This is a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle. This is a car that, for the most part, needs no introduction. Depending on your age, the Bug can be a variety of different things. It could be that ugly little foreign car with the cheeky adverts in Life magazine (Seriously, click that link). It could be a symbol of 1960s counterculture, and the hippie movement. For some, it could be Herbie the Love Bug, for others, an excuse to physically assault your siblings in a game of punch buggy.
The Beetle was all things to all people, which is exactly what its designers intended. What many don’t know is exactly who those designers were. In 1934, a young up-and-coming German chancellor had a vision. Germany was to have a fast, efficient, interconnected road network, and the people of Germany were to have a car to drive on those roads. A people’s car. A wagon for the volk. A Volkswagen, if you will. Well, the road system became the German autobahn (and later our American highway network) and the car became the Beetle. The German chancellor’s name? Adolf Hitler. Yes ladies and gents, arguably the most iconic car ever made wouldn’t exist without one of the most evil men in history. And the story doesn’t stop there.
The man Hitler commissioned to design the Volkswagen was a down-on-his-luck engineer named Ferry Porsche who went on to found a rather successful toaster company. Wait, that’s not right. Sports car company. That’s what I was thinking.
This particular Beetle is from 1972, but that doesn’t really matter, because the Beetle didn’t really change that much over it’s 65 year history. The little 60 horsepower 1600cc four cylinder engine was in the back, where the trunk usually went. The spare wheel went in the front, under the hood. The air conditioning didn’t work when the car was driving downhill. It could float.
This seems to be becoming a trend with these things, but I really like the Beetle. Its reliable, but not to such a degree that you couldn’t work on it. It wasn’t fast, but it was fun. This was probably the first car I knew by name. It’s appearance also gave me an excuse to sock whoever was sitting next to me in the arm. And that, to me at least, made it a very special little thing indeed.