I learned to drive in a VeeDub – what me and my friends affectionately called it. Actually we had a couple that I shared with my Dad. He’d use it for work, I’d use it for play 😉 On this day in 2003, the last of 21,529,464 Volkswagen Beetles (shown below at the Wolfsburg Museum) built since World War II rolls off the production line. The baby-blue vehicle was sent to a museum in Wolfsburg, Germany, where Volkswagen is headquartered.
The roots of the classic Beetle stretch back to the mid-1930s, when the famed Austrian automotive engineer Dr. Ferdinand Porsche met German leader Adolf Hitler’s request for a small, affordable passenger car to satisfy the transportation needs of the German people.
The irony of it was that the Beetle was the result of a Jewish engineer, Josef Ganz, who in May 1931 created a revolutionary small car: the Maikäfer (German for May Bug). A pet project of Hitler’s, it would later be known by the name Porsche preferred: Volkswagen
Though VW sales were initially slower in the United States compared with the rest of the world, by 1960 the Beetle was the top-selling import in America, thanks to an iconic ad campaign by the firm Doyle Dane Bernbach whose adds you see throughout this article.
It became a worldwide cultural icon, featuring prominently in the hit 1969 movie “The Love Bug” (which starred a Beetle named Herbie) and on the cover of the Beatles album “Abbey Road.”
In 1977, however, the Beetle, with its rear-mounted, air-cooled-engine, was banned in America for failing to meet safety and emission standards. Worldwide sales of the car shrank by the late 1970s and by 1988, the classic Beetle was sold only in Mexico.