Volkswagen: 1st model ever

Volkswagen logo
Volkswagen logo 1938
by Franz Reimspiess
First prototype name (1932):
"Porsche Typ 12" (German), "Porsche Type 12" (Eng.)

First model name (1938):
"KdF-Wagen" (German), "Volkswagen Type 1" (Eng.)

Nicknames: "Käfer" (German), "Beetle" (UK), "Bug" (USA), "Coccinelle" (French), "Maggiolino" (Italian), "Escarabajo" (Spanish)

Category: Cars

Subcategory: Sedan

Ferdinand Porsche
Ferdinand Porsche
Masserfsdorf Sep. 3, 1875
- Stuttgart Jan. 30, 1951,
the automotive engineer
who created the
Volkswagen Beetle
Designer: Ferdinand Porsche

Prototypes producer: Zündapp (founded by Fritz Neumeyer in 1917)

First model producer: Volkswagen (founded by the German Labour Front on May 28, 1936)

First prototype made in:
1932 - Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany

Production start: 1938 - Wolfsburg, Germany

First model price: 990 Reichsmark

Prototype features: The Porsche Type 12 or "Auto für Jedermann" (car for everybody) was designed by Ferdinand Porsche for Zündapp. It featured the rounded styling then in vogue, typified by the Schlörwagen, Tatra V570 Chrysler Airflow, and KdF-Wagen (better known as the Volkswagen Type 1 or Beetle). It featured a five-cylinder radial engine at Zündapp's insistence, rather than the flat four Porsche preferred. It also used a swing axle rear suspension (invented by E. Rumpler).

First model features: The Volkswagen Type 1 was designed to be as simple as possible mechanically, so that there was less to go wrong; the air-cooled 25 hp (19 kW) 995 cc (60.7 cu in) motors proved especially effective in actions of the German Afrika Korps in Africa's desert heat. This was due to the built-in oil cooler and the superior performance of the flat-four engine configuration. The suspension design used compact torsion bars instead of coil or leaf springs. The Beetle is nearly airtight and will float for a few minutes on water.

Interesting facts: On May 26, 1938, Hitler laid the cornerstone for the Volkswagen factory in Fallersleben. The factory had only produced a handful of cars by the start of the war in 1939; the first volume-produced versions of the car's chassis were military vehicles. A handful of Beetles were produced specifically for civilians, primarily for the Nazi elite, in the years 1941 to 1945, but production figures were small. In 1945 all production was halted because of heavy damage to the factory by Allied air raids. Much of the essential equipment had already been moved to underground bunkers for protection, which let production resume quickly after hostilities ended.

Slogan (1959): «Think Small»

Property: Volkswagen

Product website:

Porsche Type 12 - Front
Porsche Type 12 - Driver side
Porsche Type 12 - Back
Zündapp-"Volkswagen", Porsche Type 12 (1932): all of those cars were lost during World War II, the last in a bombing raid in Stuttgart in 1945.

Porsche Type 12 - Reconstruction - Driver side
Porsche Type 12 - Reconstruction - Passenger side
Zündapp-"Volkswagen", Porsche Type 12 (1932), replica at the Museum for Industrial Culture, Nuremberg, Germany.

Volkswagen 1938, opening of the KdF factory
Volkswagen Type 1 at the opening of the KdF factory in Fallersleben, Wolfsburg, May 26, 1938

Volkswagen Type 1, newspaper report June 1938
Volkswagen Type 1, newspaper report (Evening star, Washington, D.C., June 3, 1938). «Hitler Boosts Car Sale - The car in the foreground is a sample of what Germans are going to buy for around $400, if plans of Chancellor Hitler, shown at the microphone, come true. Hitler is dedicating the new factory at Fallersleben, Germany, built to turn out these models, with rear engines, developing 24-horsepower. His dream is that German roads will be black with them in a short time. The car is called the Volkswagen».

Volkswagen Type 1 - Front
Volkswagen Type 1 - Back
Volkswagen Type 1 - Split window
Volkswagen Type 1 - Dash
Volkswagen Type 1 (1938): a batch of 44 pre-production models introduced split rear windows; both the split window and the dash were retained on production Type 1s until 1953.

Volkswagen Type 1 Brochure 1938
Volkswagen Type 1, "Dein KdF-Wagen" bochure (cover by Werner von Axster-Heudtlaß, 1938)

Volkswagen Type 1 Advertisement 1938
Volkswagen Type 1, advertisement poster (art by Werner von Axster-Heudtlaß, 1938)

Volkswagen Beetle 2015 - Black
Volkswagen Beetle 2015 - Red and Black
Volkswagen Beetle in its advanced version (2015)

Volkswagen Beetle, The Last Mile
Volkswagen Beetle, the last ever model rolled off the firm's production line on July 10, 2019 in Puebla, Mexico. At the end of the same year, Volkswagen USA released this short animated film, "The Last Mile" (90 sec.), as a tribute to their beloved Beetle.