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Volkswagen USA / Michigan Vintage Volkswagen Club

1966 Beetle specifications
  • 1,080,165 units produced in 1966 production year
  • 1966 was the only year the "1300" engine was offered
  • Maximum output: 50hp at 4600 RPM
  • Maximum and cruising speed: Officially 74mph (seriously??!!)
  • Acceleration: 0-60mph in 23 seconds (no whiplash in this car!)
  • Fuel tank: 10.6 US gallons
  • Fuel efficiency: 28.5 miles per gallon
  • Oil capacity: 2.65 US quarts
  • Battery: 6 volt (my car was later changed to a 12-volt system)
  • 160.2" long, 60.2" wide, 59" tall, 94.5" wheelbase, 36 ft turning circle
  • Curb weight: 1,672 lbs
  • Tires: 5.6 x 15 tubeless
  • 1966 price tag: $1,585

  • Bumper-to-bumper restoration in 2006.
  • When I bought this car (Oct 2016), the odometer was 1,513 miles--- re-set when the engine was completely rebuilt.
  • My car's pale green color is not a 1966 VW color. Photographs of my car often suggest it is a powder blue, but it is definitely a pale green. When the car was restored in 2006, the owner used Sherwin-Williams Automotive paint #4961215. Unfortunately, automotive paints don't always have a known PMS or Hex equivalent. Using the photo of my car's dashboard, I determined that #CEDBD1 is probably a close guess. I then used #CEDBD1 as the background color for this webpage so you could get an appreciation for the car's color.


Advertising

The "Think Small" advertising campaign began in 1959. It was, "the best advertising campaign of the twentieth century," according to Advertising Age magazine. It was the genius of the Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) advertising agency in New York. "It did much more than boost sales and build a lifetime of brand loyalty... the ad, and the work of the ad agency behind it, changed the very nature of advertising, from the way it's created, to what you see as a consumer today." The first ad of the campaign was "Lemon." It explained how 3,389 inspectors meticulously examine each VW Beetle before it is shipped to the USA. This Beetle "missed the boat" due to a blemish near the glovebox. "We pluck the lemons, you get the plums."

If you loved the "Think Small" print campaign, you would love the excellent coffee table book Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads by Alfredo Marcantonio, David Abbott, and John O'Driscoll.

My favorite VW TV ads: 1949 Auto Show and Funeral Procession

 

 

This webpage contains photos and references to Nazi personnel and paraphernalia. I do not want to ignore, obscure or in any way minimize the absolute evil of Adolf Hitler. I simply want to chronicle the early years of the KdF-Wagen which would later become the Volkswagen Beetle, one of the top selling automobiles of all time (21,529,464 units).

 

