While most of you flip and turn topsy-turvy over a Ferrari, Maserati or Rolls-Royce, my heart beats stoutly for the Volkswagen Beetle. So what could be better news for a Beetle-maniac,
than to hear - ‘Lovebug’ is coming to town?
Yabba-dabba-doo, the Beetle will arrive in India soon! Though I have only seen dear ol’ Herbie on the big screen and a ‘cream’ in-biscuit version that belonged to my friend’s dad eons ago, I confess I have always owned one in my mind!
So when my boss asked me to ‘dig up a beetle,’ I mean trivia about the Bug, I was like “Shucks, I know precious little about my pint-sized love”. Off I went Bug browsing.
The first piece of information was a bomb. It seems I have to thank Adolf Hitler for my favourite car! The idea came from the German dictator who had a keen interest in cars though he did not drive.
After he took over as the leader of Germany he had to deal with the problem of unemployment. He decided to build special roads for motor vehicles and mass-produce a car which the man on the street could afford.
As most of you know, Volkswagen means the ‘People’s Car.’ Car designer Ferdinand Porsche was approached for the task.
Hitler’s brief to Porsche was: The car must have a top speed of 62 mph, achieve 42 miles per gallon, have an air-cooled engine and be able to transport two adults and three children. Most importantly it should market at no more than £86.
As for the quirky shape of the People’s Car, Hitler is reputed to have said, “It should look like a Beetle, you have to look to nature to find out what streamlining is.” Thus the name stuck.
For Beetle enthusiasts, the Bug is not a car it is a way of life. It has character and soul and that’s where the Herbie films came from, and don't you forget the numerous other appearances in Hollywood flicks. So you can imagine their reaction when Richard Porter, screenwriter for BBC’s Top Gear slammed the Beetle as the “crappest car” in Britain!
In his 2004 book Crap Cars, he described dear ol' Herbie as, “Slow, noisy and
uncomfortable.” To all Beetle-lovers, now that sounds like a load of crap. Take it back, Mister Porter! The Beetle is something of a 'cult' car since its 60s association with the Flower Children and surf culture.
As the best-selling, most recognisable car in the world, over half a million Beetles were made in 1959 alone, and total production topped 21 million over 62 years. Its reputation for reliability only grew when independent suspension and anti-sway bars were introduced in 1959.
Famed pilot and environmentalist Charles Lindbergh trusted his '59 VW Beetle so much, he drove it through four continents, including Africa. I learnt that Herbie is a 'floater' in real life too. This is courtsey its sealed floor pans and overall tight construction!
In 1998, a dreadful flood hit Liguria in Italy. The damage was estimated in tens of billions of Lire and many garages were completely submerged. All the parked cars were sunk in the slimy water and mud. But not the trusty Jubilee Beetle. The Fire Brigade had to rub their eyes when they saw the Bug 'sail' towards them!
Once out of the water, it started without much ado as if in a rush to go home.
I came across another interesting story: In the 70s, the Mongolian government offered the
skeleton of a dinosaur to the Volkswagenwerk in exchange for 100 standard model Beetles! And in the United States there is a over 500-strong Club of people who were born in a Beetle. Now how cute is that!