VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE CABRIOLET
Malcolm Bobbitt. 128 pages, softcover. Published 2014 by Veloce who supplied the review copy (www.veloce.co.uk). Also available from Octane Books in Auckland for $50. This is an updated edition of a book originally published in 2002, so it includes a brief reference to the 3rd gen cabriolet. However the main interest for me, and I reckon most readers, is in the coverage of the original Beetle in its convertible version.
The book starts with a short history of the background to the People’s Auto; some of it quite familiar but some if it new and interesting. Those early prototype Beetles like the V30 were only produced in small numbers but went through some very exhaustive testing. Hundreds of thousands of German citizens poured some 280 million marks into buying the stamps that were supposed to qualify them to buy a car. All of the money was found intact in a bank at the end of the war but not one Beetle had been delivered to a private owner! Well over 50,000 Kubelwagens were produced for the German military though.
The efforts of the British Major Ivan Hirst to get the factory back on its feet after 1945 is pretty well known but is still an incredible success story, after Henry Ford and a number of other motor moguls had turned down the opportunity to produce the cars.
Cabriolets had been part of the model plan from the earliest days but the factory was initially cautious as it focused on getting the saloons built in sufficient numbers. So a number of outside firms started producing soft-top versions; notably Hebmuller and Karmann in 2-seater and 4-seater versions. Rometsch and Drews were among the other firms doing conversions, some of which bore little resemblance to the ‘donor’ cars. VW eventually adopted the Karmann model and it ended up with over 330,000 being made up until the last of the original Beetle in 1980.
A good read for Beetle fans, I thought a real strength of the book is in photos of unusual variants and reproductions of some great advertising and brochures for the models, whose changes over the years are fully described. (And didn’t Rachel Hunter first attract attention with her Tip Top advert that featured a Beetle convertible?!).