Classic Driver - - HOLMAN -

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?!).

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