The Volkswagen Beetle, officially known as the type 1, and originally called ‘Käfer’, is an economy car produced by the German auto maker Volkswagen (VW) from 1938 until 2003. Although the names "Beetle" and "Bug" were quickly adopted by the public, it was not until August 1967 that VW itself began using the name Beetle in marketing materials in the US.
In Britain, VW never used the name Beetle officially. It had only been known only as either the "Type I" or as the 1100, 1200, 1300, 1500, or 1600 which had been the names under which the vehicle was marketed in Europe; the numbers denoted the vehicle's approximate engine size in cubic centimetres. In 1998, many years after the original model had been dropped from the lineup in most of the world (production continued in Mexico until 2003), VW introduced the "New Beetle" (built on a Volkswagen Golf Mk4 platform) which bore a cosmetic resemblance to the original.
Its peculiar styling, underpowered motor, rough ride, and high noise levels compared to modern vehicles might have made it a market failure. In its day, though, it was more comfortable and powerful than most European small cars, and ultimately the longest-running and most-produced automobile of a single design (a record that will not take long to be beaten by its younger "cousin" the Type-2 Bus or Kombi, which is still in production in Brazil, with the same basic characteristics of the first series). It remained a top seller in the US, even as rear-wheel drive conventional subcompacts were refined, and eventually replaced by front-wheel drive models. The Beetle car was the benchmark for both generations of American compact cars such as the Chevrolet Corvair, and subcompact cars such as the Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega. In the international poll for the award of the world's most influential car of the twentieth century the Beetle came fourth after the Ford Model T, the Mini, and the Citroën DS.
Starting in 1931, Ferdinand Porsche and Zündapp developed the "Auto für Jedermann" (car for everyman). This was the first time the name "Volkswagen" was used. Porsche already preferred the flat-4 cylinder engine, but Zündapp used a watercooled 5-cylinder radial engine. In 1932, three prototypes were running. All of those cars were lost during the war, the last in a bombing raid over Stuttgart in 1945.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler gave the order to Ferdinand Porsche to develope a "Volks-Wagen" (the name means "people's car" in German, in which it is pronounced [ˈfolksvagən]), a basic vehicle that should be capable of transporting two adults and three children at a speed of . The People's Car would be made available to citizens of the Third Reich through a savings scheme at 990 Reichsmark, about the price of a small motorcycle at the time (an average income being around 32RM/week).
Erwin Komenda, Porsche's chief designer, was responsible for the design and styling of the car. Production only became financially viable, however, when it was backed by the Third Reich. War broke out before the large-scale production of the "People's Car" could commence, and manufacturing capacity was shifted to producing military vehicles. Production of civilian VW automobiles did not start until after the post-war occupation began.
Initially called the Porsche 60 by Ferdinand Porsche, it was officially named the KdF-Wagen when the project was launched. The name refers to Kraft durch Freude (Strength Through Joy), the official leisure organization in the Third Reich. It was later known as the Type 1, but became more commonly known as the Beetle after World War II.
Prototypes appeared from 1931 onwards; the first prototypes were produced by Zündapp in Nürnberg, Germany, the Porsche Type 12. Next prototype series (Porsche Typ 32) was built in 1933 by NSU, another motorcycle company.
In October 1935 the first Type 60 was ready. 1935 the testing of the "V 3" started. The "VW30" Prototypes awaited further testing in 1937. All cars already had the distinctive round shape and the air-cooled, rear-mounted engine, except for the Type 12, Zündapp preferred a 5-cylinder radial watercooled engine.
The factory had only produced a handful of cars by the time war started in 1939. Consequently, the first volume-produced versions of the car's chassis were military vehicles, the Kübelwagen Typ 82 (approx. 52,000 built) and the amphibious Schwimmwagen Typ 166 (approx. 14,000 built).
The car was designed to be as simple as possible mechanically, so that there was less to go wrong; the aircooled 985 cc motors proved especially effective in actions of the German Afrika Korps in Africa's desert heat. This was due to the built-in oil-cooler, and the superior performance of the flat-4 engine configuration. The innovative suspension design used compact torsion bars instead of coil or leaf springs.
