Monday, April 3, 2017

Adolf Hitler And Volkswagen

Sitting at a restaurant table in Munich in the summer of 1932, Hitler designed the prototype for what would become the immensely successful Beetle design for Volkswagen (literally, the "car of the people"). In an era where only the most economic elite possessed cars, Hitler believed that all people should be able to own a car and additionally thought that a smart design could allow for reliability, enjoyment, and vacation travel. The name given to the car in 1938 was Kraft durch Freude (KdF-Wagen, literally "strength through joy car").

Hitler gave his design to the head of Daimler-Benz, Jakob Werlin, and stressed its importance. "Take it with you and speak with people who understand more about it than I do. But don't forget it. I want to hear from you soon, about the technical details."


Unusual Volkswagens

 23 window bus with famous worldly monuments artwork

 With over 20 million Beetles built since the 1940's, there has also been a fair share of chopped up and mutilated Beetles. Some Beetles get treated to chopped tops, a modification that was popular in the 1970's, but is still comon today. Some busses get unusual paint jobs, or become the tool of some wacko's imagination, while others are produced to be different than most busses. 

    One thing is clear. Volkswagens go beyond their stock forms almost always today. In some cases, they radically depart from their original states. In these pages, you can see almost all of the pictures I have of "unusual Volkswagens." Almost all of them are real enough that they can and are driven, some others are just built to look strange, but aren't ever used, and some are just examples of what can be done with modern photo editing programs.  

New Beetle limousine

This is just an example of what some people do to their cars. There are several Volkswagen Beetle limousines in existence (as of today, there aren't any New Beetle Limousines yet), there is at least one Microbus limousine, and, well, you can see for yourself what some people already want to do.

Vintage Volkswagen firetruck

What is there to say about this one? If you are already a Volkswagen fan (not literally, what are you thinking people?), then you've probably already heard about one of these. This one has been restored completely, and still drives. It is based in Europe, and at the time of this photograph, was letting adventurous people climb to the top of the rickety ladder. Needless to say, it isn't a Mack truck like most Americans are used to. Also, how appropriate that this firetruck can use all the water onboard to fight fires (not something a regular firetruck can do), since it is aircooled.

Beetle with lights all over itself
I have no idea how old this one is, but by looking at the car, it isn't super old. The lights onboard are a nice touch, perhaps this one was intended for use in Nevada, as a mobile lighted casino on the strip. Who knows! I guess the stereo is out on this one, since all the juice the generator can provide is going to those lights.

Plant covered swamp Beetle
This is what happens when you spill grass seed all over your Beetle after running it through the mud in springtime. Sooner than you can say where's my herbicide, the grass is there. Good luck finding a mower to keep this one trimmed. This is one of the coolest Beetle pictures I've seen in a long time. Ch-Ch-Ch-ChiaBeetle!

1/2 Beetle
This is a good example of what happens when you are sitting in your garage, with a beer and a blow-torch in hand, and are pondering the ways to increase your gas mileage. This is a real car, and it is being serviced at a mechanic's shop somewhere in Austria. I have heard about short Beetles like this in Mexico too.

Railroad Beetle
This is a real Beetle used in Canada to transport crews to small hydroelectric plants in remote areas. Since large crews and heavy equipment aren't necessary in each case, this company developed a railroad version of the Beetle. It looks like an easy conversion: just remember not to steer. I wonder what moose up there think of this when it is coming towards them on the tracks...

Floating Beetle
Several people have tried to float/boat their ways across large bodies of water with their Beetles. This can be done, since the Beetle is a well built car, and has excellent seals. The car in this picture had special double seals on everything, and special custom seals on cables and shafts that normally weren't water tight. This guy really has this Beetle floored in the English Channel...


Volkswagen's History

On this day May 28th in 1937, the government of Germany–then under the control of Adolf Hitler of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party–forms a new state-owned automobile company, then known as Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH. Later that year, it was renamed simply Volkswagenwerk, or “The People’s Car Company.”

