The Beetle was the subject of one of the most influential ad campaigns of the 20th century…
The original air-cooled VW Beetle lasted an incredible 58 years in production, during which time it was fundamentally unchanged.
It’s a record that will likely never be approached, let alone broken. Although nearly everyone of a certain age has at least one Beetle story or fond memory, there are a few things still not generally known about the beloved car.
Here are five noteworthy facts:
1. The original classic Beetle didn’t leave production until 2003, although it was last sold in North America in 1979 (by which time the water-cooled Rabbit had replaced it), the original air-cooled Beetle was produced in Puebla, Mexico, until 2003. It’s essentially identical to the cars produced in Germany for export to the U.S. in the 1970s.
2. The original Beetle was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler. Keen to put ordinary Germans on the newly constructed autobahn superhighways in their own cars, a subsidized savings plan involving a coupon booklet was devised. When a family filled their booklet, they were supposed to get their car. WWII intervened and all pre-war Beetle deliveries were limited to Nazi party officials. Private owners didn’t get their hands on a Beetle until after the war.
3. Germans don’t remember it as fondly as we do because of its connection with the dictator who brought ruin to their country. And it serves as a reminder of the lean times before the West German economic miracle took hold meaning post-war Germans don’t have the same warm and fuzzy feelings about the Beetle that American ex-hippies do.
4. The Beetle may have been inexpensive, but it was never cheap. Gaps were tight and doors sealed well. Additionally, it was a unibody car with a very flat floor with few openings. All of this meant that the car would actually float for at least several minutes after hitting the water before turning into a small sub!
5. The Beetle was the subject of one of the most influential ad campaigns of the 20th century. Most recently lampooned on the TV show Mad Men, it was among the first national campaigns to utilize irony and self-deprecating wit. A tiny black-and-white photo of a Beetle in a sea of white space with only the headline “Think Small” was the first of the ads introduced in 1959 by the agency Doyle Dane Bernbach. Another ad, featuring the Beetle and one word – “Lemon” – appeared later.
*Rob Sass is the vice-president of content for Hagerty Insurance. Hagerty is the world’s leading specialist provider of classic car and boat insurance. Learn more at hagerty.ca