The Early History of the Volkswagen Beetle. Ferdinand Porsche VW Bug Inventor. The Volkswagen got its name when Adolph Hitler wanted a car for the common people of Germany. Ferdinand Porsche was the man behind the creation of the Volkswagen.
Adolph Hitler wanted a car that the common citizen could afford. Hitler heard about Ferdinand Porche’s prototypes of an inexpensive automobile that fit his goals of a car for the masses. The German government decided to give a contract to Porsche to build more prototypes in hopes of creating a peoples car, or in German the Volkswagen.
Ferdinand Porsche – Before the Volkswagen Beetle
- Ferdinand Porsche, the creator of the Volkswagen Type 1 (a.k.a. Beetle) was born in 1875 in a small village called Mattersdorf, which is now in Czechoslovakia. At the age of eighteen he took a job in Vienna. While in Vienna he would sneak into engineering classes at the University. The classes he snuck into were the only formal engineering education Porsche ever had.
- At the age of 23 Ferdinand Porsche landed his first job in the automotive industry working with Austrian truck manufacturer Jacob Loner. In 1900 Porsche’s first design was the System Lohner-Porsche an electric driven carriage that made its debut at the Worlds Fair in Paris. The System Lohner-Porsche was quite a unique vehicle in that it had four electric motors, one for each wheel. Arguably it has been said to be the worlds first four-wheel drive vehicle.
- Porsche had designed the System Lohner-Porsche with an internal combustion engine that ran a generator to supply electricity to the individual wheel motors. Doing over thirty-five miles per hour, the System Lohner-Porsche set several Austrian speed records and in 1905 won the Poetting Prize as Austria’s most outstanding automotive engineer.
- In 1906 Porsche took a position with Austro-Daimler as their chief engineer. His various prototypes won the top three places solidifying his place in Europe as the top automotive designer of his era. In 1916 Porsche became Austro-Daimler’s managing director. In the twenties while Austro-Daimler main focus was on large luxury sedans, In 1923 Porsche’s vision for a common car for the masses differed from that of Austro-Daimler and Porsche left the firm.
The Volkswagen Beetle is Born
Porsche decided to full fill his goal of a small vehicle for the masses, and took out a personal loan to help finance the venture. Later a motorcycle company named Zundapp decided to help fund the venture and three prototypes were developed. As the economy started to turn around after the depression, so did the motorcycle business and Zundapp bowed out.
Without funding, further development was put on hold until the German Chancellor, Adolph Hitler decided that the German people needed a car for the masses. In 1934 the German government decided to award a contract to Ferdinand Porsche’s company to build Volkswagen prototypes. In 1936 three prototypes had been built dubbed the VW3. The German government decided, in 1937 that Daimler-Benz would build 30 more Volkswagen prototypes under the direction of Ferdinand Porsche. These prototypes were dubbed VW30.
Soon after the VW30 was developed, the German government picked out a site for the new Volkswagen factory and a city was built around it. That city is now known as Wolfsburg, and still remains today as Volkswagen’s worldwide headquarters.
The Volkswagen and World War II
Nearly as soon as production started at the new factory, World War II got under way. The production of the Volkswagen was stopped and the new factory was transformed into producing war related products.
After the war Ferdinand Porsche was arrested as a war criminal and spent nearly two years in a detention camp. While Ferdinand was in prison, his son Ferry designed a new sports car named the Porsche 356. This is the first vehicle to carry the Porsche name. This new design earned Ferry enough money to free his father.
The Volkswagen After the War
In 1949 the Porsche firm was hired as consultants for further development of the Volkswagen. Porsche was also given a royalty for every Volkswagen that was built. Porsche was also made the exclusive Volkswagen distributor for Austria.
Ferdinand Porsche died on January 30, 1952. He got to see his dream of a car for the masses become a reality, the Volkswagen, the people’s car. In 1979 the Volkswagen Type 1 or Beetle surpassed the Ford Model T as the most produced model vehicle in history.