A handful of civilian-specific Beetles were produced, primarily for the Nazi elite, in the years 1940–1945, but production figures were small. In response to gasoline shortages, a few wartime "Holzbrenner" Beetles were fueled by wood pyrolysis gas producers under the hood. In addition to the Kübelwagen, Schwimmwagen, and handful of others, the factory managed another wartime vehicle: the Kommandeurwagen; a Beetle body mounted on the Kübelwagen chassis.
A total of 669 Kommandeurwagens were produced until 1945, when all production was halted due to heavy damage sustained in Allied air raids on the factory. Much of the essential equipment had already been moved to underground bunkers for protection, allowing production to resume quickly once hostilities had ended.
The Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg was handed over by the Americans to British control in 1945; it was to be dismantled and shipped to Britain. Thankfully for Volkswagen, no British car manufacturer was interested in the factory; "the vehicle does not meet the fundamental technical requirement of a motor-car ... it is quite unattractive to the average buyer ... To build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise." The factory survived by producing cars for the British Army instead. Allied dismantling policy changed in late 1946 to mid 1947, although heavy industry continued to be dismantled until 1951. In March 1947 Herbert Hoover helped change policy by stating
The re-opening of the factory is largely accredited to British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst (1916–2000). Hirst was ordered to take control of the heavily bombed factory, which the Americans had captured. His first task was to remove an unexploded bomb which had fallen through the roof and lodged itself between some pieces of irreplaceable production equipment; if the bomb had exploded, the Beetle's fate would have been sealed. Hirst persuaded the British military to order 20,000 of the cars, and by 1946 the factory was producing 1,000 cars a month. During this period the car and its town changed their Nazi-era names to Volkswagen (people's car) and Wolfsburg, respectively. The first 1,785 Beetles were made in a factory near Wolfsburg in 1945.
Following the Army-led restart of production, Heinz Nordhoff was appointed director of the Volkswagen factory, under whom production increased dramatically over the following decade, with the one-millionth car coming off the assembly line by 1955. During this Post-war period, the Beetle had superior performance in its category with a top speed of and 0-100 km/h (0-60 mph) in 27.5 seconds on 7.6 l/100 km (31mpg) for the standard engine. This was far superior to the Citroën 2CV and Morris Minor, and even competitive with more modern small cars like the Mini of the 1960s and later.
The engine fired up immediately without a choke. It had tolerable road-handling and was economical to maintain. Although a small car, the engine has great elasticity and gave the feeling of better output than its small nominal size. However, the opinion of people in the United States was not as flattering due to the characteristic differences between the American car market and European car market at the time. Henry Ford II once described the car as 'A little box'.
During the 1950s, the car was modified progressively: the obvious visual changes mostly concerned the windows. In March 1953, the small oval two piece rear window was replaced by a slightly larger single piece oval rear window. More dramatically, in August 1957 a much larger full width rear window replaced the oval one. 1964 saw the introduction of a widened cover for the light over the rear licence plate. Towards the end of 1964, the height of the side windows and windscreen was slightly increased giving the cabin a less pinched look: this coincided with the introduction of a very slightly curved windscreen, though the curve was barely noticeable. The same body appeared during 1966, with a 1300 cc engine in place of the 1200 cc engine: it was only in the 1973 model Super Beetle that the beetle acquired an obviously curved windscreen. The flat windshield remained on the standard beetle.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, innovative advertising campaigns and a reputation for reliability and sturdiness helped production figures to surpass the levels of the previous record holder, the Ford Model T, when Beetle No. 15,007,034 was produced on 17 February 1972. By 1973, total production was over 16 million, and by 23 June 1992, there had been over 21 million produced.
The Beetle is the world's best-selling car design; though more units of the Toyota Corolla brand have been sold, there have been many total redesigns of the Corolla, each amounting to a new car design with the same name.