Production Milestones

  • 1933 - Dr. Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1951) draws first sketches of a simple little car that even the most common of citizens could own and enjoy.
  • 1934 - Nazi leader Adolf Hitler commissions Porsche to develop the KdF-Wagen ("Kraft durch Freude" or "Strength through joy"), forerunner of what we know today as the Beetle.
  • 1936 - At Berlin Auto Show, Hitler announces that Porsche will design "the People's Car." Porsche promises Hitler he will produce three prototypes by year's end.
  • 1937 - First road test on prototypes
  • 1938 - Thirty prototypes (called Series 30) completed
  • 1939 - May 26: Ceremony commemorates laying of cornerstone of VW factory at Wolfsburg, west of Berlin. It would later become the world's largest auto factory under one roof.
  • 1940 - KdF-Wagen unveiled to public at Berlin Auto Show. Germany goes to war.
  • 1942 - German army vehicles (Kubelwagens) built; German amphibious army vehicles (Schwimmwagens) built
  • 1944 - Allied bombs destroy most of Wolfsburg factory
  • 1945 - May: World War II ends. British forces take control of Wolfsburg area. Porsche interrogated by Allied Forces for his alleged connections to Nazis. Porsche is cleared, but then imprisoned in France with son Ferry for two years.
  • 1946 - 1,785 cars constructed, mostly by hand; used as army light transport vehicles
  • 1947 - Wolfsburg plant produces 19,000 cars; exported to Holland. Two hand-made convertibles built.
  • 1948 - 20,000th Beetle produced. Beetle modified into convertible. Henry Ford II given opportunity to buy the Volkswagen company, but decides against it; 24 years later, the VW Beetle would out-sell the Ford Model-T, becoming one of the world's top selling cars.
  • 1949 - January 17: First Beetle bought in USA by Ben Pon. Max Hoffman becomes first importer.
  • 1950 - 100,000th Beetle produced, of which 1,000 were convertibles. Ferdinand Porsche celebrates 75th birthday; finally visits Wolfsburg plant; cries when he sees Beetles on the Autobahn--- his dream car has become reality! It was sometime in the 1950s when people started calling it Käfer, German for Beetle. In France, it would later become known as the Coccinelle, French for "Ladybug." (While many people today call it a "Bug," the official name is the "Beetle.")
  • 1951 - January 10: Ferdinand Porsche dies.
  • 1952 - First official gathering of Beetle owners. Canada imports its first Beetle.
  • 1953 - 500,000th Beetle produced. VW plant opens in Sao Paulo, Brasil.
  • 1955 - April: VW of America formed. 1,000,000th Beetle produced.
  • 1957 - 2,000,000th Beetle produced
  • 1959 - 3,000,000th Beetle produced
  • 1960 - 4,000,000th Beetle produced
  • 1961 - 5,000,000th Beetle produced.
  • 1962 - VW of America headquarters at Englewood Cliffs, NJ, dedicated. 6,000,000th Beetle produced.
  • 1963 - 7,000,000th Beetle produced
  • 1964 - 8,000,000th and 9,000,000th Beetles produced
  • 1965 - 10,000,000th Beetles produced
  • 1966 - 11,000,000th and 12,000,000th Beetles produced
  • 1967 - First year Beetles use a 12-volt battery (previous years were 6-volt)
  • 1968 - First year Beetles have plastic dashboards (previous years were all-metal dashboards).
  • 1970 - Super Beetle introduced. Last year convertible Beetle in standard format is available (only convertible Beetles in Super Beetle format are available).
  • 1972 - February 12: 15,007,034th Beetle rolls off assembly line, breaks Ford Model-T record for total production.
  • 1974 - June: The last of 11,916,519 Beetles produced at Wolfsburg plant rolls off assembly line.
  • 1975 - Last year for Super Beetle production
  • 1977 - Last year for standard Beetle in USA; only Super Beetle convertibles remain.
  • 1978 - Last official German-built Beetle rolls off assembly line at Emden VW plant.
  • 1981 - 20,000,000th Beetle produced (in Puebla, Mexico)
  • 1998 - Production model of New Beetle unveiled at Detroit International Auto Show. Only vaguely similar to the classic Beetle, the New Beetle has engine in front.
  • 1999 - New Beetle turbo available to US dealerships
  • 2003 - July 30: Last Beetle (21,529,464th) rolls off assembly line (in Puebla, Mexico)


Above, the last original VW Beetle rolls off the line on July 30, 2003 at the last remaining production facility in the world (Puebla, Mexico)--- 63 years after it was unveiled to the public in Nazi Germany in 1940. The last car was immediately shipped off to the company's museum in Wolfsburg, Germany. In true Mexican fashion, a mariachi band serenaded the last car.

The last Beetle - Length 13.32'; width 5.08'; height 4.92'; length between axles 7.87'; weight 1,786 lbs; engine 4 cylinders, 1.6 L; manual transmission; front disc brakes, back drum brakes; 5 passengers; fuel 10.57 US gallons; painted Aquarius blue.


Who Created the VW Beetle?

Depending on whose account you read, the idea behind the Volkswagen Beetle can be attributed to three people.

