On June 22, 1934 the Reichsverband der Deutschen Automobilindustrie (RDA) (National Association of the German Automobile Industry) commissioned Ferdinand Porsche for a design of a new people’s car. In Ferdinand Porsche’s opinion, the 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 had an air-cooled, 700cc boxer engine producing 22,5 hp. The prototype featured an independent 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. More prototypes were built for testing and development purposes before the car was unveiled in 1938 with a 986cc engine. However, because of the war, the mass production of the Volkswagen Beetle didn’t start until 1945.
The Volkswagen Beetle weighted just 750 kilograms (1600 lbs). The 1945 model had an air-cooled, 4-cylinder, 1131cc Boxer engine delivering 25 horsepower. The car buyers’ increasing prosperity and higher demands resulted in the development of more powerful engines. Enlarging the engine capacity to 1192cc and reworking the cylinder heads 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.
Volkswagen also designed a 1.5-litre Boxer engine early on. This closely resembled the already established 1.2-litre 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 1493cc gave the Beetle 45 hp. In 1972 Volkswagen introduced the 1.6-litre boxer engine with a power output of 50 hp at 4000 rpm. This engine was constantly modernised. In 1993, the 1600 received its last technical improvements. The engine was fitted with a fuel injection system and the cylinder head got hydraulic valve lifters. In addition, the catalytic converter was now fitted with a Lambda probe. With these technical upgrades, the Beetle complied with the relevant environmental standards.
The first generation Volkswagen Beetle was conceived and planned as a unified model. But with the start of the economic uptrend, there came the first export models of the Beetle. In particular, these were fitted with better equipment, a diverse range of colors and chrome ornamentation. Furthermore, the load-bearing underbody offered independent body builders the chance to use the mass produced base as the starting point for elegant custom bodies. Although the Beetle always preserved its shape over the years, it reacted sensibly to social and technical developments. In the Beetle’s history, there were only a few years in which no changes were made to the car.
Soon after the production started in 1945, the Volkswagen Beetle became an international success. Exports started in 1947 and only one year later, 23 percent of the production was already for export. By 1953, Volkswagen had customers in 83 countries. Volkswagen Beetles were built around the world. In addition to the Volkswagen plants in Germany, Volkswagen Beetle models were also manufactured in Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Nigeria, Thailand, Singapore, Australia and in New Zealand.
On July 1, 1974, the last Volkswagen Beetle rolled off the line at the original Wolfsburg plant. The last Germany built classic Volskwagen Beetle was manufactured at the Emden plant on January 19, 1978. A total of 16,255,500 Beetles were built in Germany. However, overseas, more than 1,000 Beetles were still produced every day. In July 2003, the definitively last classic Volkswagen Beetle rolled off the assembly line in Puebla at Volkswagen de Mexico. A total of 21,529,464 classic Volkswagen Beetle models were manufactured worldwide.
VW Beetle 1100 (1945-1953) Specifications
- Rear, longitudinal
- Four-cylinder boxer
- Air cooled
- 18 kW (25 hp) / 3,300rpm
- 68 Nm / 2,000rpm
- 2,400 mm
- 4070 mm
- 1540 mm
- 1550 mm