slated for completion by the end of the century. To help gauge public demand of the forthcoming automobile in the United States, Volkswagen implemented a free-access telephone line to allow members to express their thoughts on the car. The line quickly became inundated with calls, with many saying, "You build it, I'll buy it!" Work on the Concept One continued, with further redesigns on its front fascia. To reduce production investments and expenses, Volkswagen initially planned to use the platform of the Polo. However, in 1995, at the Tokyo Motor Show, the company unveiled another prototype, sharing its wheelbase and its broader range of engine options with the Golf. Simultaneously, Volkswagen announced that it would be named the "New Beetle". After over six years of planning and development, Volkswagen introduced the New Beetle in 1997.

On 30 July 2003 at 9:05 a.m., at the Puebla plant in Mexico, Volkswagen produced the final Type 1, after 21,529,464 examples were produced globally during its tenure. Its production span of 65 years is the longest of any single generation of automobile, and its total production of over 21.5 million is the most of any car of a single platform. To celebrate the occasion, Volkswagen marketed a series of 3,000 Beetles as "Última Edición" (Final Edition).

Models and history of design

While the design of the Beetle changed little over its lifespan, Volkswagen implemented over 78,000 incremental updates. Typically subtle, these alterations usually involved minor updates to the exterior, interior, colours and lighting. More noteworthy changes have comprised new engines, models and systems, such as updated dashboards and hydraulic braking.

Initial and successful models, 1946–1974

The Type 11 standard limousine, initially designated as the Type 60 before 1946, received the dub "Pretzel Beetle" due to its distinctive oval-shaped, vertically divided rear window. On 1 July 1949, the Volkswagen lineup was expanded to include the "export" model featuring enhanced interiors, chrome bumpers, and trim. It was offered in a variety of colours to distinguish it from the preceding "Standard" model. Starting in 1950, an optional sunroof with a textile cover could be added at an extra cost. By March of the same year, the export model began to be equipped with a hydraulic brake system, which became a standard feature from April onwards. In 1952, the equipment was enhanced with the addition of vent windows in the doors, and the rims were reduced to a diameter of 15 inches (380 mm) from the previous 16 inches (410 mm). On 10 March 1953, the split rear window was replaced with a one-piece rear window. Starting in 1954, the Type 122 engine had a 77 mm (3.0 in) cylinder bore, increased by 2 mm (0.08 in), and an engine displacement of 1,192 cc (1.19 L; 72.74 cu in), surpassing the previous 1,131 cc (1.1 L; 69.0 cu in). This engine produced 22 kW (30 PS), a 4 kW (5.4 PS) improvement over its predecessor. In 1955, the traditional VW semaphore turn signals were replaced by conventional flashing directional indicator lamps for North America, followed by their worldwide replacement in 1961. In 1958, the Beetle received a revised instrument panel, and a larger rectangular rear window replaced the previous oval design.

"The 1961 Volkswagen sedan provides the kind of happy surprise that comes when an excellent motor vehicle is made even better."

Motor Trend, August 1960

In 1960, Volkswagen introduced a series of technical alterations. The front indicators were relocated to the front bonnet within chrome housings, and the rear indicators were integrated into the tail lamps. In January, the valve-clearing adjusting nut was slightly largened and resistor-type ignition leads were adopted. In March, Volkswagen made several modifications to its front trailing arm and the steering damper. In May 1960, Volkswagen added plastic warm air ducts to decrease noise.

Picture of a yellow automobile in a field, with an airplane in the background. This is a rear three-quarters-view of it. It has a beetle-like body shape, and its wheels are compact-sized.Rear view of a 1961 Volkswagen Type 1

In the mid-1960s, the traditional labels "standard" and "export" for the Beetle's model variants were superseded by numerical designations, approximately correlating with the engine displacements. In the October 1961 issue of Motor Trend, Don Werner noted, "Five years ago, out of every ten imported cars sold, six were Volkswagens. latest figures show the ratio is now down to about every four out of every ten. If the current VW starts to slip, the new —soon to be introduced—probably will be imported to justify the more than 600 dealerships and the $100 million investment in facilities". He continued by expressing that the Type 3 had failed to leave a positive impression on industry executives in both Europe and North America. The new engine essentially possessed identical specifications as the previous model; it was a horizontally opposed, overhead valve, four-cylinder air-cooled engine. It generated 40 kilowatts (54 PS; 54 hp) at 3,900 rpm and produced 83 newton-metres (61 lbf⋅ft) at 2,000 rpm.

