VOLK­SWA­GEN BEE­TLE

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Bee­tle im­ports into the UK be­gan in 1952, when John Col­borneBaber (who had be­come one of the first UK VW deal­ers) be­gan ship­ping small num­bers across from Ger­many to sat­isfy de­mand from US Air Force per­son­nel sta­tioned in Kent. In 1956, it was de­scribed by the Bri­tish Mo­tor In­dus­try Com­mis­sion as ‘bizarre, noisy, too flimsy’ and ‘a toy not to be taken se­ri­ously.’ Eight years later, the 100,000th Bee­tle was im­ported into Bri­tain and pro­duc­tion would con­tinue un­til the end of 1978, by which time 424,052 ex­am­ples had been sold in this coun­try alone. It com­fort­ably out­lasted the Mor­ris Mi­nor, and it is es­ti­mated that more than 21.5 mil­lion ex­am­ples have been pro­duced across the world, over a whop­ping eight decades.

Much like the Mi­nor, the Bee­tle evolved to meet de­mands for greater per­for­mance. The orig­i­nal Type 1 was su­per­seded by the oval win­dow 1200, com­plete with bored-out 1192cc en­gine, in 1954 and pro­vided the blue­prints for the Bee­tle’s suc­cess. 1965 saw the in­tro­duc­tion of the 1300, with a 40bhp 1285cc en­gine and stronger sus­pen­sion.

‘Our’ Bee­tle will have been one of the last pro­duced be­fore a ma­jor facelift for the 1968 model year to meet Amer­i­can safety leg­is­la­tion. Un­til this up­date, Bee­tles had been char­ac­terised by their slop­ing head­lights. These were made ver­ti­cal and set in mod­i­fied front wings, which now car­ried a chunkier bumper – a look that is con­sid­ered al­to­gether not as at­trac­tive as be­fore, though the new look did co­in­cide with ben­e­fits such as 12-volt electrics and an ex­ter­nal fuel filler.

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