1938 Volkswagen Beetle: The 20th century’s most popular car

1938 Volkswagen Beetle: The 20th century’s most popular car

1938 Volkswagen Beetle: The 20th century’s most popular car

EngineInline 4 Horsepower 24.7 PS (19 kW) at 3000 RPMEngine Location Longitudinally rear Drive Type RWDWeight 685 kgTransmission 4-speed manualR/F breaks Mechanical drum

The development of the most popular automobile of the 20th century lasted 12 years – exactly as long as the Third Reich existed. By Adolf Hitler’s order, the production of the “people’s car”, known as the “Beetle” began. The implementation of the project fell on the shoulders of the legendary automotive designer Ferdinand Porsche.

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The history of the most popular car in the world was told hundreds of times and was studied far and wide. The legendary vehicle, also known as the Volkswagen people’s automobile or simply the “Beetle”, was created by the hands of the great designer Ferdinand Porsche, the founder of Porsche AG. The story began in the dark times of the Third Reich when the German Automotive Industry Association (Reichsverband der Automobilindustrie) signed an agreement with Porsche. The young company was given 10 months to implement the project, with which it coped perfectly: the final draft of the “model for everyone” was presented to the government in 1935.

The origins

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While imprisoned in 1924 after the failure of the Beer Putsch, Adolf Hitler read Henry Ford’s autobiography and got excited about making cars and building roads. Shortly after coming to power, in September 1933, the NSDAP leader invited the Austrian designer Ferdinand Porsche to Berlin and asked him to develop “an inexpensive family vehicle for the people.” In 1933, at the Berlin Motor Show, Adolf Hitler, in his first speech as Fuhrer, promised to provide every “true German family” with a personal automobile (at that time only one in 50 Germans owned their transport). In May 1934, at the Kaiserhof Hotel in Berlin, Hitler met with Daimler-Benz representative Jakob Werlin and the famous German designer Ferdinand Porsche. The new vehicle was supposed for two adults and three children at 100 km/h speed and to consume no more than 7 liters of gasoline per 100 km. In addition, Hitler insisted on the use of an air-cooled engine so that drivers without a garage would not have problems with water freezing in the radiator. The first “folk automobiles” left the plant in 1938. But the success story was ended by WWII. The Europeans could buy the brand’s first civilian cars at the onset of 1947,  after the restart of production.

The 1938 model year

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Volkswagen Type 1 was rear-engined. The German designers appreciated the advantage of this arrangement on the example of the more prestigious Tatra automobiles. The chassis design was also borrowed from Tatra, consisting of a central structural tunnel and a flat bottom. The four-seater saloon was decorated very simply: a painted metal instrument panel with one round gauge (speedometer), a two-spoke plastic steering wheel, manually adjustable separate front seats, a folding rear sofa, a heater, mechanical windows, and air vents in the side windows. The flat 4-cylinder, air-cooled, opposed-cylinder engine had an all-aluminum block with an OHV valve system. 1938-1939 releases had 985 cm3 volume and 25 hp. The motor was located in the rear overhang and was connected to an unsynchronized 4-speed manual gearbox, combined with a leading rear axle. Air entered the engine compartment through the ventilation grill under the rear window and exited from the hole under the rear bumper. The fan, oil cooler, and thermostat were located next to the engine, while the gas tank and spare wheel were moved to the front compartment, which did not have much room for luggage. The suspension of Type 1 was completely independent, on trailing arms and transverse torsion bars. All wheels had drum brakes with a mechanical drive.

Did you know?

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In 1938, 1.7 million Reichsmarks (~$4,233, 000) were invested in the project. However, budget funding was not enough. To raise additional funds, the leadership of the Labor Front created a prepayment scheme, thanks to which any citizen of the Third Reich could invest five marks weekly into a special account and, having accumulated the necessary 990 marks in this way, would be among the first to get a new car off the assembly line. This plan became known as “Pay before you receive.”

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1938 Volkswagen Beetle: The 20th century’s most popular car

EngineInline 4 Horsepower 24.7 PS (19 kW) at 3000 RPMEngine Location Longitudinally rear Drive Type RWDWeight 685 kgTransmission 4-speed manualR/F breaks Mechanical drum

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