Today truly marks the end of an era. The VW Beetle, quite possibly one of the most iconic cars ever made, rolls off the production line for the final time today.
The people’s car – Volkswagen in German – made its first appearance pre-WWII but only started flying off the showroom floor after the war. Hitler is noted as being the driving force behind the production of a simple and affordable car which culminated in Ferdinand Porsche finalising the beetle. The first concept design is credited to Bela Barenyi. The brief was that a practical car needs to be made for common people to own, not to be confused with the South African use of ‘common’.
The Volkswagen Type 1 was one of the first rear-engined cars produced for the public and it would continue being made for close to a century with over 21 million cars being manufactured over this time – the most ever for a single model. The engine produced a whopping 25hp in its initial form which would eventually progress to 40hp by the time it reached its final ‘classic’ form, the modern beetle design being significantly more powerful of course.
Post-war the manufacturing of the beetle was meant to be taken over by the British but none of their car manufacturers would take it on because, and you can’t make this up: “The vehicle does not meet the fundamental technical requirement of a motor-car…. to build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise.” The beetle, however, would have the final say, not only by becoming one of the most popular cars of all time but also by appearing on the big screen in the movie Herby.
In 2003 the classic beetle designed was retired with an epic send-off including induction into the Volkswagen museum in Wolfsburg, named El Rey (The King in Spanish) and serenaded by a mariachi band in true Mexican style.
The beetle was produced in South Africa up until 1972.