Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life

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How the beetle changed my life

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-beetle

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From car driver to charioteer: Eckhard Fuhr had the opportunity in Wolfsburg to drive a Beetle from the 1950s. The Beetle was his father’s first car. The VW Beetle was a symbol of the German economic miracle.

Source: Reto Klar

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-life

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The idea for the Beetle came up in the early 1930s. In 1934, Ferdinand Porsche presented the Reich Ministry of Transport in an expose “The construction of a German peoplewagens ”. In the years that followed, several Beetle prototypes were built, this one from 1937.

Source: Volkswagen

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-Beetle Volkswagen wants build version

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This prototype was already very similar to the later production model.

Source: Volkswagen

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-Beetle Volkswagen wants build version

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The laying of the foundation stone for the Volkswagen factory near today’s Wolfsburg was celebrated on May 26th, 1938. In the foreground is a VW Beetle (which wasn’t called that at the time was), in the background, Chancellor Adolf Hitler at the lectern.

Source: picture-alliance / dpa

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-changed

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Series production of the civil Volkswagen began in Wolfsburg in the summer of 1945 after the war damage to the VW plant had been repaired. Here is an undated archive picture showing the Endmontagebands shows.

Source: picture alliance / dpa

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-life

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The car with the likeable face was a huge hit: on August 5, 1955, the one millionth Beetle was built. The anniversary “5 million beetles“Celebrated.

Source: picture-alliance / KPA / Andres

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-volkswagen

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Practical and presentable: Federal Transport Minister Hans Christoph Seebohm (second from right) visited the ADAC headquarters in Munich on February 18, 1963 and inspected the new Froad watch vehicles. He is said to have been amazed at how many tools and other materials fit in the Beetle trunk.

Source: picture alliance / Georg Goebel

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-beetle

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The Beetle has become a dear family member for many. And of course that had to be looked after. Preferably on Saturdays and of course by hand.

Source: picture-alliance / dpa

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-beetle

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The Beetle also meant a bit of quality of life: This photo shows a family who went on a trip to a lake in their Volkswagen 1200 Berlina in the mid-1960s.

Source: picture-alliance / dpa

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-Beetle Volkswagen wants build version

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The last VW Beetle built in the Volkswagen main plant in Wolfsburg was presented on July 1, 1974. Almost 30 years later, on July 30, 2003, the world’s last Beetle ran in Mexicom band. Production in Europe ceased in 1978.

Source: picture alliance / dpa

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-life

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The Beetle even had what it takes to become a movie star. At the end of the 1960s “The Love Bug” came to the cinema. The main character in the American comedy was the miracle beetle Herbie.

Source: picture alliance / kpa

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-beetle

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Herbie could do anything. The beetle with a life of its own could drive across the water…

Source: picture alliance /

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-beetle

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… fly over water, destroy Lamborghinis and bring lovers together. The first film in 1968 was followed by three sequels and a remake.

Source: picture alliance /

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-Beetle Volkswagen wants build version

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Herbie was also related in Germany: Dudu. In 1971 the film "A Beetle Goes Whole" came out. There were a total of five films about the likeable wonder beetle, that of Joachim "Blacky" Fuchsberger was driven.

Source: picture-alliance /

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-life

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The VW 1200 came into the family of "Welt" editor Eckhard Fuhr in 1959. He couldn’t do any tricks like Herbie or Dudu, but he was a great asset – and that, even thoughohl Eckhard Fuhr’s father did not have a driver’s license at the time. However, the license to drive was quickly made.

Source: Reto Klar

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-beetle

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54 years later, Eckhard Fuhr takes a close look at the Beetle. Memories of the first family vacation by car to Austria are awakened. At that time he shared the back seat with himself his two brothers.

Source: Reto Klar

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-volkswagen

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But now he was allowed to take a seat behind the steering wheel. The Beetle cockpit is limited to the essentials. There is only the speedometer, the odometer and a switch for the Licht.

Source: Reto Klar

Volkswagen: How the Beetle changed my life-volkswagen

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During his drive in the Beetle, Eckhard Fuhr felt less like a car driver and more like a vehicle driver. Even if he had a lot of fun driving, it isn’tt managed to bring the Beetle to a standstill without locking the wheels.

Source: Reto Klar

"Welt" author Eckhard Fuhr was five years old when the VW icon came into the family. At the time, his father didn’t have a driver’s license, but he had big plans for the new vehicle.

JFor years motorization passed us by. On the rails. We lived on the Frankfurt – Mannheim railway line. The freight trains drove a hundred meters in front of the house. They made the walls shake and didn’t want to end. We counted the wagons. And the cars on the wagons. Thousands upon thousands of VW Beetles rumbled past me. The economic miracle picked up speed.

But my father was still rattling around with a moped, a Kreidler Foil in beige. For the time being, a car remained a promise. First a television had to be bought because my grandfather’s eyes got worse and worse and he could no longer read. He was sitting a hand’s breadth in front of the screen in sunglasses as the coronation of Queen Elizabeth was broadcast.

I know that from stories. She’s still on the throne. My grandfather has been dead for 50 years now. There were westerns on TV too. Howling, Indians attacked stagecoaches and railroads. We acted out that. The freight trains with the cars sometimes stopped in front of the house because the steam locomotives had to bunker water.

