The VW Beetle is one of the most exceptional success stories in the history of making cars. Adolf Hitler had this idea of an affordable automobile for the German people and so he charged an engineer by the name Ferdinand Porsche with the responsibility of designing a low-cost vehicle for his idea. Ferdinand embarked on designing the vehicle but the beetle’s production had to wait until after the 2nd world war. Since commencing production, up to 2003, over 21 thousand beetles were made and for a single model this is quite a record.
In the late 1930s Germany, most of the motorists were inexperienced, the road conditions were… 1930 of course. The Beetle was built with all these in mind.
The mechanics of the Beetle were made simple. An example was the air-cooled engine that prevented the car from overheating and reliability was guaranteed by the low power output. The engine was made of alloy and placed at the back, a position that meant less weight from a heavy axle and propeller shaft typical of any rear wheel drive car.
One look at the beetle and there is no doubt it has good aerodynamics. The streamlined body reduced fuel consumption and gives it that unique feel. This design concept has contributed to the beetle being labeled ‘Timeless’. The idea was to minimize the costs of production thus the use of unsynchronized gearbox and cable brakes to lower the production cost.
The later beetle versions had a gradual improvement in addition of features. The 1949 export version for example had enlarged windows, ribbed rear bumpers and a few additional interiors. Some features though like the flat windscreen remained for all through the production period except for the 1303.
Fans started modifying the beetle back in the 1950s. A Porsche 356 Engine would be fitted to produce more horsepower, meaning the chassis and brakes had to be upgraded to match with power. Most of the modifiers were looking for more horsepower and speed on the road.
The Volkswagen Beetle production started at a period in time when Britain was occupying the larger Germany. and perhaps this explains the early entry of the car into Kenya together with ford models we see around as classics. In Kenya today, the Beetle has a unique fan community that does road trips and proudly shares pictures and stories of their beetles.
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