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The legendary VW Beetle

By raccars Published

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Few cars can claim as long and fascinating a history as the Volkswagen Beetle. The original Beetle was designed in 1938 by Ferdinand Porsche and continued to be made until 2003, selling a total of more than 21 million units. The car was built on the orders of Adolph Hitler, who tasked Ferdinand Porsche with designing a 'peoples' car', to drive on his newly built road network. The brief was to create a cheap and simple car. The result, a rear-engined, air-cooled and rear-wheel drive car, went on to become the best-selling car of a single design platform in history.

VW has based some of its huge success on this early model and this year VW sales are set to reach 10 million.

It is thought that Porsche was influenced by the Tatra V570, a Czech car that was known to be admired by Hitler. The Tatra T97 produced in 1936 was also strikingly similar to the Beetle, with an air-cooled rear engine driving the rear wheels and a luggage compartment under the bonnet. The Czech company certainly thought that the Beetle was a copy of its own car and started legal proceedings, but these were abandoned with the onset of war. After the war, VW paid Tatra 3 million Deutsche Marks to settle the matter out of court. The Beetle was able to sustain high speed cruising on Germany's autobahns and led a new trend towards rear-engined cars, a design that was ultimately replaced by front-engined, front-wheel drive cars in the 1970s. Convertible versions and the VW bus were successful spin-off models.

The Beetle sold extremely well until the 1970s, when it began to be overtaken by more modern designs from competitors in Europe, Japan and America. Volkswagen suffered as a result and needed government help to pay for the development of the Beetle’s successor, the Golf. The Beetle continued to be built in VW’s German factories until 1978, when production was moved to Mexico and Brazil. The final Beetle was built in Mexico in July 2003.

Volkswagen has a great reputation for high quality engineering and this contributes to the low rates of depreciation of VW cars compared with other marques. Another motoring icon the VW Golf recently had a birthday. The original hot hatch has outlasted many of its peers with its fun drive-ability and reliability.

The VW Beetle is clearly more than the sum of its parts. The car developed a personality, as demonstrated by the 'Herbie' films, featuring an intelligent VW Beetle. As a cheap and simple to maintain car, it was adopted by younger drivers and became synonymous with the youth culture of the 1960s. The car’s pretty curves are unthreatening and although the basic mechanics produced only average performance and handling, the Beetle managed to take its place in motoring history, as one of the best-loved and most influential designs ever conceived.

With summer nearly here is the the perfect time to take the top down and go cruising in your convertible. And RAC Cars has a selection of some stunning VW Beetle convertibles. Many remember summer holidays in the family VW Camper Van. Sadly, Volkswagen has discontinued production but the VW Camper is gone but not forgotten.

If you are looking to own a classic car then you can't go far wrong with the VW Beetle. RAC Cars has a great range of VW Beetles from the classic look to the up-to-date.

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