They let off steam with a hiss. On the other hand, the war cries that we sang on our hobby horses did not come through. But no matter, we always remained the winners and captured a car with which we went on the most adventurous fantasy journeys.

The rock garden had to give way to the garage

The first Beetle, a used car, built in 1956, with an oval rear window, came into the house in the spring of 1959. I was five years old then, my older brother nine, my younger four, the youngest was not yet born. I remember these years as a beige age.

Not only the first car was this color, also my father’s “dust coat”, his motorcycle hood, my mother’s “transition coat”, my grandmother’s apron – everything was beige. The chrome strips of the Beetle required careful maintenance with a strange smelling paste, which was also beige. I was so surrounded by beige that during the school enrollment test I answered the doctor’s question about the color of her coat “beige”, which she acknowledged with a sour smile.

Cumbersome preparations were made prior to the arrival of the first car. A garage had to be built. My grandfather insisted on this and found it unthinkable to buy a car without having a stable for it. The garage was replaced by a beautiful old rock garden. The building still spoils the house, yard and garden today. Lots of concrete is built into the box.

I’ll let them tear off someday. I thought the garage was nice back then. Finally something new has been built here too. The house, the shed, the stable were unimaginably old. They came from the time "before the war". While a “new building district” was being built on the beet and potato fields beyond the tracks, we got at least a garage.

Father passed the exam straight away

My father also had to modernize. He didn’t have a driver’s license yet. That’s why he went to driving school. I didn’t know what to think of my father, the teacher, becoming a learner driver and cramming the traffic regulations at home.

I don’t mean to say that, in my eyes, that shook his authority. But I found it strange when he talked about his driving lessons and his driving instructor in the evening. Apparently he was worried about the matter. He passed the exam at the first attempt, in time for the summer vacation.

Now when I drove a Beetle in Wolfsburg provided by the Autostadt Museum, I realized the innocence and carelessness with which my parents’ generation must have embarked on the automobile adventure. The Beetle challenged me to transform from a car driver to a charioteer. Nothing works via electronics like thought transmission.

Braking in particular requires well-measured physical effort. I was unable to bring the Beetle to a standstill without locking the wheels. The lack of seat belts, not to mention neck rests and airbags, made me nervous.

You will look in vain for a fuel gauge

One cannot imagine how many victims this massive unprotected traffic cost. A slight rear-end collision at a speed just a little beyond walking pace would inevitably have cost my front teeth.

The steering wheel is exactly at the right height for this. On the other hand, I found the poverty of the dashboard beneficial. There are no control lamps lurking here, which always illuminate insidiously and ominously when the journey in the air-conditioned limousine is particularly pleasant.

There is only the speedometer and the odometer and a switch for the light. You won’t even look for a “fuel gauge” with this model. If the car stops, you switch to the replacement tank by hand, the contents of which will hopefully reach the next gas station.

My father was a seasoned charioteer long before he could buy a car. Incidentally, so did my mother, who never got her driver’s license. The two got to know each other while farming with the team of cows. If their stories are correct, they engaged in wild races and drove the cows to dry up their milk.

Three boys in the back seat

Anyone who masters a team of cows is a VW Beetle not a serious challenge. This is the only way I can explain it to myself that in the first summer of 1959 my father went on a ride in hell with the whole family, which is deeply engraved in the family memory.

We went on vacation, the destination was Mittersill in the Salzach Valley in Austria. There was room for three boys comfortably on the back seat, two suitcases under the front hood, in the luggage compartment the travel provisions and the gasoline stove with which the pea soup, which was transported in milk cans, was heated.

My parents had planned the vacation with a family friend who was still well behind in terms of motorization. She drove an Isetta, the legendary BMW scooter, a two-seater with a front door, not beige but green, which is why the name “frog” was compelling. The little daughter had to sit on a wooden stool at her mother’s feet.

The weakest sets the pace. So we twitched the Beetle after the Isetta, which reached its limits at 80 km / h. When my father couldn’t take it anymore, he overtook, the speedometer needle trembled at 100, we hooted past the "frog" to wait for him at the next parking lot. The name “Pass Thurn” has been indelibly impressed on me from this trip.

The first beetle was not the last

It’s actually just a small pass, just 1200 meters high. You have to cross over if you want to go from Bavaria and Tyrol to the Salzburg region. But even my father, the novice driver, was afraid at Pass Thurn. Back then, the street was so narrow that two cars only passed each other in alternative bays. In my memory, a chasm of hell opened directly under the car window on the left.

A vertical wall loomed to the right. In front of us, the frog struggled up the mountain at walking pace. For the first time I heard the word "hairpin curve". We often sang happy songs, canons, and quodlibets when we were driving. At the Thurn Pass, however, an icy silence returned. The tip of my father’s tongue wandered back and forth in the hairpin bends between the corners of his mouth.

We survived. I even remember the license plate number of our first car: HP-H 546. It was followed by a beetle, pearl white with a square rear window and the number HP-C 207. And that was from a VW 1500 Variant, also pearl white, with the license plate number HP-PE 11 replaced. Then my memory leaves me with regard to the license plates. We drove around with the 1500s as students. He ended our childhood.

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