Originally operated by the German Labor Front, a Nazi organization, Volkswagen was headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. In addition to his ambitious campaign to build a network of autobahns and limited access highways across Germany, Hitler’s pet project was the development and mass production of an affordable yet still speedy vehicle that could sell for less than 1,000 Reich marks (about $140 at the time). To provide the design for this “people’s car,” Hitler called in the Austrian automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche. In 1938, at a Nazi rally, the Fuhrer declared: “It is for the broad masses that this car has been built. Its purpose is to answer their transportation needs, and it is intended to give them joy.” However, soon after the KdF (Kraft-durch-Freude)-Wagen (“Strength-Through-Joy” car) was displayed for the first time at the Berlin Motor Show in 1939, World War II began, and Volkswagen halted production. After the war ended, with the factory in ruins, the Allies would make Volkswagen the focus of their attempts to resuscitate the German auto industry.

Volkswagen sales in the United States were initially slower than in other parts of the world, due to the car’s historic Nazi connections as well as its small size and unusual rounded shape. In 1959, the advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach launched a landmark campaign, dubbing the car the “Beetle” and spinning its diminutive size as a distinct advantage to consumers. Over the next several years, VW became the top-selling auto import in the United States. In 1960, the German government sold 60 percent of Volkswagen’s stock to the public, effectively denationalizing it. Twelve years later, the Beetle surpassed the longstanding worldwide production record of 15 million vehicles, set by Ford Motor Company’s legendary Model T between 1908 and 1927.

With the Beetle’s design relatively unchanged since 1935, sales grew sluggish in the early 1970s. VW bounced back with the introduction of sportier models such as the Rabbit and later, the Golf. In 1998, the company began selling the highly touted “New Beetle” while still continuing production of its predecessor. After nearly 70 years and more than 21 million units produced, the last original Beetle rolled off the line in Puebla, Mexico, on July 30, 2003.

After 1949, production at Volkswagen steadily increased. Nordhoff's experience and knowledge proved invaluable for the company. Late in 1949, an idea for a utility/transport vehicle was developed, and by 1950, the VW transporter was born.

Barndoor Microbus
Volkswagens were being exported to neighboring European countries such as Denmark, Sweeden, Luxemburg, Belgium, and Switzerland. As early as 1950, Volkswagen began producing Beetles in South Africa (They were now known as Beetles) as well. Volkswagen comissioned an old German coach building company, Karmann, to build their Beetle convertibles. Every single convertible Volkswagen Beetle was completed by Karmann: hence the special badges on VW convertibles. In 1952, a Volkswagen dealership was opened in England: which was the first there. A few Volkswagens were imported into the United States in 1949 by Ben Pon, but they didn't immediatley gain popularity. Very few were sold in their first year in the US.

First Beetle imported to the US getting off the boat
The Hoffmann company of New York, which imported Beetles in the early 1950s, eventually abandonded Volkswagen, and imported Porsches instead. Volkswagen did not sell many cars in the United States until later in the mid-1950's. 

 In 1951, Volkswagen began to export a deluxe version of the beetle. There was already a "standard" Beetle, which was only available in a dull gray color. These standard Beetles were spartan: they lacked synchromesh transmissions, exterior and interior chrome, and other special extra options that one might expect to have as standard in cars today. There were also regular export cars, that were available in several colors. The export cars also had chrome and more options as standard, such as a radio. The American export cars had even more chrome than regular export cars, and were generally the most elaborate with options and features. The American deluxe Beetles got hydraulic brakes in 1952, and lost their semaphores (flag-like turn signals) in 1955. 

 Volkswagen transporters were not as popular as Beetles, and in the first 5 years of production, there were 4 times fewer Buses built as Beetles. The Buses (and all other transporters) produced before 1955 had characteristically large engine access doors. Today, they are largely known as "barndoor" buses. Some people think that barndoor is supposed to be a reference to the side doors, but it is a misconception. These early barndoor transporters are very rare today. 