The Volkswagen Beetle underwent significant changes for the 1967 model. While the car appeared similar to earlier models, much of the drivetrain was noticeably upgraded. Some of the changes to the Beetle included a bigger engine for the second year in a row. Horsepower had been increased to the previous year, and for 1967 it was increased even more, to .
On US models, the output of the electrical generator was increased from 180 to 360 watts, and upgraded from a 6-volt to a 12-volt system. The clutch disc also increased in size, and changes were made to the flywheel, braking system, and rear axle. New standard equipment included two-speed windscreen wipers, reversing lights, a driver's armrest on the door, locking buttons on the doors, sealed-beam headlights, and a driver's side exterior mirror.
In February 1967, inventor Don P. Dixon of San Antonio, Texas filed and was ultimately granted a patent for the first air conditioning unit specifically designed for the Beetle, which were soon offered by US dealerships.
The 1967 model weighed , which was a typical weight for a European car at this time. Top speed was .
In 1971, while production of the "standard" Beetle continued, a Type 1 variant called the Super Beetle, produced from model year 1971 to 1979 (1302s from 1971 to 1972, and 1303s from 1973 onwards), offered MacPherson strut front suspension, which required a significant redesign of the front end. This resulted not only in a better turning radius (despite having a 20 mm (3/4 in) longer wheelbase), but because of the replacement of the bulky dual parallel torsion bar beams which had intruded upward into a large area within the trunk, and the stretched "nose" of the vehicle which permitted the relocation of the spare tire from a near vertical to a low horizontal position, this opened up approximately double the usable luggage space in the front compartment.
1972 Super Beetles had a slightly larger rear window, larger front brakes, and four rows of vents (vice two rows previously) on the engine deck lid. The tail lights now incorporated reversing lights. The "four spoke" steering wheel and steering column were re-enginneered to the "energy absorbing" design for better crash safety. A socket for the VW Dealer Diagnosis was fitted inside the engine compartment.
In 1973, the introduction of a more aerodynamically curved windscreen pushed it forward and away from the passengers, purportedly due to US Department of Transportation safety requirements. This allowed for a redesigned, "padded" dashboard (all pre-73 Beetles had virtually no horizonal dash area). A 2-speed heater fan, higher rear mudguards, and larger tail lights (nicknamed 'elephant's feet') were added. The changes to the heater/windshield wiper housing and curved windshield resulted in slight redesign of the front hood, making the 1971 and 1972 Super Beetle hoods unique.
For 1974 the previous flat steel bumper mounting brackets were replaced with tubular "self restoring energy absorbing" attachments, effectively shock absorbers for the bumpers. The steering knuckle and consequently the lower attach point of the strut was redesigned to improve handling and stability in the event of a tire blowout. This makes the struts from pre-74 Supers not interchangable with 1974-79 makes.
1975 brought the replacement of carburetors with Air Flow Control (AFC) Fuel Injection on U. S. and Canadian Beetles, a derivative of the more complex Bosch fuel injection system used in the Volkswagen Type III. The fuel injected engine also received a new muffler and the option of an upstream catalytic converter required on some models (e.g. California), necessitating a bulge in the rear apron sheet metal directly under the rear bumper, and replacing the distinctive dual "pea shooter" pipes with a single offset tailpipe, all of which make the fuel injected models easy to identify at a glance. Other changes were rack and pinion steering vs. the traditional worm and roller gearbox, and a larger license plate lamp housing below the engine lid. The front turn indicators were moved from the top of the fenders into the bumper bars on European models, a portend of the "Euro look" style years later by Beetle restorers.
In 1976, the hard top Super Beetle and 1300 were discontinued (though convertibles remained Super Beetles through 1979) and replaced with an 'improved' standard Beetle with 1600 cc engine, IRS rear suspension, front disc brakes, blinkers in the front bumpers, elephant's foot tail lights and rubber inserts in the bumper bars. The "Auto-stick" transmission was dropped. 1976-on Super Beetles saw no significant engineering changes, only a few cosmetic touches and new paint options, including the "Champagne Edition" models (white on white was one example) to the final 1979 "Epiloge Edition" black on black, in salute to the first beetles ever produced from 1930s.
