The History of Volkswagen, Frequently Asked Questions

At the 1934 Berlin auto show Hitler stated that his government would support the development of a 'peoples car' in order to get Germans motoring, which would lead to economic success. Hitler commissioned Ferdinand Porsche to design the car and gave him strict parameters which the car must meet - it should carry two adults and three children at a speed of 60mph with at least 33 mpg and he price was to be 1000 Reichmarks. Hitler also did a sketch of what the car was to look like. Ferdinand Porsche lead a design team to produce the car and the body design was done by Erwin Komeda.

Paul Schilperoord released a book 'The Extraordinary Life of Josef Ganz: The Jewish Engineer Behind Hitler's Volkswagen' in which he claimed that the design was stolen and Ganz was not given credit because he was Jewish. It's a great book that I highly recommend and clearly Ganz was a very influential figure using his Motor-Kritik magazine as a platform for his ideas. Had he not been Jewish he may well have been invited to be part of Porsche's design team. But to say that the Volkswagen was a design stolen from him is not correct, Ganz did not design the Volkswagen. Read more about Josef Ganz

Not the Beetle itself, that was designed by Ferdinand Porsche and his team. But there were elements within the engineering of the car that infringed Tatra's many patents. Tatra's Austrian owners, Ringhoffer AG were about to claim for copyright infringement but that was halted by Hitler in March 1939 when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. After the war, the Ringhoffer family now living in Germany and seeing Volkswagen's huge success, revived the case against Volkswagen. The Ringhoffer's case covered their patents in four main areas – the rear engine layout, the air-cooling system, the engine and gearbox layout, and the suspension. The court denied the claim against the rear-engined concept, but found in favour of the Ringhoffers for their air-cooling patents, some engine mounting elements along with some gearbox positioning details. Volkswagen vigorously contested the case, but eventually agreed to settle out of court in 1965. The Ringhoffer's accepted a 1 million Deutschmark cash settlement from which neither Hans Ledwinka nor the Tatra company in Czechoslovakia received anything.

Major Ivan Hirst was a British Army officer and engineer who was charged with using the bombed out VW factory as a much needed repair facility for allied vehicles in the summer of 1945. In the factory they found a pre-war Volkswagen which Hirst thought could be manufactured for and used by the British Army, so he had it painted British Army green and sent to his headquarters along with his suggestion. Hirst then received an order for 20,000 cars and set about trying to get the factory up and running again. Hirst was in charge until September 1949 when ownership of Volkswagen was transferred to the West German government.

The original VW Beetle was discontinued in Germany in 1978, with the Convertible Beetle continuing until 1980. Production moved to Brazil and Mexico. The final batch of 3,000 Beetles were badged as the Última Edición in 2004. A water-cooled New Beetle was introduced in 1997 for the 1998 model year, but this car shared nothing with the old car other than the name, the New Beetle itself was discontinued in 2011.

This is subjective as everyone will have their own opinion. Best for what? Looks, handling, reliability, value?

The collector car market favours the oldest and rarest, but as something to be driven then a newer car would be preferable as it will have a few more safety features (although nothing compared to a modern car). The 1967 model is ofted cited as being the best compromise, this year has a lot of the old style but with enough safety to make it usuable.

A barndoor bus is an early version of the VW bus that has a large square engine lid, built at Volkswagen's Wolfsburg plant until 1955. The barn door does not refer to the side opening doors. The term Barndoor is credited to Jeff Walters who was a columnist for HotVWs magazine.

A zwitter is a nickname given to a VW Beetle built between the short period of October 1 1952 through to March 10 1953. This was a transition period between the 'split rear window' Beetle and the 'oval rear window' Beetle and while it retained the split rear window, it featured many parts that would later be used on the Oval such as the updated dashboard. Zwitter is the German word for Hermaphrodite.

A Hebmüller VW is a coachbuilt convertible 2 seater Beetle built between 1949 and 1951. A total of 696 were built in this period and today about 160 are known to still exist, making it one of the rarest of the air-cooled VW's. Hebmuller also produced a small number of 4-seater police convertible Beetles. Learn more about Hebmüller here.

In 1949, coachbuilding company Karmann started making the 4-seater VW Beetle convertible, known these days as a Karmann convertible to distinguish itself from lower quality after market conversions. In 1955 Karmann introduced the Karmann Ghia, based on the Beetle running gear but with a stylish body designed by carrozzeria Ghia in Italy. In 1961 a new version of the Ghia was launched based on Type 3 running gear. Read more about Karmann here.

Finding original unused parts is getting harder, but as the values of these cars rise then more manufacturers are entering the market. Today the Classic Volkswagen probably has one of the largest range of repair parts available, even for the rarest models. You can even look for spare parts here