Volkswagen Beetle De Luxe
This early Volkswagen Beetle has the distinctive split rear window.
In 1953 this was replaced with an oval window and later it became rectangular. The rest of the car effectively remained unchanged and for years parts were interchangeable.
This, together with the fact that the car was virtually indestructible, contributed to the enormous popularity of the Beetle. In 2003, when production ceased, this model achieved the highest production rate until that time, with a total output of 21 million cars. Its ruggedness was due to the fact that the Beetle had already been tested extensively in difficult circumstances before and during World War II. It was used in different versions for military purposes. The compact, rear-mounted, air-cooled, 4-cylinder boxer engine proved its worth in low as well as high temperatures; it did not freeze or overheat.
The Volkswagen, or ‘people’s car’, was commissioned by Adolf Hitler. Initially the car was known as the KdF car (KdF stands for ‘Kraft durch Freude’ (‘Strength Through Joy’), the official leisure organization of Nazi Germany). A savings scheme was available to allow people to save up for the 990 Reichsmark KdF car by buying stamps at 5 Reichsmarks each. The outbreak of war meant that no-one ever achieved that goal.
The official view is that the Volkswagen was developed by Ferdinand Porsche. However, there is strong evidence that the concept of a ‘people’s car’ and much of the technology used in the Beetle were in fact by Josef Ganz, a Jewish engineer and automobile designer. One of his creations that employs the same type of suspension as the Beetle, is on display in the museum.
After the war, the Allies ensured the Beetle was made available to consumers, and in 1947 the Netherlands became the first country to import the Volkswagen.