Still in the 1950's, Volkswagen had already acted on its global goals by building factories in several countries. A factory began building Beetles in England, the plant in South Africa was building them, and a plant in Brazil provided a South American connection. Later, in 1960, a plant in Australia opened up, but never ended up being as successful as the other factories.


1973 Volkswagen Thing

The Volkswagen Type 181 was a two-wheel drive, four-door, convertible, off-road, manufactured by Volkswagen from 1968 to 1983. Originally developed for the West German Army, the Type 181 was also sold to the public, as the Kurierwagen in West Germany, the Trekker (RHD Type 182) in the United Kingdom, the Thing in the United States (1973–74), the Safari in Mexico and South America, and Pescaccia in Italy. Civilian sales ended after model year 1980.

Manufactured in Wolfsburg, West Germany (1968–74), Hannover, West Germany (1974–83), Puebla, Mexico (1970–80), and Jakarta, Indonesia (1973–80), the Type 181 shared some of its mechanicals with Volkswagen's Type 1 (Beetle) and the pre-1968 Volkswagen Microbus, and the floorpan of the Type1 Karmann Ghia, and its concept with the company's K├╝belwagen, which had been used by the German military during World War II.


During the 1960s, several European governments began cooperating on development of a vehicle known as the Europa Jeep, a lightweight, amphibious four-wheel drive vehicle that could be mass-produced for use by various national military and government groups. Development of the vehicle proved time-consuming, however, and the West German government was in need of a limited number of light, inexpensive, durable transport vehicles that could fulfill their basic needs while the Europa Jeep was being developed and put into production.

Although Volkswagen had been approached during the 1950's about building such a vehicle, and had subsequently passed on the proposition, the then-current management of the company saw the project as having some amount of potential as a consumer vehicle; Mexican customers were asking for something that could handle rural roads better than the Type 1, which was a large seller in Mexico at the time, and the popularity of VW-based dune buggies within the U.S. made executives think that a durable, fun, off-road-capable vehicle would become attractive to many buyers. VW could keep cost to a minimum and thus maximize profitability by using existing parts.

Like the World War II era Type 82 K├╝belwagen, the Type 181 used mechanical parts and a rear-engine platform, manual transmission and a flat-4 engine derived from that of the Type 1.
The floorpans came from the Type 1 Karmann Ghia, which had a wider floorpan than the Beetle. Rear swing axle suspension with reduction gearing from the discontinued split-screen Volkswagen Transporter was used until 1973, when it was replaced with double-jointed axles used by Porsche and IRS semi-trailing arm setup as used on the 1303 and US-spec Beetles.

Civilian sales began in mainland Europe and Mexico during 1971; in the U.S. in 1972; and briefly in Britain in 1975, where it failed to sell well and was dropped fairly quickly.

The model was dropped from the American lineup for 1975 as it failed to meet new, stricter US safety standards. The Type 181 was reclassified as a passenger vehicle, and thus subject to stricter safety standards. The Windshield Intrusion Rule of the 1975 DOT standard called for a greater distance between the front seat occupants and the front window glass.

The Europa Jeep was the result of a NATO plan to have a vehicle whereby each European NATO makers all combined to build a light-duty patrol vehicle.

The Volkswagen 181 was only supposed to fill in, until the time that the Europa Jeep was ready. From 1968 until 1979, over 50,000 Type 181s were delivered to the NATO forces. By 1979 the Europa Jeep project had fallen apart completely and was abandoned, and the West German government began supplementing their consumption of 181s with the new front-engined Type 183 Iltis.

Despite the West German government's switch to the Type 183, European and Mexican sales of the civilian 181 continued through 1980, and several organizations, including NATO, continued to purchase military-spec Type 181 units through 1983, finding their reliability and low purchase and maintenance costs attractive.


Can You Name The Year And Model Of These Volkswagens?