The 1961 Beetle introduced a full-synchronised four-speed manual transmission, replacing the former non-synchronised first gear. The Volkswagen facility implemented 27 alterations to the new model, some of which were minor. Noteworthy changes comprised an automatic choke, an anti-icing carburettor heater, a redesigned fuel tank that increased boot capacity, an external gas tank vent to prevent odours in the car, standard windshield wipers and a new ignition switch. Stylistic improvements included new paint colours and interior design options, a coloured steering wheel and a 90-mile-per-hour speedometer. On 30 July 1962, Volkswagen made several updates for the 1963 model year, including the incorporation of an air filter into the oil filter, the introduction of larger-diameter cylinder head induction ports and the adoption of plastic for the headliner and window guides. Volkswagen replaced the Wolfsburg crest on the hood, which had been present since 1951, with the company's lettering. A heating system was also introduced. In 1965, the 1200A designation was introduced for the standard Beetle with the 22 kW (30 hp) engine.

Volkswagen introduced the 1300 in August 1965, equipped with a 1.3-litre engine producing 29.5 kW (39.6 hp). Although featuring an identical design, the 6 horsepower (4.5 kW) increase was achieved through the adoption of the crankshaft from the Type 3. This extended the stroke from 64 mm (2.5 in) to 69 mm (2.7 in), resulting in an engine displacement of approximately 78 cubic inches (1,280 cm3). 1965 also marked the Beetle's most extensive design change when its body stampings were extensively revised. It allowed for significantly larger windows, a departure from previous designs. The windshield increased by 11% in area and adopted a slight curvature, replacing its flat configuration. Door windows also expanded by 6%, with a slight backward canting of door vent window edges. Rear side windows increased by 17.5%, and the rear window by 19.5%.

In 1967, updates comprised shortened front and rear bonnets, box-profile bumpers with a railway rails design that were installed at a higher position, vertically oriented scattering discs for the headlights and larger rear lights with an iron design. Volkswagen introduced external fuel filler flap, eliminating the need to open the front bonnet for refuelling. In September 1967, the 1500 Beetle was introduced. Its engine displacement was approximately 91.1 cubic inches (1,493 cm3), its power output was 32 kW (43 hp) and it featured a three-speed semi-automatic transmission. In 1968, the 1200 received fully independent suspension, some stylistic improvements and an external fuel cap. The 1300 transitioned from six-volt to twelve-volt electrics and received dual circuit braking and a fuel gauge. The 1500 also received these alterations, as well as carburettor enhancements. In 1969, the 1200 received twelve-volt electrics, hazard warning lamps and a locking fuel cap. The 1300 was available with a semi-automatic transmission and radial-ply tyres. In 1970, the 1500 received a new carburettor and dual circuit braking, and Volkswagen discontinued the 1500.

In 1971, the 1200 received a larger windscreen, while the 1300 received a power increase to 32 kW (43 hp) and larger brakes, effectively replacing the 1500. Volkswagen replaced the 1300 with the 1300A "economy version" in 1973 for the 1974 model year, possessing the same specifications as the 1300 but maintaining the same overall design as the 1200.

Mid-life and declining models, 1970–1986

The VW 1302, introduced in August 1970, featured a redesigned front end. It incorporated a new front axle featuring MacPherson suspension struts, wishbones and a stabiliser. The enlargement of the front trunk became possible as a result. Unlike its predecessor, the spare wheel was no longer positioned diagonally at the front under the hood but instead rested horizontally under a cover in the trunk area. The company initially intended to designate the car as the "1301", but a trademark already held by the French company Simca compelled Volkswagen to use "1302" instead. Volkswagen produced the more powerful 1302S alongside the 1302. The latter has an engine displacement of 79 cubic inches (1,300 cm3), while the former has a capacity of 96.7 cubic inches (1,584 cm3). In English-speaking countries, the name "Super Beetle"—alongside "1600"—was included on the written description but not the engine cover.

The 1302 possessed the same 32.4 kW (44 PS) output as the 1300, whereas the 1302S saw an increase to 36.8 kW (50 PS). This was facilitated by a twin-port cylinder head, enabling the engines to breathe more effortlessly. The British automotive magazine Autocar expressed disappointment in its power increase, noting, "Even with 14 more power, the total output of 50 bhp is very modest for the size of the engine". The Super Beetle had a 2 cm (0.8 in) increase in wheelbase, but the extra space was in front of the windshield. For 1971, the overall length increased by 8 cm (3.1 in), doubling the front trunk capacity and adding 3 cu ft (0.1 m3) of luggage space. Volkswagen also implemented a new fresh-air ventilation system, drawing its air from the rear quarter panels.

Front three-quarters-view of a white car with a compact body and small wheels1983 Volkswagen 1200

In August 1972, the 1303 range superseded the 1302 model, which featured a curved windshield. This design change elicited mixed opinions; some favoured it, while others expressed dissatisfaction. Despite the effort to infuse the Beetle with a modernised design, this did not resonate with consumers, resulting in declining Beetle sales. In 1975, the 1303 and 1303S received rack and pinion steering, but in July of that year, Volkswagen discontinued both of them. The long-serving 1200 was renamed the "1200L" in 1976, with the additional deluxe features incorporated into the car's interior. In July 1984, Volkswagen eliminated the engine lid louvres.