  • Béla Barényi - Béla Barényi is credited by some as having conceived the basic design for the Volkswagen Beetle in 1925. Barényi was a Hungarian-Austrian engineer, regarded as the "father of passive safety in automobiles." He was born near Vienna, Austria in 1907. After mechanical and electrical engineering studies at the Vienna college, he was employed by automobile companies Austria-Fiat, Steyr, and Adler (predecessor of Audi) before joining Daimler-Benz in 1939. He is credited with developing the concept of the "crumple zone," the non-deformable passenger cell, the collapsible steering column, safer detachable hardtops, and more. After he died in 1997, Mercedes stated, "No one in the world has given more thought to car safety than this man."

  • Josef Ganz - Dutch journalist Paul Schilperoord reports in his book "The True Story of the Beetle" (written in Dutch) that the Volkswagen Beetle was actually the brainchild of Jewish engineer Josef Ganz. According to Schilperoord, "In 1929, Josef Ganz started contacting German motorcycle manufacturers for collaboration to build a Volkswagen prototype. This resulted in a first prototype built at Ardie in 1930 and a second one completed at Adler [predecessor of Audi] in May 1931, which was nicknamed the Maikäfer ('May-Beetle')." Schilperoord says Ganz was a student and wanted to design an inexpensive car. "He often crashed with his motorbike--- What he really wanted was a car which was a lot safer, but just as affordable as a motorbike." Schilperoord says Ganz' first production model was called the Standard Superior. It appeared in Spring 1933 ("in May when the May beetles fly") at the Berlin Motor Show. Adolf Hitler, appointed German Chancellor in January 1933, opened the show and saw the Standard Superior. Hitler showed interest in the prototype. Such a car fit his plans to "motorize" Germany. Instead of ordering the Standard car factory to develop and produce the Jewish-designed car, Hitler looked for another German developer to take over. A sketch from the 1930s, allegedly made by Hitler himself, shows the outlines of a car resembling what we know today as the VW Beetle. The drawing is said to have been given to carmaker Daimler-Benz which apparently turned down the opportunity before it was given to Ferdinand Porsche. According to Schilperoord, Ganz later left Germany for Switzerland where he tried in vain to reclaim intellectual ownership of the Beetle. His name carefully erased from the history books by Hitler, Ganz moved to Australia in 1951. He died in 1967. (A great website: Josef Ganz: True father of the VW Beetle)

  • Dr. Ferdinand Porsche - It is also said that long before he seized power in 1933, Adolf Hitler envisioned an inexpensive car that the typical German family could own and enjoy. The car could be driven along the sweeping highways that he wanted to build throughout Germany. Once in power, Hitler assigned the task of designing the car to famed automaker Dr. Ferdinand Porsche who shared a similar vision for such a car. By 1938, designs were completed, and a factory site was selected in the town later to be known as Wolfsburg, west of Berlin. Hitler announced the car's name: The KdF-Wagen ("Kraft durch Freude" or "Strength through joy"). The name never became widely used by the German public. It was more commonly called the "Volkswagen," or "people's car." As it turned out, no common German citizen ever owned a Volkswagen while the Nazis were in power. By the outbreak of war in 1939, only about 630 cars had been built, and nearly all of those went to Hitler and his military officers. (So much for "the people's car," eh?)


Above, a sketch reportedly drawn by Adolf Hitler and given to famed automaker Ferdinand Porsche in 1934.



Above, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche shows to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler various features of the KdF-Wagen.



Above, a reproduction of a lapel pin supposedly given away at the cornerstone-laying of the VW factory near the 14th century Wolfsburg Castle, west of Berlin, Germany, on May 26, 1938. Adolf Hitler and Dr. Ferdinand Porsche were among the 2,000 guests that day. On display were three VW Type 38 KdF vehicles: a dark blue sedan, a black sunroof sedan and a dark burgundy convertible. The KdF sedan was a split-window Beetle, and would serve as the post-war Volkswagen design for decades to come. The Wolfsburg factory became the world's largest auto factory under one roof. "Laying of the Cornerstone, Volkswagen Factory, May 1938." This pin is 1½" wide.