Though extremely successful in the 1960s, the Beetle was faced with stiff competition from more modern designs. The Japanese had refined rear-wheel-drive, water-cooled, front-engine small cars to where they sold well in the North American market, and Americans introduced their own similarly sized rear-wheel-drive Ford Pinto, Chevrolet Vega, and AMC Gremlin in the 1970s. The superminis in Europe adopted even more efficient transverse-engine front-wheel-drive layouts, and sales began dropping off in the mid 1970s. There had been several unsuccessful attempts to replace the Beetle throughout the 1960s; the Type 3, Type 4, and the NSU-based K70 were all failures. The over-reliance on the Beetle meant that Volkswagen was in financial crisis by 1974. It needed German government funding to produce the Beetle's replacement. Only when production lines at Wolfsburg switched to the new watercooled, front-engined, front-wheel drive Golf designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro in 1974, (sold in North America as the "Rabbit") did Volkswagen produce a car as successful as the Beetle. The Golf would be periodically redesigned over its lifetime with only a few components carried over between models, while the Beetle used only minor refinements of its original design.
The Golf did not kill Beetle production, which continued in smaller numbers at other German factories until January 19, 1978, when mainstream production shifted to Brazil and Mexico, markets where low operating cost was more important. It is important to note that the Beetle Cabriolet was still produced for the North American market in Germany until January 10, 1980. The last Beetle was produced in Puebla, Mexico, in mid-2003. The final batch of 3,000 Beetles were sold as 2004 models and badged as the Última Edición, with whitewall tires, a host of previously-discontinued chrome trim, and the choice of two special paint colors taken from the New Beetle. Production in Brazil ended in 1986, then restarted in 1993 and continued until 1996. Volkswagen sold Beetle sedans in the United States until August 1977 (the Beetle convertible a.k.a. Cabriolet was sold until January 1980) and in Europe until 1985, with private companies continuing to import cars produced in Mexico even after production of the beetle had ended.
The Beetle outlasted most other automobiles which had copied the rear air-cooled engine layout such as those by Subaru, Fiat, Renault, General Motors and Tatra's limousines, which ended production in 1999. Porsche's sport coupes which were originally based on Volkswagen parts and platforms continue to use the classic rear engine layout (but water-cooled and moved forwards) in the Porsche 911 series, which remains competitive in the 2000s.
Other countries produced Beetles from CKD (complete knockdown kits): Ireland, Thailand, Indonesia, South Africa, Australia, and Nigeria have assembled Beetles under license from VW.
Independent importers continued to supply several major countries, including Germany, France, and the UK until the end of production in 2003. Devoted fans of the car even discovered a way to circumvent United States safety regulations by placing more recently manufactured Mexican Beetles on the floorpans of earlier, US-registered cars. The Mexican Beetle (along with its Brazilian counterpart) was on the US DOT's (Department of Transportation) hot list of gray market imports after 1978 as the vehicle did not meet safety regulations. A U.S. citizen who drives a Mexican Beetle across the US-Mexico border into the US is likely to end up with the vehicle seized by the US government.
In the Southwest United States (Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas), Mexican Beetles (and some Brazilian T2c Transporters) are a fairly common sight since Mexican nationals can legally operate the vehicle in the United States, provided the cars remain registered in Mexico.
The end of production in Mexico can be attributed primarily to Mexican political measures: the Beetles no longer met emissions standards for Mexico City, in which the ubiquitous Beetles were used as taxicabs; and the government outlawed their use as taxicabs because of rising crime rates, requiring only four-door vehicles be used. In addition, Volkswagen (now Germany's largest automaker) has been attempting to cultivate a more upscale, premium brand image, and the humble Beetle, with its US$7000 base price, clashed with this identity, as seen in the Touareg and Phaeton luxury vehicles. Finally, consumers had begun showing a preference for more modern cars such as the Volkswagen Pointer and Volkswagen Lupo.
