Standard Beetle Production Info
Q. Who designed and built the Beetle?
The history began as a dream of Ferdinand Porsche. He had a vision about building a car that everybody could afford. In the early 1920s, while working with Daimler-Benz, he tried to convince them of the idea of a small, affordable car, but Benz cancelled the prototype considering it too risky. After leaving Benz, in 1932 he approached Zündapp, in which a 3 cylinder water cooled prototype was designed and tested very briefly – so briefly that the because of severe cooling problems, the engine melted after only 10 minutes of testing! Zündapp promptly dropped the project and NSU subsequently partnered with Porsche to expand from their currently line of motorcycle production into automobiles. During this period, a crude, but more recognizable shape of the Beetle was coming into view along with the now common but then revolutionary design of torsion bar suspension, engine being mounted in the rear, mated directly to a transaxle design. Three prototypes called the “Type 32” were built and tested, but due to the economical climate of Germany at the time, NSU withdrew from the project. With the German government becoming interested in a “Peoples Car”, Porsche worked with them to deliver three more prototypes in 1936 called the “W1”. The next series of prototypes were built in 1937 and called the “VW 30”. By this time final form of the Beetle we know today came into being. A number of engines were also tested before the decision was taken to go ahead with the flat four air cooled engine designed by Franz Reimspeiss. That engine was more or less to be unchanged until this day. Although a small number of Beetles and Cabriolets were built for German government officials and because of wartime conditions during World War II, actually production of the Beetle for mass consumption did not commence until after the war in 1945. Despite the fact that 2/3 of the factory was destroyed by the allied bombing the workers managed to assemble 58 cars during the remaining of 1945, mainly from spare parts found in the remains. Starting in 1946, the factory was ordered to produce 1000 cars a month. By 1955, Volkswagen was producing 1000 cars a day. From humble beginnings, the rest is history
Q. How many Beetles were produced?
On February 17, 1972, Volkswagen overtook the Ford Model T as the most produced single model car with over 15 million made. On May 15, 1981, the 20 millionth Beetle rolled off the assembly line in South America. When production ceased in July 2003 in Mexico, over 22 million Beetles had been made.
Q. When was the Beetle first sold in the United States?
In 1949, Max Hoffman was granted an exclusive right to distribute and sell the Volkswagen Beetle in the eastern half of the United States. A whopping total of 2 Beetles were sold. In 1950, that figure increased to 157 Beetles. By 1953 Hoffman had sold 1,139 Beetles in the United States at which point Volkswagen decided to distribute them through their own established distributorship and dealer network.
Q. What was the first year the Beetle upgraded to a 12 Volt Electrical System?
The 12 Volt Electrical System was available as an option in Europe for the 1965 and 1966 model year. In the 1967 model year, it became standard and was introduced in the United States at that time.
Q. What were those funny looking turn signals called semaphores?
Volkswagen did not introduce flashing turn signals on the Beetles until the 1955 model year and it was primarily because of an American requirement. Prior to this time, the Beetle used a type of non flashing turn signal called the Semaphore, which was essentially a finger shaped object that was lighted thru an amber/yellow colored lens. The Semaphore popped out the “B” pillar on either the left or right side of the car. Semaphore Turn Signals were what was prevalently used throughout Europe. Volkswagen continued to offer the Semaphore Turn Signal on Beetles and Type 2s (primarily in European markets) through the early 1960s.
Q. What is a “Zwitter”
A Zwitter is a Beetle manufactured between October 1952 thru March 10, 1953. The Beetle retained the rear window in two split halves, but had the newly redesigned dashboard more commonly seen in the Oval Rear Window Beetles thru the 1957 model year.
Q. Why is a Beetle called a “Type 1”?
In the beginning, Volkswagen assigned each model as a “Type” to indicate it’s characteristics. The Type 1 is actually a family consisting of the Type 1 Beetle, Type 14 Karmann Ghia, Type 15 Convertible/Cabriolet and the Type 18 “Thing” (also known as the “Safari” in some markets. This even extended into the water cooled production as the Type 16 Jetta, Type 17 Golf/Rabbit and the Type 19 Golf II. As a matter of information, the Type 2 is more commonly known as the Kombi, Microbus and Vanagon, the Type 3 is known as the Notchback Sedan, Fastback Sedan, Squareback Wagon (also known in Europe as the Variant) and the limited production Type 34 Karmann Ghia. The Type 4 is known as the 411 (1969 thru 1972) and the 412 (1973 thru 1974) in both Fastback Sedan and Station Wagon (Variant) names.
Q. What is a Standard or Deluxe Beetle?
The Standard Beetle was a “stripped down” model of the Beetle without almost any body or window chrome trim. In fact, the door handles, hood handles and front turn signal housings were painted, usually in grey. These were sold primarily in Europe, but available in other markets such as Canada. The Deluxe Beetle is what was primarily sold in the United States with the familiar body and window chrome moldings, door and hood handles and chromed front turn signal housings. With the introduction of the Super Beetle in the 1971 model year, the Deluxe Beetle which continued in production was informally called a “Standard Beetle” to differentiate between the two models and continued to have all of the “Deluxe” trim appointments. When ordering parts, this can be important to know what model type of Beetle you have or you might receive the wrong parts.
Q. When was the last year the Beetle was sold in the United States?
1977 was the last model year the Standard Beetle Sedan was offered and sold in the United States (1975 was the last model year the Super Beetle Sedan). Production continued on the Super Beetle-based Convertible/Cabriolet which was offered and sold through the 1979 model year in the United States.
Q. Why doesn’t my 1968 Beetle have a Steering Lock? Wasn’t this required in the United States?
Technically, the US Federal requirement for Steering Locks did not take effect until January 1969. So for most of 1968 model year, Beetles were equipped with an “Intermediate Housing” between the Ignition Lock Cylinder and the electrical part of the Ignition Switch, even though the Steering Shaft was equipped with “Locking Clam Shells”. When the 1969 models were introduced in August 1968, a true Steering Lock was equipped, thus beating the Federal deadline by 5 months. As a trivia note, optional Steering Locked Ignitions were available on the Beetle as far back as the mid 1950s.
Q. What are “Push and Pray” Brakes on a Beetle?
On Standard Beetles not sold in the United States thru the early 1962 model year, all 4 wheel brakes were activated by cables rather than the more commonly used hydraulic fluid. Deluxe Beetles from the 1949 model year came with hydraulic brake systems.
Q. Were Beetles ever equipped with “Factory” Disc Front Brakes?
Disc Front Brakes were primarily available for the Beetle starting in the 1967 model year as an option outside of the United States and were never standard equipment. Disc Front Brakes were standard on Type 14 Karmann Ghias from the 1967 model onwards, as was the Type 3 from the 1966 model year onwards. It can be noted that from 1967 onwards, that Beetles could be special ordered from Germany through the US Dealership by the customer to be equipped Disc Front Brakes. This was essentially a Type 14 Karmann Ghia front axle system, using 4 lug wheels instead of the 5 lug wheels common to 1967 Drum Brake models.