Final models, 1986–2003

Starting in 1986, for the 1987 model year, the sole model available was the single-carburettor version with 98 cubic inches (1,600 cm3). From late 1992 for the 1993 model year, Volkswagen standardised catalytic converters, the Bosch Digifant engine management system, a lambda probe and electric ignition. This fuel-injection system proved much more straightforward and reliable than previous injection systems used on German-assembled Volkswagens since 1967. Vehicles with these modifications can be identified externally by the reintroduced louvred engine lid, heavier and larger bumper bars, four-stud wheels with twenty ventilation holes and a "1600i" badge on the engine lid. The 1993 model also featured a third-generation Golf-style steering wheel and front seats, a protection alarm, handbrake and engine compartment lamps and an optional ZF limited-slip differential. The engine received hydraulic tappets, a full-flow oil filter, a 6.6:1 compression ratio—allowing for the use of unleaded fuel—and an electric fuel pump. A standard version was also released in 1993, featuring painted bumper bars and many minor removals.

From 1997, front disc brakes and an immobiliser became available, and the De Luxe model featured small traffic indicator side lamps ahead of the top door hinge. The steering wheel's centre boss was restyled to resemble that of the contemporary Golf and Polo. In 1998, Volkswagen removed the small through-flow ventilation slots behind the rear side windows and standardised front disc brakes. Furthermore, Volkswagen included a security alarm as standard and removed the "1600i" inscription from the engine lid.

Markets and assembly

Over its 65-year tenure, Volkswagen produced the Volkswagen Type 1 in numerous locations worldwide. The following list encompasses all the locations in which it was manufactured.

Specific markets

The white cockpit of a 1960s automobile.Interior of the 1961 Brazilian-built Fusca Brazil

Official exportation of the Beetle to the Brazilian market began on 23 March 1953, with its parts imported from Germany. For the local market, the Type 1 was officially known "Volkswagen Fusca". In January 1959, Volkswagen shifted assembly to the new São Bernardo do Campo plant, initially maintaining 60 per cent of its German parts. However, by the mid-1960s, the cars had about 99.93 per cent Brazilian-made components. Production persisted until 1986, after over 3.3 million examples were produced there. But manufacture resumed in 1992, extending until 1996.


The production of the Beetle was possible through agreements with companies like Chrysler in Mexico and the Studebaker-Packard Corporation, who assembled cars imported in complete knock-down form. The Beetle was introduced to the Mexican market in 1954, and began official production ten years later. The local market referred to the Beetle as the "Vocho". The introduction of a new taxi regulation in Mexico City, requiring only four-door vehicles to be permitted to prevent robberies, influenced Volkswagen's decision to the end of the production of the Beetle in 2003.


Formal introduction of the Volkswagen Beetle to the Australian market took place in 1953, followed by local assembly operations at the Clayton, Victoria facility in the subsequent year. The establishment of Volkswagen Australia Ltd took place in 1957, and by 1960, locally manufactured body panels were integrated for the first time. Despite the introduction of larger windows for the European Type One body in 1965, Volkswagen Australia opted to maintain production of the smaller-windowed bodies with features tailored for Australian models. This decision was influenced by the constraints of the market size and the expenses associated with retooling. By this juncture, Australian content had surged to nearly 95 per cent. The final Australian-assembled Beetle rolled off the production line in July 1976.

Retrofit program

Volkswagen entered into partnership with eClassics, enabling Beetle owners to electrify their vehicles. The electric conversion kit includes a battery with a capacity of 36.8 kWh, providing an estimated range of 200 kilometres (120 mi). The converted Beetle can achieve a top speed of 150 kilometres per hour (93 mph), and an hour of charging can store sufficient energy for a journey exceeding 150 kilometres (93 mi).

See also



  1. ^ It is known informally in German as der Käfer (meaning "beetle"), in parts of the English-speaking world as the Bug, and by many other nicknames in other languages.
  2. ^ While the first units were produced in 1938, series production did not commence until 1945.
  3. ^ It is the longest-running automobile without significant changes in design; the Chevrolet Suburban is the longest-running nameplate.
  4. ^ An inexpensive, simple, mass-produced car
  5. ^ When referring to the surname "Porsche" of Ferdinand Porsche, it should not be mistaken for the automotive brand he established. The correct term for the company is Porsche AG, or "Porsche" followed by the specific model name (e.g., Porsche Cayenne).
  6. ^ For more information about its decline, see § Decline and end of German production
  7. ^ The convertibles were constructed at this location, not the coupes.
  8. ^ For a complete overview of the discontinuation of the Beetle, see § New Beetle and end of production


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