Official importation of the Volkswagen Beetle into Australia began in 1953 with local assembly operations commencing the following year. Volkswagen Australia was formed in 1957 and by 1960 locally produced panels were being used for the first time. Australian content had reached almost 95% by 1967 however declining sales saw the company revert to using imported components the following year. In 1976 Volkswagen ceased Australian assembly operations, their factory in Clayton, Victoria was sold to Nissan Australia and all Volkswagens were once again fully imported.
Many Australian or "Australasian" Beetles had accessories or modifications made for the Australian road.
There was also an Australian-built vehicle based on the Type 1 known as the Volkswagen Country Buggy.
For a 'Resto Cal' look, a roof rack and similar accessories can be added. There are many other aftermarket parts that can be added to the Beetle, including wing mirrors, chrome wipers, stone guards, mud flaps, and badges. Rear light and front indicator lenses can also be changed.
For a more custom look, smoothing and shaving the body (removing trim and other parts) is done, including door handles, badges and driprails, and replacing taillights and front indicators with smaller, simpler units. Frenching (tunnelling) headlights, frequent in non-VW customs and rods, is not common, but dramatic lowering is, and unusual hood and trunk hinging are commonplace. Another exterior modification that is seen occasionally is for the roof to be chopped and lowered just like other non bettle hot rods and customs, giving a meaner, lower and sleeker appearance.
Because most parts of the flat-4 engine other than the crankcase are bolted on, they are easily exchanged with larger or more high-performance items. The standard VW engine has been modified from 1600 cc (the largest factory-produced Type 1 engine) to configurations well over 2400 cc using larger piston/cylinder kits, turbochargers, and other performance-enhancing parts. A variety of other powerplants, including the VW Type 4 (also used in the 914) 2-liter flat four, Chevy Corvair and Porsche 911 flat sixes have been used. Even the turbocharged flat 4s from Subaru or Alfa Romeo have been used as well. Kits for installing Rover V8 engines have also been available. These variants tend to be mated to the stronger Type 2 (Bus, Combi) transmission. Dual carb setups are very common on Beetles (especially the 1600 cc dual port engine) as well as EFI. Also a wide range of exhaust systems are available. 4-into-1 headers are very popular, and are often used with a stinger, glasspack, or more modern "quiet pack" mufflers. The world record for fastest and quickest four cylinder 1/4 mile drag vehicle is held by a type 1 based engine built and maintained by vwparadise of San Marcos California. Its official run is 6.60 @ 203.94 MPH quarter-mile although unofficially the quickest & fastest has been a 6.53 at 209.98 MPH.
Beetles were used in Trans-Am in the two liter class from 1966-67 and again in 1972.
At the 1994 North American International Auto Show, Volkswagen unveiled the J Mays-penned "Concept 1", a concept car with futuristic styling deliberately reminiscent of the original Beetle's rounded shape. Strong public reaction convinced the company to move the car into production, and in 1998, 20 years after the last original Beetle was sold in the United States, Volkswagen launched the New Beetle, designed by Mays and Freeman Thomas at the company's California design studio.
New Beetles are manufactured at VW's Puebla, Mexico assembly plant where the last line of factory-built air-cooled Beetles were removed from production.
The New Beetle, with its (water-cooled) engine at the front of the car driving the front wheels, is related to the original only in name, general shape and some styling cues.
In an attempt to stem a trade in grey market imports into the UK, in 1998 VW made available a limited number of New Beetles to those who had signed up to a web campaign a few years earlier. These, officially the first New Beetles in the UK, were available in full UK spec (albeit only in left-hand drive), and started to arrive in the UK in April 1999. Right-hand drive versions arrived at the beginning of 2000, and have sold fairly well.