Above, a reproduction of a lapel pin supposedly given away at the dedication of the VW factory at Fallersleben on July 1, 1938. Fallersleben was constructed to be the home of the new Volkswagen factory. The facility was dedicated by Adolf Hitler. It is said that it was in Fallersleben that the iconic Beetle was born. Fallersleben was renamed Wolfsburg in May 1945, and is now the home to Volkswagen AG. VW Beetle production continued at Fallersleben/Wolfsburg through 1978. "Stadt des KdF-Wagens" ("Home of the Volkswagen, Fallersleben"). This pin is 1" in diameter.


1938 KdF-Wagen Brochure (KdF) - These eight panels comprise a 1938 sales brochure to sell the German people on the KdF-Wagen ("Kraft durch Freude" or "Strength through joy"). What was promoted as an affordable car for the common German citizen never materialized for anyone other than Nazi command staff.

I do not speak/read German, so I can't help you with what the panels say. If you'd care to translate the text to English, I would be happy to post the English version here and give you the credit. Thank you!

             


   

The Nazis told the German citizenry they could use a stamp-savings book to record payments toward a future KdF-wagen using Revenue Savings stamps, each stamp representing another payment toward their car. The plan to produce an affordable car for all Germans never materialized for anyone except those in the Nazi upper command.


Above, a postage stamp from the 1939 Auto Exposition in Berlin, Germany. It shows an artist's rendering of a KdF-wagen.


1943 KdF-Wagen (KdF) - Below, this KdF-Wagen ("Kraft durch Freude" or "Strength through joy") was offered for auctioned at The Elegance at Hershey (PA) on June 11, 2016. Estimated sale price: $275,000-$350,000. It did not sell.

                         

The following text accompanied the listing above for this 1943 KdF-Wagen (KdF), "Type 60" VW Beetle coupe, chassis number 1-019477. I modified the text a bit for clarity.

The KdF-Wagen was the first example of what we know today as the Volkswagen Beetle. It was reportedly designed in 1937 by Erwin Komenda under the leadership of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche who had received instructions from Adolf Hitler to create a "people's car." Komenda's aerodynamic styling included the split rear windows because curved glass was inordinately expensive. Stuttgart-based coachbuilder Reutter created the classic shape that would remain virtually unchanged until 1967. On May 26, 1938, Hitler laid the cornerstone of a new factory near Fallersleben, Lower Saxony, that would produce the "Kraft durch Freude" ("Strength through joy") or "KdF-Wagen." The adjoining new town would be known as "KdF-Stadt" (it was renamed Wolfsburg after WWII). Hitler also introduced a savings scheme where aspiring owners could collect stamps that would eventually pay for their car.

Production of the Porsche-designed car was to start in September 1939. A few Type 60 and Type 4WD 82e KdF-Wagens were built between 1939 and 1944, but production inevitably focused on military vehicles such as the Kubelwagen and Schwimmwagen. For most of the war, the KdF plant escaped heavy bombing because the new town was not on many allied maps. From 1944, the Wolfsburg factory manufactured the V1 flying bomb until US bombing raids destroyed the factory. KdFs between 1937 and 1944 totalled about 840 units. KdFs were allocated to low-profile top Nazi officials.

In 1945, the factory at Wolfsburg was located in the British occupation zone. It was placed under the control of British Army Major Ivan Hirst. There was no longer a need for military vehicles, so Hirst resuscitated the Volkswagen project and started filling an order from the British Army for 20,000 cars. The factory was later offered to various car manufacturers, including Henry Ford II, but no interest was shown. (Note: The VW Beetle would surpass the Ford Model-T in 1972 as the top selling car of all time--- 21,529,464 units, a title it would not soon relinquish.) In 1949, Heinrich Nordhoff, a former senior manager with Opel, took over the project from Major Hirst.

