Volkswagen History

The inventor and creator of the Volkswagen ,a one Dr Ferdinand
Porsche, had his own office in the early 1930's "Porsche Buro" in Stuttgart Germany. He worked there alongside about ten other people as a consultant and engineer for other companies such as the recently formed Auto Union ,which comprised of Horsch, Audi, Wanderer , DKW and Mercedes Benz. Dr Porsche became very famous for his racing cars in the 750kg racing class but in early 1931 he designed car that had many of the features of the first Volkswagen. It had a very streamlined design a central frame with the engine in the back and independent suspension. The car was built by the mc-producer Zundapp who were planing to start car production at about this time. The first test drive of this car took place in 1932 but because of the demand for motorcycles Zundapp lost interest in developing the car any further. After this Dr Porsche was approached by another company NSU who had planned a small car with a 1500cc engine. The result was the 'Type 32' The difference from the original Zundapp car was that the suspension had been changed form blade to torsion bar. Several different engines were tested including a 2-stroke but the most suitable engine was the boxer flat 4 cylinder air-cooled engine. This engine was based upon a 90hp aeroplane engine that Dr Porsche had designed back in 1912, however NSU then backed out of the project but several prototypes had already been built and tested. By this time Hitler had gained power in Germany anfd Dr Porsche realised that his car was suitable for the new roads planned in Germany. In 1934 DR Porsche delivered a memorandum to Hitler where he promised to have running prototypes ready in 12 months. The time that followed was hectic for the Porsche Buro three test cars were built and tested in the autumn and winter. An extra 30 cars were then built by Mercedes-Benz and were inspected by state employed inspectors. The name of the car was then changed in 1938 to the 'KDF-Wagen' just before the car exhibition in Berlin. The name itself was taken from the slogan 'Kraft Durch Freude'. In Berlin Hitler announced that the Volkswagen , the peoples car, was finally finished . The building of the factory then began in 1938 but only a few civilian cars were built until production was altered due to the war.
During the 1950s the beetle remained almost unchanged except for the rear window which was no longer split but one oval and horsepower rating increased to 36hp in 1954. It wasn't until 1962 that major changes took place the engine lid was redesigned, larger rear lights fitted, the cc was increased to 1200cc 40hp and it now had a proper fuel gauge replacing the old reserve tap.
1967 was probably the best Beetle of all, in addition to comply with American safety laws the front fenders were redesigned with the headlights moved forward and placed above the fender. The indicators were also moved the engine lid shortened to allow more bumper clearance and a new style number plate holder fitted. The biggest change that took place was the introduction of a dual-cylinder brake system and it was also offered with disc brakes at the front as an option. Another major development was the introduction of a 12 volt system for the electrics, the engine was also increased to 1500cc giving it 53hp also the axle ratio was lowered to reduce engine speed and give better mpg and durability. In 1969 a heated rear window, independant rear suspension and an auto gearbox with 3 gears, a steering wheel lock and a new ventilation system to help with demisting.
The Beetle was originally produced in Germany but are now just made in Brazil with production ending this year 2003.

M. Ledwidge.


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