By 2003 Beetle annual production had fallen to 30,000 from a peak of 1.3 million in 1971. On July 30, 2003, the final original VW Beetle (No. 21,529,464) was produced at Puebla, Mexico, some 65 years after its original launch, and an unprecedented 58-year production run since 1945, the year VW recognizes as the first year of non-Nazi funded production. VW announced this step in June, citing decreasing demand. 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. There was also in Mexico an advertising campaign as a goodbye for the Beetle. For example, in one of the ads was a very small parking space on the street, and many big cars tried to park in it, but could not. After a while, a sign appears in that parking space saying: "Es increíble que un auto tan pequeño deje un vacío tan grande" (It is incredible that a car so small can leave such a large void). Another depicted the rear end of a 1954 Beetle (year in which Volkswagen first established in Mexico) in the left side of the ad, reading "Había una vez..." (Once upon a time...) and the last 2003 Beetle in the right side, reading "Fin" (The end). There were other ads with the same nostalgic tone.
The aircooled 4-cylinder horizontally opposed cylinder or "flat four" Beetle engines have been used for other purposes as well. Especially interesting is its use as an experimental aircraft engine. This type of Beetle engine deployment started in the sixties. A number of companies still produce aero engines that are VW Beetle engine derivatives: Limbach, Hapi, Revmaster and others. Kitplanes or plans, notably the Volksplane, owner-built experimental aircraft were specifically designed to utilise these engines.
Up until 2001, Beetle engines were also used to run several of the ski lifts at the Thredbo ski resort in NSW, Australia.
In Australian remote opal-mining communities, VW motors are used as air compressors for air-powered equipment. Two cylinders on one side are used as a motor while the other side of the head is modified to produce a flow of compressed air. The opal fields are very dry and hot, so an air-cooled compressor has an advantage over a liquid cooled one. The Dunn-Right Corporation of Anderson, SC offers a conversion kit.
In Europe, Beetle engines were used to power mobile water-pumps used by the fire-department. These pumps came in the 1950s, and some are still in use today. The rotating Mercedes-Benz emblem atop the Europa-Center in Berlin, Germany, is driven by a Beetle engine. The Zamboni HD ice resurfacing machine was powered by a LPG-powered Beetle engine. Zamboni was the world's leader in LPG conversions for the Beetle engine.
The Amazonas, a Brazilian-built motorcycle manufactured from 1978 to 1990, used a modified 1600 cc Beetle engine and gearbox. With a dry weight that could top 350 kg (800 pounds), the Amazonas was billed as the world's biggest (heaviest) production motorcycle. The VW transmission's reverse gear, rare in a two-wheeled vehicle, was a useful feature in such a heavy motorcycle. There was later the Kahena with similar construction.
Many three-wheel motorbikes, known as "trikes", have been built with Beetle engines. The engines as well as the manual transmission and some suspension components are also commonly used in construction of dune buggies and sandrails.
In the United States, many farmers are still using the AGCO Corporation "SPRA-COUPE" for fertilizer and pesticide spraying, which were manufactured with VW aircooled engines from 1960s until the mid 1990's.
Like its contemporaries, the Mini and the Citroën 2CV, the Beetle has been regarded as something of a "cult" car since its 1960s association with the hippie movement and surf culture; and the obvious attributes of its unique and quirky design. (For example, the Beetle could float on water thanks to its sealed floor pans and overall tight construction.) Much like their Type 2 counterparts, Beetles were psychedelically painted and considered an ancestor of art cars. One of the logos used by the Houston Art Car Klub incorporated a Beetle with a cowboy hat.
The Beetle has made numerous appearances in Hollywood films, most notably The Love Bug comedy series (Disney) from 1968 to 2005, starring as "Herbie", a pearl-white, fabric-sunroofed 1963 Beetle—racing number 53.
The Arrival (1996, science fiction) featured a few Mexican Beetles in the film (in one scene Charlie Sheen's character hides in the notoriously cramped trunk of a Beetle). In Woody Allen's Sleeper (1973), a Volkswagen is still able to start after having been abandoned in a cave for 200 years. ("They really built these things, didn't they?") In the comedy hit What's Up, Doc? (1972), Ryan O'Neal's and Barbra Streisand's characters, after a climactic car chase, end up floating in San Francisco Bay in their Beetle (see note on construction, previous paragraph).
