On this date in 1978, the last original Volkswagen Beetle made in Germany rolled off the production line in Emden.
Here are some things you may not have known about the Beetle.
It was designed under specific orders from Adolf Hitler.
In 1934, Hitler wanted car designer Ferdinand Porsche to come up with a car the could transport two adults and three children at 62 miles per hour, with fuel mileage of 32 miles per gallon or better. He also demanded the engine be air cooled, because water-cooled engines needed antifreeze, which was only just coming into widespread use.
Testing on the Volkswagen Type 1, as it was officially known, began in the mid 1930s, with small batches made until the start of World War II in 1939. The first production Beetles were made starting on a small scale in 1941. Production numbers were kept down during the war because the factory was also making other vehicles for the Nazi war effort.
Following the war, the factory was seized by the Americans and turned over to the British to be dismantled and shipped to Britain. However, no British manufacturer was interested in building Beetles. An official report says the Beetle was “quite unattractive to the average buyer,” and that building the car would be a “comepletely uneconomic enterprise.
The plant was allowed to remain, but first the British had to remove an unexploded bomb from the works. If the bomb had detonated, the plant would have been closed and the Beetle program canceled. A British army officer persuaded his military to order 20,000 cars, filling a British need for transportation, and a German need for jobs. The factory was soon making 1,000 Beetles a month. Over the next 10 years, more than 1 million Beetles were built.
Initially the Beetle was equipped with a 25-horsepower engine. This was eventually boosted to 36 horsepower and then a whopping 40 horsepower.
It reintroduced the rear-engined car to Europe. In 1946, 2.8 percent of European cars had engines in the rear; while 10 years later 26.6 percent of them did.
More than 15 million Beetles were manufactured in Germany before production was halted in 1978. Volkswagen continued to build Beetles in Mexico and Brazil until 2003.
A new model was introduced in Germany in 1998.
The Beetle is one of the most-nicknamed cars in history. It was called the Bug in the U.S., the Ladybug in France, and the Hunchback in Poland.
In 1999, the original Beetle finished fourth in the Car of the Century Competition.
Our question: What car won the Car of the Century competition?
Today is unofficially National Popcorn Day, Tin Can Day, and Good Memory Day.
It’s the birthday of author Edgar Allan Poe, who was born in 1809; painter Paul Cézanne, who was born in 1839; and musician Dolly Parton, who is 71.
This week in 1978, the top song in the U.S. was “Baby Come Back” by Player.
The No. 1 movie was “Saturday Night Fever,” while the novel “The Silmarillion” by J.R.R. Tolkien topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.
Weekly question: What is the name of the current venue of the New York Philharmonic?
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