The Type 60 pictured above was delivered to the German Red Cross at Potzdam Babelsberg in Berlin on June 1, 1943. Representatives of The Red Cross, an ostensibly neutral international organization, visited and were posted at prisoner-of-war and Nazi concentration camps, which may account for the car's later discovery in Poland. The type 60 above was advertised for sale in a Polish provincial newspaper in 2000 and noticed by its current owner, Dr. Robert "Mac" Jones of Jackson, TN. He dispatched a connoisseur to view the car who discovered that it was indeed an authentic VW KdF. The car was purchased and taken to Germany, where it was delivered to Peter Schmalbach in Frankfurt-am-Mein, the leading expert on Wehrmacht vehicle restorations. After Schmalbach died, the car was sent to Christian Grundmann in Hessisch Oldendorf for further restoration work, using original KdF parts as appropriate, before dispatch to Hermann Schimkat for final inspection. Dr. Jones, who had rigorously researched this KdF to ensure the details were correct, received the completed car in Belgium, then drove it 250 miles to a major Volkswagen show where it was received with much enthusiasm and reviewed in many magazines. It was then shipped to Jones' home in Tennessee in December 2013, part of his collection until March 2016. It was then shipped to G&S Motors of Fletcher NC for cosmetic detailing and mechanical servicing, which included an engine-out service.


1944 KdF-Wagen (KdF) (Type 82e), listed on eBay (item #122398293887) in March 2017 for $525,000. A few days later, the ad had been removed. Sold perhaps? According to the Austin, TX seller, this particular unit was once issued to Nazi Reichmarschal Hermann Göring. The seller reportedly had an abundance of authentic documentation, and described it as "possibly the rarest KDF/VW in the world."

    Update: On 7-3-2017, I ran another Google search on this specific car. There were several references to its being offered on eBay, but all of the links went to an inoperable eBay listing, suggesting to me that perhaps the seller--- or eBay?--- had second thoughts about offering this car.
    Continuing with my Google search, one site suggested that this car (serial #5033568) may have once been owned by a Frenchman, Jacky Morel, then shipped to the USA by car collector Jesse James, owner of Austin Speed Shop in Austin TX.
    Another Google search indicates this car was built 1-31-1944 and delivered on 8-2-1944.

There seems to be a fair amount of mystery and speculation about this particular car--- rightfully so, considering its reported direct association with Nazi evil. I do not know how much of the information above is accurate. I will keep researching. Stay tuned... film at 11.

               


1945 Kübelwagen (KdF) - Offered on eBay (#201973987174) in July 2017. According to the seller, this is a fully restored 1945 VW Kübelwagen KdF Type 82, painted the same color as one would have been as it left the factory in 1945. Wikipedia says the Kübelwagen was a light military vehicle designed by Ferdinand Porsche and built for German military use. It was prototyped as the Type 62, but eventually became known internally as the Type 82.

   


The 1947 VW Beetle below appeared in Hemmings Motor News in December 2016 (ad #1895839). Offered by a private seller for $120,000 (or best offer), the seller says it was shipped from the USA to Turkey in 1993, then restored. Painted "RAF blue"--- the original color. It has been on display in a museum in Turkey since restoration. The price includes shipping and insurance to North America or Europe.

     


This 1966 Volkswagen 1200A is owned by David Bennett of Saskatchewan, Canada, who emailed me the story behind this "little red car." Bennett says its remarkable story is supported by the car's German birth certificate, bill of sale, car dealer pamphlets, service stickers, service records, park entrance window sticker, hand-written trip notes, and personal accounts. Very few 1966 1200A Standards (Canadian Custom) were built for the Canadian-North American market. Thanks David for sharing this great story...