In all but one instance of the cartoon show The Real Ghostbusters the Ghostbusters secretary Janine Melnitz owned a Beetle convertible. First seen as a red car in the second season episode "Beneath These Streets" it became pink in all future appearances. The Kenner made toy line for the show also included a licensed yellow Beetle convertible that transformed into a ghost. The Toy was called the "Highway Haunter" and seated 2 figures and came with a removable "engine" in the rear that had a ghost designed on the opposite side.
Also made famous is the Autobot Bumblebee, a canary yellow Beetle in the toy, comic and cartoon line The Transformers. The Throttlebot, Legends and Generation 2 toy line versions of Bumblebee also transformed from robot to VW Beetle, though the Throttlebot-type was called Goldbug as it was a golden 1975 Super Beetle. (Note, too, that the G2 toy was painted anodized gold in color.) In other countries, 'Bumblebee the Beetle' has been released in various colors. For the 2007 Transformers film director Michael Bay decided that Bumblebee would not become a Beetle to avoid comparisons with Herbie, nevertheless the Beetle made a cameo appearance in the live-action movie next to the Autobot's new form the Chevrolet Camaro.
During the early 1970s, the Beetle was used for advertisements where graphic art ads were decaled on newly-sold Volkswagens. A marketing consultant (Charlie E. Bird) in the Los Angeles area came up with the "Beetleboard" concept. Both standard and Super Beetles were used, until the original Beetle ceased production in Europe in 1978. This trend was resurrected after the New Beetle entered production.
The Volkswagen Beetle has built a large fan base among off-road types in the form of the Baja Bug. Today, there are many online clubs and communities that keep Beetle aficionadoes on touch.
Even the sighting of a Volkswagen Beetle is cause for violent fun in the car-sighting game known as "Slug-Bug" or Punch Buggy.
The Beetle is also one of the most commonly reproduced cars as a toy or model of all sizes. Hot Wheels and Matchbox produced many near stock and outrageously styled and customized drag racing and modified dune buggy beetles. Most manufacturers of toy cars have included a Beetle in their line at one time or another.
A Beetle appears on the cover of The Beatles' iconic album Abbey Road. The Volkswagen Beetle parked next to the zebra crossing belonged to one of the people living in the apartment across from the recording studio. After the album came out, the number plate was stolen repeatedly from the car. In 1986, the car was sold at an auction for $23,000 and is currently on display at the Volkswagen museum in Wolfsburg, Germany.
The famous "Think Small" Beetle ad campaign of the early 1960s is referenced in Mad Men as a potential threat to traditional advertising.
The Fremont Troll sculpture, under a bridge in Fremont, Washington has an actual VW Beetle clutched in his hand.
In the 1968 movie comedy Bye Bye Braverman and the 1964 novel upon which it is based, To an Early Grave, a cramped Beetle is used as the vehicle by a quartet of Jewish literary intellectuals traveling from Greenwich Village to Brooklyn to attend the funeral of a deceased member of their circle, and its Nazi heritage is repeatedly a subject of discussion.
In 2008, Volkswagen launched a series of commercials set to a talk show theme with a black Beetle named Max (voiced by Bronson Pinchot speaking with a German accent) as the show's host. Featured guests included supermodel Heidi Klum, basketball coach Bob Knight, Napster creator Shawn Fanning, former Space Shuttle commander Richard A. Searfoss and actor David Hasselhoff. Another one was used to introduce the Volkswagen Tiguan crossover vehicle.
The Beetle placed at #1 in the Top Gear Book of Crap Cars in 2004. Also, in the African Adventure Special, any presenter whose car broke down would have had to complete the trek across Botswana in a Beetle, reflecting their mutual loathing of the car.
Beetles are sometimes called "Hitler's Revenge", due to how common it was, and how poorly it performed.