The Beetle holds the record for the longest-running and most-produced car ever in history. This vehicle was born to meet the need for a people’s car, the cheap and simple one for normal people to own.
Despite having been manufactured in 1938, this iconic model wasn’t called the Beetle until 1968.
Stay tuned as we walk you through the history and development of the Beetle as well as the scandal related to it.
The Beetle History
Volkswagen is a German word that translates to “The People’s Car.” The origin of this car dates back to the time of the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler. He wanted an affordable yet practical automobile to be produced in large quantities for the new road network in Germany.
In 1938, Ferdinand Porsche, a lead engineer, and his team finalized the design. The result was the Volkswagen Type 1, one of the first rear-engined vehicles.
Fast forward to 1968, the name “the Beetle” was given to this car. Before adopting the name, it was marketed in Europe as VW 1200/1300/1500. Similarly, in France, it was sold as the Coccinelle, which translates to ladybug in French.
Due to the popularity of the Beetle, it went down in history as the most produced car ever. “The People’s Car” was mainly favored by economically conscious customers, gaining more popularity for its durability, price, fuel economy, and quality.
For German citizens, “The People’s Car” was available and affordable to them for 990 Reichsmark, about the cost of a small motorcycle.
It would interest you to know that in the 1999 car of the century competition, the Volkswagen Type 1 came in fourth place after Ford model T, the Citroën DS, and the Mini. This competition aimed to determine the world’s most influential car of the 20th century.
The Beetle Development
The VW Type 1 or the Beetle was a two-door, rear-engine economy vehicle and could accommodate up to five people. It was in production from 1938 through 2003. After the success of the Beetle, the manufacturer saw more development, leading to the Volkswagen Type 2.
The Volkswagen Type 2 received nicknames such as minibus, macro bus, and hippie van. However, it was officially known as the transporter, microbus, or kombi. People could purchase this vehicle in four body styles; the 4/5-door panel van, 4/5-door minibus, 2-door pickup, and 4-door pickup. However, the production of this model was discontinued on December 31, 2013.
In 1961, Type 3, the successor to Type 2, was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (IAA). It was on the market from 1961 to 1973. Furthermore, it was sold as the Volkswagen 1500, later the Volkswagen 1600. Like the VW Type 2, you could buy the Type 3 in different body styles: Fastback, Variant, and two-door Notchback.
In 1968, Volkswagen introduced the first onboard computer system in their fuel-injected Type 3 models. Thus, the Volkswagen Type 3 is the first car to use the onboard diagnostic system.
Unlike Type 3, a compact car, Type 4 was a large family car sold from 1968-to 1974 by Volkswagen. It came in three body styles and evolved through two generations (411 and 412 series). The body styles included a 2-door coupé, a 4-door fastback sedan, and a 3-door station wagon.
The Scandal Related To The 1968 Beetle
The name Ted Bundy can’t be forgotten when discussing the history of the 1968 Beetle. He was a serial killer who preyed on women. His killing spree started in 1974 when he assaulted an 18-year-old University of Washington freshman named Joni Lenz. His kill count skyrocketed as he continued kidnapping and killing women at an alarming rate of one woman per month.
Subsequently, stories started spreading about a man in crutches or arms bound with a plaster cast named Ted. He would plead with unsuspecting young women to help him carry ski boots, books, or any other item into his 1968 Beetle. This car was missing its passenger seat. But it was removed intentionally to lay his victims flat after luring them in.
The police pulled over Bundy on August 15, 1975. In his Volkswagen Beetle, the police found rather suspicious items. He was arrested for fleeing the police. However, Ted was later released despite his behavior and the strange items found.
Fast forward to six days after his release. Ted was arrested again for possession of burglary tools. The police took photos of his Volkswagen Beetle. But he was still granted bail. A day later, Bundy sold the car to a teenager.
In October 1975, several witnesses pointed out Ted from a police lineup which led to charges of murder and kidnapping. While thoroughly inspecting his vehicle for further evidence, hairs that matched the victims were found inside, leading to his incarceration.
Sadly, it didn’t end here. After doing some time in jail, Ted Bundy escaped and kept on killing. Fortunately, he met his Waterloo in 1978 in Florida after he was caught in a stolen orange Volkswagen Beetle. He was sentenced to death by the electric chair and was executed on January 24, 1989. Before his death, he confessed to thirty murders but alluded to several others.
Despite the scandal related to the 1968 Volkswagen Beetle, it has remained a classic till today. There’s some good news; you have the opportunity to see the iconic VW Beetle by visiting a museum. Think of it as taking a dive into the past
You can visit one of the following museums if you’d like to see the Beetle in person.
Address: 2702 East D Street, Tacoma, WA 98421
Open Hour: 10 AM – 5 PM Thursday – Monday
- Adults: $18
- Seniors (Age 65+): $16
- Active Duty Military: $16*
- Young Adult (Ages 13-18): $14
- Youth (Ages 6-12): $10
- Child (5 and under): Free
Address: 200 Peacock Dr, Fulton, MO 65251
Open Hour: 9 AM – 4 PM Friday – Sunday
- Adults $10
- Children ages 4 – 12 $6
- Senior (60+) / Military $9
- AAA $9
- Children with AAA / military $5
- Group of 6 or more $8 each
- Any group home $6 each
- Bus drivers & chaperones FREE
- One-year memberships available