Today VW is one of the biggest car manufacturers in Europe. However this was not like that from the beginning.
The word "volkswagen" literally means "people's car" and this was the whole idea behind it. From the beginning VW tried to make a car that is simple enough so that the average people could afford it.
It was not exactly a new idea. Before 1930's there have been many attempts to create a simple car model. The problem however was that no matter how simple the car was made it still ended up costing more than the yearly wage of a normal worker.
History tells that while many affords was made from VW to create the perfect worker class car a new company was created. In 1930 Ferdinand Porsche made his company. Right after the creation Porsche patented a pretty complex suspension system. In this system the transversely mounted torsion bars are connected to two trailing arms on each side. That made the whole model very light. In fact it was lighter than every common suspension type.
In 1931 another company asked Porsche if they could make a model close to the last one for them. The 2 door sedan was made as a result of this project. It was very similar to Beetle and it had the suitability that was required.
The company who bought the model is called Zundapp and right after they bought the sedan model they wanted to put 1.2 liter radial engine from one of their own motorcycles. That didn't happen and this was the end of the line.
In 1933 NSU purchased a design from Porsche. It was known by the name Type 32. This new model was even closer to the upcoming KdF Wagen than its predecessor Type 12. It was pretty close to Tatra V570 too especially with some mechanically similarities.
After the World War II was over Tatra got some compensations from Volkswagen because they think that their model was pirated from KdF Wagen because of the similar technology. The KdF Wagen was made during that time and the similarities pointed that during the development major mechanical components were copied from it and used in the Tatra design model. Soon after that NSU dropped the Type 32 project.
In 1933 Porsche together with Hitler made possible for the citizen car project to continue. The Type 60 was soon created and its name soon changed to V1 (experiment 1). After a proposition made by Hitler V2 was designed to met the new convertible version criteria that was introduced.
In 1936 these models together with VW3 were put to major testing. After enough data was collected the next version - the VW30 was made. For the VW30 testing a new government company was responsible - the DAF. This was because of the Hitler's regime.
Members of SS were told to drive the new VW30 model and to confirm that all the problems are fixed. Soon after that in 1938 in the KdF Wagen factory the manufacturing process began. In 1939 some VW38 and a few demonstrational cars of the model VW39 came to the world.
That was made just to point out that the factory is working and to show what the future cars would look like. These models came with a difference - the front hinged doors. When V38s models were finally introduced Hitler abruptly changed the name to KdF Wagen. KdF stayed for "Kraft durch Freude" or "Strength through Joy". That made Porsche pretty upset because he was not a member of the Nazi party and the use of propaganda of this kind was not his understanding of advertisement.
Special stamps were made by the government. They were sold to people and on theory if someone got 200 stamps they could immediately be changed with a KdF Wagen. That however was not meant to be and the model didn't proceed further. In fact it stayed only as a prototype.
Many people made it to court seeking some compensation because of the stamps they had which was not going to be redeemed with a car. During that time the Type 82 was on the way. It was a simple military vehicle. It practically used the parts from KdF Wagen and its flat-sided body and increased ground clearance were some of the few differences.
During WWII Type 128 and Type 166 were created. The last was powered by a 25 hp engine. There were over 50 000 cars produced of the Type 82 and only less than 16 000 of the Schwimmwagen (Type 166).
After the war the KdF Wagen factory was taken over by the British army. Under the leadership of Major Ivan Hirsts over 2000 cars were made. Most of these cars were made by spare parts left by the old manufacturing process.
After 1945 the company was named Volkswagen and the whole town took the name "Wolfsburg" which was the name of a castle nearby. The British were looking to whom to give the control over the factory. It was very difficult because Ford though it to be a waste of money and the French government refused. Soon after that Heinrich Nordhoff took the opportunity which came to be a good step in the Volkswagen development.
In 1949 the production rapidly increased. Soon after that in 1950 the VW transporter was born. Many vehicles were transported to Denmark, Sweden, Luxemburg, Belgium, and Switzerland. In South Africa the Beetles were produced during the same year.
In 1952 dealership opened doors in England which was the first there. In 1951 deluxe version of the Beetle was exported. In 1952 the American deluxe Beetles got hydraulic brakes.
Beetles made before and some during the 1953 looked a lot like the old KdF Wagen. In 1955 the Karmann Ghia was introduced. It was made by many of the Beetle parts to keep the production line cheaper. In 1977 the production of the Beetle sedan ended. Two years after that cabriolet production stopped too.
However it is pretty interesting that Beetles are used and produced in Mexico even today.
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