    In December 1966, Joseph Lang and his wife lived in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. With Christmas coming soon, the Langs decided to treat each other with a gift they could both enjoy: a new automobile! They focused on the Volkswagen Beetle for its price, reliability and fuel economy. They visited DePape Volkswagen Ltd., their local VW dealer. The Langs selected a 1966 1200A--- better fuel economy than the 1966 DeLuxe 1300, and less expensive ($1,598 vs $1,898). It was a beautiful Ruby Red, and came factory-equipped with the optional "upholstery leatherette platinum interior." Six months later, the Langs were on the road to Banff National Park in Alberta where their VW acquired an Entrance Sticker on the passenger’s side rear window--- the sticker remains there today. Upon returning from their vacation, the Lang's VW showed 2,300 miles on its odometer. Sadly, Joseph Lang died in July 1967. Wishing to preserve the memory of the Christmas gift she and her husband had given each other less a year earlier, Mrs. Lang had the car's wheels removed, the car placed on blocks, and covered with blankets in her garage. All the car's books, owner manual, service records, and road maps were placed inside the car. It all remained untouched for 36 years. Upon Mrs. Lang's death in 2003, a local car collector purchased it, then later sold it to Bennett. The Ruby Red VW is still in storage today, but has been maintained and preserved so that future generations can admire it, thanks largely to Mrs. Lang's efforts to preserve her "little red car." Today, its odometer reads 2,315 original miles--- and is not likely to change any time soon.

           


Changes/improvements I've made to my car since I bought it in October 2016. Many of these were completed with the excellent guidance and assistance from my buddy and ace mechanic Jerry.
  1. Added an adhesive-backed 3½ convex mirror to the front of the 3½ outside driver's side mirror. (Convex mirrors have saved me many times. I do not mind trading a little historical authenticity for a large amount of safety.)
  2. Removed antenna and covered the two existing holes with the rubber gasket from the antenna assembly. (No radio, so why keep the antenna?) Used two nylon automotive inserts to secure the gasket.
  3. After the left headlight burned out, replaced both headlights with Wagner halogen lamps. And since the headlight assemblies were already off the car and open, also replaced both turn indicator bulbs.
  4. Removed both door panels, lubricated window assemblies so windows roll up/down much easier, much more quietly; adjusted internal latch mechanism so passenger door could be opened from inside
  5. Removed and serviced windshield wiper motor assembly so that both wipers now work
  6. Discovered that windshield washer nozzle was not hooked up. I will leave it that way.
  7. Replaced both exterior door handles; Jerry customized interior mechanism of driver side door handle to improve operation
  8. Replaced both interior door handles, both interior window cranks and the four interior escutcheons
  9. Replaced weather seals on both doors
  10. Replaced original cardboard glove box with a black plastic glove box; replaced both rubber bumpers so glove box door more easily pops open.
  11. Replaced both defrost hoses
  12. Replaced all 56 clips and boots holding both door panels in place
  13. Replaced VW logo hood (bonnet) emblem
  14. Replaced both hinge pins in driver door (thank you John at State of Mind Customs in Oxford MI)
  15. Trimmed driver side exterior door molding 3/8" for better fit
  16. Replaced driver door jam light switch and rubber gasket
  17. Replaced both front bumper bracket rubber seals; adjusted front bumper brackets to better accommodate the bracket rubber seals.
  18. Replaced numerous broken retainer clips that hold hubcabs to wheels (5 per wheel)
  19. Tightened both rear axleshaft nuts (36mm socket) to prevent any possible wobble; replaced both cotter pins
  20. Replaced steering wheel (we determined that the brass horn contact ring imbedded in the original steering wheel was bent slightly, causing horn to work only intermittently)
  21. Replaced horn contact ring and steering wheel Wolfsburg center emblem
  22. My thanks to members of the Michigan Vintage Volkswagen Club who told me that my front turn indicators are probably a custom design. A previous owner probably removed the turn indicators from on top of the fenders (where they should be for a 1966 VW Beetle Sedan) and wired the running lights (located within the headlight assemblies) as turn indicators. I would never choose to customize my car this way, but since it is already done by a previous owner, I will leave them as is. (Actually, I think they look pretty cool this way.)
  23. Replaced generator belt. Used 6 of 10 shims. Will remove some shims after a few hundred miles to reduce slack that will naturally develop.
  24. Added hose clamps to ends of gas line after leak was observed. Leak solved.
  25. Had all three seats reupholstered with "charcoal tweed" cloth, replacing the navy blue vinyl.

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My thanks to those whose photos appear here, and to all whose writings helped build this summary of the Volkswagen Beetle. This web page is supported with private funds. It is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not associated with Volkswagen, Volkswagen Group, Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, or VW AG.