JANUARY 24, 2013: THE ORIGINAL BEETLE–THE PROS AND CONS OF HITLER’S “PEOPLE’S CAR”

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The Volkswagen Beetle was one of the most popular cars ever produced in automotive history.

 

The Beetle was born in pre-WWII Germany at the behest of Adolph Hitler and his request for a “people’s car”, but few people will hold a grudge against the Beetle because of its association with one of history’s most reviled bad guys.

 

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Over 21 million Beetles were built during its long run and the little cars have become one of the most familiar faces in automotive history. An older generation will remember the violent game of “Punch Buggy” that was one of the few games available to kids on a summer road trip in a bygone era.

 

The game was simple: the first kid to spot a Beetle on the road could smoke the kid next to him in the shoulder. And there were plenty of kids available to smack in the crowded cars of yesterday’s road trips.

 

There were plenty of reasons to own a Volkswagen Beetle and there were plenty of reasons not to own a Volkswagen Beetle, so let’s have a look at the upside and downside of a Volkswagen Beetle.

 

Pros: The cars were underpowered. You could put the pedal to the metal on a Bug; hear the tortured screams of that over-revving four-banger and still not push that weakling past the legal speed limit-except possibly in school zones.

 

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Cons: The cars were underpowered. You could easily die in a head-on collision if you attempted to pass anything faster than a four year old on a tricycle.

 

Pros: The cars were highly susceptible to rollovers. But the lack of speed made them less violently dangerous rollovers.

 

Cons: The cars were highly susceptible to rollovers. I rolled one quite easily about a year before I got my driver’s license so I have to consider the Bug’s rollover problems to be a big personal negative.

 

Pros: The cars were rear engine and had a giant front trunk. The Bug had plenty of luggage room for a small car.

 

Cons: The cars were rear engine and had a giant trunk. The only thing that stood between the Bug and certain death in a head-on collision was its slow road speeds and a prayer book.

 

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Pros: The cars had great traction. The Beetle could get to places where four wheel drives feared to tread because all of the weight in the lightweight Beetle was on the rear wheels and the front end rode above the rear wheels like a ski.

 

Cons: The cars had great traction. You would eventually get stuck a lot further down a lonely road than a four wheel drive.

 

Pros: The cars had no heat. This drawback did not matter to people who lived in warm climates and any hormonally overloaded high school kid on a date with his special girl.

 

Cons: The cars had no heat. This was a huge drawback to people who lived in places where winter is a brutal reality and two high school kids could be found frozen solid in the back seat of a Beetle.

 

The truth is the Volkswagen Beetle was a pretty cool car- in more ways than one.

 

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Most people of a certain age have either driven one, ridden in one or rolled one at some point in their past, but they never forgot them.

 

Jim Sutherland

 

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